This time every year, we get questions about costumes. My preferred Halloween costume is ‘staying home’, but if you’re into this stuff, please do leap into the comments to advise these questioneers. We open with B in Seattle:
I work in a small office with six other people. Not by choice, I’ve apparently taken on the role of Human Resources (in addition to several other titles). I have zero HR experience. One of my colleagues has come to office in the past dressed as Aunt Jemima for Halloween. The problem is, she is white and completed the ensemble with black face. (more…)
In Answer Me This! Episode 316, we have two very different questions concerning overpreparation for death. We also have:
free salad vs free prawn crackers
cat shit vs cat sick
soiled lost property
Plus: Olly will go on a cruise, as long as it’s free; Helen’s first musical memory is of a cool saboteur; and Martin the Sound Man wants you to slice your own apples and peel your own bananas, you big babies.
In today’s Bonus Bit of Crap on the App (available for iStuff, Android and Windows devices), we continue AMT315‘s discussion of facial hair, and at long last hit on the format that’ll make Olly and Martin into YouTube stars. Or might have, ten years ago.
Thanks very much to Squarespace.com for supporting this episode, and for giving you 10% off their website-building and -hosting services for a year if you use the code ‘ANSWER‘. If you’ve ever wanted to launch your own website/podcast/blog/online gallery, deploy the code and GET ON WITH IT.
Have you ever nicked a little something to remind you of a holiday? We’ve got a nice china cup pinched from a plane and YOU’LL NEVER TAKE US ALIVE, BRITISH AIRWAYS. What’s yours? One listener’s stolen souvenir came with fond memories and twenty years of guilt. Find out what and why in Answer Me This! Episode 314:
Today we tackle:
dumping your training-buddy
concierges Kendal Mint Cake vs transubstantiation royal tins of travel sweets vs the unstoppable march of time
stealing from castles vs pissing in a stream
the silent film Wings
a Milton Keynes-themed bar
heritage crime The Grand Budapest Hotel IRL
mummy and daddy
Plus: though Olly prefers men to machines, he would prefer men to act like machines; Helen wouldn’t tune into a livestream of Princess Middleton giving birth; and Martin the Sound Man doesn’t have high hopes for his fellow academics on the ski slopes, unless the hopes are for a mild sprain rather than a broken arm.
As an addendum to the question about same sex kisses in films, today’s Bonus Bit of Crap on the App (available for iThings, Android and Windows devices) concerns the lost lesbians of Love Actually. Yes, they actually left material OUT of that sprawling collage of human emotions.
Fire up your podblasters; Answer Me This! Episode 306 has arrived:
Today we consider:
Extreme Wink Murder
Britney Spears’s haircare range
Barry Norman’s pickled onions Paul Simon’s chicken and eggs
skateboarding and similar activities
having ‘a bit of fun’ on Tinder
Plus: Olly’s madeleine is the Bernard Matthews Mini Kiev; Helen is sitting all the way to skating glory; and Martin the Sound Man preaches discretion when encountering colleagues on Tinder. Got something to confess, Martin?
Today’s Bonus Bit of Crap on the App is another Stanley Mann Special, this time how he’s way ahead of his time with fashion trends. Full of surprises, that Mann. Hear on your iDevices, Android and Windows gadgets.
We welcome your questions with open arms and legs. Ask them by leaving voicemails on the Question Line – call 0208 123 5877 or Skype ID answermethis – or sending emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not bother to ask them via facebook.com/answermethis and twitter.com/HelenAndOlly, because we might forget about them when it comes to the fortnightly question-harvest; but we do love to hear from you there nonetheless.
Thanks very much to Squarespace.com for supporting this episode, and for giving you 10% off their website-building and -hosting services for a year if you use the code ‘answer’. WHERE’S THE ALL THE SHIT HIDING??? WHERE IS IT, I ASK YOU? Nowhere! No shit there at all! If only all of life were more like shitless Squarespace…
We’ll be back with AMT307 on 5th February, return then.
Helen & Olly
••• AMT306 Child-Friendly Rating: 47%. Quite a few swears. Some crudity towards the end, involving One Direction’s bodily fluids, polishing wood, and Tinder. •••
Here’s an email from Joe that must have got lost on its way to Penthouse Forum:
Do you think that Vanna and Pat ever had sex with each other?
I’m a fairly handsome and charming man and whenever I work closely with a woman, we end up having sex at least once. There’s something about working together and building a rapport that, in my experience, make banging each other a foregone conclusion. So long as she’s somewhat attractive, this is going to happen.
What’s worse, I’m in the army surrounded by men and this never fails to happen when I work with a female lieutenant.
I know Vanna married someone else, but since they’ve been working together for decades, surely she’s at least tossed him off.
I don’t know Vanna or Pat. But I do know that in eight years of working together and building a rapport, Olly and I have succeeded in never having sex or tossing each other off. You may not believe us, Joe, but this was not in the least challenging. So maybe Vanna and Pat also managed to keep it professional.
Party poopers in the house toniiiiiite! Caitlin in Los Angeles, California don’t wanna have a good tiiiime! And frankly we agree with her:
I work in an office that has an unofficial celebration protocol: a group of eager party planners toss up some decorations in the meeting room, lure in the guest of honor, attendees muster a weak “surprise” and we all have brief and awkward conversation while enjoying pizza and cake until it’s back to work. Retirements, promotions, farewells, and baby-showers are handed this way. Repetitive, but fairly harmless and includes pizza.
When my supervisor became pregnant with her first child she immediately told everyone she did not want a baby shower under any circumstance. The very idea of sitting in front of coworkers as they stared at her pregnant belly made her painfully anxious. Fawning over baby-related gifts and embarrassing party games made her physically ill. And she was uncomfortable being given gifts by the people she supervises. She made me promise that, if anybody was trying to plan a baby shower, I would try to stop it and tell her. Thinking nothing of it, I agreed immediately and went back to business as usual.
Then I got a baby-shower e-vite in my work inbox. It announced a “secret” baby shower for my supervisor. I was aghast they would blatantly ignore her wishes this way. Unfortunately (but also to my relief), she had to take an early leave for bed rest. Problem solved.
Fast forward to now: she is pregnant again and the same series of events are repeating themselves: she insists to all who will listen there will be no baby shower. An urgent plea for me to tell her if our coworkers are conspiring. And another e-vite alerting people to a “secret” baby shower has recently arrived in my inbox.
I emailed the party planners and reminded them of her wishes. I suggested we plan a non-surprise party WITH our supervisor – no gifts, no games. Just food, conversation, and on with our lives. If people really wanted to give a gift, perhaps we donate to a charity in the future daughter’s name. It seemed like a good idea to me. This way, everyone gets a party and my supervisor is not miserable.
My idea was shot down completely within ten minutes. My supervisor’s supervisor, who she has told NUMEROUS times her feelings, wrote that he thinks the party should be left the way it was planned. He wrote that he felt “she will be happy and grateful. She works really hard and deserves this from us.” Everyone else agreed.
So I am back where I started two years ago: do I tell my supervisor and risk the wrath of my coworkers should she put a stop to it? Or do I leave my supervisor to the baby shower planning wolves and risk a breach of trust?
Oh noble Caitlin, your guilt is palpable even though you have done your best. Readers, guide her action with your vote:
It’s not just Cupcake Lady who has a problem colleague. Jennifer in Dublin is similarly afflicted:
In my job, it’s always up to me to arrange cards and collections when someone is leaving. It’s not actually in my job description, but being the general office skivvy it’s an unspoken rule that I do it (and I HATE it).
In a few weeks one woman who’s been here for a few months on a temporary transfer from another department is leaving. This woman is possibly the rudest, most ignorant person I have ever met. As well as being terrible at her job, she thinks she’s above everyone else, constantly loses and damages equipment and has even been rude to the boss. It’s like she’s in another world and just will not listen to anyone else. In retrospect, the other department probably encouraged this transfer to get rid of her.
So answer me this: do I arrange her leaving card and present even though I hate her and she’s been personally rude to me? Why should I do a nice thing for someone who makes my job more difficult?
Another twist in this dilemma is that her last day is also MY last day. Should I just do nothing and hope that whoever arranges my card and present does one for her too? That is presuming that someone does arrange one for me…
As I have largely worked on my own throughout my career, I need you office-dwelling readers to help out Jennifer in the comments.
But, in the spirit of altruism, I think you should sort out her card and present. It doesn’t have to be a particularly good one – eg if the usual office expenditure per present is £25, get her a cut price box of Black Magic – but try to rise above her human follies. Although you can’t stop people writing ‘FUCK OFF AND DIE! xx Michelle’ in the card. And by ‘can’t’, I mean ‘needn’t bother’.
Regarding your own departure: my poor old father-in-law was similarly the birthday/leaving celebration organiser, so of course when it was his own landmark birthday, his colleagues totally shat the bed and forgot. He was, rightly, not pleased. To avoid your own disappointment, therefore, start dropping heavy hints to some of your colleagues with whom you’re friendly. And when you’re touting around the card and collection plate for your office nemesis, you could even mention to everyone in turn that as you’re leaving, the next card and collection will have to be done by somebody else. You could even jovially remark, “And as I’m leaving on the same day as this bitch, that collection will be for me! So you’d better dig deep, hey?” OK, that has leapt clean over the boundaries of Hint and landed smack bang in Blatant Instruction, but how often do hints work? Will hints go out and buy your leaving present? Will hints console you in three years’ time when you’re still stewing about not getting a leaving card? Screw hints! Life’s too short for hints. In fact, send around a pan-office memo right now demanding a high-value present be supplied to you by 4pm on your final day. BECOME the office bitch.
Today we learn why all those people believe Elvis to be alive, whereas they don’t feign such confidence over the likes of, say, Janis Joplin, Robert Johnson, Mozart… Put on your white jumpsuit and conspiracy theorising hat, and get stuck into Answer Me This! Episode 271:
In which we also ponder:
table tennis bats
cupcake wars (interpersonal ones, not the tv show of the same name) Red Or Black vs Ant Or Dec
the parliamentary mace vs Geoff Hoon
The Flaming Et Cetera
the National Enquirer.
Furthermore! Of course Olly loves the sound of his own voice, but only in solitude; sure, Helen can bake, but it’s nothing really (on the other hand, talking shit every week is high art); and Martin the Sound Man posits that not only is Elvis not alive now, he was also not alive during most of his life. You still following?
In this week’s Bit of Crap on the App (available for iDevices or Android) Helen wonders how a duck foetus ends up in a glass of champagne on a tasting menu – and moreover why anybody would think that is a suitable first date drink.
Also not suitable for a first date, but perfectly suitable for most other times, is sending us your QUESTIONS: leave voicemails on the Question Line (call 0208 123 5877 or Skype ID answermethis) and send emails to email@example.com.
See you next Thursday,
Helen & Olly
AMT271 Child-Friendly Rating: 88%. Opens with an email about Consenting Adults’ Bedsports, but other than that, very clean, even swear-wise.
The following question from Kev wouldn’t be too weird if he worked in a strip joint. But, he doesn’t:
I recently started working at a call centre for a bank. I am nearing the end of my training, and a couple of days ago I met with the team I am to join, and my prospective manager. They all seem perfectly likeable, and my manager – a woman in her mid-forties – is very welcoming. But during this brief meeting she announced that she plans to organise a day of pole dancing for the group, which I do not like the sound of at all.
I realise that in the corporate world this kind of thing is important for team building etc, and as a new member of the team I could perhaps benefit from an event at which I would have a chance to socialise with my future colleagues, but I simply do not want to go. I don’t like doing even vaguely work-related things outside of work as this is not a career I wish to be in for a long time and there are things that I am passionate about that I could be doing with my spare time. I also think that either watching or doing pole dancing sounds completely boring; not because I am a man, but because it’s just not my thing.
I tried to find out when it was to make up a prior engagement, but I was told that the date of the event is yet to be decided based on our schedules.
So, answer me this: What do I do? Do I make up a weak and potentially transparent excuse and not go? Do I go, and have a very uncomfortable, unpaid day constantly thinking about what else I could be doing with my time? Or do I outright and honestly tell my manager that I do not want to go as I don’t think I would enjoy it or get much out of it? Would that result in her making my life at work harder than it needs to be?
Even though we discussed in AMT221 how pole dancing can be an athletic discipline rather than a purely sexy one, this does not seem to be an APPROPRIATE WORK ACTIVITY. Can you suggest an alternative?
If not, and you’re determined not to go, just tell her you have a long-standing spinal or muscular complaint. Pole dancing is physically demanding, and your manager is unlikely to want you to be laid off work with a slipped disc.
Readers, any other ideas? I’m not best placed to help, since I’ve managed to get myself out of all such situations by working on my own since 2005.
Guys. Why are you bothering with the London Olympics, when you need to preserve your energy for the year’s most important contest? That’s right – the British Firework Championships are only days away! And at least one of Team AMT should be looking to start a new career there, as we discover in Answer Me This! Episode 226. Prepare to detonate:
Also going off in the episode:
Mass Market Muesli
clutch bags for the Third World
teacher sadism by proxy
the Penguin Shwopping vs. consumerism
Captain Hook vs. Gordon Ramsay us vs. Bob Dylan
‘London’s Best Scare Experience 2008-2011’.
Plus: Olly has a damp stinky manbag; Helen errs by bringing actual fruit to the Apple store; and Martin the Sound Man recommends not trying to multitask during sexual activity if you’re a novice.
This week’s Bit of Crap on the App is a question from Kenny, about whether he was wrong to fuck over his work buddy in order to score a promotion. Is it a fair case of survival of the fittest, or survival of the fuckiest? Find out on iDevices and Android.
You can also find out a whole lot if you listen to the AMT Sports Day. Most of that lot will be about sport, but since the Olympics is currently in full swing, you’d only be having to listen to sports commentators rabbiting on anyway whenever you turn on the television. Us or them, US OR THEM???
the Next sales Sherlock Holmes
the son of Sam
the Queen’s Speech
the best public lavatories in Balham.
Furthermore: Olly manages to draw comparison between Lolita and Match of the Day; Helen manages to draw comparison between estate agents and kidnapped children; and Martin the Sound Man manages to draw comparison between a suitable Christmas present for his girlfriend and a DVD boxset about serial killers. Let’s hope he didn’t buy it for research purposes.
We’ve a list of chores for you to do this week:
1) click here to get yourself a free Audible audiobook;
2) share your neuroses, like shark-fearing questioneer Bunty did, in a comment on this post;
3) decide for the world whether humans are red meat or white meat by voting in this poll
4) if you’re still steaming about Walkers Crisps’ packet colours (and frankly, we aren’t), sign the petition;
5) listen to Martin the Sound Man’s latest music podcast;
6) and, of course, send us YOUR QUESTIONS for future episodes, via firstname.lastname@example.org, Skype IDanswermethis or the question line 0208 123 5877.
So, after you’ve done all those, we’ll see you next week for Episode 122!