Learning Curves: My Fun Blog

On life. One learning curve at a time on the path to becoming a renaissance man.

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WTF! Or, wow, this never happened to me before!
gevron
I was invited to lecture today at a conference in the army. Much like with my "I'm interested, but in you" post, I have an interesting analysis to share. This time of a WTF moment that caught me off guard.

The lecture went great, we were having a lot of fun and I made sure both the subject and the way I presented it were interesting.

The tension was peaking, people were sitting on the edge of their seats when suddenly.. BOOM!

The door banged open:
"Drill! Drill! Drill! Fire in the building! Everybody OUT!"
And there was silence.

We all literally went: "?!"

People were deeply engaged with the subject, we connected, and they were almost hypnotized. This sudden interruption was like an exit() function, breaking out and killing the program unceremoniously. Hypnotists would call this a break pattern.

While I wasn't happy about it, I was a guest and the hosts, colonels and the like, eventually stood up and we all followed in their authority's footsteps.

"Haha, I bet that never happened to you before," people kept telling me, and they were right. The story is very funny when I tell it to other people! :P

I was in a rather good, compliant mood, due to earlier events. So while many other speakers would have up and left I happily went with the nonsense and stopped my lecture for 10 minutes. It reminded me of what it's like to be in the army, allowed me to joke around with folks. And besides, getting the lecture back on track would be a very interesting challenge.

With a bit of shock therapy, a bit of humour and a lot of sudden seriousness -- followed by one more repeat joke -- we were right back on track.

In retrospect, while arguing in a situation such as this is often pointless, as the already annoying person (the announcer) has God on his side, there are ways I could have "disabled" him. He has [ridiculous] authority behind him, the feeling of importance, fear of impending doom and very easy instructions to follow, which he would zealously. But he was expecting compliance.

If I was of a mind to do it, I could try to counter him by telling him something he doesn't expect, which would break his programming.

Here's what the state-machine looks like:
To begin with, simply by replying with a negation and assurance, he might get stuck.
"Oh, that's okay. This room exempted from the drill."

Adding a reason to it, will tie it nicely:
"As I get paid and have to go in 20 minutes."

And adding authority to it may just break him completely:
"Special orders." or "By authority of Senior CO Xyz."

As an alternative or a back-up plan (as suggested by my friend Rinat), I could send him on an errand:
"This room has been exempted, please go check with Senior CO Xyz."

Of course, I might also add Xyz is in a meeting and therefore exempted him or herself.

Then again, I could also respond in the following fashion, dismissing him:
"No. This room is in the middle of a lecture. I am going soon, and you are interrupting me. Good bye."

Or, I could try and take the offensive:
"WHAT? How dare you interrupt my lecture this way?! No! Don't speak back! Leave! If you like, bring your CO over to talk to me!"

As another option, I could state my case in whatever fashion, and put it on one of the senior officers present in the room to champion me with the idiot. And if it didn't get resolved in a few seconds, ask the senior officer to take it outside.

It all depends on the situation, but compliance seemed like the best option to take, and I'd do it again. While my time should be respected, sometimes respecting The Machine (TM), the role the person in front of you is expected to play, and just going with it, is indeed the quickest route to the desired end. A confrontation could also possibly ruin my Ethos of a friendly authoritative figure with the audience, and I ended up cool.

Then again, I was shocked too and unlike in my "I'm interested, but in you" post, didn't really consider all this all when it happened. I am pleased that I am happy with my choice in retrospect.

Besides, with the army it's either go with it or fight it. There is rarely a middle ground and I did have a dinner date planned.

What would you have done?

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

Chillin' with drillin'

(Anonymous)

2009-11-25 03:12 am (UTC)

Hello,

I suspect there is some degree of variability in what sorts of practice for emergency procedures your employer has. In the past few months, we have had fire and earthquake (we're in California) drills in our building. I would rather have such events and not ever have to use the knowledge learned than the other way around, I think.

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

Gotta love the unexpected drills

dkrice.pip.verisignlabs.com

2009-11-25 05:39 am (UTC)

When I worked in the office we had fire drills a couple of times a year. Unfortunately, they never interrupted anything I wanted to get out of, like a four-hour long troubleshooting session where I had to explain to some developer that his app was at fault and not the proxy or firewall over and over and over again.

Later,
Keith Rice

I don't get it

(Anonymous)

2009-11-25 04:12 pm (UTC)

You were a guest in a building and that building had a fire drill. How is that nonsense? You considered abandoning your talk because you were interrupted? Are you questioning the utility of fire drills in general or just when they affect you? I'm confused here.

Re: I don't get it

gevron

2009-11-25 04:27 pm (UTC)

Of course I considered it, but I didn't, and actions are what defines us as people.

Many people would have, as it is ridiculous that someone would drive two hours, volunteer to lecture, be in the middle of it, and then be disrespected in this fashion. A drill, even an unscheduled one, can be scheduled to avoid such situations.

I am a strong believer in drills, but I also believe in respect, for people, as well as for my time.

Regardless, I am happy with my choice fo staying, but would completely understand how others would leave.

By your language though, I am guessing you would have up and left without a second thought.

Re: I don't get it

(Anonymous)

2009-11-30 04:32 pm (UTC)

I would have left the room with the others without a second thought, and then returned to finish the talk (if at all possible), if that's what you meant. It sounds like there were a lot of people in this facility and undoubtedly the drill is going to negatively affect a lot of people's time. Were they all being disrespected? There is a good point that if you were being paid for your time and this added an extra hour, then you should be paid for that hour (or you could be understanding and let it slide, but either way would be justified). If you had a scheduling conflict that you couldn't move then I can totally understand telling them that you had to leave. Its the whole disrespect angle that I don't get. In the end, it sounds like we would have made the same decision.

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