Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cereal-Box Decoder Rings for the Code of Life

Adjusting to a new place involves more than just finding a house or making new friends. It means breaking the code. 

Here's what I mean. Yesterday, I attended 11 hours of meetings, 4 of which were about health care benefits.  While I knew this was very important information, I missed much of it because it was delivered in code.  We had a rather self-important representative -- self-important people love to speak in a code only they can decipher -- and her presentation sounded like this to me: 

"Your options are to sign up for the PPOL, the PPOH, or the PHMO. The VLETS  -- don't worry about what VLETS are -- will tell you that PPOs are better than the PHMOs, but after a quick glance at your W4s and I9s, I can tell you the VLETS don't know what's best for you. I do. I've worked with Barb here for 15 years."  Here she stops to pat Barb, whose name is Joan, on the head.  "She can vouch for me."  

Needless to say, I left that orientation, disoriented.  But really that's not the only code I've struggled with since moving here.  For example, I've just begun to crack the traffic code.  On the road, "big construction switch" means "plan to sit still on this road for 3 hours." At work, the words "highly recommended" mean "mandatory for those who'd like tenure."  At home, the term "HOA dues" translates to "fees you pay your neighbors for tattling on you."  

Working through a code is typical of any move, and it always takes time, which makes me wonder -- why doesn't anyone make cereal-box decoder rings to crack open the code of life? 

1 comment:

Katie said...

This reminds me of what Ruby Payne calls "hidden rules." In her poverty training she talks about how poverty, middle and upper class all have rules that are inherent but never explicitly taught. As a result children from poverty struggle when being taught by middle class teachers because the teachers expect them to know these hidden rules and never teach them.

Sounds like you are having your own run in with a lot of hidden rules.