Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In work encounters

The first encounter (1)

When I started in the public service over a decade ago, despite being gainfully tertiary in my qualifications, I commenced as a lowest possible government drone (sector 7G). The lowest of the low were the mailroom lads ... which is of course what I was (though a slightly higher grade in a support cell area). That's back when I had my arse-long ponytail (pre-bald spot) too. I ended up pushing a mail trolley around corridors, my ponytail a swish-swashing behind me like one of the Brady girls, and looking like the comic store guy from The Simpsons sprung to three-dimensional life.

So when I see mailroom lads with their trolleys tooling around the corridors I am reminded of that time in my employment life. It had its ups and downs - the people I worked with were nice enough and the work was not challenging, however I didn’t like the way other public servants looked down on me and the work itself lacked meaning or purpose for me.

I likes to have a purpose.

The other day I saw one of the trolley dudes coming along. He was a shorter man but what really caught my eye were the giant set of mutton chops he had fuzzing out of his face. The exact same facial hairstyle on his far taller colleague that also tools a trolley around. It seems the mailroom lads of circa 2011 have adopted the reverse movember as their hirsute stock in facially hairy trade.

I’m glad that wasn’t around when I was on the trolleys. I don’t think I could pull off the bristling chops.

The second encounter

I am a short man. I don’t think of myself as short, nor do I have short man syndrome (2). I just tend to think I am normal height and the people that I meet when I’m walking down the street just happen to be taller than average. It’s a good way to look at life. Mind you as I walk along, if I have my eyes straight ahead, I tend to end up level with a girl’s neck or with a boys pec.

I rarely experience what it is like to be physically dominant. My older brother has that—he’s 6’3”. Plus he’s a teacher and has to have a loud ‘now settle down’ voice to go with it. His height gives him a physicality that I lack.

But the other day as I was stepping into the lift a shorter person stepped out. She must have been under five feet, but perfectly in proportion. Suddenly I got an insight what it must be like to be tall. To be that dominant. To tower over others. I have to confess … I liked it. To be able to strut around with the subsconcious understanding that you could likely smash anyone you came across by dint of size alone. Must be good for the ego. As Abe Simpson once said of Homer - 'I was always proud you were not a short man.'

(1) One of my favourite type of nerd books—okay, role-playing game supplements, are collections of one-shot encounters. They present a person, place, predicament, or protagonist in 1–2 pages that you can drop in with little notice into your game. Indeed KODT has a section, not statted out though, called Bait and Tackle where they give a small synopsis of a situation in progress then a game master only behind-the-scenes to what the situation truly entails. You give over the info in game and let the player characters at it. It’s good stuff—and it’s often surprising where such an encounter can lead. It can often be a trigger for an entire side-story for your campaign.
(2) Contrary to urban myth, Napoleon did not have ‘short man’s syndrome’ because, as Mark Steel pointed out in his Radio 4 lecture on Napoleon, he was not actually short. Napoleon was the average height for a man of his time. If he had other issues, such as megalomania, they were not caused by a sense of physical inferiority.
The Mark Steel lectures are awesome. Most of them are on YouTube - so check them out today!

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