We are playing a new game in my household called “Balky Puppy.” It looks like this:
It’s pretty fun. Dawg and I walk half a block, then he plops down on a patch of grass and gives me The Look. And then refuses to budge. “Fletch,” I say. “This is not our yard.”
“Fletch. Someone has to go to work today. It can be you or it can be me, but one of us has to earn a living to pay for your stuffed elephants and chewy treats.”
“Fletch. I will give you one million billion trillion dollars if you will get up.”
The thing is, Fletch only plays this game with me in front of other people. Fletch is the most extroverted extrovert you’ve ever met, which is especially comical in light of my last post bemoaning my professional extrovert overload. Fletch sees another dog and says, “Hey! Dog! I LOVE dogs! I LOVE YOU!” Fletch sees the neighbors and says, “Hey! Neighbors! I LOVE neighbors! I LOVE YOU!” Fletch sees the local drug dealer and says, “Hey! Local drug dealer! I LOVE local drug dealers! I LOVE YOU!” And so on.
During the first game of Balky Puppy, I figured we were setting a bad leash-walking precedent, so my aching back and I picked him up and I toddled home with him in my arms. He is far too big for that, really. Guy walks past and says, “He don’t want to walk, do he.” Dude. Obvs. The next game was up the street, with all of the kids waiting for the school bus. “KIDS I LOVE KIDS!!” Fletch said. And then he kissed all over them, and then he balked. He absolutely would not leave his spot on the sidewalk, untll they finally all got on the bus and rode away, and only then it was because he was trying to get on the bus too. The next round was a few blocks up, and I was saying “c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon” as Handsome Eligible Runner ran past us. Laughing.
Before he started playing Balky Puppy, he had already perfected the art of the Soulful Stare. He would stare at any living creature walking past with such intensity and commitment to the task that, whomever the target, they would have to laugh and give him some love. (This is kind of a mortifying game when you’re an unwilling participant. I suppose parents of toddlers feel the same way in public.) I’ll have to say, though, everyone takes it well. I’ve made some friends. (So has Dawg.)
On a slightly-related tangent, I went to a seminar yesterday that was all extroverted extroverty extroversion. It was specifically about innovation in the Triangle, and it was interesting to hear a lot of brief reports from a lot of different people about the aforementioned innovation. Mostly it reminded me of the game Buzzword Bingo, which we used to play at all-staff meetings when I taught at a school tied to a museum. The teachers would all make up secret 25-square bingo cards before we met with the corporate side of the organization, using words like “synergy” and “global” and “interdisciplinary.” The teacher who won had to indicate victory by asking a question involving a predetermined code word like “collaborative.” Those were the best staff meetings ever.
I started keeping a list of yesterday’s buzzwords. Convener, intentional community, maximum collision (multiple hits), accelerator, aggregator, cross-pollination, technology intoxication, any metaphor involving the planting of a seed, open-source (massive eye roll, pull me aside over beer one day and I’ll explain why), coworking, entrepreneurial ecosystem (one million hits.) My first thought, listening to all of these buzzwords, was that there was a whole lot of talking, and not much content. All flash and no substance. All sizzle and no steak. That wasn’t really true; most of the talk was tech-centered, and while I am enthusiastically supportive of all that the Triangle generates (buzzword) in that sector, I could not be less interested in hearing the details. The parts I found most interesting were about designing workplaces which allow for maximum collision, whether it’s coworking space for small start-ups or a huge college campus. It was much more of a pep rally than a work session, which is totally fine with me if you are also serving me swank cocktails and handing me goblets of mashed potatoes with shredded pork shoulder on top. The event was a win.
Except, if you know me, you know an event like that is not my scene. At one point I was checking my phone and waiting for the two people I knew to surface when I got a text from a friend asking about my upcoming music plans. “Wait! I see you!! Did not know you were here!” and then I walked across the lobby and was all, “THANK HEAVENS, I was hiding over there behind the flowers waiting for the bar to open and my peeps to show up.” It turned out to be a lot of fun; I ran into someone who volunteered to get the director of her department to forward my resume to some architects, talked to some interesting designers and city planners, formulated a plan and recruited a sponsor for our Kirby Derby car, and discussed options with a guy who plans to present me to a series of eligible bachelors. Some people are very targeted about networking (Dawg.) Some of us stumble through it unwillingly and have a good time anyway.
One of the most interesting speakers talked about the design for his workplace, saying that innovation is a “contact sport.” He says you try and throw all kinds of people together so there’s a lot of intentional collision, and that’s how things happen. Connecting the dots in an organic (buzzword) way. That’s really the point of an event like that one, anyway. The chit-chat afterwards, and the connections you make. Serendipitous collisions. Happy accidents which lead to new connections of all kinds.
Turns out Dawg knew that before I did.