Office training

At the UN, where I’m doing my sabbatical right now, it’s much the same everyday. First, we plot how to get blue-helmeted peacekeeping troops in La Verkin (which as you know declared itself a UN-Free Zone) and then toast the election of Obama and the coming new world order.

Seriously, it’s the office training that I enjoy. I suppose anywhere you work you have to go through some orientation on how to handle the day-to-day problems that might crop up during an average workday. It is no different at the UN. I finished my mandatory training, but there were a few useful things I thought I would pass on—just because they are just so darned handy. These are great tips for anyone to use at the home or office. They are just good life practices.

First, when stopped at a checkpoint by children soldiers treat them with respect, and take them seriously—treat them as you would dangerous adults. Of course, my policy has always been to treat anyone with a AK47 pointed at my head with respect, but that’s just me.

Second, I learned several things about what to do when taken hostage that I didn’t know! Like if you speak their language use it, don’t argue with them, don’t talk to them about politics, but stay on conversations about personal things (It’s hard to imagine though you could not find common ground in the fact that the world is going to be a better place with Obama and maybe they should quite taking hostages so we can work on that). Also, the training emphasized that you should try and exercise your body and mind by going over movie plots and doing physical exercise, to the extent you can. Keep in shape and keep a positive mental attitude. Also don’t appear to be impatient or too demanding. It’s ok to ask for food and water when you needed it and to ask to use the bathroom. This was good to know because I think I would have become impatient with my captors and would have likely earned a beating (which was something to be avoided the training pointed out). Also one should never plead for your life, or act undignified or too friendly. Calm stoicism and obedience seemed to be the rule. Do what your told but don’t lose the perspective that you are an important person too who deserves some dignity!

I have to admit, however, that even though I’m a university professor and have gotten really good at taking tests, I crapped out on the landmine spotting portion of the training. Me, I thought the picture quality too poor to pick out the hidden land mines and when the message kept coming back “You spotted 0 out of 3 landmines” I was quite embarrassed and blamed the unclarity of the photo. It may have just been sour grapes, but just in case, if we are ever walking in a mined area you may not want me on point. (Or then again maybe you do want me there?)

Third, if an unruly mob appears, I learned the skills needed to keep things calm. And I think I would be particularly good at the last skill, “You may need to vacate the area quickly.” I might even use that one first. I also found out that many countries carry diseases that are dangerous and life threatening. Having caught one I say pay attention to that tip!

And what office training would be complete without the mandatory “What do you do when you come under fire” segment. And those little tidbits that really become useful in the work place, like: An engine block is a more effective cover than bushes.

I see the possibility of a series of office motivational posters that really haven’t been tapped yet, like, rather than an eagle soaring above snow capped mountains and Limits are only how high you dare fly Helveticaed across the bottom, you do something like a scraggily bush next to a mossy log, Cover: its only as good as the stuff it’s made of or an angry mob waving machetes, Keep your head and you’ll keep your head or maybe a picture of a small cell with chains next to a single chair, Movie plots: keeping positive when no one else is.


  1. Knowing my luck, I’d be captured and the only movie plot I’d be able tothink of would be the torture scene from Casino Royale…

  2. Thank you, Steve. I have stowed your wisdom away for those more difficult days in LDS Archives. Machete-wielding librarians and the landmines strewn between me and that coveted pile of 19th century foolscap should never be taken lightly.

    I worked one summer on a construction site, managing the paperwork involved in contract modification (you know, the kind that is needed when page 1 of the original specs show the ductwork leading to one side of the wall, and page 2 of the same specs show the ductwork leading away from the wall on the other side, but nobody thought to draw in — or bill for — the piece of ductwork within the wall itself). That was really hazardous duty, I tell you. It required mandatory safety training on how to put out those pesky fires caused by welding torches 15 stories above ground, and proper lifting techniques for I-beams. Even little ol’ contracts clerk me was given the benefit of that training.

  3. Yeah. At international schools where I’ve worked, we sometimes get training days from the security people at the embassies whose children we educate. It’s astounding to be in a classroom where I can in absolute comfort and safety rattle on about something trivial and beautiful, like a Chekhov story or a Elizabeth Bishop poem, and them sit in a meeting where some former commando from the Israeli embassy explains how vulnerable we all are, and what we should do if someone goes on a shooting spree. Yikes.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Awesome! Some of this is definitely going to come in handy when you get back to Provo, I guarantee.

  5. MikeInWeHo says:

    “Third, if any unruly mob appears…”

    You might want to offer that training to the membership of the Church out here in California.

  6. Stockholm Syndrome: Know The Signs!

  7. Steve, I think you may have (inadvertently, of course) overlooked the most important bit of survival training for UN employees in those wretched towns of New York, Vienna and Geneva: directions to the commissary and where to find the tax rebate forms for the odd occasions when one has to shop local.

  8. or an angry mob waving machetes, Keep your head and you’ll keep your head

    LOL! Maybe you could recommend these to the guys at Demotivators

  9. These skilz might come in handy for Black Friday shopping at Walmart this year.

  10. I wonder if I’d be any good at finding landmines. I think I would be good at finding them, but not at avoiding them. If we are walking in a mined area together, I will probably accidentally push you into safety and myself into a mine. It would serve me right. No, probably I would just kill us both. No one should walk with me anywhere.

  11. Lady Di would proud, RJ.

  12. I just did active shooter training at my workplace. The three principles (why are there always three principles?) are Get Out, Hide Out, Take him out. Not really. I forget how the third one was actually described, but that’s what it meant. First if at all possible, get out of the building and the situation. Call 911 once you’re in a safe spot. Secondly, if getting out isn’t possible then hide out somewhere that he won’t find you. They described how to block doorways and which cover would stop more bullets. Then the third “out” which I can’t remember how they phrased it was gang up on him and take him out to limit the number of people he can kill. Don’t just passively lie there and let him shoot everyone. Make a plan together and jump him or somehow render him harmless. It was some interesting training.

    I think your training will come in handy someday. Don’t forget it!

    Also, the story of your infection is fascinating and sheds a lot of light for me on what’s going on right now with my son (see my comment on your blog). Thanks ever so much for posting it!

  13. I heard there is lots of dog poop on the sidewalks. Maybe instead of looking for land mines maybe it would be better if your were trained to look for dog poop before you step in it.

  14. But if the dog poop didn’t set off the land mine, it should be safe to step there.

    …and we look for the girls with dog poop on their shoes…

  15. Personally, I think I would rather enjoy these training videos. I do think that they should give you a list of required movies to watch that will make you feel good. Sure, the great escape would help you to stay positive for a while, until you think about the end of the movie. So I think defining what movies to think about would be a key point to make. You should bring that up in the next meeting.

  16. What an awesome experience! So, do they really think that movie plots might be useful to you in a hostage situation? In what ways? As training for how to pull Jack Bauer like moves? Or just as mental stimulation?

  17. …if we are ever walking in a mined area you may not want me on point. (Or then again maybe you do want me there?)

    Sort of reminds me of the joke where one man says to the other man as they run away from the bear.
    I don’t have to be faster than the bear. I just have to be faster than you.

    Seriously, though, here’s to hoping you never have to use these skills.

  18. Yeah, I think you’d have to be careful which movies you played over in your head (I think to keep up your spirits). But here’s my short list for a captive mental playbacks:

    Shawshank Redemption
    Incredible Journey
    Great Escape
    Escape from Witch Mountain
    African Queen
    Wizard of Oz
    Apollo 13

    What am I missing?

  19. Red Dawn of course. I mean look at all the stars in that movie. Never ever agree to swallow a tracking device that the hostage taker wants you to swallow. Trust me it will end bad.

  20. Single Sister says:

    I work in outpatient mental health in a very rough area of town. Seriously, I think I’ve used a few of these skills already in different ways over the years!

  21. Rescue Dawn!

  22. Maybe sticking to a comedy genre would be best. You get to experience all the funny quotes, and then quote them, making yourself laugh, and also your captors will become more light hearted from the experience. Everyone wins.

  23. Hunt for Red October?

  24. Remember the Titans