Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pig Pulling, Breaking Barriers and a Nooner

One of the attributes encouraged amongst our folks at work is to be a "barrier breaker". For many years, I labored under the apparently false illusion a "barrier breaker" was a bad thing resulting in threats from irate dads, ostracism at school, marriage at a young age, and sometimes in rare cases even the growth of a mullet.

But it turns out, being a "barrier breaker" in the work place is a good thing. If you are successful at being one, it means you start hanging out with others in the department with whom you don't normally work on a day-to-day basis. And if you do it exceptionally well and can convince a higher-up in the department to nominate and vote for you, then sometimes there is even a cash award to go along with your skill.

The idea of course is you'll learn a lot of new info about your co-workers through casual conversations that you wouldn't otherwise know. Our office is pretty rigidly segregated into functional areas through the use of invisible divider panels. You don't just go crossing willy-nilly from an IT area into financial turf - its just not done. Unless of course you develop your game as a "barrier breaker" or provide tech support for a department software app (which I do).

Friday, Cara, Leslie, and I went to lunch to work on possible solutions to several of the world's problems and to strengthen our individual and collective skills as "barrier breakers". Leslie suggested the lunch outing giving her the BB edge. Cara then offered to drive which pulled her into a BB tie with Leslie. My contribution was to select the place.

Our choice? Jack's BBQ - the original Trinity Lane location. Its not quite in the hood, but its on the warning track to its entrance. But you've gotta go where the good eating is. A few weeks ago, I pimped out Hog Heaven as a fantastic BBQ joint in Nashville. The truth is we have several great ones. Folks in North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas will all shout you down about how great their individual style of barbecue is compared to the others. Nashville will never claim an original recipe - we just sit back and pull the pig, munch the brisket, or gnaw the ribs while the rest of 'em fight it out.

Remember the first rule of finding good barbecue? The goofier the name or look, the more likely you'll find good Q. The name "Jack" isn't so silly - but the pink pig with his name on it out front is - so Jack's passes test #1.

So off Cara, Leslie & I went. To Jack's. In Cara's husband's new car. As a reminder, my selection of a barbecue place depends on the answer to 3 questions:
  1. Does it have a hokey name or motif?
  2. Does it have a genuine hickory wood pile - especially one scattered about showing its used?
  3. Does it have a variety of cars in the parking lot to indicate patrons from differing economic strata?

As I worked on my skills as a "barrier breaker", I made myself open to new ideas. I tried to listen more. I tried to learn something new. But I have to admit when I heard these unexpected questions asked I tweaked my head such as a dog often does when he hears a high pitch whistle :

  1. Do they have good slaw?
  2. What kind of barbecue place doesn't have fries?

I had to step back and take a moment to look at the world through another's eyes. I mean I like some slaw - but most slaw isn't good. And I can eat me some fries when I'm in the mood to do so. But the failure of either will not deter me from eating BBQ if my original 3 tests pass.

Yet it was important to Cara and Leslie these questions be answered. They learned (1) Jack's does not have good slaw and (2) the absence of fries was offset by the quality of the pulled pork. A barrier breaker success? I say yes.

The three of us wrestled with such profound questions as:

  1. Why does our travel agent continually remind married women get a new driver's license and Social Security card? Isn't there job to book travel and to send out the courtesy reminders about TSA checking names?
  2. Is it OK to snicker at folks with funny last names like "Nooner"?
  3. Does anyone have the first idea about the rules of the card game Euchre?
  4. Can a co-worker who has volunteered to plan a themed event at an in-house training seminar be fired from his volunteerism if he is slow on his progress or has dumb ideas - especially if 2 barrier-breaking other co-workers have much better ideas and a willingness to help?
In the end, the meal and the conversation were excellent - even if we didn't resolve any of the world's problems (after all, we only had an hour). And the two of them ably demonstrated their barrier breaking skills by all but delivering a turn-key party theme in 30 minutes - something that couldn't get accomplished by 5 of us in 6 weeks.

Leslie - Thanks for putting the invite out there for me. Cara - thanks yet again for driving - and I hope your husband enjoyed the replacement new car smell of hickory and mesquite.



  1. Cara and I had a blast! We will have to try Hog Heaven when the weather isn't bad!

    I saw neon food coloring this weekend and thought of you.