Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thoughts while working on an article that's giving me nothing but trouble

When I worked...hmm, that's not right. I work today. Let's say, when I worked for, well, you know, money, there was a CFO/planning auditor who used to drive us crazy.

I was part of a project filled with some really bright, dissastified, and wonderfully snarky people. We created websites, IVR's, and software packages (Oh, I didn't do the actual programming, I mostly said yes/no to blue vs red, sprinkled in some text, and handled the user manuals).

Anyway, we project people had much in common: We didn't take ourselves too seriously, we were each pretty sure we were smarter than the guy sitting to our right or left, and we all planned to leave the company; someday, soon, as soon as we could ignore the next bonus check.

Meanwhile, we turned our drab little conference room into the poor man's Algonguin Round Table. We started with a cast of twenty-five. Three of us auditioned for Dorothy Parker, that was my main concern.

This auditor was one of the guys floating around until retirement, sent our way by the CFO to play with some legos until the time had come. He never missed a meeting, asked questions apropos to nothing in the modern world, and took copious notes.

One day he stopped showing up. Turned out Steve had liver cancer. We felt bad for him. Not really bad, just guilty because we had needled him, sad that eternity was up in his face -- just bad in passing.

And then we received a directive. Steve was to receive all meeting notes and screen prints, fed-ex'd to his house. And we were supposed to review his notes and suggestions in our weekly meetings.

About a month or two later, this back-and-forth was no longer necessary. Steve had died. In his bed, with our screen prints and his final suggestions.

Steve was a company man. It was time to quit.

And the roundtable? We learned time was time. I think within a year, we all quit too.


  1. This could relate a bit to the difference between Ben and Maurice: some people are born nitty-gritty, beige and devoted. They reach their destination and think that the journey is complete. They are happy with tight tent pegs.

  2. Good old Dorothy Parker 'if you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to'

    or my personal favourite, 'If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end I wouldn't be a bit surprised'.

    There's always been an adage that no one on his deathbed ever said 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office'. Apparently this isn't strictly accurate.

  3. That's a nice piece of writing. I don't want to sound snarky so I'm going to leave it at that. Very nice.

  4. Because it's me, I'm worrying that you might think I might want to be snarky about your writing, but what I mean is that I feel bad about the guy who died and who was difficult to the bitter end. It's sad, you know?

  5. Your moving mighty fast these days. I've already Missed a post. I'm spitting out a lung (crude for cold) and when I saw your dogs asleep on the bed, well, I joined them. Now I'm up.....

    About Steve:I guess I keep going back to that Marge Piercy poem. It all seems a trade off. Even when you don't think your working for the compromised buck, you discover at some point you still have to answer to someone, something, circumstance, context, luck.

    Did Steve think he was being taken seriously?

  6. Hmmmm...good post for "My World" - for you of yesterday, for me of today (minus Steve), not really, sort of...(sorry - I'm feeling wishy-washy today) - I think I need to go & review meeting minutes.

  7. Before I worked in local government I worked in corporate America from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s in advertising and public relations agencies.

    At the largest of these, Phillips Ramsey in San Diego, there was a senior account executive -- an old-school, Type A workaholic -- whose teenage son had advanced cystic fibrosis.

    He never talked about it but word got around and most of us felt badly for his situation even though he was a butt.

    Anyway, one day we were in a meeting when this guy's secretary walked in and handed him a note and then walked out again.

    He looked at the note, put it in his pocket and continued the meeting without missing a beat.

    Mind you, there were no clients present. This was just a run-of-the-mill staff meeting about whatever the hell.

    We found out from his secretary later that the note informed him that his son had just passed away and that he should call home.

    The moral of the story: don't be a workaholic. And don't be a butt.

  8. By the way, Tom Coston and I vacationed in New York City a few years ago and spent a few hours at the Algonquin Hotel for drinks in the iconic bar and dinner in the dining room with real tuxedoed waiters and everything.

    The legendary Round Table is still there, with full place settings and placecards for all the members of the "Vicious Circle" -- Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Franklin Pierce Adams and the rest. It's the only table without a starched white tablecloth on it so everyone can see the detail on the wood.

    What a great night that was!

  9. So, Steve died...and then you quit??

    I wish Ann would tell more about her great night...

  10. Duty.

    Samurai or obscenely anal-retentive?

    True, some folks have a flair for being a prick, but I find it takes
    a type of fortitude that involves self-sacrifice.

    The best foremen I've known were tough sons-of-bitches.

    What would I do do if I were handed that kind of note, pasadenapio?

    I'd never let you know.

    p.s. Pardon any implied tone, dear.
    I mean you no harm. Okay, now I can post...

  11. Good story Karin. You should turn it into a script. George Clooney could play Steve. You'd have to throw in a romantic angle, and some care chase too, of course. And possibly something exploding.

    I swear my wv is "butoch."

  12. Don't be a workaholic and don't be a butt. Well, hell, I'm going to put that on my screensaver, Ann.

    PA said it: there's always going to be a trade-off. But that's if you're lucky. Sounds like for Steve there was no trade. He didn't take the good with the bad, he just took the bad.

    I could go on and on but I go to bed early so I can get up early and be creative for no money. It makes life worthwhile.

  13. Curious, where are you stuck on the article?

    It sounds like Steve was may dads generation, who worked at Ryan Aeronautical until it folded. Did my dad die? Yes (way to young,) but years later after first having a nervous breakdown. Later, after coming around he decided to just be a handy man, which made him happy. Obviously something had changed. Had he been a type A personality? I believe so.

    Sorry if this sounds to personal; but I've found that when you tell it like it is/was, fewer people believe you.

    And in defense of type A's, I think some of (our generation?) has learned to to turn type A on and off if needed.

    Mid-Town G

    WV: futruck (no shit)

  14. J: This little train of thought may have started with the pictures of Ben and Maurice.
    And Wayne, that line haunted me for a couple of years.
    Margaret, you never insult me, but you have a free pass to do so.
    PA:Hope you're better. I'm akinda dizzy right now. (Steve was gravely serious.)
    Tash is dizzy too.
    ANN: SPOT ON, you smart PIO, you. You said it better than I.
    Bandit, will check out the post.
    Vanda, by no stretch would that work.
    Petrea, me too.
    MTG: My fellow blue sky suburban buddy, Maybe. But at will?
    CO: Yup.

  15. Yes, at will, but it takes discipline.

    Mid-Town G

  16. You think I'm just a blue sky dreamer? Maybe

    Mid-Town G

  17. I've read and reread this post. I had a meeting yesterday where every single thing I said was discounted. I don't know what I could have done differently, I just know that I don't want to invest in thinking bad thoughts, even though I have. I don't know, maybe having a sharp tongue like Dorothy's gives you more options.

  18. I'd rather work for a workaholic/ butt ( I'd use another word) than be married to one.

  19. There's always something worse, isn't there V!

  20. Anything for a diversion. Here: there's a link for an online i ching.

    I think it's my mother. I'm a 42.1, which is basically an underachiever who should also learn to work well and play with other. And not hoard the toys.

    I should have cheated.

    Try it.

  21. This is very moving, Karin. I feel bad for Steve.

  22. College days all over again; the I Ching, I remember it well, but how did you get 42.1? There is no such number as 42.1. What link were you following, there are several links through that other blog, did you use the lazy mans version?

    I really wonder the validly of that thing, especially since it was written entirely for a Patriarchal society.

    Mid-Town G

  23. PS. Did I mention I enjoyed your post, it's been good for reflection, even though it's giving you trouble.

    Mid-Town G

  24. Maybe it was 42 I. It was long, long, short, short, short, long. And yes, of course I did it the lazy way.

    What was yours? And where is "Mid Town?"

  25. This is my first time with I ching. In college I was the goto girl Astrologer. Charts on parchment, rolled and tied with gold threads. Couples readings were very successful, very lucrative. But then one day, I was cleaning out a few charts that were left over.When I re-analyzed them they came out completely different. Same data! Only thing different was me and my mood.

  26. I love stories about the Vicious Circle!

    I am having trouble with your Blogger today. It keeps dumping me, saying I am taking too long to make my 'requests'.


  27. I wonder what/who Steve was avoiding at home, obsessing over work like that?

    "Sorry, honey, can't talk now, these idiots at work can't be left alone for a minute without screwing everything up."

    If your significant other tells you that, I'd invest in some new crotchless panties pronto.

  28. Why has friend feeder failed to notify me of your last two posts?

    There's a Steve in every company. How sad the way he chose to spend his final hours.