The Bee Hole of an Architect

Bob Borson —  June 2, 2014 — 49 Comments

Most architects I know go about their business in an professional manner – but somehow that doesn’t necessarily translate to the behavior that happens in the office. In literally every firm I have ever worked in, the stuff I hear being said (let’s be honest, I’m the one saying a lot of it) is so inappropriate that it is shocking. Many of you are probably familiar with a series I have on the site hear titled “Heard around the architectural studio …“. For every one story that is safe to publish, there are hundreds of stories that are not. On occasion I will share one of these stories with my wife or one of my sisters – both who hold significant leadership positions in real companies – and their mouths are left agape at some of the things they hear coming out of my mouth.

I don’t think salty language and inappropriate stories are all that uncommon in architectural studios across the country. Architects get our training starting in studios in college where a group of college aged kids spend way too much time together in very small quarters. We spend time on construction sites, which are ground zero for bad language and inappropriate stories, and maybe in our attempts to fit in we adopt the language and demeanor observed while on site. Who knows where we develop our tendencies, all I know is that from personal experience, architects in private have some pretty salty language. I would also dispute this as a male characteristic because one of my last employers was a woman [she was awesome and I had respect for her abilities] and she had the foulest mouth I’ve ever heard in my life.

Bob Borson's Bee Hole

I told you all that to set the expectation level for a story. I have a bee hive in my backyard. It isn’t on purpose – I’m not trying to harvest the honey – and if I had a say in the matter, I’d like for them to be somewhere else. The bees showed up in Spring 2013 and in the beginning, I thought it was pretty cool. You can’t hardly go a day without seeing some article out there talking about how all the bees are disappearing and what a huge problem it is. I keep a fairly organic backyard and having a beehive seemed to be an indication to me that I have ecological balance in my yard [yay me!] But after a short while, there were A LOT of bees and nobody liked going out in the yard anymore … it’s seemed reckless.

The tree where the bees have set up shop is probably about 6′ in circumference and there is a knot towards the bottom of the trunk that allows access to what is apparently a hollow interior. It’s a small entrance point and as more and more bees showed up, a large, pulsing “waiting line” started to form. I’m not all that positive that bees are very patient because this “waiting” seemed to make then more easily irritable … which meant even the bravest of people decided that hanging out in the backyard was not a very good idea.

My wife and I had several conversations about how to get rid of these bees, which as it turns out is not as easy as you might think. I do not want to harm the hive and my repeated attempts to contact a local “bee hive” enthusiasts club to come and get these bees didn’t accomplish anything. Finally, as late fall came around, the bees simply left on their own. One day bees … the next day, no bees. I just assumed that they had finally outgrown the interior of this tree trunk and moved on to greener pastures.

I was wrong.

This Spring, they came back. They don’t all come back at once, it’s like a few show up early to make things ready – do a little beehive housecleaning. Since I missed my chance to seal the entrance to the hive up during winter, I thought I would try to make the hive less appealing, so I jabbed a large piece of bark into the entrance so that it would discourage the bees from moving back in.

Wrong again. Here is a video I took with my cell phone [Sunday, June 1st, 2014]

[if the video doesn’t show up, hit refresh on your computer or watch it here]

.

As I was regaling my office with the tale of my bee hole, everybody couldn’t stop giggling.

I described the piece of wood that I stuck in my bee hole …

really force the wood into my bee hole so it wouldn’t fall out … 

There is a lot of activity around my bee hole … 

There’s a huge waiting line to get into my bee hole …

.

Okay, if by now you haven’t figured out why people thought this was so funny, get one of your friends to explain it because I’m not going to explain it to you. Did I know what I was saying that caused all the laughing? Not before I said it and it was still in my head. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I heard what I had just said and I might have continued for a while for my own amusement.

But not once did I ever stop and think whether or not I should be making these particular jokes. In my head, if it’s funny and everybody is laughing that seems to always make things okay. Believe it or not, I actually try to be funny around the office and frequently tell stories and anecdotes that I think will be enjoyed by the other people working in the office. I think of it as part of our particular firms culture … that we work hard, take our jobs seriously but that it’s more than okay to enjoy yourself while you are working.

Just like the content I write on this site, I don’t use foul language very often in real life. I don’t think it brings much to the mix and more times than not, I believe it undermines your effectiveness as a communicator. If you can’t make your point without resorting to dropping an F-bomb or some other curse word, maybe you should think a little longer about what you are trying to say.

So I’m curious about what others think on this subject. Is there a policy in place at your office or do you simply go by general decorum base. Would you have been offended by my bee-hole story?

Cheers,

Bob AIA signature

  • Bamgbopa Folarin

    i was actually waiting for where that story was headed, till u quoted yourself…..well seems its all around the architectural studios of the world. we architects can just bring up weird meanings to innocent words or statements.lol

  • Tha Vin

    I was pleasantly surprised by the story. I interpreted the title as foreshadowing a darker story. However, I would like to solicit a few responses to a related question: Does the architecture studio glorify the hard-nosed architect? The architect who is a brilliant visionary unable to collaborate with teams?

    While this this mythology remains popular in literature, it is debilitating if architecture firms want to acquire, develop and retain talent. Instead of romanticizing the studio environment, I wish firm leaders would actually build an on-boarding process that teaches architects about the firm’s culture and organizational assets. (My on-boarding process at my previous firm was: the admin assistant giving me a binder. When I was complete with the documents, a PA asked me to draw plan details.)

    While I will miss the studio environment, I am very excited to be moving into a corporate strategy role. I am so happy the on-boarding process has begun 2 weeks before my actual start date.

    Yes, I love Bob’s story about the beehive. It is humorous and shares the intimate relationship he has with his organization. But for every humorous and inappropriate story, there exists many stories which border on harassment and ridicule.

  • Brad Feinknopf

    Absolutely HILARIOUS! Thank you for a great chuckle! Fortunately, I don’t have a whole office to concern myself with but, for what it is worth, I forwarded this on to both my wife and my assistant so I was obviously not too concerned with the political correctness of your post. I will say, if I get thrown in the clink for emailing this to my assistant, I do hope you will come to my rescue and bail me out. ;-)

  • ArchiGeek

    Language usage is creative around here. And I don’t quite understand the other side of that coin, how people who spend so much time together at the office don’t at some point become more familiar and more casual (genuine?) in their interactions.

    Maybe a bee keeper or honey producer would liberate that tree for you?

  • Mark J. R. Mattes

    At a previous firm, the Owner would do the whole act, swearing, yelling, throwing of furniture, etc. Really led to everyone being quiet and keeping their heads down, but…

    It works both ways. I was doing CA on a 64 unit condo project for the same guy, on site 8 to 10 hours a day and paperwork as well. It didn’t take more than a couple weeks before the contractor language use started to change when they noticed I didn’t appreciate all the swearing for no purpose. I still see some of those contractors and they still remember the total change (for the better) on the site.

  • Dzintars Berzinskis

    Some 10 years? ago, well some time ago when i was still a kid we had a terrace on the 2nd floor at out summer house and the exterior of the house was covered in about 5 cm wide planks. There was a gap in between two planks that had formed over time from various reasons. So one summer we realized we have wasps there >.< I'm not sure how long we let them live there, but either way we ended up filling it up with foam… the one you use when you install windows. We would newer do this to bee's but wasps.. they be nasty.
    English isn't my native language, and i have noticed in the last few years that i swear more in English than in my own mother tongue. Actually i don't think i swear in my own language at all even, maybe with few bad words on some occasions, but i think it's rare. Since i'm not in my home country i have been using English for the last few years on every day basis, and somehow some bad words come out more frequently.

  • axyld

    Hey I will tell you two bee stories.

    My mom as a child observed a bumble bee going in and out of a bit of wooden fence post. As any curious child she wanted to explore explore cause and effect. ‘What will happen if I blocked the bee’s hole?’ she thought. And proceeded to block the hole just as you did. Hahahah poor little girl. Bees have escape routes. Bumble came out in its alternate channel and defended his territory by stinging her in the middle of her head. You were lucky when you did what you did.

    Second story – what happened in your tree happened in our conference room. We left on day, and returned the next morning to find the office stinking of bees wax and honey….yes hone stinks In copiously amounts, to me any way. We called our agricultural dept and the specialist in apiculture came with a vaccum cleaner, took them out of the wall cavity. No harm done to those cute but defensive creatures.

    On the matter of foul language – in college I became the queen of foul language. Suffice it it say I was using the foul language of my island culture in a college on another island where curaing and swaring was done different, with much different words. It took a while for the cursing and swaring to have any effect. 20 years on I no longer sware. I have however been in the same scenario as you were, telling a genuinely innocent story, and all of a sudden the imagery of the narrative turns blue. All the same I much prefer the way that the learned british uses the english language. The can tell you off with such erudite atriculation that it takes 24hrs to to sink in that this person told you off, and trust me that kind of cursing sings for ages.

  • 13f

    Why, on earth, would you want to get rid of honeybees??? When they are ready, they will swarm, and find a new place in the neighborhood to expand to. Just leave them alone so they can pollinate like they are meant to. Sorry, that’s not the response you are looking for, but I just can’t get past the basis of your article in the first place….

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I don’t want to kill them,I just don’t want them in my tiny backyard where herds of 9 year-old girls currently play. We thought they would outgrow the tree and leave last year but they didn’t – they’re back. Leaving them there isn’t the right answer, it’s hazardous and I’m not willing to concede my backyard as a no-play, child-free zone.

  • Charlie Burris

    Otherwise as an office, we’re pretty tame I supposed on the language. We love to laugh as much as any but are just not inclined to be crude.

  • Charlie Burris

    My brother once had a bee problem at his house and being a creative thinker and cheap, he rigged his own supposed bee-proof attire, all homemade stuff. So he went in after them but found that they had colonized the entire outside wall of his house….and so he had to hire a professional to come rid him of bees!

  • Charlie Burris

    When I was in deep Mexico we found lots of killer bees that had taken over all the hives. I was told not to wear dark clothes as they seemed to be attracted to them. So one day a group of our folk when to help do some work in their beehive area. One of the guys asked for a camera and when it was handed to him, he said he could hear and see this mad bee come from quite a ways away and made a beeline for his hand, stinging him viciously. The camera was black, and apparently they have a natural problem with some predator who happens to be black. So, never wear black or dark colors around killer bees!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      so let me get this straight … you’re telling an architect not to wear black?

      I’m doomed.

  • Kevin McLaren

    I used to work in an office where the head of the interior design department could let some of the foulest, most hilarious commentary fly when he wanted to, which was relatively often. We’d roll on the floor collapsed in inapropriate laughter. So wrong but so very funny.

  • jmartinarch

    My office is usually pretty clean…I’m solo so nobody to harass but myself. I think architects offices get away with it or accept bee talk for two reasons; 1, the designer affect – free open thinking and 2, close proximity to construction personnel.
    As far as your bees go, I heard from a beekeeper that Almond Extract will repel them.

    • AlmostJane

      PS – bees also detest cinnamon and peppermint. If you don’t have a major hive going yet, you may be able to persuade them to move by spraying a mixture of peppermint shampoo and water. FYI – Dr Bronner’s makes an organic peppermint shampoo that won’t harm your tree.

  • AlmostJane

    PS – “…If you can’t make your point without resorting to dropping an F-bomb or some other curse word, maybe you should think a little longer about what you are trying to say…” My father’s attitude exactly. He was extremely strict with us in this area, even after he spent 4 years as an MP at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin in the early 50s. He always told us that the “bad” words were generally just used by the people who didn’t know better [and nicer] ones.

  • AlmostJane

    Sorry, can’t help. My own background is woefully-lacking in exposure to this content area. Case in point: public school kindergarten, 8 years in a Catholic grammar school and another 8 years at a girls-only Catholic high school/college. First teaching job, 3 years [you guessed it] in a Catholic school. Moved then to public school where I’ve taught kindergarten for coming up on 33 years. Needless to say, that background does not provide preparation for the world of which you speak. But in my world, you CAN crack up the entire room just by saying “underwear” and “toilet.”

  • John Keiser

    In order:
    I’ve worked in 5 offices over my years and the language thing is more unwritten than written. Professionally speaking, it’s just not good business sense and it can be tasteless.
    Bee that as it may, profanity does fly, whether in anger, or in quiet small group conversations. I can swear with the best of them, especially the more I know the person or small group I’m with. But I do not choose to speak this way in general office settings or conversations because offense does occur, and I’d rather not be an offender.
    Finally, Bee-hole stories – hilarious! No, I wouldn’t have been offended, and I would have been chuckling a bit hearing the tale. Next time, perhaps the word hive might have made your story less the ‘butt’ of jokes.

  • Terry Freitas

    You’d fit right in here at our office Bob !

  • A

    You’re definitely right about school… I’m in third year and people get waaaay to comfortable with each other and the professors in terms of what they say. But I guess that’s just how it is.

  • http://maricamckeel.com/ Marica McKeel

    That is one of the things I miss the most about being solo in my office! Thanks Bob!!

  • MarvinOne

    I think what worked in your situation was the fact that it was a genuine innuendo – you really do have a “bee hole”! Just because we all reverted back to junior high and got the giggles doesn’t mean it was inappropriate. And thank you for the laugh this morning.

  • aMa Architecture Inc

    THAT is funny. Thank you for starting my week of right.

  • Brians1999

    After 8 years in the Navy, the “salty” language is almost a natural thing. But, in a professional office, it should be curtailed. You never know when someone is out of sight, but within earshot, and they are offended. Worse yet, a client overhears something inappropriate.

  • Steve Miller

    Ok.. The more I think about this the more I admire your observation. Yes, AEC offices tend to be a little more “earthy” with their professionalism and there does seem to be unwritten rules as to where the line in the sand is. It seems like the more innocently it starts the funnier is becomes. If you had started the bee hole conversation intending it to take the turn it did I don’t believe it would have gotten the same response. The innocence of the mistake is what made it take on a life of its own. I once worked with a chap who’s last name is Huck. His first name is Paul but he went by his middle name that started with A. Nobody ever connected the dots until the guy in IT got involved and used his legal name when setting up his email address phuck@ourcompany.com. It was changed within minutes of catching it, but the snorts lasted well over a month.

  • pixiedust8

    I think it’s creative types. I work with a lot of graphic designers, and they curse like crazy (and a few say very inappropriate things, and I have a pretty high tolerance bar). My husband works in banking and the standards there are totally different.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      maybe people just expect “creatives” to be a little different in this capacity.

  • Wade

    I bet your b-hole gets pretty gooey and sticky after a while.

    I think that story would’ve been totally fine at my office. Actually pretty tame in comparison to some of the stuff I hear.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      gross.

      I think you would have won with that comment – I’m not sure how much further I would like to see that particular line get played out (although several comments are already forming in my head, the hard part is to not say them)

  • Steve

    I’ll be 44 in a month. Today went back to 7th grade and snickered when I read the title of this post. Every firm I’ve ever worked in would have had a couple of days worth of fun out of your bee hole story. It would’ve stayed fairly clean and not gotten vulgar – sort of like when someone says “duty” (doody) in a staff meeting.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      “Duty” will always be funny – at least I hope I always find it funny.

  • karen

    The B-hole: Hilarious. Falling out of my chair here in corporate America (one of Warren Buffett’s many insurance subsidiaries that provides the “float” money to fund his purchases.) Not offended at all…humor makes the workplace fun!

    The F-bomb: My CEO drops it all the time. It makes him feel powerful and makes employees feel threatened and powerless. Actually he’s an ignorant bully, albeit a rich $17 million annual salary bully so it makes me wonder how he can feel so inadequate that he needs to bully people. Ironically, I recently attended a corporate-sponsored class (yes, at the company he is the CEO of!) on respect and harrassment in the workplace and and they showed a violence continuum that begins with insensitivity, profanity and implied threats and progresses through intimidation and physical violance. Yet our CEO actively uses profanity, implied threats and intimidation to control employees. So, no matter what the “policy”, the tone of the workplace is set by the boss.

    I agree with you…save F-bombs for when you hit your finger with a hammer. (Or maybe for when a bug gets into your B-hole!) Otherwise find a more intelligent way to communicate your emotions.Salty lauguage is fine if there are no kids present, but what is not fine is continuously using F-bombs to threaten people like my ignorant bully CEO does! I do love how you use humour to make the workplace fun though! (and I really enjoy your “heard around the office” series!)

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      yikes – sounds toxic.

      We don’t do a lot of yelling in our office – at least not at each other. For the most part, we all try to make the work environment a fun place to be – which is a good attitude considering how much time we spend in each others company.

  • lancotf

    We’ve had to police language and stories here to keep them to a minimum. The thing is, you never know when a guest may drop in and the last thing they want to hear is profanity being yelled across the shop. But….we are all guilty of the giggles and off color humor and a profanity here or there. I do think, though that it is kept in check fairly well. It’s just kind of a habit we tried to form and do call newbies out to explain that this isn’t your typical construction firm.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I suppose that is part of the key – keeping it “within the family”. The room where most of these stories are told is fairly isolated and small and there is little to no chance of others hearing them.

      The laughing on the other hand, gets a little loud at time.

  • Jim

    The bees likely overwintered in the hollow in your tree. They only fly when temps are above 50F, if your first colony died out, a swarm could move in and take up residence in the following spring.

    They are not bothering anyone, so you should be happy that you like in an environment healthy enough to sustain a feral colony of bees, as this is a good indicator that the environment is acceptable for humans, too.

    As far as language goes, the hole in a tree is often called a “bole”, a rotted out place where a branch broke off from the main trunk, so the technically correct term an arborist would use is “Bole Hole”. If you were to seal it with a large plug, the plug would be a “bung” (from the Dutch “bonghe”), a cork or plug used to seal a barrel or cask.

    Then, had the bees reappeared in spring, and found a new exit around your bung, you would have had “Bees in Your Bunghole”.

    Glad to help with keeping you architects using the correct technical terms.

    • lancotf

      Oh dear…thinking of the belly laughter that will surely ensue now!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      terrific, that’s way better …

  • Mark Bischak

    I agree, “Entrance to honey bee hive in base of a large tree in my back yard” is much too long of a term. Abbreviating it to “bee hole” is appropriate. You may want to keep to yourself any abbreviated terms in a story about a “fine duck”.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I’m afraid to ask about “fine duck” …

  • anitabsoot

    The junior high-er in me will laugh for days on end about the bee hole story. That’s pure anatomical innocence on your part (at least at first) and a big belly laugh for the rest of us. Everyone wins! However, turning on the #$%&* in the office can be counter-productive to good business. Most really good talent or clients would never say a word if they were offended. And that’s the worst form of rejection in my book.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      we have an imaginary line drawn in the office where, depending on where you sit, you fall into either the “class” or “trash” category. Believe it or not, I fall to the “class” side. Things always start out innocently enough, some folks just like to see where they can be taken

  • Marcia Kellogg

    Great post, and so true in the AEC industry for sure. However, I could not watch the video because I am allergic to bees. Good luck with that situation- I hope you can get it under control or become more interested in bee keeping.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Marcia – I personally would have no problem leaving the bees alone … but my wife has thoughts on that strategy that I’d be wise to follow.

  • Jwkathol

    Get the bees out of there then plug the hole with spray foam insulation. Once the foam is dry cut off the excess and spray paint the old bee hole dark brown.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I know they need to go, just trying to decide if I should wait until they leave again or if I should give them an alternative option that’s tree adjacent to move into

  • swisshokie

    Hi Bob,
    I can relate to those stories. Let’s just say that some of the things said here in our office in Switzerland, make your stories seem very clean. There are some stories and comments said here (both male and female co-workers are guilty of it) that

    would result in a sexual harrasment lawsuit in the States. My jaw still drops after having spent several years working here already. It’s all meant in good fun, and no one seems bothered or offended by it. Of course, in front of clients we’re on our best behaviour…usually.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that’s part of what I’m interested in – nobody in my studio seems to care one way or the other … but why is that? Why does that seem to be the case in every architectural studio whereas in other office (more business-like offices) would they be so shocked by what happens?