When your mind is just a blank . .

snap3I’ve been a bit busy this week, hence the distinct lack of new blogs on my web site. I’ve also been experiencing that blank paper syndrome; you know what I mean, you stare at the paper, nothing comes to mind, and the paper stays like that, blank.

I’ve been on a training course this week, a pretty interesting one but unfortunately not one I can talk about much as it relates to the data protection act and the computer misuse act and all sorts of legal stuff.

Still, the training, which was interesting and enjoyable, reminded me of a fairly funny training story that happened nearly ten years ago. It was when I had just started at the Highways Agency and in fact I was one of the first batch of operators to be recruited for the North West, a fact that I regularly bore my colleagues with. The HA sent us to some establishment in Salford for an induction course and I have to say, as much as I like my job, that course was pretty dull! It was fun meeting some new people and doing some interesting team building exercises but after a while, they started to get a little boring and we were all thinking when will we be able to start learning the nuts and bolts of our jobs?

One of the exercises, and to this day I don’t know the point of it, was for us to split into twos and one member of the duo went into another room where they thought of a holiday story to tell, and the other was asked to completely ignore their partner when they began to relate their story. In this instance my colleague was the storyteller and I was the ignorer! So she came back in and began her story. I polished my nails, yawned in her face, checked my watch, hummed a little tune to myself and so on. After a while some inner instinct made me turn to take a quick look at her, and it was lucky I did so because later on I reckoned I had been only a split second away from taking a hefty punch to the nose, however I was able to calm her down and explain it was all part of the exercise!

Later, towards the end of the course, boredom had truly set in. I remember one hot afternoon in this stuffy office cum training room and the lecturer going on and on about the chain of command and how issues had to be escalated to one’s line manager and one’s line manager would escalate things further if need be. I feel rather embarrassed to admit this now but I nodded serenely off into a private world of slumber. Later, and whether it was minutes or even hours later I really don’t know but I was jolted sharply back to reality by the voice of  our instructor;

“Steve! What would you do?”

“Sorry, what was that?”

“Steve, you’re asked to work with a homosexual, what would you do?”

“Well, I’d . .” A sea of blank faces were looking at me so I tried to think back: What was the last thing we were talking about? Oh yes, I remember now:

“I’d escalate that to my team manager.”

“Refer that to your team manager? Why?”

“Well, er. . .”

“We embrace diversity at the Highways Agency so why refer that to your team manager?”

“In case he, er tried it on with me.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly . .”

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that feeling of digging a deep hole and then gradually digging it even deeper but that’s what was happening. Apparently we’d moved on to the subject of diversity while I had slept. I glanced over to my left, perhaps hoping for some help, but one of my new colleagues, actually the lady from the storytelling incident earlier, was looking at me as if I was a fully paid up member of the Nazi party. Over to my right two other colleagues were in a strange sort of state. One had gone almost purple in the face as he tried to hold in a tumult of suppressed laughter and another was covering his face and making strange noises as his shoulders pumped up and down hysterically.

Finally the lecturer, looking at me with contempt, observed that it might be better for me if I paid attention more and moved on.

Not the finest training course but not my finest hour, either!


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