Chinese Fire Drill

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How not to impress HR. Of course, if they can't take a joke, then they don't impress me either.

We were going down the stairway in one of my companies all too frequent wastes of time, known as a fire-drill. (The joys of San Jose regulations).

  • As I was descending the many flights of stairs with a friend Bruce, I quipped, "thank goodness you're here Bruce".
  • And he said, "why?"
  • I retorted because that means this is just a Chinese Fire Drill... (Bruce was of Chinese descent).

The HR lady behind us gasped and started to make a stink, "I can't believe you said that". But my friend stood up for me, "we're friends, it was just a joke".

The problem that the HR person didn't know (and most of the busy-bodies that stick their noses in this kind of stuff don't know), is the context around something being said.

Bruce and I had many conversations about all kinds of things -- including race/culture. I'd pointed out a few times that he was more American than me, as he was 3rd generation, and I was only 1st and 2nd. And we'd talked about quotas in University admittance and hiring. He knew I wasn't a fan of handicapping Asians (or anyone) based on race. And I'd picked up a little Chinese writing and phrases that I'd asked him on. So there was obviously no slur on his nationality, or intent to malign. Not exactly the views of white supremacists thinking a race are inferior, or someone trying to attack someone because of their ethnicity. It was just a joke to mock the stupidity of leaving a non-burning building, and wasting our time. And if there was any commentary towards race, it would have been mocking the origins of the term, and those who used it, instead of the targets of it.

So the HR persons ignorance, lead her to make false conclusions -- or only see the superficial, and not understand the context, respect and depth behind a joke/quip. That it wasn't malice, but the camaraderie that allows many to joke with each other.