Short Take: The Hampster Chronicles

Branding consultant Carol Blymire posted serial twits about a fascinating thing she watched. For the conveniently cynical, it may be that this never happened, but I prefer to accept its accuracy because I have no reason to doubt Blymire.

In office space near a client, a young woman was meeting with her boss. She was (by my estimation) in her late 20s.

The boss (also a woman) was giving her feedback and reviewing edits she had made on something this young woman wrote.

They had been speaking in low tones, but their volume got louder toward the end of the conversation because the young woman was getting agitated about a particular edit.

That particular edit was correcting the spelling of “hampster” to “hamster”. Apparently she had used the phrase “like spinning in a hamster wheel” in this draft (presumably) speech or or op-ed.

The young woman kept saying, “I don’t know why you corrected that because I spell it with the P in it.” The boss said (calmly), “But that’s not how the word is spelled. There is no P in hamster.”

Young woman: “But you don’t know that! I learned to spell it with a P in it so that’s how I spell it.” The boss (remaining very calm and professional), let’s go to and look it up together. (mind you, this is a woman in her late 20s, not a 5th grader)

The young woman insists she doesn’t need to look it up because it’s FINE to spell it with a P because that’s HOW SHE WANTED TO SPELL IT.

Essentially, the young woman’s “lived experience” was that hamster was spelled hampster, which, in her mind, not only entitled her to spell it that way, but made her spelling as correct as the correct spelling.

Then there’s the issue of the young woman responding this way to her boss (who, thankfully, also happened to be a woman so as to remove the screams of mansplainin’ and gender oppression that would otherwise obscure the issues). It’s bad enough that law students inform me about all aspects of the law on the twitters, as they do a few hundred times a day, but since they don’t cash a paycheck from me, their hubris can’t be helped. But here, the subordinate is refusing to listen to her boss, because her opinion is valid and no boss has the right to “condescendingly” tell her what she’s expected to do in exchange for her paycheck.

But the story isn’t over quite yet.

Boss gets up from table and goes to her office and the young woman can barely hold it together. She moves to another table in the common workspace area, drops all her stuff loudly on the table top, and starts texting. A minute later, her phone rings.

It was her mom. She had texted her mom to call her because it was urgent, and I’m sure her mother maybe thought she was in the ER or something. She then … PUTS HER MOM ON SPEAKERPHONE. IN THE WORKPLACE.

She bursts into tears and wants her mom to call her boss and tell her not to be mean about telling her how to spell words like “hamster”.

And mom metaphorically smacks her and tells her to grow up? Not exactly.

The mother tells her that her boss is an idiot and she doesn’t have to listen to her and she should go to the boss’ boss to file a complaint about not allowing creativity in her writing.

The young woman kept saying, “I thought what I wrote was perfect and she just made all these changes and then had the nerve to tell me I was spelling words wrong when I know they are right because that is how I have always spelled them.”

Intervening is some discussion of her sex life, which no one need suffer. Then it concludes:

She ended the conversation asking her mom how she should bring this up with the boss’ boss. “I mean, I always spell hamster with a P, she has no right to criticize me.”

Blymire asks whether this is atypical, which would seem to ignore standard corporate training prescriptions.

Is it comedy anymore?

19 thoughts on “Short Take: The Hampster Chronicles

  1. Hunting Guy

    Mark Twain.

    “I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.”

  2. Mike Guenther

    That’s how they spell Hampster at Clempson University. Obviously this young woman was a student of phonetics.

    1. Jeff

      You’re on a real grammatical bend this fine Saturday morning, good sir. As a charter member of the International League of Pedants (Accuracy Over Tact), I wholeheartedly embrace and approve of the current trend. Please, keep it up.

      1. SHG Post author

        Pretty sure it’s not your call whether anybody should keep anything up here, if you catch my drift.

  3. Cody

    Not a true story, sadly. Check Snopes. It is some sort of parable offered to illustrate some conservative, anti-PC point. It’s along the lines of denouncing safe spaces, participation trophies, self-esteem rehab, etc. Those who claim attending the equally phantom “school of hard knox” will get a chuckle, however–until asked to spell the word “knocks” properly. *wink*

  4. Wilbur

    I’ll imagine she believes she should be paid a King’s Ransomp for her services. Maybe she would at Ampscot.

  5. Dan

    This is where, in a sane world, boss informs employee that her services will no longer be required. Not over a spelling error; those happen all the time. But over the refusal to be corrected.

    1. SHG Post author

      But if they’re all this way, you get lonely and there’s no one to do any work at all, even hampster work.

      1. Dan

        Even if they are all this way, which is worse: (1) to have no help at all; or (2) to have “help” that refuses to learn (indeed, refuses to accept that they have anything to learn), and will therefore not only not help you, but actively harm you? I think the latter would be worse–you’d literally be better off with nobody than with an employee like that described here.

  6. JR

    What a confusing morning. I was reading this while we out at lunch in shopping mall area with the wife, and she says, “We need to go look at hamsters.” Now I think she is talking about clothes hamster and wants to go the the Bed Bath and Beyond a few doors down (F$%# Yea!). She says no, we need to go the Pet Smart a few more doors down. I think she is pulling my leg, and maybe was reading this post also, (upside down across the table). So I start talking about this post and getting into the idea that you learn that nothing is perfect (you never finish a paper, document, program, piece of art, it gets abandoned and your call it done) . She is talking about Syrians vs. Russians. Can’t be the small fuzzy things, our cats will rip one apart and have hamster blood all over the place.

    After a bit very confusing conversation and asking each other if they are having stroke, we work out that I’m talking about an SJ posting and she is talking about what her grand niece wants for her birthday.

    Thanks for the unexpected laugh.

  7. Hen3ry (the ‘3’ is silent)

    The worst part is that when the workplace is full of millennials and they all agree that it’s spelled “with a p”, then – it will be correct.

    (Y)our days are numbered.

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