Saturday, 26 October 2013

Behind the scenes - my Million Dollar Minute

My latest outing on television game shows aired this week. I can now reveal, for those who didn't see Million Dollar Minute, that I am not a millionaire. Repeat, NOT a millionaire. I'm not even a few bucks richer. They gave me a box of chocolates - a nice gesture, but of course I don't eat sugar. It's moments like these that I realise how sugar driven the world is. Small rewards usually come in the form of sugar. Even an order of sock yarn arrived with a lollipop in the package the other day.

But I digress.

Watching the show was strangely nerve wracking, even though I knew the outcome. I think I was worried that my slow start would leave me looking like some dumb person who answered one question and it was about Versace. You know?

While there's lots I'm contractually bound not to talk about, I can say that game shows are a fascinating opportunity to examine a cross section of the community. A bunch of twelve or so strangers are flung together in the green room for hours on end. It's easy to spot the ones who are deadly serious about their purpose: they don't say a lot and when asked anything they are reticent. Being the extrovert that I am, I talk to everyone and find out as much as I can, meanwhile, there's a guy asleep on the couch (how did they remove the sleep lines before he went to air?)

With the daily newspapers at hand, I decided to lead the quizzes. This is a great way to test the mettle of the deadly serious ones. They can't help but reveal their knowledge. At this point I ask if anyone needs me to shut up. They laugh and the crew who is minding us says "no" in a "thank god you're here" kind of way. It's their job to sit in a room babysitting adults all day. They were terrific.

A television, tuned to the home network, plays in the corner. It's infomercial hour, so after ten minutes of that we're all ready to shoot the television. DVDs have been provided for our entertainment, as well as several jigsaw puzzles. No Scrabble set though. I choose a retrospective of the comedy show "Fast Forward" which proves to be a hit. We all marvel at the cleverness and the fact that much of the humour would not be allowed on television today (think Magda Subanski in black face!). Ages of fellow competitors were revealed as people in my age group could quote along with the skits and characters.

There were some formalities - rules, contracts etc - and the opportunity to practise on the buzzers and the touch screen. I was first in and happily got all five questions in the practise round correct. Julius, one of the other contestants, said my name was written down by everyone else when I got the question about the fennec fox correct . It's renowned for its large ears. Apparently. I fluked that one, but they didn't need to know that.

I was glad to have my knitting with me. It's always handy for passing the time when you have to just wait. Nothing else, just waiting. We were in a time vortex with nothing much happening, but immense anticipation in the air. Contestants would come back from their filming either jubilant at winning some money or devastated after losing their chance.

I will confess that I sledged the champ in between sessions. Nicely. But I did want to get under his skin and rattle him a bit. He was an air traffic controller and cool as a cucumber. Meanwhile, I was in some weird tunnel for the first round. It took ages for me to hear and process the question before I could even get around to pressing the buzzer. I gave myself a good talking to and things picked up from there.

In the end, I got the second last question wrong which locked me out for the next one (which I knew) and I was beaten by 15 points. The champ had bought 15 points earlier in the game. It was an exciting battle at the end. It would have been more exciting if it was me playing for $20,000, but that's life.

My next sit-com idea will be set in a the green room of a game show.

Have you won anything lately?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen - The art of being MC

I've spent the last three days as an MC at Work Safe Week at the Melbourne Convention Centre. One of the great things about being an MC is that you get to meet lots of really interesting people and learn from them. I've spent time learning about everything from manual handling risks and solutions to removing slip, trip and fall hazards; the impact of fatigue on safety at work to how injured or sick people think. I've chaired panels of Work Safe Inspectors and Health and Safety Representatives and there was never a moment when I was anything less than interested in what I was hearing.

There was a common passion all of these people had - the desire to make sure everyone comes home from work safely and the desire to support people in workplaces across the state to help make this a reality.

At the end of each presentation I facilitated a Q & A session. Generally people had genuine questions and were pleased to have the opportunity to ask and respectful of the people asking them. Occasionally, the soap box would be wheeled out and an audience member would ramble on with a story, or argue with the answer they had been given. On one occasion, an attendee attacked the panel on the quality of their presentation. My other favourite thing is when someone argues from the floor about whether or not they really need to use the microphone to ask their questions. Usually the audience will tell them that they do need to use it, as they struggle to actually hear what is being asked.

It's these moments that cause clients to congratulate themselves on the decision to hire an MC, presenters to thank the gods that they don't have to manage the situation. Other members of the audience will breathe a sigh of relief and silently (or actually) applaud when tricky audience situations are sensitively and firmly handled. It's moments like these that cause me to wonder what's going on for a person who feels the need to publicly have a go at volunteers who are serving their workplace community.

The Sufi saying about being aware that every single person you meet is in a silent battle with something that you don't know about, springs to mind.

One of the themes for the event was that change begins with a single action. I asked participants to consider what "one thing" they would do when they returned to their workplace.

My workplace varies wildly from day to day; often I'm at work at the kitchen table at home. My apartment was built in the days where each room only had one power point, so I have electrical cords running all over the place. I'm off to buy some gaffer tape and some extension leads so I can secure the cords out of the way and reduce my risk of a slip, trip or fall at home.

I spent the whole event working in the one room with the same tech guy. He was great to work with and instilled confidence in me and the presenters that he would make sure everything worked smoothly. I spent time every day talking to him and appreciating him; this morning I gave him a small box of chocolates to say thank you. He was chuffed. It was a small gesture that was easy to do and sincerely intended and I know that I have someone in my network who would not hesitate to recommend my work.

Did you go to the Work Safe Week event? What's the one thing you need to do in your workplace to remove a hazard or risk? Do you go out of your way to show appreciation to the people you rely on? How easy are you to work with?

And lastly, having spent three days in the MC role and contemplating my appearance on Million Dollar Minute (on the television in 8 minutes) I do wonder why game show hosts are usually male. Why is that?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

View from the office - Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

This week I'm MC at Worksafe Week at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It's a really interesting - if tiring - gig.

This morning on the way in to prepare for the morning's first session, I stopped to pay attention to the building. It is enormous and I find it very appealing. There are many angles and I enjoyed stopping to take some photographs.

© divacultura 2013

Looking out.
© divacultura 2013

Looking down
© divacultura 2013

Looking down at an angle
© divacultura 2013
What was the view from your office today?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Support Travellers' Aid - grab a funky myki cover

I just discovered this fundraising activity for Travellers' Aid, an organisation that provides assistance to people needing extra help when using public transport. (Thanks Daniel Bowen.) You can order a funky holder for your myki card and help support a good cause at the same time. Covers are free and you pay $2.50 postage and handling.

I walk past the Travellers' Aid centre at Flinders Street station most days, on my way to platform 10 and have often wondered what they do. After reading their website, I was very happy to also make a donation to support their work. As well as providing physical facilities in four Victorian locations, they also provide people - carers and medical companions for people who need assistance to attend medical appointments. I imagine that this service is appreciated and valuable for many people.

One of the benefits of having my myki is a special cover is that it will help me avoid the embarrassment of accidentally using something like my library card and wondering why the gates won't open!

They'd be a cute stocking stuffer for the public transport user in your life at Christmas time too.

Which one/s do you like?

Sunday, 20 October 2013

All the world's a stage.- including the hospital ward

Here's what my office looked like on Friday:

My favourite workspace
© divacultura 2013
I spent the day lying in bed and receiving bad news, repeatedly.

Sometimes I was required to react angrily and other times I was directed to be shocked or disbelieving. Usually I reached the point of tears, depending on the interaction with the particular doctor.

Students (practising surgeons) were receiving feedback on their communication and ability to manage emotions. Generally they did very well. What struck me during the debriefing was how sincere they were about wanting the best outcome for their patient (me). Where a mistake had been made, they were appalled on my behalf.

Wardrobe and special FX done.
© divacultura 2013

In the debriefing after scenarios where I had been directed to be angry and was introduced to the students by my own name, some of them looked a little wary. I always wave and smile and introduce myself in the friendliest way possible to prove that the threat is gone. Once they realise this, I notice many of them looking at me, fascinated. Only a moment before I was lying on a hospital bed, the day after my operation, attacking them and wanting to find someone to blame; yet there I am, moments later, looking and sounding completely different.

I love this work!

One of the students had a lovely way of contextualising each piece of information he provided. He explained afterwards that we all come with stories - the patient, the doctor etc - and that each event or interaction adds to that story. I loved his way of thinking. He was wonderful to talk to - empathetic, respectful and caring.

Wardrobe and makeup was really easy. Hospital gowns are the least flattering garments on the planet, but they ARE comfortable. The bandage on my arm is to keep my fake IV in place and I have a hospital bracelet to make sure I'm identified correctly as the simulated patient.

As in life, my simulated husband's presence was repeatedly requested by the doctors. My simulated husband was not there when I needed him. He was running his simulated business but was going to pick up the simulated children from school and come in later in the day.

Everytime I cry during these jobs, I receive questions about "how do you do that?" I now borrow my friend's response: "How do you do surgery?"

In my line of work, all the world IS a stage and they don't call it an operating theatre for nothing.

Friday, 18 October 2013

On my mind this week...ramblings.

I've been thinking.  Here's what's been on my mind this week.

Some people are really bad at hiding when they're about to tell you something they are uncomfortable with.  They think they're hiding it by not "saying" it.  But they are saying it - with their ticks, gestures and shifting eye contact.

The power of saying sorry, sincerely, and taking responsibility is immense.

What's the gracious response to such power?

Everything depends on all people being clear about their role and equipped with the skills to fulfill their role.  (My favourite question I ask when I'm leading people is "is there anything I'm asking you to do that you don't know how to do?")

Accounts departments in big organisations (eg universities) should pick up the phone more often.  Why do they dwell in the world of letters and post when a conversation over the phone would address many things?

People seem very confronted by shows of intense emotion, even when the emotion is a valid and reasonable response to circumstances.  Human beings are emotional creatures.  There is never a time when we are without emotion.

Music is a powerful expression of emotion. It unites. It divides. It can provide an outlet. It can empathise. It can mean different things in different situations.  It can be universal.

Plastic bags and old towels do not go in the recycling.  Neither do carpets.  Or bodies.

When a friend says he's "putting the chooks in",  "the oven" is not the only way that sentence can be finished.

I had the best end to an intense day at the end of an intense week. I walked out into the sunshine with three friends and colleagues. We were silly and playful together.  Intense feelings dropped away as laughter took over.

What's on your mind this week?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Farewell Amanda - reflecting on life and death.

Amanda with the Love Rug knitted for her, square by square.
Used with permission.

Today I went to a funeral. The funeral was for Amanda Rynne about whom I've written before. Only two years ago, I wrote about the contribution I'd made to a "love rug" for her following the news that she had breast cancer.

Today we said goodbye.

I didn't know Amanda that well, but am very close with people who were very close to her.  I went to her funeral to mark the fact she and I were connected and show myself as part of the community of people touched by her.  I also went to support my friends who were also close to her.  A very large church was filled with people dressed in red at Amanda's request.  There was laughter and there were many tears as stories were told and life and death contemplated.

Melbourne turned on wild and unpredictable weather. Throughout the service, the wind sounded like a woman humming.  I imagined that it was Amanda singing as we heard about Amanda's love of music.  This contemplation was interrupted by the sound of a baby gurgling or crying. I thought about the bookends of life; beginnings and endings; innocence and pain.

The blanket we made for Amanda rested on her coffin today.  My first glimpse of it caused the first tears of many to flow.  I walked out with a handbag filled with soggy tissues.

Forty-one is young to have life taken away.  I reflected on my own life and wondered whether I'm living it in the best way, fulfilling it in every aspect. It's good to think about these things.

I drove another friend back to her home afterwards and we shared a cup of tea together.  Her extroverted four year old daughter came out and introduced herself.  She gave me a hug and asked where we had been.  I told her that we had been saying goodbye to a friend.  Of course she asked why we were saying goodbye.  I told her that our friend wasn't coming back anymore.  She thought about this and nodded and then told me she really liked my shoes! It was lovely to be surrounded by the life pulsing through this little girl.

And so life goes on.

The news on the radio in the car as I drove to work carried a story about new drugs available for the treatment of breast cancer.  I hope they work. Too many lives are affected by this disease.

One thing that has stuck in my mind from the homily was that there are only three things you need to be able to say to the people in your life: I love you. I'm sorry. I forgive you.

Amanda, I'll miss seeing your gorgeous photographs on Instagram.  It was nice to know you Amanda, even a little bit. It was clear from today's turn out that you touched many people. A life well lived.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My Million Dollar Minute - airdate

I was recently a contestant on the new quiz show called Million Dollar Minute.  (It's the thing I did that I couldn't talk about.)  I still can't really talk about it, but I can tell you that if you tune in on 23 October you will see me competing.

The thing I really like about this show is that it's the old-fashioned - but enduring - quiz with buzzer format.  You can play along at home.

Going on game shows is something that I decided to do one day and I've been lucky enough to be selected as a contestant on a few.  It's a bit of a love/hate relationship actually.

Have you ever been on a television game show?  Did you win?

Monday, 14 October 2013

myki public transport ticketing designed by Kafka

And we're back...Inspiration left me for a while there.  I think it was because I did something exciting that I can't tell you about just yet.  Time had to pass so there was space for something else to focus on.  And what better way than to talk about another bizarre process that I've discovered with Melbourne's public transport ticketing system, myki.

Things have been running fairly smoothly lately.  Generally, I've always thought that the day to day transactions with the card have run fairly well.  It's when you head into the "back office" process that the Kafkaesque trouble starts.

Last Thursday I travelled all over the place and then when I arrived at my home station, I could not find my myki.  Luckily I had registered the card so could immediately call and have the card blocked.  This protects any balance remaining on the card.  So far so good.  I also wanted the remaining balance returned to me. This is where the complexity seeps in.  They will transfer the balance onto a new myki and send it out in the mail as a result of my telephone request.  Sounds straightforward, except that I don't want or need another myki.  I have about half a dozen sitting on my desk.  These have been acquired for friends visiting or when I've arrived at the station and discovered the ticket isn't in my handbag so I've had to buy a whole new one (this could be rectified if there was a short term ticket option, but that has been explicitly ruled out by the State Government). I also acquired a couple through tasks required while I was a member of the customer experience panel giving feeback about all aspects of my experience with myki.

I asked for the balance to be put on one of the other cards that are registered on my account.  I was informed that the only way that can be done is if I fill in a paper form and post it in. The money is then transferred onto the card with the number nominated on the form. (Surprisingly) I don't even have to send in the myki I want to transfer to.  Why is a paper form required when all the details of registered cards are on my secure profile? (See what the Minister said about this issue in February 2012.)

"Why?" I asked.  "Because that's the process," came the answer.  To confuse matters further, the name of the form is "Refund and Reimbursement" which isn't really what we're talking about - it's a balance transfer.

Then I was informed that I was getting the benefit of a new card without having to pay the $6 purchase price.  That's true, except that I don't want or need another card and this is a public cost which is unnecessary.  What I want is my unused balance from the lost card to be put onto one of the cards I already have.  The cost would be minimal - especially if I could do it myself through my online account. Under the current process, the cost of a new card is added.

In the interests of highlighting problems so they can be fixed, I lodged feedback, specifically asking about why this is the process. Today I received a call from Kylie who informed me about the process.  I told her that I already know what the process is and I'm interested to know why this is the process. The conversation was pointless.

"All I can do is tell you what the process is and all you keep asking is why!"

"Well that's actually what I want to know."

"Well all I can tell you is what the process is."

"That's terrific, but I already know what the process is.  I actually want to understand the thinking that designed the process and point out how silly it is."

"All I can do is explain the process."

"What's the purpose of this phone call then? Was my feedback request not clear?"

"It was clear, but all I can do is explain the process and you keep asking why."

"Who should I be speaking to then?"

At the end of that exasperating exchange I was told to contact Public Transport Victoria via email or mail.

"Where are you from then? I thought I had contacted PTV initially."

"I work for PTV."

"Isn't that who you've said I have to talk to?"

"Yes, but I'm only in the myki section."

"But I'm wanting to talk about myki!"

"You need to send an email."

It's fitting really.  With such a costly, old-fashioned and convoluted process to get $4.84 back I don't know why I thought the feedback process would be smooth, streamlined and efficient. The other thing about all these processes is that the work onus is on the customer not on the service provider.  There is a benefit to Australia Post, so that's something.

I knew it was going to be weird when I had to go through an identification process to have the feedback conversation!  I refrained from asking the one question that was on my mind: why?