I was accosted by a colleague as I was drying my hands in the toilets the other day. It’s not an ideal place for a conversation, to be honest. If you happen to encounter someone that you know in there, it seems a bit rude to ignore them entirely, but it’s a difficult balance to strike between making polite small-talk to acknowledge their presence and becoming one of those people who talks too much in the toilets and makes everyone else feel a bit awkward.
On this occasion, the chap striking up the conversation wasn’t even someone that I knew very well. In fact, we’re not even really on nodding terms. We have the kind of relationship where, if I saw him outside of work, I would recognise him and then have an internal dialogue about whether or not I should smile or nod my head or something, and in the end would probably pretend to be deeply engrossed in my phone when we passed to avoid the issue entirely.
He’s a nice enough seeming guy, but – how to put this – he’s also a fairly typical example of someone who has worked in an IT department working on mainframes for the last thirty years: He’s a pretty small guy, but he has big Napoleon Dynamite-style glasses and a little moustache. Let’s put it this way: if you had to guess what he did for a living, you wouldn’t need many guesses.
As I was reaching for some paper towels to dry my hands, he paused in the action of opening the door to leave and decided that, in fact, he would speak to me:
“Was it you who used the word “shizzle” in the weekly report this week?”
I think I’ve mentioned this report before: it’s sent out across the whole department with contributions from every area, and I’m the poor sap who writes ours. It’s basically a pointless exercise: dry-as-dust updates pasted together into one long, long report that almost no one bothers to read. With that lack of audience in mind, I write mine in such a way that at the very least I entertain myself: I use song lyrics and song titles and if I can write the whole thing without once mentioning anything directly relating to work, then I consider it a job well done. As a for instance, here’s a section from last week’s report:
“Veteran comedian [my boss], famous for his rambling anecdotes, has been in London this week. He described receiving a CBE at Buckingham Palace as "a very lovely honour". The 81-year-old exchanged a few words with the Queen as he received a medal that he described as "very pretty". "She told me, 'You make people laugh'," he told reporters afterwards. "I think she's remarkable for her age."…..Oh hang on, that’s about Ronnie Corbett. [My boss] has apparently been sightseeing in London with his family. My bad.”
I am sort of on a quest to see how far I can push it before I get censored… although, in order to be censored, the person putting the report together would have to read the contributions first….
So, yes, I had used the word “shizzle” in my report: whilst talking about some fascinating sounding event due to take place the following week, I said “this exciting event will showcase the very latest in payment technology: portable payment, smarter checkouts, queue analysis and all that shizzle”. Dripping with sarcasm? Well, perhaps a little....
Man in the toilet seemed impressed: “The only other person I’ve ever heard use that word is my ten year-old son and I just assumed that he had made it up”
I finished drying my hands and reached for the door to make good my escape.
“It’s Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ricki, Snoop Doggy Dogg” and swept majestically out of the room, perhaps to hang with my homies at my desk.
As a 37 year old man working as a tiny-cog in the IT department of a soul-destroying corporate machine, I may not be all that street…. But I’m definitely more street than some.
Actually, that same day I was talking to someone else at work who was convinced that her daughter had made up the word “discombobulate”. When I told her that it was a word that had been in fairly common usage for hundreds of years, she wouldn’t believe me until I proved it to her.
Knowing that’s a word and knowing what it means doesn’t make me a smart-arse, right?
There are lots of things that do make me a smart-arse, but I don't think this is one of them. Telling the same lady that one of my favourite words was floccinaucinihilipilification... now that makes me a smart arse.
I know what it means too, and I floccinaucinihilipilificate my knowledge of this word.
When plans change
1 week ago