I'm pretty PC in most situations, by context. You know who to tread lightly around, in terms of words said.
Has someone ever called you out on being non-PC in the office?
I've only been called out once. That I can remember. I think I was about 6 weeks into my first job after college and was put on some odd project learning a skill I didn't want to learn and was thrown into this odd mix of people.
It was about 8-10 of us in this training group and all ages. 20s-50s really. So we are sitting at a large table doing a class and the presenter's computer sucks. Its taking forever to boot and get the projector going, so this guy starts telling this story about him converting his Mercedes (1980s) to be able to handle biodiesel or something. He said he drove from the Midwest to the East coast on this engine and to the meeting, in fact.
Then, for some reason, this guy gets up with his bag, leaves the room, and the presenter launches into a discussion and presentation lasting about 20 minutes. He keeps mentioning we have to remember this stuff in the presentation for some training module test or something and then asks if there are any questions. He almost began the next phase of the training and I said "aren't you going to wait until that dude gets back to keep going?."
The presenter looks at me and just gives me the deer in the headlights look. He said "are we missing someone?" I was like "yeah, that guy missed your whole first module." I wasn't trying to rat on the guy, but was looking out for him as this company was super lame about passing these learning modules. The teacher said "I don't think we are missing anyone." Then someone else said, "yeah everyone is here." We were sitting at a long table and filled all the seats and this guy was literally sitting in the middle of the long table and there was now an empty seat there.
First I thought I should drop it as I had no clue where these space cadets were sitting when this geek was launching into a pride filled discussion about his biodiesel engine, but this girl turned to me and said "what did he look like?" I'm thinking wtf is going on here. I tried to be light/not harsh and said "you know that big dude with the plaid shirt?" A couple other people at the table started giving me just straight up blank glances. I felt like I was on Mars. In the sense to accurately convey the attributes of the missing person and to be direct I finally said "the overweight white dude with the glasses."
Well, this was apparently wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much for this girl at the end of the table. She flipped out on me. She happened to be a very .. large woman. Everyone turned to her wide eyed and she just ripped me apart about being PC and respectful to others (when she said that I thought - how can you respect others when you don't even notice them in the room...), and all this other stuff about how hard people struggle in life to be where they are or something. No one stopped her. I was like shiiitt...
Then she stopped talking and I was just like "I'm sorry I didn't mean to offend anyone, was trying to describe this person." There was a group silence for 2 seconds that felt like 20 minutes and no shit, this dude walks right back in and sits down all gleefully and globbedy globbedy moving around, you know, you know... and then looks up and says "did I miss anything?"
Fucking shoot me, right.
He apologized for being away and said he took a call from his manager.
But, then I turn to think about different cultures and what it means to say the truth. When I was in China, every day my host mother would say "you have arrived home" and I was thinking like yeah that's obvious, for about a month. Eventually, I found out it was the custom that I had to say "I have arrived home" when she said it at the doorway. Some odd exchange of truth and being in the present along with a greeting.
Even seeing friends after you haven't seen them in a while in that culture brings similar expressions such as 'long time no see', but also other things like 'you're fat'. To see someone that has become fat and to say 'you're fat' over there seems more like a state that you have become rather than a negative expression about who you are in life and your value as a person, which it seems to bleed to in the US.
Also, I just told a room full of people that a person was there and they told me he was not and then he finally walks back in the room. Really, what were they thinking at that moment ...... training was a week or two and no one said a word about the discussion whatsoever after that. We just went back right into corporate drone mode ... for the good of management and the shareholders..... good 'ol F500 companies, God Bless 'em.