Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mission: Accomplished!

I did it.

After a little more than three months of training, a whole lot of self-discipline, a slight bit of doubt (mostly from other people) and a touch of much-appreciated hype, I ran my first 5K on Saturday.

As I wrote in my previous blog post, "On a Mission," I decided in July that I wanted to start running. For pretty much the first time in my life (the torturous, forced runs in ninth-grade gym class do not count). Anymore, it seems the logical goal for non-runners who start running is to do a 5K ... so I picked one and ran with it (hardy har har).

When I walked out the door of my grandparents' house (where I was staying for the weekend) on Saturday morning to head to the race, it was cold. Really, really cold. About 35 degrees cold. And it didn't really warm up in the half hour or so leading up to the start of the race, but I was too pumped up about what was to come and too busy greeting lots of old friends who were there to run or walk the race to even notice.

My body wasn't prepared for the cold. My legs in particular weren't prepared for the cold. Even the official pre-race "warm-up" didn't do anything for my legs. All it did was make me winded! (By the way, I will never make the mistake of doing the official warm-up before a race ever again. Just doing my own thing would've been a better choice.)
Anyway ...

When we were called to line up, I slowly worked my way to the back of the pack -- not because I'm a pessimist, but because I didn't want to get caught up in the initial surge at the start of the race. (Can you tell I've been doing plenty of reading about running and lots of talking to seasoned runners?)

And it was there, at the back of the pack, that I found my friend Don (with me in the picture on the right, which was taken post-run), who signed up for the race after I put out a few calls on Facebook for people to join me. It was reassuring to see a familiar face at the starting line. It also was reassuring to know that at least one other person had NO idea what the guy with the bullhorn was saying (which is what happens when you put yourself at the back of a pack of nearly 450 people). As the "start" signal blared, we wished each other luck (he's been at this longer than I have, so there was no way I was keeping up with him!) and headed out onto the course.

Within 30 seconds, there already was trouble. My typically trusty RunKeeper Pro app -- which I've used to track and time all of my runs since I graduated from the C25K app -- did not want to pull in a GPS reading -- a problem that had never occurred before. And we weren't in the middle of nowhere or anything, so there was no reason for the app to fail. Not wanting to waste any more time fumbling with my phone (and having to run slowly to do so), I hit "Start" and focused myself ... until the first alert came on a few minutes later, trying to tell me that I had gone 1.9 kilometers. WRONG! I ignored it and kept going. A few minutes later, it said I had gone 4 kilometers. WRONG again! So I stopped the app.

This "technical difficulty" probably sounds like nothing more than an annoyance, but in having to kill the app, I took away my timer and my mechanism for knowing when to take walk breaks. So, I just had to wing it. In a way, it probably worked to my advantage to some extent, because instead of taking my walk breaks based on how far I'd gone, I took them based on how I felt. But because it was so cold and my legs just didn't want to warm up, I ended up taking several more walk breaks than I normally would have.

Sometime during the second half of the race, the sun began shining brightly onto the course, and things started to feel a little easier. I even passed some people (one of whom passed me for good shortly thereafter). I was getting warmer, in a good way.

And then I turned the corner to begin the final stretch of the race. Wanting to finish strong, I transitioned from walk to a pretty fast (for me) run toward the finish line. I felt great ... for a moment. Then I started feeling ... weird (for lack of a better term). At first I thought maybe I was nervous and excited about crossing the finish line and actually completing my goal. Then I realized something was actually wrong, physically, and I thought I was going to be sick. Not because I was overexerted, but because the sun completely disappeared when I rounded that last corner, and my body temperature must have dropped significantly when that happened.

All I could think on my way to the finish line was, "Don't get sick! Don't get sick! Don't get sick!"

And then I passed a group of my friends -- several of my former coworkers from my old job -- who had finished the race and were cheering loudly as I ran by. (They're at the far left in the photo on the left.) Let me tell you, few things will motivate you like having a crowd of people erupt into cheers as you run by them. It was just what I needed to make me forget about how my body was feeling and help me surge toward the finish line.

As I approached the finish line, I saw two things: First, I saw Tim with his camera -- and I tried not to pay attention to the camera (ha!). Then, I saw the clock (which I think is what was happening in the photo below). Given how challenging the run had been because of the cold, along with the fact that I took more walk breaks than usual, I had expected a time slower than my training runs. Instead, it was almost four minutes faster than my fastest training run. I know I said (okay, probably yelled) something to the volunteers at the finish line, proclaiming it to be my best time ever. Kind of funny, considering that I was the last person who primarily ran the race to finish it (everyone behind me was walking it, I think).

It was high fives, hugs and pictures all around after the race ended. It was so exciting to accomplish something that really was a challenge -- something that required me to focus, to change my ways and to be disciplined. Even now, several days later, I'm a bit in disbelief that it all happened and that the thing I worked toward since mid-summer is already over. I guess that just means it's time to start training for the next one. Dan thinks it should be a December race in Mount Pleasant, but I'm not sure I'm up for another cold-weather run ...

Oh, and if you're wondering, my official time was almost 3 minutes faster than the clock time I saw at the finish line (though I'm still not sure why, as we weren't chipped or anything), which means I beat my best training run by more than six minutes! 43:43.6. I'll take it.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through the last several months, from those of you who encouraged me during my training to those who donated to my Special Olympics fundraising. It has made all the difference!

(Photos by Tim Jackson)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On a mission

Yes, it's been awhile since I updated this blog. And I apologize. Taking a new job, moving to a new town, adjusting to the new town and dealing with being away from the place I called home for 14 years can take a lot out of a person.

It can, and it did.

At some point, I realized I was letting some of that get to me. I was coming home at night, making dinner, sitting down on the couch and not going back out again. And I wasn't paying much attention to what I was eating.

Something needed to change.

And one day in July, I just sort of woke up and decided I wanted to run a 5K. To anyone who runs, that probably sounds like nothing. But for me, it was a somewhat outlandish goal. Even
when I was in my best shape just a few years ago, running was not within my realm of capability. I tried -- I really did -- but it never worked.

But for some reason, on that day in early July, I got it in my head that maybe I could run after all. I posted on Facebook, seeking advice from my runner friends about the best way to go about it. The Couch to 5K Running Program was an overwhelming favorite, it seemed, so I downloaded the C25K app and decided to give it a try.

I did the one thing that I thought would motivate me to really do this: I started telling everyone. On Facebook, on Twitter, in face-to-face conversations, I told people about my intention to start training and ultimately run a 5K. Most people were supportive, but some people clearly didn't think I could do it (they were polite and all, but I could tell what they were thinking).

Then I did the other thing that I knew would motivate me: I picked a race to run. I settled on a particular one in mid-October for a number of reasons: The potential for others to join me in the race, the fact that I was already planning to go to related events that weekend, and, of course, the fact that it maximized the time for me to train.

On July 10, I did my first training run, which consisted of a five-minute warmup walk, 20 minutes of one minute running/one minute walking intervals, and a five-minute cooldown walk. Winded, sweaty and beet red, I didn't even make it through all of the running intervals. It was hard, and quitting would have been easy.

Somehow, though, I didn't quit.

Every other day, I did the next training run, working my way through run intervals that lasted 1, 1.5, 3, 5, 8 and 10 minutes ... then building up to being able to run solidly for 20, 25, 28 minutes. Last Saturday (Sept. 4), I finished the program, running 30 consecutive minutes. And in the week since, I have started running a full but slow 5K.

I tell you this not because I think I am doing something amazing or fantastic by running. I tell you this because we all have something we're thinking about doing -- something that might bring the satisfaction of completing a goal, could improve your health, might even change your life. And if you step up and do it ... well, the possibilities are endless. A bonus: If you share your quest with others, you'll be amazed how many people will tell you, sincerely, that you've inspired them to take action as well. That can be some great motivation right there!

So, October 16 is race day for me. And in the next (almost) five weeks, I'm doing a few things:

- Celebrating what I've accomplished so far.

- Building up to run a solid 5K (i.e. with no walk breaks) -- and to do it in a reasonable amount of time.

- Raising funds for Special Olympics Michigan, the race's designated beneficiary. I've set a goal of raising $500 through my participation in the race. You can contribute here.

- Recruiting others to run the race with me. If you're going to be in mid-Michigan that weekend and want to run my first 5K with me, drop me a line for registration information!

To everyone who has offered supportive words and advice along the way, THANK YOU! To those who thought I couldn't do it, I thank you as well (hey, you motivated me, too ... just in a different kind of way).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The gift of perspective

Last Monday wasn't the best day in the history of the world by any stretch of the imagination. It was just what that woman in "Office Space" meant when she said she thought Peter had "a case of the Mondays."

I might've let out an exasperated sigh or two and asked my wonderful officemate (who was having the same kind of day), "What is UP with today?!" but that's pretty much where it ended.

That's right ... I didn't mope. I didn't dwell. I didn't worry. I wasn't overcome with feelings of failure or inadequacy. I just took note of the issues (and determined whether they were anything within my control) and let things go.

And my Facebook status that night reflected it:

"Lindsay Allen thinks that PERSPECTIVE is the greatest gift of all. Even though today was what I'd call a challenging day, I didn't feel worried, scared or discouraged when I left the office, and I'll sleep just fine tonight. What a difference a year (or so) makes!"

So, what did I mean by that?

Simply put, I'm finding that being in the right place doing the right kind of work for my skill set has made a huge difference for me. And I have the perspective (and appreciation for my current situation) that can only truly be gained by being in a rather opposite kind of situation -- the kind of situation that has you feeling like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole because your strongest skills are seen as less valuable or are perhaps even seen as a liability rather than as an asset. My uncle, Scott Allen, very eloquently wrote about this type of thing already, so I won't try to reinvent the wheel in explaining the phenomenon.

Bottom line: Even the hardest or most frustrating day at my new job (and there honestly haven't been many at all) has been more manageable and less stressful than most of the days -- good or bad -- at my previous job. And that has everything to do with being in the right place, doing the right thing ... and having the PERSPECTIVE that allows me to truly understand and appreciate the difference.

Being able to put the day behind me because I know the next day is a new chance is the No. 1 gift that perspective has afforded me. What are the others? In no particular order, here are the rest of my "Top 5 Gifts Provided by Perspective":

- Learning the importance of making sure you land at a workplace where your supervisors truly understand what your strongest skills are and are committed to focusing your responsibilities in those areas (while also providing opportunities to explore other skills that interest you).

- Recognizing the value of really being valued.

- Realizing that taking work home *every single night* is not healthy.

- Knowing that taking a lunch break helps prevent mental and physical fatigue.

It might sound simple, but it's the truth as I've lived it for the past seven weeks or so. And it's why I know I'm where I'm supposed to be ... and that I got here in the manner in which I was supposed to get here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March comes in like a lion, indeed ...

Today is the anniversary of something that has already proven to have made an impact on my career -- and will long continue to do so. Oddly, yesterday was, too, as I realized last night. And so was Thursday. And Monday was a milestone career day as well, although in a much different kind of way.

So, that whole "March comes in like a lion" thing? Yeah, I buy it.

One year ago today, on March 6, 2009, I had a meeting that changed my career -- and, really, my entire life. In a matter of minutes, I went from being employed at a place where I'd worked for nearly seven years to only having a couple of months left at said job courtesy of an impending reorganization, kicking off what I referred to as "the ultimate PRofessional test" in a guest post I wrote for Rachel Esterline's blog a week and a half later.

On the surface, losing your job is a bad thing. (Note those three words: "on the surface"). But once you get past the surface and stop focusing on how you think you're supposed to feel or how others are telling you you should feel, you might find a whole new world.

Anyone who has gotten to know me during the past year knows that I chose to approach being unemployed as a professional and personal opportunity rather than as something bad that happened to me. It turns out that that benefited not only me, but also others. Just the other day, I was reminded of this by a friend who recently lost her job and was able to land back on her feet relatively quickly. In an e-mail, she said, "Whether you know it or not, all those posts you've been making for a year now really gave me a positive outlook when it happened to me." Wow!

But I digress ...

When I found out that my job was being eliminated, it came at a strange time. The day before, I'd had a really fun, creative shoot for "Inside Central," the TV show on which I'd worked for several years (my clip starts at the 20:28 mark; and yes, the way I did my stand-up was my idea). And the day before that, I'd achieved something very exciting for a PR pro: My first hit in The Wall Street Journal, which came without the aid of ProfNet, HARO or anything else. It was completely self-generated, which made it all the more satisfying to accomplish.

So, imagine the feeling of being on a huge professional high on Wednesday and Thursday, then losing your job on Friday. That's exactly what happened!

In an oddly similar -- and almost identically timed, which I failed to realize until yesterday -- twist, it was March 5, 2002, when my young career hit a scary bump. I was working as a print journalist at the time, and the day started out like any other ... but it ended up being the most frightening day of my entire professional life. It was the day that the worst crime in the history of the county occurred: Three people were shot and killed in the parking lot of the county courthouse.

Covering this horrible crime was terrifying and draining on so many levels. And I still clearly remember one of my bosses saying, "This is the kind of day that either reminds you that this is the job you were meant to do or sends you running in the opposite direction."

A few weeks later, I had a job interview downstate for an advertising copywriting job. I ended up not taking the job, but I did switch roles at the paper when an opportunity to transition to community news -- honor rolls, birth announcements, senior citizen card showers, military honors, etc. -- arose. Ultimately, I ended up leaving the paper (and the news business) altogether just five months after the incident.

So, the first week of March and I have a pretty bumpy history, but ...

The tide seems to be turning, and March seems to be coming in more like a lamb in 2010.

On Monday, I marked a truly happy early-March career milestone: 10 months after my first day of unemployment, I started the job I told you all about a few weeks back.

And the verdict? So far, so good. The commute (which I'll have to do for a few more weeks) tires me out ... but I come home every day with my soul intact, and that's more important than anything.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A confession ... and a humble request

So, I head back to work on Monday, March 1, 2010, after being unemployed since Friday, May 1, 2009.

And I'm a little freaked out about it.

The freak-out is not so much about the job itself, but is more about returning to the world of the working after being "out of the game" for awhile.

As I prepare to set foot into full-time employment for the first time in 10 months -- and in an agency environment for the first time in my career -- I ask ...

What advice do you have for someone who hasn't worked full-time in almost a year and is starting a new job?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why I'm not on Team Kevin Smith (even though I probably should be)

As you've likely heard at this point, writer, actor, director, etc. Kevin Smith is using his Twitter stream -- and, later today, his podacst -- to wage war on Southwest Airlines because he says he was deemed a "safety threat" by an airline captain and removed from a flight due to his size.

Immediately after he was removed from the flight, Mr. Smith began tweeting about his anger regarding the situation, warning the airline it had "f****d with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!"

My initial reaction was anger. I'm not -- and never have been -- a thin person. I used to be self-conscious about it, but as an adult I've learned to be more concerned about being healthy and less concerned about my physical appearance.

Still, though, I find air travel to be a little uncomfortable (especially if I'm stuck in the middle seat), so I felt empathy for Mr. Smith as I read his initial tweets. I know I would've been angry (not to mention embarrassed) had what happened to him happened to me. And I probably would've tweeted about it, too.

But that's where my empathy ends.

Have I recently been wronged by a front-line employee of an airline (not Southwest) and taken to Twitter to vent about it? Yes.

Did the airline respond to me? Yes.

Did I respond favorably to the airline's efforts to make it right? Yes.

Did I keep tweeting about how wrong the airline was? No. (In fact, I tweeted praise for the airline for accepting responsibility for its failure and for making things right.)

That's what reasonable people do. But, unfortunately, that isn't what's happening in this case. Despite several reach-outs from Southwest -- both via Twitter and via a telephone call (for which Mr. Smith says he never received the voicemail) -- he just keeps spewing angry words via Twitter, ignoring and/or mocking every effort that the airline is making to reach out to him.

Now, if Jane Citizen like me was doing this, it probably wouldn't be so bad for the airline. It wouldn't be great, since I do have 2,200+ Twitter followers ... but that's nowhere near Mr. Smith's level. The man has 1.6 million followers on Twitter -- surely all fans of his work, and surely many of them who take his advice to heart.

What I think Mr. Smith fails to realize is that the people who are reaching out to him now are not the ones who wronged him. Instead, their job is a challenging and unfortunate one that is common among professional communicators at large organizations that serve the public: Cleaning up the very public messes created by others in the company.

I put it this way in a tweet:

Do I think Mr. Smith has a right to be angry? Of course I do.

Do I think his removal from the plane might've been unjustified and/or handled poorly? Yes.

Might the airline's urgency and persistence in trying to remedy the situation be tied to the fact that Mr. Smith has a public platform and plenty of devotees at his disposal? Certainly ... but that doesn't make it "disingenuous as f***" as Mr. Smith suggests, particularly if Southwest typically is diligent about responding to customer complaints and concerns that arise on Twitter, which it seems to be.

So, Mr. Smith, I hope you'll take a deep breath and think about this. Did the airline screw up? It would seem so. But there are several people -- none of whom have probably even met the people who wronged you -- trying to make this right, and you're only making their lives harder ... and potentially harming a business. You don't have to fly Southwest ever again. You don't even have to accept the airline's apologies. But, on behalf of everyone who's ever worked in corporate communications and/or customer service, I beg you to at least be respectful of the people who are trying to be respectful of you, even if it feels like too little, too late to you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm ... employed!

Something has happened. Something I've been waiting, hoping and working for for nearly a year.

... wait for it ...

I got a job!

As many of you have read about on this blog, I've been a job seeker since last March, when I received a two-month notice that my job at the time -- at a place where I'd worked for nearly seven years -- was being eliminated.

After plenty of unanswered inquiries, fruitless resume submissions and everything else to which every job seeker has become accustomed in this economy, it finally happened.

The right company and I have found each other.

Starting March 1, I'll be a proofreader/writer/editor for AGP & Associates, an advertising, marketing and creative communications firm in Midland, Mich. And, while the thought of transitioning back into a world I haven't been a part of in almost a year (the world of full-time employment, that is) and packing up and moving to a new community is a bit scary, I couldn't be more excited.


1. The workplace and culture. This is a small firm -- about a dozen employees, including the owners, who serve as the CEO and president. Everything I've learned about the culture here suggests that it is collaborative, communal and challenging (in a good way). It also is clearly a place that doesn't believe in pigeonholing people into job titles, instead opting to draw upon the strengths of its team members as situations that call for different skills and expertise arise. If you know me, you know this is what I've yearned for.

2. The work. Words are my passion, and this job is completely about words. A proofreading/writing/editing job doesn't come along often; I saw very few such positions available during my job search, so I feel fortunate -- and excited -- to have found a job doing exactly what I want to do and where my skills are strongest. The best way to add value to an organization is to focus on what you do best, and working at AGP will allow me that focus.

3. Mutual understanding and respect. I did some freelance work for AGP so the company could get an idea of my writing/editing style and so I could get a feel for the kind of work the firm does. This makes me feel more confident, both about what the company thinks of my work and about my capacity to handle the type of work that the job entails. I've met and worked with several people at the company already (and know two others from my former job), and everyone has been fantastic. I honestly cannot wait to call them my colleagues.

4. A new adventure. I've lived in Mount Pleasant, Mich., for nearly 14 years -- since I came here for college. My time here has been great, and I'll be leaving behind a lot of friends as I move 35 miles down the road, but I think it's time. If there's one thing I've learned about myself in the last 10 months, it's that I'm a lot more adventurous than I ever realized.

5. A cool town in a great location. Not that there's anything wrong with Mount Pleasant (if there was, I wouldn't have stayed here so long), but come on ... Midland is Tennis Town USA! And there's a mall. And my favorite little shop for wines and obscure craft beers is in Midland. For mid-Michigan, I can't ask for much more! Plus, the move will shave 40 minutes off my trips to visit my family downstate and put me much closer to the highway for other travels.

Obviously, I'm excited, happy, nervous and a whole lot of other things all at once. But the thing I am, above all else, right now is grateful. Grateful for the family and friends who've provided emotional support, passed along job leads, thrown me opportunities like guest posting on your blogs or doing freelance work for you, and just generally encouraged me and believed in me ... even when I had moments of uncertainty about what the future would hold.

I don't dare list names because there's always the danger of leaving someone out. Plus, I think you all know who you are. Thank you. ALL of you.

Now ... let's celebrate!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What IS character, anyway?

You're probably wondering what a barely-clothed, lumberjack-looking guy dressed as a hot-air balloon has to do with character (other than the obvious "being a character"). Believe it or not, an awful lot.

Meet Nate.

Nate is married to my friend Lisa, who I've known for nearly 14 years -- ever since we had a communication theory class together my first semester of college. We even eventually worked together at the local newspaper here in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Lisa and Nate -- a bartender at The Bird, a popular local bar -- married a couple of years ago. I've since come to know him a bit, mostly through Facebook.

One thing I've learned -- and really admire -- about Nate is that he is very dedicated to raising funds for Special Olympics Michigan. Each year, he does something that is both nutty and gutsy: He participates in the Polar Plunge, an event that involves jumping -- in costume -- into a frozen pond in the middle of February after collecting pledges. Nate personally raises thousands of dollars annually, collecting pledges from friends, family, Bird customers and even strangers. And last year's Polar Plunges statewide raised well over $250K for Special Olympics Michigan.

Back to Nate ...

This past fall, something very cool happened to Nate; he was selected to appear on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and in October he and Lisa flew to New York with several members of their family for the taping of the show. And, of course, no one knew what happened except those who were there, as Nate, Lisa and their family diligently upheld the show's confidentiality agreement.

Flash forward a few (almost four!) months. Nate recently announced that the show would be airing today (Feb. 4), and The Bird would be hosting a "watch party" for the show's local airing at 12:30 p.m. Ever the fundraising genius, Nate decided it should be a Polar Plunge fundraiser. He set up an event page on Facebook, and he and Lisa invited pretty much everyone they know. The Morning Sun, the local newspaper (where Lisa still works), published a Q&A feature on Nate on Monday. The buzz has been building among Nate's friends for some time and among the community at large all week long.

And, of course, the questions about the show itself were mounting. How did Nate fare? Did he win a bunch of money? Have he and Lisa just been biding their time and waiting for the show to air so they could quit their respective jobs and travel the world with their family?

Today, a lot of people -- I can't even estimate how many -- showed up at The Bird to see Nate on television and find out the answers to those questions, and a lot of them dropped generous cash in the Polar Plunge collection jar. That alone was impressive ... and a great testament to our community.

When Nate came on the screen late in the show, the place went wild ... especially once Meredith Vieira started asking him about his "Big Sexy" nickname and perhaps even doing a bit of her legendary flirting (although nothing quite on the level of this classic “Millionaire” clip on Youtube ... ha ha ha).

Then came the questions. And Nate was rocking them, no lifelines needed. But, as it turned out, pasta would prove to be his kryptonite. He incorrectly answered the $5,000 question -- the "guaranteed money" question -- which was regarding the name of hollow, tube-shaped pasta. While the correct answer was penne, Nate answered linguine (or was it fettucine?) ... and he ended up winning $0. (By the way, he later explained that he thought penne was angel hair pasta ... and that makes sense to me, as I probably only know what penne is because I cook it.)

Once I recovered from my shock over the fact that Nate actually hadn't won a dime (for a variety of reasons, I was pretty convinced going into today that he'd won a nice chunk of change), it occurred to me:

This guy is so committed to his Special Olympics fundraising that he planned all of this despite the fact that he didn't do well on the show.

Swallowing your pride and inviting the world to share in a not-so-shining moment because you're focused on the greater cause -- the attention and funds that your moment in the spotlight could bring to a philanthropy you care about? That, my friends, is character. And it's a pretty darn rare variety of it.

After the show ended, Nate changed into an "I'm with stupid" shirt emblazoned with an upward-pointing arrow as Lisa's jukebox selection -- Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" -- blared on the sound system. (Lisa and Nate are hilarious that way.) Pulling Nate aside, I told him how much I admire what he did, because I do. I wish I could say I'd have done the same thing if I were in his shoes, but I'm not sure I could've. And for that, Nate Jonaitis, I salute you.

NOTE: This year's Mount Pleasant Polar Plunge is coming up on Feb. 20. You can donate, specifically in support of Nate, at his fundraising Web site, which is hosted by FirstGiving.

(Polar Plunge photos: Nate Jonaitis's Facebook page)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


So, Apple made the long-awaited announcement yesterday regarding its new tablet.

Most Apple fans (of which I am one) knew it was coming, so much of the talk was about what its features would be and what it would be called -- iTablet? (iTab for short?) iSlate?

***insert buzzer sound here***

Nope. "iPad is the name," one of my friends posted as his Facebook status shortly after the unveiling event began. My immediate comment in response? "HORRIBLE."

And the more I thought about it, the more I hated the name.

My first tweet about it was a knee-jerk reaction (and I really did intend for it to be my only tweet on the subject):

Dear Apple: This is what I think of when someone says "pad": http://bit.ly/a2yxJg. Product naming FAIL.

Then I observed some of the conversations about the name -- finding that a lot of people actually agreed with me -- and something clicked in the "sassy writer" part of my brain. Might as well use my creativity to take things a step further and develop a tagline, no?

Here's what I came up with (and then tweeted, much to the amusement of a few people [Thanks for being amused, by the way!]):

"For when your iPhone is too small, but your MacBook is more than you need ..."

Yep, I said it.

And while this was all done in jest, it brought me back to a legitimate, professional point I've pondered before: Were there any marketing/communications folks at the table when that product was being named? My guess is no, but I don't know for sure. At the very least, I'm guessing there were no women at the table.

One of my friends went as far as to make this assessment. And while it's a bit extreme, it's also humorous: "This thing was probably named by uber-geeks who eat Skittles and Cheetos for dinner and have never even dreamed of having a date with a woman, therefore the lack of knowledge about what a 'pad' in this context refers to." (And yes, it was a man who said this.)

Anyway, back to the conversation about involving marketing/communications pros in the naming process ...

The first product that really made me ponder this was one that, when I first mentioned it on Twitter and in conversations, people hadn't really heard of yet, but I've noticed some others making observations about it as of late. I mean, really ... where were the professional communicators when this product was being named?

They must've been locked away somewhere with the communications folks at Apple, I think ...

(iPad image is a screen capture from Apple.com)

[NOTE: After reading this blog post by Jason Falls -- as well as some of the comments below -- I realized it would be beneficial to clarify: My dislike for and criticism of the iPad name are not "political correctness" issues and are not based on a perception of sexism/anti-feminism. (Really, folks?!) I'm also not "offended" by the name. I just don't like the name and think Apple could've used more foresight -- and, perhaps, a woman's touch -- in selecting it. Plain and simple.]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sometimes, SM + IRL = FAIL

Friday night, I had the opportunity to meet up with a host of folks from my Chicago-area Twitter circle.

Teresa Basich and I were both in town, and Sonny Gill and Jess Miller just moved to Chicago (and I was staying with Jess), so it was the perfect time for a not-so-little gathering at a Windy City bar and grill.

By all accounts, the night started out great. Came in, introduced ourselves to the people who were already there, ordered up a pint of the beer on special, since it was a craft brew rather than run-of-the-mill swill, which I mention primarily because this is exciting to an unemployed beer snob on a budget.

As the evening wore on, more and more people showed up; there probably were 50 people there at one point. Unfortunately, I didn't get to chat with a number of them -- partly my own fault, and partly a function of the size of the crowd and partly a function of my self-admitted claustrophobia -- but I did get to finally connect face-to-face with folks who've become friends and trusted colleagues through Twitter and Facebook, like Gini Dietrich and Dave Van de Walle. And that part of the night was fantastic!

So, you're probably wondering where the title of this blog post came from.

Flash forward to around 11 p.m., when Jess and I were ready to head back to her place. We asked the server for our check. What she brought us was shocking.

Instead of the reasonable bill for two gals on a budget -- we had two beers apiece -- the check included 10 beers. TEN! When we questioned the clearly incorrect bill, the server indicated that several people who'd been sitting at the large table earlier in the night hadn't paid for their drinks.

"But they're right over there..." I started to say before realizing that several folks had left without saying a word -- and, apparently, without paying their bill.

We were livid. And panicked. Neither of us had ever had anyone do this to us before, so we didn't really know the protocol -- nor did we have the cash or the desire to pay a bill that wasn't ours. So we argued with the server, who clearly knew that the bill was not ours.

"When I walked in here tonight, there was one person in this room who I'd met before," I said to her, gesturing at Jess. "You're not going to stick us with a bill for strangers because you didn't keep track of your customers."

And I don't know if she realized that we were right or what, but she took the cash for our real bill (which actually included a relatively generous tip) and walked away. Still fuming, we warned the nearest people about what was going on and then headed out before the server changed her mind.

Saturday morning, after I'd had a chance to sleep on the situation, I tweeted this, hoping for resolution:

And guess what? No replies. No "mea culpa." Nothing. So I can only assume that means no one stepped up and took care of the bill they left behind. And, unfortunately, I am left to assume -- based on what the server said, what was on the bill and how the situation played out -- just who it was who skipped out on the check ... and that it wasn't an accident.

While we didn't end up having to pay the tab that was abandoned by some Chicago social media types, we certainly learned a lesson. If you're going to a tweetup, quasi-tweetup or any other event organized via social media and you're not paying a set fee at the door (or in advance) to cover the evening's food and drinks, watch your back.

No matter how cool, bright and community-minded someone might come off via social media, it doesn't mean that translates to the 3D world.

And that's when SM + IRL = FAIL

(NOTE: No one named in this post is believed to have been among the check-skippers. Finger-pointing is not my style.)