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Dear Tao,

I'm nearing the end of my rope and have become desperate enough that I figure even a letter to you couldn't hurt. Over the last couple of years I've found myself working longer and longer hours. I pointed this out to my boss and she said that there's no way the company could afford to hire more people, and that I was going to have to learn how to "work smarter." Just what the heck is that supposed to mean? P.O.

Dear P.,

In order to work smarter you have to do two things: first figure out who is smarter than you, and then copy their actions and claim them as your own. This is a problem that's easily solved if you look at history.

Unless your name is Stephen Hawking, it's pretty safe to say that Albert Einstein was smarter than you. Let's see how he handled a similar situation.

Early in his career Mr. Einstein was working in a patent office, but he was having trouble keeping up with the ever increasing workload. Upon asking his boss for advice, he too was told to "work smarter." He was also advised that he'd be a little more presentable around the office if he wore a hairnet while he slept.

Very disturbed, he went home and contemplated these words. The story is told that after several hours of soul searching and a couple of Fuzzy Navels he was able to get in touch with his Inner Physicist Self: he quit his job, came up with the General Theory of Relativity, and as a result started a career as a professional smart guy.

Taking the cue from Al, I'd say the answer's simple: quit your job and never go back to anything even remotely related to it. True, it's not likely that you'll win the Nobel Prize for physics, but I'm certain that at the very least you'll find it much easier to balance your checkbook (a task that is quite a bit simpler when you don't have to worry about income).

As for wearing the hairnet, I'd say that's optional. On the off-chance youdobecome famous, you won't look nearly as cool when they make a poster of you if your hair is neat and tidy -- something always worth considering in any situation.

Dear Tao,I keep a pet hamster at work, and the guy across the hall has a rat. We're thinking of getting one of those cages that link together so that our pets can visit each other, but before we do I have a question: would it be possible for them to have babies? I think it'd be really cool and break up the monotony of the day.

Sign me,

Dr. Doverylittle

Dear Doctor,

It sounds like you may have not been paying very close attention to your biology classes for, say, your last ten years of school. The short answer is no, you can't cross-breed rats and hamsters. However, you'll get a brief but downright eye-opening demonstration of what food chains are all about if you decide to take the leap and give your pets a formal social introduction.

Speaking of rodents, it's worth noting that they can be of tremendous help in your company's advertising efforts. Let's say you have a list of possible slogans to use but are unsure which is best. Simply tape all the slogans you're considering on the side of your rodent tank and then watch carefully. The one your little beast walks toward will be the natural winner. Remember, advertising works on the most primitive portions of the brain, so a rat is as good as an ad exec for the task, and you get the added benefit of Purina Rat Chow being quite a bit cheaper than the cost of a two- martini lunch.

Can't even come up with a slogan? No problem. You can use single words just as easily and then string them together. It might take a few trials until you get something that makes sense, but keep at it. I tried this using random words cut out of the newspaper and came up with the ultra-highbrow "Price last, anybody's near Russia." It's got everything you need: concern for the customerandfaux concern for other countries. Even today I'll bet you could sell a few Lisas using that heady doublespeak.

Dear Tao,

I had a conversation with my boss the other day in which he accused me of "gross incompetence" merely because I was personally responsible for the failure of our company's last three products. I could use your advice on how to proceed.

Spud Boy

Dear Spud,

If what you said is true, your boss is right: you are incompetent. Don't let that bother you; competency is only one of several factors related to your job, and in some ways your future has never looked brighter. However, you should take action if you're interested in staying where you are.

The key here is to slyly change your company's employment guidelines. In the 1990s nearly all businesses of any size have a bylaw that says something like, "Sproutbud Software has a policy of equal opportunity hiring and we will not discriminate with regard to an employee's ethnic origin, religious beliefs, age, sex, sexual preference, marital status, or even if they wear brown shoes with a blue suit."

Obviously the phrase that you want added is ". . . will not discriminate with regard to ability," but that's going to be hard to get on the first pass. What you'll need to do is get very militant about something that seems relatively trivial. The next time you have a large meeting, hint that you have reason to believe that your company discriminates against people who like sherbet. Once they deny it (as they undoubtedly will), say "OK, maybe you're right, but I won't be comfortable until our employment guidelines are changed to reflect this." Next, insist there is discrimination against people who like the color magenta; then, those with a penchant for keeping more than a dollar's worth of change in their pockets. Eventually people will get so sick of you that they'll just say "Yeah, whatever! Just fill out whatever you like. Anything to get you to shut up!"

Be careful. Once you have this power you'll feel like flaunting it by saying something like ". . . will not discriminate against people whose last names end in y." It sounds catchy, but it's a sure tip-off to your plans.


  • The Airline Passenger's Guerrilla Handbook by George Albert Brown. Get the lowest airfares and learn how to open that bag of peanuts.
  • Shakespeare's Insults compiled by Wayne F. Hill and Cynthia J. Ottchen. Gives you the weapons you need in case you're ever called a "flinty Tartar."
  • John Lee Hooker, The Ultimate Collection, Rhino Records. It's time to get blue, irrespective of your day-to- day color.

TAO JONES, in a high school English class assignment years ago, was asked to describe his ultimate fantasy. Although the exact details are now forgotten, it had something to do with huge castles, large bicycle tracks, and "The Gong Show." When he discovered that the rest of the class had described things like "a long weekend with Farrah Fawcett," he immediately started working on an all-encompassing philosophy to explain the rest of humanity. It's taken years to perfect, and today this philosophy is commonly referred to as his "bad attitude." *Tao Index: Do not trust those who have their jeans pressed. *

Used chewing gum? Place it here.*

Tao needs questions or he may be forced to do his real day job. Please send your queries regarding the social and political aspects of office survival to AppleLink DEVELOP. If your question is published, he'll reward you with an incredibly cheap, yet heartwarmingly collectible, gift. *


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