Attack of the Vapers: What does that Mean?!?

Vape the Rainbow

So, I’ve been silent for a while, I know. Truth is, things are moving so fast (in the world of vaping and in the rest of my life), I’ve just been dizzily clinging to the safety straps and waiting to see what shakes out.

They do say that the sign of a cultural phenomenon is when a trend develops its own language. As many non-vaping friends have remarked, listening to a bunch of vapers talking can be as incomprehensible as trying to eavesdrop on an alien invasion force. Aside from the technological jargon that is associated with vaping activities, vaping vocabulary has expanded to include a variety of terms to describe the behaviors, supplies, and people participating in the change. The following is a truncated list of terms, a vaping glossary if you will, to assist the non-vaper or neophyte vaper understand the conversation of their vaping friends. So, without further ado…

Vapev. The action of inhaling vaporized nicotine suspension medium from an electronic cigarette or other electronic nicotine delivery system. v.t. vaping; n. vaper

510 threaded connector – Electronic nicotine delivery devices usually have two basic sections: A battery or power supply and a vessel of some sort that holds the liquid suspension providing the vapor/flavor/nicotine inhaled. For most of these, the vessel is connected to the battery with one of two connectors which involve threads that allow the vessel to screw onto the battery. The 510 threaded connector is one type of these. It allows for a post to screw down into a couch type gizmo… and, nevermind. Point is, this is the skinny one with the threads on the inside of the battery and the outside of the vessel connection.

Atomizer (aka tank) – This is one type of vessel that holds the suspension medium discussed above. Believe me, it gets confusing trying to figure out what is meant, and I am pretty sure that people use the names interchangeably with no real differentiation, but here is what I was able to glean from those more in tune with the technological aspects. The atomizer draws juice from the wick and heats it to a vapor. The wicks are generally suspended in the liquid which is held in some sort of container (glass, plastic, acrylic, metal). It works very much like an oil lamp would, provided you have ever seen an oil lamp in action.

· RBA (Rebuildable atomizer) – While some atomizers/tanks are disposable, most vapers eventually move to the rebuildable variety. The initial cost of the RBA can be slightly more… or more than slightly more than the disposable variety, but the cost in the long run is less. Instead of buying new tanks to replace an old burned-out one, only the coil need be replaced. There are pre-made coils for some models, but the tinkers and adventurous vapers build their own.

· RDA (Rebuildable dripping atomizer) aka Dripper – Yet another type of tank. They are constructed so that the suspension medium is added by dripping directly onto the wicking material. Drippers are usually rebuildable to allow the vaper to adjust the coils to allow for more resistance (remember physics and electricity) and thus more heat, and that produces more vapor. Also, due to the temperature difference, the taste of the vapor in a dripper is often very different than that in an atomizer tank.

· Hybrid tank – These are a type of atomizer that works somewhat like a dripper in that the coils are rebuildable and often produce higher temperatures and more vapor, but instead of requiring the vaper to drip liquid a few drops at a time, they have a tank that will automatically drip onto the wick rather than draw constantly (like the oil lamp type).

Beauty ring – Nope, not some type of body modification. This goes with those 510 connector doo-hickies (technical term) or post conversions for other connectors (see below). You’ve heard of innies and outies? Well, this is when the innies and outies are somehow mismatched. While, the vessel and battery actually will attach to each other, it sometimes produces what appears to be a very unstable and not-so-very esthetically pleasing construction of a skinny post screwed into a skinny connector. The beauty ring covers that up to make a smooth transition from the power supply to the tank, thus saving those of us with a touch of the obsessive compulsive from a full meltdown.

Cartomizer – This is another of those vessels I mentioned earlier. While the atomizer is more like an oil lamp, the cartomizer is … not. I really don’t have much of a metaphor for this one. This one uses wicking material (polyfil) that is soaked with the suspension medium and surrounds the coil to keep it wet and producing vapor like laying a wet blanket on a stove eye. Ok, that didn’t sound good, but you get the idea. The main point is that there is no free liquid medium. It is all soaked into the wicking material that is wrapped around the metal coil.

Cleartomizer – This is possibly the most confusing term to me. It means… a tank, frequently see-through so that you can see the level of juice that is currently in it so you know when to refill. Well, the confusion for me is that some people call the ones that are metal (meaning you can’t see through it unless you are Superman) the same thing. Seems a little counterintuitive to me. So, how about let’s go with cleartomizer being the see-through variety.

Clone – No, this is not some science fiction character or science experiment. In this case, a clone is a replicated version of some particular equipment design, frequently referring to tanks or mods (see below). The replication often addresses flaws in the authentic design and is more often than not a good deal less expensive. However, readers beware, clones are not always better than the original. Some are produced with less attention to quality control and may not function as well. Less scrupulous vendors may also try to sell the knock-offs as originals/authentic. So, just be careful and try to stick with reputable vendors.

Cloud chasing – The activity of trying to produce the largest amount of vapor on the exhale. This has been turned into a proverbial art form. People will build coils and rigs for the sole purpose of producing the biggest clouds. There are YouTube channels devoted to this.

Daily vape – This is the go-to flavor that any vaper will tell you is what they are generally using all the time. The flavors tend to be the one that the vaper does not tire of readily and are not generally the more expensive juices.

Drip tip – A removable mouthpiece which allows access to the wick in a dripper tank, but is also prevalent on various cleartomizers or liquid tanks used to allow people to express their individual identities and styles. Drip tips can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. There are some quite beautiful versions in blown glass, and there are tips that are designed for the long opera cigarette holder or pipe stem effect.

Dry hit – When all of the e-juice has evaporated from wick or polyfil, the draw is a hot, burned cotton or chemical taste that is unpleasant to most vapers. This is called a dry hit. It is accompanied by the dry hit face that generally looks like someone tried to feed the vaper a spoon full of ipecac combined with ear wax.

E-cigarette, e-cig – While most would say that these terms apply to all of the non-combustible nicotine dispensing systems, most vapers use these terms to refer to the devices that look like traditional cigarettes.

E-juice – see juice

E-liquid – see juice

Ego threaded connector – So, remember the first definition about the connectors (the 510)? This is another one. It gets the name from one of the most common type of starter batteries, the Ego. The threads for this one are on the outside of the battery and the inside of the tank so that the tank screws down over the battery connector to create a smooth connection.

Hookah pen – This is a term used to describe the electronic nicotine vaporizers that look like an ink pen and have a drip tip making them resemble the tips on a hookah; can also be called an e-hookah.

Juice – This is the liquid suspension medium that is heated to produce the vapor inhaled by vapers much like traditional combustible cigarette smoke, but with no combustible toxicants or resulting ash from burned product. The suspension is usually a combination of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavor, diluting ingredient, and nicotine.

· Dripping juice – These are juices that are meant for drippers. Often they taste better dripped than tanked. They may also be expensive, and dripping makes them last longer. Sometimes, these juices are thicker or have flavor ingredients (such as cinnamon) that might gum up or degrade a regular liquid tank.

· Tankable juice – These juices are more diluted and wick easily without gumming up or degrading a holding tank. The flavors are generally the ones that people prefer as a regular or daily vape.

· PEG – Polyethylene glycol. Suspension medium that was used in most first generation electronic cigarettes. It has a number of uses in the chemical and medical world, one of which is as a laxative. While not terribly deadly, it does occasionally aggravate certain respiratory sensitivities.

· PG – Propylene glycol. Another suspension medium and one of the most frequently used for current e-juices. It is also commonly used in a number of chemical and medical applications, but it (like the PEG) aggravates certain respiratory conditions.

· VG – Vegetable glycerin. It is a carbohydrate derived from plant oils. That’s pretty much it. It is viscous (thick) and is used as a suspension medium like PG or PEG. People who are sensitive to the other chemicals generally are able to use higher VG e-juice with fewer problems. VG is thicker than the other chemicals and many vendors prefer to use PG or a blend of the two. Often vendors will indicate that higher VG liquids are ok for dripping, but not tanking. However, there are tankable high-VG juices available on the market.

Kanthal – A type of wire from which coils can be constructed. Most of your run-of-the-mill vaping types are not going to care one way or another about this word. However, the coil-building tinkers and cloud chasers are always looking for a good price on Kanthal.

Mod – This is not a fashion craze denoting the hipness inherently displayed by the young, privileged mid-20th century. Well… yeah, I know it actually is, but in this case it isn’t. The term mod, in this case refers to a power supply device. Specifically, these are something that has been modified to use battery(s) to transfer power to the coil of the vaporizing device. Mods can be simply a case with battery and switch, but they also can get much more complex.

· Mechanical mod – There is some sort of switch and the body of the mod makes the connection to transfer the electrical current to the coils of the tank/atomizer.

· Semi mechanical mod – This one involves wires and such to create the circuit.

· Hybrid mod – The atomizer is built into the power supply, all-in-one gizmo.

· Regulated Vs. Unregulated – So, this one was hard for me to wrap my brain around… mostly because when I was asking, people have a very hard time defining the terms without using the actual terms. However, this is what I finally was able to gather: The regulated vs. unregulated situation is somewhat like an electronic funnel. Unregulated devices dump power from the battery to the coil of the atomizer with no real way of knowing how much is feeding into it. The regulated ones have electronics acting as a funnel or gatekeeper that keeps the amount of power consistent at a known amount.

· Variable voltage and Variable wattage – I am so not going into this. Leave it as there are devices that are regulated and allow you to use the electronics to actually adjust the amount of power that is transferred from the battery to the coils of the atomizer. Why on earth would someone do this? Um… well, this goes back to the amount of vapor and the flavor. More power = more heat = more vapor/different flavor.

· Sub-ohm – Again with the trip down memory lane to the physics class. This basically is a term that you will hear from the tinkers and cloud chasers. It involves building coils that have lower resistance that will allow more electricity to flow, resulting in more heat, and thus, more vapor. That’s all I gots to say ‘bout that.

· Protected vs. Unprotected battery – This is the equivalent of the battery version of a ground fault protector or fuse. A protected battery has a saving throw against shorts. So, why in the heck would anyone have an unprotected one? Apparently, unprotected batteries are cheaper, and protected batteries of a given size may not be available. The consensus seems to be that protected is always the better option, though not absolutely required.

Nic’d out – Becoming lightheaded, nauseous, or developing a headache from too much vaping and getting too much nicotine in the system. It’s a slang term of the vaping community. While the term itself implies having too much nicotine in the system, the feeling can occur with zero nicotine juices. Often, the phenomenon is much like what would happen if you hyperventilate into a paper bag. Point being? Take it easy and take good full breaths of non-vapor in between puffs folks.

Tank – Any vessel for containing suspension medium and vapor to be inhaled by the individual using an electronic nicotine delivery device. See atomizer, cartomizer, cleartomizer.

Vape pen – Another name for the electronic nicotine delivery devices that do not look like a traditional cigarette.

Vape tongue – The phenomenon that occurs after repeated vaping or trial of multiple juices resulting in a numbing or inability to differentiate tastes. The effect dissipates readily with hydration and abstaining from vaping for a while.

Voob – I really almost hate to include this and the following term, mainly because they are just silly. However, I feel that no glossary (even a truncated one) would be complete without a few of the strange slang and bizarre practice terms that have been coined in the process. This one, voob, is the “selling with sex” part of any new trend. And now, I’m just procrastinating. This particular practice is for a female vaper to place between their breasts a vape mod and thereby holding said device vape hands-free. Ta-dah. Look ma! No hands! Um… yeah. Obviously, this requires a certain amount of exhibitionism, appropriate foundation garments, and certain anatomical features not always gifted in the appropriate amount to achieve said goal. So, there!

Voop – And… enter the potty humor and proof that there is an adolescent inside the mind of most adults. It was bound to happen (heh heh, bound). Vooping is the act of vaping on the crapper. Yep. That’s it. People sit, @#$%, and vape. Now, I need to go wash my hands. Pass the mental floss, please.

And that, my friends is the basic vocabulary of the vape, though by no means comprehensive. It seems every time I think I have my brain wrapped around all the ins and outs of vaping, someone will throw out a term I’ve never heard before. Every day brings changes, improvements, and adventures in the world of vaping. With those changes, the language expands to accommodate the new. So, now that you know (and knowing is half the battle, right?)… Happy vaping, y’all!

Physical Fit: The Saga Continues…

Contrary to the expectations of the majority populace… and mainly myself… I did make it to the gym. As readers will recall, I had my momentary maniacal fit resulting in a gym membership and went so far as to purchase suitable attire and footwear. So far, so good. I half expected my determination to completely fail at that point. Good intentions count, right?

WRONG! My friend. I shall stand upon the gospel of good health and tell you that intention is only part of the formula! Can I get an ‘amen’? I tell you, my brother and sister couch tubers, we must also walk, run, and lift our less than firm physiques from the comfort of our chosen seating and move. Ye-eahsss!

So, against all my natural indolent tendencies, I did in fact go to the gym. I felt about as natural and graceful as a frog trying to dance Swan Lake. Thankfully, I had the moral support of a good friend who was able to show me the delicate technological procedures involved with using an elliptical machine. I am grateful for his patience as I stared at him like a monkey doing a math problem and nearly amputated an extremity as coordination was completely absent from my skillset that day (or any day really). I managed to get through 10 minutes of elliptical at the blistering pace of 4 miles per hour, all the while feeling not only the burn but pretty much like someone had lit my lower extremity completely on fire. However, as I said, I managed to complete the full 10 minutes (we won’t discuss the 3 minute cool down). Achievement unlocked! On to the circuit training.

For those unfamiliar with the lingo of the Dungeon of Torture, circuit training is a collection of weight machines and cardiovascular stations interspersed together and programmed to give you some resistance training for building muscle but also keeping the heart rate in the “target zone” to continue burning calories. Believe it or not (and I will assume you are believing as I am breathing and still in control of my physical movements enough to be able to type this), I finished this 30 minute ordeal as well. After a 5 minute cool down on a treadmill, during which I kept imagining myself tripping and being shot out towards the back wall, I made it home to collapse on the couch.

And like a complete moron, I went back the next day to do it all again. Yes, I did. That was five weeks ago. I decided it was time to unlock my next achievement. I scheduled an appointment with the personal fitness trainer. I am lucky enough to have a reasonable amount of intellect, and I recognize and read and research, but I still felt that consulting the expert would be the best way for me to gain the results I was hoping to achieve. She flattered me by saying that I was doing exactly what I should and only needed a few additions and tweaks to address my desired goals… And she assisted me in designing my own tailor-made system of torture designed to reverse time and gravity and turn my decrepit body into a temple worthy of worship… Ok, even I cannot keep a straight face for this, but hopefully, if I am very good and attend to my designed regimen, I will at least not have to purchase a whole new wardrobe to avoid indecent exposure charges.

At this same time, I had noticed a very large, brightly-colored poster plastered conspicuously in the gym that said that if I was a member of a certain health insurance that they would pay me to work out. Wait! What? I am a member of that health insurance. I actually work for the health insurance company as well. So, I can get money for this, too? I decided to check on this, though I suspected that my plan would not qualify based on the requirements indicated on the poster. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I called the toll-free number provided.

According to “Crystal *squeek*” who is the very perky representative of my insurance company’s Healthy Incentives Program, our employer is not eligible for that reward, but “We do have an impressive list of gym discounts to offer, can I walk you through our website?!?” (I swear I could see pigtails and pom-poms.)

Um… no, Crystal. so, what you are saying is that I work for the company and have our insurance coverage myself but am not eligible for a reward for trying to be healthier and a better example to our members?

“Um *squeek* ACME Insurance, Inc. [pseudonym, obviously] is, like, a really BIG company with lots of workers, and, like, ACME is only offering that for small companies.”

So, um Crystal? It was Crystal, right? [as opposed to Buffy, Muffy, or Elle] Does my gym have a discount on the list you mentioned earlier?

“Um… like, NO. Because your gym has such…low…rates… they really don’t have discounts.”

So, what I’m hearing is that I could get a discount from one of the expensive gyms, but the discount (if I’m reading you correctly) would still have my membership at a much higher rate than my current member ship of $10 per month… AND I would have to put up with douchebag muscleheads and spandex nazis?

“Um…wha…?” *cricket noise*

Nevermind, sweetie. You’ve been very helpful. Toddle off now and have a wonderful afternoon.

While this interchange might read to most as a frustrating display of unfair practice and a terribly rendered Valley Girl performance and evidence that the universe works against any financial breaks for the hard-working gal, I actually was just highly amused. Crystal really could not see why I didn’t want to take advantage of the gym discounts they offer. Apparently math was not her best subject. Rewards of a monetary nature might be nice, but ultimately were not the rewards I was expecting when I had my fit of madness and decided to become a denizen of the workout world.

As to those rewards, I am sad to report that I did not transform overnight into a supermodel. However, I can say that I am noticing other things, like the fact I can run a mile and a half without dying. (Always helpful in the event of zombie apocalypse and killer bird/bee/nature situations.) I still occasionally (as I integrate my individually designed plan into my workout each day) feel as if someone has substituted concrete into what was previously sinew, muscle, and bone, but overall, I’m feeling pretty good about this new thing. I have actually started having withdrawal if I have to change my routine and workout on different days than my usual schedule, and I actually found myself anxious and desperate to get to the gym on Monday after work as I was stopped by staff for a quick question. Hmmmm… something very odd here. I actually want to go to the gym. I suppose stranger things have happened, but I’m positive there are a few snowflakes in hell, now.

Landing the Job… It’s Only The Beginning

I’m going to go on a tiny little bit of a rant. It isn’t something I plan to do frequently in this “column,” but it is something that has been on my mind for a while. So, bear with me… I’ll try not to type too loudly.

I have been witnessing a trend for the last decade or so of people who see the acquisition of gainful employment as the finish line of their entry into the rat race. The people desperately putting themselves out there on the job market consider the welcoming job offer as the ultimate goal of their efforts.

This is possibly the most inaccurate attitude prevalent in the workforce of today. Over and over, I have seen people who put on their best face, clothes, and most professional behavior for the interview process, drop it like it’s hot when they are accepted into a position. The job that they worked so very hard to obtain loses the “shiny” once employment is achieved. The job that the employee was so excited to take on becomes unworthy of the effort to retain. Sadly, this attitude seems to mirror the thread of ingratitude prevalent in other parts of society today. The broad sense of entitlement is virulent in the hearts and minds of too many individuals trying to earn a living. People who were so grateful to have a job too soon lose any sense of believing that opportunity could just as easily gone to someone else… and still might.

It is not necessarily a matter of carelessness, incompetence, or even laziness. Most of the time the individuals in question will absolutely put in the amount of effort to do their job… but just that amount. And that is pretty much it. That is the extent of what they are willing to do, the bare minimum of job requirements. “Above and beyond” is not really part of the vocabulary. Again, this isn’t a matter of laziness, but these folks do not have any passion for their job, nor do they have any attachment to the organization for whom they work. As an employer, I see these as gypsy vagabonds… just passing through. They are not getting anything formative from the job, and they probably are not going to provide anything earth-shattering to any program, department, or company. No ill will harbored. This is just the nature of the individual. They are there until they are met with the first obstacle or any other offer comes along that might provide them sufficient reward. Lather, rinse, repeat. They move from gig to gig with no real sense of anything more than “Meh, it’s a job.”

Sadly, there are degrees of this type of worker. At the mildest level, they do no harm, but they do no amazing good either. They are going to put in their 40 per week and are working for the weekends. They are passing through life, and work provides the funds to pursue their other activities and interests. They are not looking for promotion. They aren’t necessarily looking to move on. They are not looking towards the future, and certainly not planning for any sort of retirement. They will likely not stand out in the crowd around the water cooler. They live to make the fewest ripples. They live from paycheck to paycheck. It really doesn’t sound so bad, right?

There are others, however, who seem to be unable to exist without making waves. They fail to grasp the fact that just because you managed to get the position, doesn’t mean that you can stop working to keep the job. These people are your complainers, pot-stirrers, or drama induction specialists. They frequently request (or demand) special treatment, and they generally do not make any effort to get along with their coworkers. Sometimes, they deliberately sew the seeds of discord within the office to divide and provide a hotbed of drama on which they feed (but this usually requires more effort than they are willing to expend). Occasionally, this can go so far as to be reflected in a disrespect for the workplace culture, regulations, and even employers. They are quick to perceive slights. They are doing an extraordinary favor to employers and coworkers by merely showing up. Most of the time, these people are not deliberately malicious, just incapable of seeing past the tight circle of their own perception. It is more a lack of empathy. It is a perceptual myopathy that prevents them from understanding how anyone else might be impacted by their attitude or behavior. They simply cannot see things from outside their own perspective. Every action is formulated on the premise of “What will this get me?”

Sadly, these individuals seem to go through life with the attitude of “I was looking for a job when I found this one.” That isn’t a bad approach to avoid spiraling into a despair if a job ends. However, it also reflects a lack of appreciation for the job at hand. The end result for many individuals with this attitude towards their job is a remarkably checkered job history with a lack of any longevity or stability. While that might not seem so bad so long as there are no particular breaks in the employment history, many employers will see the lack of any duration as a less than stellar recommendation for employment. Most employers are looking for reliable workers who will contribute in a positive way to the work environment. Contrary to some misbelief out there, most employers are actually looking to benefit the company, organization, and the many that are dependent on the success thereof, rather than providing sole benefit and comfort to one individual.

I am the last person to suggest that anyone should put up with mistreatment at work. Bullies in the workplace do exist. Harassment is intolerable. People should never have to work in a toxic environment, but there is a difference between taking productive actions to improve your situation and defuse intolerable work conditions and merely adding to the negativity by complaining and badmouthing to others in the office.

There is an extremely fine line between confidence and arrogance. However, despite the arrogance and entitlement that leads people to believe that obtaining the job was the last challenge they will face in the pursuit of wage, sometimes a little effort put into keeping a job is of greater benefit. Every job has challenges, and everyone (no matter how much they love their job) will have days they just do not want to go to work. It happens. It is normal. Hopefully, it is an exception rather than a constant. Truth is that while there are some very rewarding occupations in the world, every single job has some aspect that may not be fun. In the world of occupation, it is my hope that you all can find something that is rewarding and provide you the opportunity to grow, learn new skills (or at least perfect skills you have), and provide the resources to support your way of life. It isn’t always the case. Sometimes, things are going to be difficult. Sometimes things may be unpleasant. There are tasks and jobs that are not pleasant, but they still have to be done. The job you have may not be the best job in the world or even a job that you are thrilled to hold for extended amounts of time. Coworkers may not be that pleasant, and the boss may be a complete jackass; but, in truth, is a bad attitude or lackadaisical approach to your job duties going to improve relationship with coworkers or employers? Will negative, complaining behavior make the job less tedious or less unpleasant? The point is that our attitudes make up well more than half of our own job satisfaction. Having a positive attitude can actually improve your job experience.

If all jobs were a constant party of social, leisure, and entertainment activity, it would not require payment. It wouldn’t be work. Getting a job is not the end goal. It is just the beginning. Any job accepted is worth some effort to keep. There are other people in the market who may value that job more and could easily fill the position. And who knows? Approaching the job with a positive attitude and good work ethic might make the job itself less of a chore.

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody *OR* Does anyone do anything around here?

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.              ~Author Unknown

If you don’t mind, allow me to begin with a disclaimer. I am not (honest and truly) thinking of any particular person when I start spouting off about certain personalities. I may mesh several known personalities together, pulling quirks and idiosyncrasies from different individuals to create my own version of Joe Smith, but I will not ever call out a single individual to pick on because I would never intentionally hurt or embarrass someone that way. I will further say that if you, my dear reader, see yourself in some form or fashion, you can rest assured that what you see is your own personal point of view, not mine. Please do not lambast me or burn me in effigy at my attempt at humor with a tongue-in-cheek account of different personalities you may encounter within your office.

All that being said, let’s give this a whirl, shall we?

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I would very much like to talk about Not My Jobbers. Not My Jobbers are an unfortunately abundant and highly-frustrating breed of co-worker. Not My Jobbers are the folks who:

  • take the last bit of coffee and never make any more so that when the next poor, unsuspecting, caffeine-deprived soul walks up to the pot all they get is sludge.
  • spill stuff and don’t bother to clean it up.
  • take aim at a waste basket, launch enthusiastically, and when the swoosh doesn’t happen and the offending article hits the floor, they walk away because they were too lazy to walk to the waste basket in the first place.
  • take the last of the manila file folders and leave the empty box.
  • open a new package of factory-sealed note pads and leave the plastic wrapper.
  • empty boxes of copy paper and don’t remove the empty box.
  • open reams of copy paper and leave the wrapper on the table.
  • use the copy machines or printers until all the paper runs out and don’t bother to refill the drawers.
  • use the copy machines or printers until all the ink or toner runs out and don’t bother to even attempt to replace the cartridges.

Well, you get the picture. If something requires doing, you can pretty much guarantee that Not My Jobbers will not do it and, sadly, they far outweigh those folks who do the things just because they need doing. And the bullet-points mentioned above don’t take into account the actual work portion of office life. The stuff that an employee is actually hired (and paid) to do. There’s a lot of Not My Jobbing going on there as well.

Let’s look at four common excuses, because when you think about it, that’s all they are: excuses. I believe I shall address each one individually.

It’s not my job. Maybe not, but it’s somebody’s job, you can be sure of that. Quite honestly, just because it isn’t your job doesn’t mean you can’t help someone else with theirs. Just as an example, the cleaning crew comes in after hours to empty your waste basket, wipe up your mess, put your things in order, vacuum your floor, and you can’t take the time to clean up after yourself? Does the existence, or presence, of a cleaning crew mean that you can’t pick up the paper towel that just missed reaching its goal of making it into the waste basket? Another example: you see someone struggling to open a door, hands full, juggling multiple items, attempting to dig their keys out. It’s not your job to help them. Does something not being your job mean that that you can’t assist someone else who is clearly overwhelmed? Here, let me help you with that is not hard to say, nor is it hard to accomplish once you’ve offered. Think about those words again, Here, let me help you with that. How can those words apply to other areas of your life?

I don’t have time for this right now. To be honest, none of us have time anymore. Not any of us. We’re all so busy we hardly have time to breathe. Between your own job duties, home life, possibly a second job, maybe a couple of kids, the house, the yard, relationships – you name it – these things all take one very important thing: time. So what if you’re getting ready to get on a conference call? You have time to throw together another pot of coffee; thirty seconds late to a call you know others are going to be much later for because they don’t have any time, either! For me personally, being late for something makes me twitch. I hate being late for anything. And I’m not touting the acceptance of being late; one should always strive to be on time. But relax a little, will you? And how about when something you’re trying to do, over and over again, just will not work? How frustrated you get when you just finally throw up your hands and say, I don’t have time for this right now! (Please, leave tossing object of frustration out of the equation; you really don’t have time for that, either.) Breathe, OK? Think about how you can turn that frustration into success? And further, think about how you can apply the above Here, let me help you with that. They mesh nicely together, don’t you think?

Somebody else will do it. Ah…here we are again. Those nameless, faceless persons who come behind, and clean up after, you. Those persons are not, contrary to whatever you believe, elves, who magically appear, request no payment, work their backsides off, and expect no credit to handle things that you should have handled to begin with. Like cleaning up after yourself, and finishing that project that is nearing deadline. It’s not someone else’s job, it’s yours. I’m very sorry that’s just something you are going to have to deal with, so accept it, own it, work it, and get on with your life. I don’t care if your mother still makes your bed for you, you are an adult, with a job, with your own responsibilities – so act like it. I’m not going to sugar-coat that, people. No one else is going to do your job for you, whatever that job may be.

They don’t pay me enough for this. Nope. They probably don’t. I refer back to Here, let me help you with that. Are we, as a society, so selfish and self-centered that we forget all about others? Sadly, I believe we are. Oh, there are a few people out there who qualify as modern-day saints (don’t start with me, you know exactly what I mean) who bend over backwards to help others, no matter what form of help is required. I don’t see any reason why we cannot apply that same concept to our working lives. The big Corporate “They” might not pay you enough to deal with the angry guy on the phone who wants his money back, and the reason for his anger is most likely not your fault, but does that mean you shouldn’t do everything in your power to help get to the root of the problem and find someone who might be able to help him even if you cannot? Money has become the main reason people do anything anymore. If they’ll pay me, I’ll do it. But how about the concept of doing something just because it needs doing or simply out of the goodness of your heart? Shall we call you The Grinch?

One might consider changing one’s perspective. Look at things (whatever they are) as opportunities to help instead of being tasked with doing someone else’s work. How about instead of thinking “It’s not my job,” you think, “It’s only gonna take me a minute so I might as well get it done, since it needs doing.” How will changing the way you think change the way you feel? Well, it might not. But if it does, and the trend catches on? Think of the possibilities!

The New Cheese: Can You See what I’m Saying?

Once upon a time, I used to enjoy a variety of futuristic science fiction shows. In truth, I still enjoy them. My point being, that when I watched these various offerings to the entertainment media, I saw people communicating across great distances by face to face communication. Perhaps some of you remember these shows as well. The epitome of the advanced society seemed to be the live interaction with the large or small screens set in walls or tables for the purpose of information exchange.

I can remember never being able to imagine that this sort of thing could be real. It was the far future… or so I thought.

Look around. The future is here. Webcams, Skype, Polycom, Netmeeting, videochat, FaceTime. The list keeps going. That futuristic communication method of space adventurers and other worlds is here. It is as close as the computer on which I am typing and the smartphone in my holster. Not only can we have face to face communication with loved ones at a distance, telemedicine has been using video conferencing to provide services to remote populations for over a decade.

This is not just a trip down memory lane or a wistful look at how the world has changed; at least not exactly. In all the years since I entered the job market, the usual dance has been done by submitting my application or resume to a potential employer followed by a phone call and hopefully an appointment to go in for a face to face interview. Sometimes, this ritual of the hiring practice has involved travel, occasionally quite a distance. Today, the job of job-hunting can be quite a costly. With gas prices ever climbing, long distance interviewing is not in the budget for hirer or hire-e. Even after the interviewing and hiring process is completed, many companies have gladly embraced alternatives to travel expenses for workers and executives attending remote meetings with customers or business offices.

Technology to the rescue! Today, interviews and meetings can be conducted by phone, conference call, or various videoconferencing options. For today’s modern business market, people can put faces with voices and names across oceans and continents. It provides an opportunity for connection and personal interaction for telecommuters as well. The advent and spread of video technology combined with improved speed of transmission and connectivity have made face to face communication possible no matter the degree of separation.

Sounds great, right? However, as with any innovations, there are some pitfalls to consider and guard against. Here are some thing to keep in mind for teleconferences (voice or video):

Camera position. Nothing really earth shattering, I know, but just think for a moment. It may not seem like it, but the position of the camera into which you are looking to communicate can possibly put a tone on your interaction that you never intended. Try to keep the camera at a natural level for a straight forward gaze. Your web cam should be placed where you will be looking towards it when you are viewing the display screen showing your conversational companion. Elevate the camera by placing laptops on platforms or removable cameras at higher levels. This is partially for comfort, but it also avoids the awkwardness of appearing to look up to or down at your audience.

Appropriate background. Honestly, I feel like this should be unnecessary but given the number of internet “selfie fails” I have seen, it is apparent that not everyone considers what a viewer might be able to observe within the frame of your webcam. Keep the background clear of clutter, unprofessional items, or distracting activity. The last thing you need in a Skype interview is a photobomb of the half-dressed roommate running from the bathroom to their own room. While this is especially true for the face to face via camera interactions, it goes for voice only conferences too. Try to keep background noise to a minimum. Go somewhere private where noise levels can be managed to the best extent.

Dress the part. Telecommuters have said that one of the best parts of working from home is the ability to work in your pajamas if you want. That’s fine. I will suggest that this be an exception rather than a rule, though. For video interviews and meetings, it might not be technically necessary to dress in a three-piece suit, but it is a good practice for professionalism to at least dress, and it doesn’t hurt to put on something that resembles work attire. The whole proverb about “people who look nice, act nice” is true. Dressing up or at least getting dressed for work has a psychological impact. You may find that your demeanor is more professional when you are dressed for the part. Even if there is not a camera pointed in your direction, there is a change in the tone and language from that psychological preparation of dressing for success. 

Mute buttons and headsets are your friends. Background noise can be a distraction in any conversation, and depending on the noise in question, it may give the perception of unprofessional conduct or chaotic work environment. When you do not have the “floor” so to speak, the mute button can be the best friend you can have. Aside from the background noises of your environment, it can prevent the inadvertent heaving breathing episodes or deafening listeners with an unexpected sneeze or cough. If privacy is not always available by means of a door or other enclosure, invest in a noise canceling headset. It will make your words clearer and help others understand you better.

Behave professionally. Just because the person isn’t in the room doesn’t mean you shouldn’t conduct yourself professionally and with decorum. Watch your body language, grimaces, use of vernacular, and tone of voice. You may think that if the conference or interview is not on camera, it shouldn’t matter; but I can assure you that certain non-verbal language can impact your tone and pronunciation in a way that others may be able to perceive. Additionally, if you are not careful about these behavioral cues, you may subsequently forget to guard against them when in vivo. Additionally, in video conferences and interviews, try to avoid excessive use of hand motions (unless, of course, you are actually signing for communication… as in American Sign Language or other manual languages). If you are not actually signing, excessive motion can be distracting or appear restless.

Pay attention. Too many people in the world today fail to listen. Most of you will say, “But I do listen!” I suspect that some of you make an effort to do so, but how many of you, when you truly examine your own listening are only listening to prepare a response? This is something into which I have recently put a lot of thought. Instead of hearing what the person has actually said and means, when one is listening merely to construct an argument, you miss not only the meaning, but you may read into their statements something that was never intended. It is especially easy to fall into this trap when communication is telephonic. Humans are programmed to look for meaning. When the visual and non-verbal cues are absent (because the communication is voice only or even text only), many people will insert additional context or content that was never intended by the speaker or writer. So, pay attention to what is actually said. The information gained from what is actually there is potentially ten times more valuable than any imagined meaning gleaned from between the lines.

Wait your turn. This goes hand in hand with the previous tip, and it is possibly the most difficult thing to do in a phone interview or conference call. I have been witness to so many people talking over each other, everyone desperate to get in their two cents, that no one actually heard with the other was saying. With time constraints and ignited passions, it is super difficult to keep the reins on the spoken word dying to pour from the throats of all participants, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to try. Listen for the natural breaks and pauses in the conversation. I know that there are times when interruptions may be unavoidable, but when necessary, apologize. Give the other person the opportunity to continue their own statement. Generally, you will find that by your manners, you will insure your own “turn” to follow. Again, listen closely to others in the conversation. You may find that you do not need to make a statement that may only be a restatement of something that someone else has already said. In video formats, you will have more non-verbal cues to observe for the natural breaks, but it still may not be quite as apparent as the in person interaction. Remember to use good manners and excuse interruptions.

As we continue to increase our technological adaptations for business and personal communication, I foresee face to face (via technology) interaction becoming as common as phone calls are today. Personally, I am thrilled (mostly because I was a big enough geek to love all those science fiction stories and shows), but it does take some accommodation and “getting used to”. I do not by any means believe I have addressed every pitfall or obstacle, but hopefully this short list of tips will help make those distance conferences go a little more smoothly and successfully. Happy face-timing!

Surviving The Cube Farm: A Lesson in Office Etiquette

Having spent years, and years, and years (honestly, it feels like eons sometimes) in an office environment, I think I can officially pronounce myself an expert in office etiquette. I don’t have a medal, or a certificate, or a fancy diploma, or a fez with a fun tassel (fez’s are cool) to prove my expertise, but I promise, I am an expert. Though, truth be told, some of said expertise is actual and some of it is totally because I’m petting my peeves, but all will be totally worth your while.

Whether you have worked in an office environment or not, you’ll probably find this as helpful as you will amusing. See, even if you don’t work in an office, a lot of this is just common sense, best practice stuff that you can apply to your everyday life.

I need to also say that while this is about working in an office and the etiquette practices therein, I want to further clarify that I am mostly referring to those of us 9-5ers (ha-ha) who work in a cubed office environment. More commonly referred to as The Cube Farm.


Let’s start with an easy one. Something everyone wants to have but that mostly no one gets. Nothing in The Cube Farm is private. Nothing. Or, mostly nothing. Just understand that it is likely everyone knows everyone else’s business all the time and you’ll already be on the road to success.

The Office Gossip (TOG). She (well…TOG could be a he, but for the sake of this argument, let’s let her rip) makes it known that she knows everything. She is the one to track you down on your first day simply to tell you that she is the eyes and ears of the place and if there’s anything to know, she’ll know it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. She wants you to spill…immediately…and will pressure you until you do. Depending on your own personality, and how much you want everyone else in the office to know about yourself, it’s probably wise to steer clear.

The Connected One (TCO). TCO knows everyone. Literally and figuratively. TCO is your personal 6-degrees of separation. You used to work there? Oh, do you know so-and-so? You live where? Oh, do you know… You get the picture. And heaven forbid if TCO finds out that you and they know someone in common (or several someones in common) because every time that someone makes a move, TCO is gonna tell you about it. TCO is great for networking, though.

Beware if TOG and TCO are one and the same. That’s a recipe for disaster! I suggest you hide. Just a couple examples of some Privacy Pirates that you might encounter.

If you’re an average Joe or Jane, sitting in your little cube, doing your work, going about your day, minding your own bees-wax, then you’ll probably escape any lasting damage. But offices employ many, many different kinds of people. I shall shout fervently: WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?  Here are a few pointers that might help when it comes to maintaining your privacy.

Never enter someone else’s cubicle without permission. I’ve seen it said in other places that you want to behave as if there is a door and knock, tap, or employ some other gentle method to get the attention of the person in that cube without simply barging in. You don’t like it when folks barge in on you, right? So why would you do it to someone else?

Try not to sneak up behind someone in a cube. See above.

Let others know when you can and cannot be interrupted. Well, yeah – I admit this one is kind of tricky. You don’t want to be interrupted and really don’t have time to tell anyone not to interrupt you so, now what? Well, some offices will allow you to post a flag, or a small sign, or a rotating magnet like you might put on your dishwasher to let the rest of the family know the dishes are clean or dirty. Wait…sorry. Hang on. The rotating office magnet should probably say something like busy and available, not clean and dirty.

Prairie Dogging. The end-all be-all of office interruptions. The popping up of heads all over The Cube Farm to see what’s going on. Up down. Up down. I feel like I need a giant hammer and so I can play a gratifying game or two of Office Whack-a-Mole. Aside from the dogs just being annoying, it’s an invasion of privacy. You do not need to see what is on the other side of that wall so badly that you can’t walk over there.

Loitering outside another’s cube. Totally rude, Dude! Don’t hang out while you wait for the occupant to finish a phone conversation. First of all, you have no idea how long that call is going to last and you could potentially be standing there forever. Kind of foolish, if you ask me. Secondly, if you see someone is otherwise engaged, it is just common courtesy to come back at another time. Common courtesy is, sadly, lacking these days.

Looking at other people’s stuff. Yep. We’ve all done it. The quick flick of the eyes to the monitor screen in front of you, whether it is your screen or not. The information contained on the screen of a co-worker does not apply to you. Period.

Listening to other people’s stuff. In The Cube Farm, it’s next to impossible not to hear your co-worker’s conversations. They’re on the phone or talking with other co-workers all day long. Sometimes it’s hard not to listen, but try. Don’t comment on overheard conversations, or answer overheard questions either. What someone is discussing with someone else does not apply to you. Period.

Touching other people’s stuff. We’ve established that cubes don’t have doors. Doors are a visual representation of privacy. There is definitely something to be said for doors. Doors rock. The lack of a door does not mean you can help yourself to whatever is contained within another’s space.   The pens, pencils, sticky notes, paper clips and various other office supplies are not yours, are not meant for you and should not even be borrowed without permission from the occupant. This goes for food, drinks, and stuffed animals. (Hey – we all have a stuffed animal at our desks, right?)


As you’ve gone through your day in The Cube Farm, have you ever heard something that drove you nuts? Or something that was so…off…that you felt the need to go investigate? Like that anecdote about children; if they’re quiet, you need to check on them because probably someone is doing something they’re not supposed to?

Any office has sounds you cannot avoid: typing, ringing, the hum of the white-noise maker, which is supposed to drown out or muffle sound but tends to just make more noise. The air conditioner or heat coming on and off. The microwave beeping in the break room. The ice machine dropping ice into the bin. The hum of the vending machines. People walking, talking, drumming their fingers out of boredom or insanity because the conference call they’re on is now going into its second hour.

The Gum Popper. Om nom nom. Chomp chomp. Pop. Oh and the snapping. Don’t forget the snapping. They don’t even realize they’re doing it.

Slap Happy. The one who wears nothing but flip-flops year-round, even though they’re totally against the dress code, and does laps around the office twice hourly because they are getting their exercise by not taking the shortcuts everyone else uses. Slap. Slap. Slap. Oh, there they go. Wait! Slap. Slap. Slap. There they go again. What’s this, their fourth or fifth round this hour? Shall we take bets?

The Loud Food Eater. If the gum chewing wasn’t bad enough, there’s this guy. Constantly eating. Snacks. Crackers. Chew chew chew. And that thing he does when he’s got something stuck in his teeth? Shudder.

The Talker. This is the person who talks on the phone all the time, as loudly as they can. Or yells across The Cube Farm to the person four rows away to find out if they have any Ibuprofen. Or holds mini conferences outside their cube. It’s enough to drive anyone mad. Wait! Who has the headache?

A few descriptions of Annoying Animals in The Cube Farm for your amusement. I would like to put to you, dear readers, to be mindful of others as you move about the office during the day. Be considerate. Be aware of how your voice can carry or how the crinkling of the wrapper from your second bag of chips can be disruptive to your neighbor and that loud conversations are distracting and disruptive. And I haven’t even begun to talk about phones. That being said, let’s consider this further, shall we?

Ringing desk phones. We know that ringing phones are a product of being in an office. But did you know that the new-fangled technology we have these days allows you to adjust the volume of the ringer on your desk phone? You may be hard of hearing, but did you take into consideration that your neighbor might hear just fine thank you very much? A lot of office phone models have a little red light that blinks or flashes when you have an incoming call. If you place your ringer low enough for you to still hear it and within your range of vision (try peripheral, it’s awesome) you’ve got two layers of assurance you won’t miss a call.

Ringing cell phones. Turn ‘em off, people. Just turn them off. Or, set them to vibrate or silent ring. You do not need to have your personal cell phone on you all the time. Yep. I am like most of the rest of you, attached to my technology at the hip, but even I turn my ringer down, or off completely during the day. Your employer is not paying you to text (beep), play games, (boop), or chat (ring) all day long. And please, for the love of all that is good and peaceful in this world, do not leave your cell phone – ringer on – on your desk and then walk away. None of the rest of us need to listen to your Minion Ba-Na-Na PO-TA-TO ring tone over and over again. (Although props for a good choice of ring tone.)

Speaker phone conversations. Oh my. This one walks a fine line between being one of those aforementioned peeves I’ve been petting and being actual office etiquette. I haven’t weighed the scale to determine which side is heavier. But, if you must have a conversation using speaker phone, remember these key points: 1) Everyone else can hear you, and everyone else can hear the person on the other end of the line. 2) If you know about the call ahead of time, reserve a conference room so you can have a closed door between your speaker phone conversation and the rest of The Cube Farm. Your fellow dogs will thank you.

Voice Volume. If you’re a naturally loud talker, I understand. So am I. I’ve been known to burst my own ear drums from time to time. That’s another story. But there are these wonderful inventions called headsets. They are not only for comfort and convenience, but they also allow for a quieter (and more private) conversation. If you don’t have a headset for your desk phone, talk to someone who might be able to rectify that for you. They’re a good idea and should be standard equipment, right along with your computer and a monitor and a phone.

Tech Sounds. If you use email or instant messaging to communicate with your co-workers, turn the sounds off. Those dings and bings are enough to turn Dr. Banner into his big, mean, green friend with little to no warning.

Music.  If you are one of the bazillion people who like to listen to music during their work day, unless your office management says otherwise, it’s okay to use ear buds or headphones. Just remember not to get too zoned out, just in case you’re called by the little red flashy light on your phone or the loiterer outside your cubicle.

Are you feeling the burn yet? Think you can manage a couple more reps? Good. Let’s keep going.


Last on my list of things to discuss in the world of office etiquette is (drumroll please) smells. Odor. Scent. The things your sniffer sniffs out and process into four categories: good, bad, ugly and really, really offensive. (Points if you can get both random movie references there.)

The Scent Hound. Like a bloodhound to the scent of a missing person, the rest of us can smell you coming a mile away or follow your trail every place you’ve been. Your odor lingers when you pass through in such a way that one can almost see the molecules of your scent du jour hanging like a fog in the air. Patchouli does not equal bath.

The Lunch Eater. Here, ladies and gentlemen, we have The Lunch Eater. Sitting at his desk during lunch time, single-mindedly putting away the pastrami on rye he got from the local deli. Complete with onions, mustard and pickles. On the side, salt and vinegar potato chips. Look at him, ladies and gentlemen. Take note of how smoothly his arms raise the dripping sandwich to his mouth and how purposefully he bites, how possessively he chews. Beware. He is at his meanest at lunch time.

The Stink Monster. Stinky needs no qualifiers. Stinky is the leftover salmon for lunch eating, microwave popcorn burning, close-talking halitosis having, run the other way when you see him coming co-worker. Add in a layer of bad cologne and last week’s shirt (complete with armpit funk) and all I have to say is, “Eeeewwww!” It is Odoriferous Odiousness I share with you, my fellows. Let’s tone it down some, shall we? We, your co-workers, are breathing this air, too. You do know that, right?  Perfumes, colognes, body sprays, organic natural oils, scented hand lotions, hair sprays…what do they have in common? They all should be totally avoided in The Cube Farm. Period. Those of us with breathing issues like asthma or allergic sensitivities will thank you. File this under how to win friends and influence people. Not the book though. I mean it in the most literal sense.

However loudly you may complain about others, how loudly are they complaining about you? Take some time to think about your habits and ask yourself these questions:

1)      Does it invade or affect another’s privacy?

2)      Does it make noise and if so, how loud or obnoxious would I, personally, consider that noise to be?

3)      Does it smell? Period.

I am not judging. We are all individuals and we all have our own little quirks.  Some of us get along really well, some of us don’t.  Sometimes the best we can hope for is tolerance.  But as I leave you to go silently into that good night (or day, depending) I ask that you truly and openly think about those you encounter at  your office every day.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll begin to see just what part of the corporate puzzle they play, and if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll be able to fit that piece in exactly the right place.  Also, if you have very strong feelings about indivudual Privacy Pirates, Annoying Animals or Odoriferous Odiousness-es, talk to your manager about the best, most thoughtful, and least offensive or hurtful way to approach.  You could be doing them a favor.

While it’s absolutely impossible to please everyone all the time, your consideration of the above-mentioned things won’t go unnoticed. Your fellow Cube Farm occupants will thank you. They may not thank you personally, but they’ll thank you. Believe me.