The Week in Rock

Work e-mail's not about communicating.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,I'm looking at the CDs in the Greenwood Library, and the selection is totally fat. It's in that freshly reshelved condition recognizable to any regular library user—a rare high tide between the usual picked-over bones of A Beach Boys Christmas and Ambrosia's Anthology. Then this woman emerges from my peripheral vision and starts rummaging through the CDs in the shelf directly below the one I'm looking at. Her weirdly aggressive move puts us in such uncomfortable proximity that I abandon my position, even though I'm not done. From a distance I observe her making off with The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions and the digitally remastered, two-disc version of Sweethearts of the Rodeo. The woman in question is Caucasian, in her mid-30s, with dreadlocks and a Chinese thing tattooed on the left arm. Can you please put this description out through some library air-tube communication system or something so her rudeness will be dealt with by the proper authorities?Indignant Victim

Dear Victim,

Some people get bored with the everyday peace and beauty of Seattle and so try to enliven things by dangerously bumping against another citizen's Dibs Zone. If you want to get close to the edge, what else is there to do here? I mean, other than looking at Seattle cops in a manner they may interpret as "funny," which may lead them to engage you in a high-speed shoot-out. Ha ha! Just kidding, Seattle cops! You wouldn't pull over a middle-class guy like me, would you? Completely harmless in my silver Japanese car? I mean, come on, Terry Gross is my co-pilot, fellows! Of course I totally want you to stop pulling over and/or shooting all those black men and stuff, but we still have an understanding that people like me are safe from you guys, right? After all, it's not for nothing that my grandma regularly employed the expression "as smooth as a stoned yuppie cruising through Fremont in a Subaru."

But hang on, we were talking about something else altogether, weren't we? Oh, right, the Dibs Zone. Which is an invisible semi-sphere that extends outward from your torso whenever you're looking at CDs at the library, new titles at Blockbuster, or shoes at the Rack. No one may violate the Dibs Zone without suffering serious consequences such as being upbraided anonymously in the pages of an alternative newsweekly.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

There's this guy at work who's started using "Rock" as his e-mail sign-off. As in, "Dear So-and-so, blah blah blah. Rock, John." Not "Rock out"—which, though stupid and cheesy, would at least make sense—just "Rock." Then there's the alcoholic receptionist who writes her e-mail in a giant, purple cursive font, the Harvard MBA who flashes a quote from The Art of War in a tiny green font in his signature file, and the graphic designer who makes his name appear in eccentric, right-justified pink letters. How can I cope with all this inscrutable subtext?Cube Head

Dear Cube Head,

E-mail at work is not about communication. It's about jockeying for position and distributing wisdom. I myself like to sprinkle in a few words that I've found to be useful in my own life, always with my own little humorous twist. As one of my more well-known e-mail signatures put it, "Who says you can't be gentle as you seize your inner divinity?" Slip the cliché in the back door, that's my motto.

If work e-mail does contain any actual content, it's usually along these lines: "Thank you for bringing to my attention the horrible disaster that will result from my continued inaction. In lieu of my actually doing anything, please accept this random assortment of meaningless buzz words, designed to make the people CC'd on this message think that I give a fuck about any of this shit: messaging framework, vision statement, granularity, POR, ROI, customer-centric, tasked with, pushback, metrics, mind share, branding perspective, outstanding deliverable, take it offline. Thanks!" Heck, you couldn't understand any of that stuff even if you wanted to, so why even try? Focus instead on the random bits of insight from self-help books that may show up in your colleagues' signature files. Because a word of light from the mouth of an enemy is worth two misguided words of your own.Keepin' it Kwanzaa,

The Uptight Seattleite

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