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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Work You With I Like! Many Times Friend Now!

(As promised, the baseball musing is heating up with springtime over at Bugs & Cranks. Have a gander at yesterday’s Wednesday Walk Watch: spWing tWaining edition, as well as the somewhat scary Feeling Chipper Into His Forties. Just how long are those contract extensions, anyway?

After that, you can come back here and read today’s nonsense. But not before you’ve eaten your veggies!)

If you’re like me, you sometimes need to lighten your load a bit at the office. Things get hectic, the work piles up, and you find that you’re overstretched, overstressed and in a state of serious higgledy-piggledy. It’s during these workological crises that we need to remember those helpful little tips and tricks for making the most of our precious time. I’m having a fairly frantic week at the office this week, and I needed one of those tricks today. Luckily, I remembered it, and just in the nick of time, too. This very nice lady had just emailed me at my boss’ suggestion, asking for all sorts of information about what we do, how we could help her, and any background information on our group, its members, our skills, experience, hat sizes, pets’ names and what each of us ate for breakfast. Just for starters.

“This very nice lady had just emailed me at my boss’ suggestion, asking for all sorts of information about what we do, how we could help her, and any background information on our group, its members, our skills, experience, hat sizes, pets’ names and what each of us ate for breakfast.”

It’s the sort of request we get from time to time. Our group collaborates with all sorts of people on various projects, so folks occasionally want to get to know us, and to explore how we can work together. And whether we can exchange hats at the next birthday party, and whether we’re as into Frosted Mini-Wheats as they are, because how awesome would that be, and we could totally be BFF work-and-cereal buddies, and wouldn’t you just squeal if it were true?

(For the record, I wouldn’t squeal. I might ‘rah’, just a little. But I’m a gruel and stale toast man myself, so what are the chances some would-be work pal is eating the same breakfast, eh?

Outside of any 12th century serfs who might be interested in a collaboration, I’m guessing not many.)

Now, the lady’s request was perfectly reasonable, and just the sort of thing I field from time to time.

But not today. Today, there are deadlines whooshing by, emergencies bubbling up and spilling over onto the nice carpet and people all around peering at the windowsills to see if they open, so they can bid the cruel world goodbye and jump out.

Never mind that we work on the third floor, over a parking garage. Anybody managing to fling themselves out of one of our windows is going to fall about three feet onto a late model Buick LeSabre. I suppose they could crawl under it and hope it eventually drives over them, but it’s really not the most efficient way to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Plus, who wants to die being run over by a Buick? At least get squished by something with a little class, for crissakes.

Anyway, the point is, today is not the day for me to be compiling information and pulling project summaries and running after people measuring their foreheads. I didn’t want to ignore this lady’s request, exactly, but I needed to put it off for a little while. Until tomorrow, maybe. Or Monday. Or October. Things will have probably settled down by then.

On the other hand, I couldn’t be rude to a new contact, either. For one thing, the boss sent her my way, and he was cc’ed on her email. I had to send something back today. Not that he’d actually read my response or anything; this handshaking get-to-know-you waltz is not really the sort of fish he normally fries around here. But he does check his mailbox, and if he notices a line with my name on it and a subject line that says, ‘RE: Let’s talk projects and hats and breakfasts, oh my!‘, then that’s good enough.

And if he doesn’t see that, he might come talk to me about it. Which is no good at all. Because I checked, and those windows do not open. Also, that Buick’s going nowhere until five o’clock. So I’m out of escape plans here.

Besides, we like to collaborate with new people, and her project sounded pretty interesting. Also, who knows — she might be hot. So there were compelling reasons to not just delete her email, pretend it never arrived and ‘LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!‘ my way through any subsequent conversation about it.

Still, I didn’t want to actually address any of her questions yet. Couldn’t. Not possible. And I couldn’t claim to be too busy for her, because that might put her off. That’s when I remembered the nifty little trick that I figured would buy me the day or two I needed. I opened a reply window and wrote a few short sentences about how happy and excited we are for the opportunity to work with her in the future.

Then, I opened a browser and went to Babelfish. I translated my message into Portuguese, then back to English. Here’s what it spat out:

Dear Dr. Whitlock —

Debtor in such a way for its email! We reverse speed absolutely seen onward to the work with you soon. It very emotive is to have the chance to participate in this project, and we fortunate reverse speed to collaborate with you. Compliments!

Perfect. I looked up ‘umlaut’, found an ‘e’ with two little dots over it that I could copy, signed my name as ‘CharliĆ«’ and hit ‘Send’.

The way I figure it, this lady’s never met me. Doesn’t know me, never seen me, never spoken to me on the phone. So if I happened to be ‘Char-luh-YI-ee‘ from Stockholm or Bavaria or Ork or somewhere, how would she know? Maybe English is my fifth language, after Mandarin and Sanskrit and something Germanic and some flavor of Esperanto only used by one species of lemur in the Madagascar jungle. She doesn’t know. And that umlaut is a killer. It’s my double-dot secret weapon.

So now the ball’s in her mailbox. She’s got to figure out some way to respond to a promptly-sent and clearly enthusiastic email from someone who just as clearly didn’t offer any of the actual information she asked for. Assuming she can decipher the message at all, her goal is now to re-explain, with as few and as simple words as possible, exactly what she’s looking for. And she has to be somewhat culturally sensitive about it, without the actual benefit of knowing which culture it is she’s attempting to be sensitive about.

I sent the email three hours ago, and I haven’t heard a peep. If I get anything back before next Wednesday, I’ll be shocked, frankly. It’d take me at least a week to untangle that nightmare.

Meanwhile, I’m free to go back to the deadlines and the emergencies and daydreaming about being pinned unconscious under a nice comfortable luxury sedan. Maybe something in a Lexus. Or a Mercedes. Ah, heaven.

Of course, the downside is that when I finally do meet this woman, I’ll have a bit of a dilemma. By that point, she’ll be expecting a Martian or some highland sherpa or a guy decked out in tribal tattoos and a woven-grass codpiece. Instead, all she’ll see is… well, me. I could possibly pull off ‘confused Scandinavian tourist’, assuming she’s never seen the Swedish chef on the Muppets, but that’s about the limit of my foreign language skills.

Perhaps it’d be better to tell her my computer was infected with a virus, or that I’m narcoleptic and compose spam messages in my sleep. Oh, or maybe I have a split personality. One of which is from a country I’ve never heard of, possibly. I’m sure that kind of thing happens all the time. And so long as I occasionally send her another email in near-gibberish nonsense form, how’s she to know? Brilliant.

It’s foolproof, I tell you. Absolutely foolproof. The biggest office time-saver since the electrical automated stapling machine. I very emotive to fortunate this idea! Debtor to reverse speed all the time. Compliments!

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30 Facts: Alton Brown
A Commute Dreary
A Hallmark Moment
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Eight Your 5-Hole?
El Classo de Espanol
Good News for Goofballs
Grammar, Charlie-Style
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  04/09/05: Com. Studio
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  12/11/04: Emerald Isle
  09/06/04: Connection

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