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.