Archive | January, 2012

Intern Life: Lunch Routine

30 Jan

There is a lot of good advice out there about using your lunch hour to strategically improve your professional relationships, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes being an intern means that the interesting people are too busy eat with you. Besides, half the fun of starting a new job is learning the area around it. With those ideas in mind, I thought I’d share my personal eating-alone lunch routine.

Working at the City of Oakland has led me to spend a lot more time Downtown. Where before I only saw the late night fun side of the City Center, now I get to be part of the professional bustle, all business-ware and cell phones. Because there is such a daytime population around Frank Ogawa (or is it Oscar Grant?) Plaza, there’s no shortage of coffeeshops and lunch places from which to choose . Here’s my usual routine, guaranteed to lift the spirits, stay in budget, and be over before your coworkers know you’re gone.

Step 1: Coffee at Cafe Teatro   – $2 for a large drip coffee

Locally-owned Cafe Teatro is the kind of place you probably don’t notice if you don’t work downtown. Located off a side entrance to the Plaza, it’s hard to see from the street, and the hours are on an office worker’s schedule – closes and 4 pm, and nothing on weekends. But for that demographic, the Cafe is perfect – fast, friendly service; a floor plan that facilitates flow-through; and little tables if you’d rather hide out for a while. Their baked goods are also really excellent. Cafe Teatro was also recently written about on the blog  Living in the O, in their  “Rediscovering Downtown Oakland” series.

Step 2: Hot dog at Rebel Dog – $3 for a hot dog (tax included)

Rebel Dog (née Top Dog) is another gem that might easily go unnoticed. The store isn’t much more than a grill for the hot dogs and a place to stand while you watch them on the grill. And it doesn’t need anything else. The hot dogs are basically the best ever, and the toasted sesame buns are great. The service varies from “like it was in the good old days” to “greasy spoon waitress sass,” so it works best if you share their goal of getting your dog as quickly as possible and clearing the way for others to do the same. There’s a bevy of condiments and a good soda selection, too, if the dog’s not enough for you. Plus their location lets you move on to…

Step 3: Look at kittens at the SPCA – free!

Right around the corner from Rebel Dog is an East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Being an intern often means also being at a stage in your life where you can’t have pets. For those animal-lovers among us, that can be a downer. Luckily, the SPCA knows what you need: big windows tolook at kittens through. With hot dog in hand, watch some little cats bat at string, and you’ll be ready to go back to your desk in no time.

So next time you find yourself without an engaging lunch partner, take a stroll around your workplace and find your own fun!

Drawbacks of Bureaucracy: Whistleblowing and Penn State

23 Jan

Although Eric Silver’s article Why Child Sexual Abuse Goes Unreported: A Sociologist Explains has received the most attention for what it has to say about whistle-blowers, it also has some interesting insights on bureaucracy.

To sum up, bureaucracies are important to us because they break complex tasks into manageable pieces. The individual tasks are simpler and can be accomplished. Silver’s example is keeping grocery stores stocked, and other examples are easy to come by: the roads you drive on, schools you attend, most payroll processes. If a bureaucracy is working well, you won’t notice it working at all.

In an ideal bureaucracy, people follow procedure and don’t undertake tasks outside their original scope of work. Just as the bureaucracy breaks down tasks, so too the worker compartmentalizes, and is satisfied with not necessarily seeing something through from start to finish.

Unsurprisingly, this is not an ideal way to approach complex moral issues. Silver points out that there was probably some “reporting upward” — individuals doing their small, bureaucracy-sanctioned part to end the child sexual abuse that was going on. But those small “rights” didn’t add up to the institution “doing the right thing.” And so long as everyone acted within the strict confines of the bureaucracy, it never would have.