1. Working lunch. Fuck that noise. I’m either working or I’m at lunch. There is no middle ground where that issue is concerned. Lunch implies a pause from labor in order to nourish and sustain the body. Flipping slides as part of a conclave of the great and the good while popping Tic Tacs and swilling warm Coke and cold coffee just to keep myself awake does not in any way constitute “having lunch.” Don’t worry, though, I’ll go ahead and adjust my departure time accordingly.
2. Undeserved ego. I don’t have any complaint about people whose ego is deserved. There are plenty who walk among us who are perfectly justified in displaying their swollen head at every opportunity. It’s something else entirely if you’re thinking so highly of yourself for no discernible reason. Because people are generally polite by nature, most of them won’t tell you that your new clothes aren’t clothes at all – Their desire for self-preservation will see to that. But rest assured, every single one of us will be thinking it every time your pie hole swings open.
3. Meetings (again, because frankly they’re probably the single most annoying element of my life). As a rule of thumb I’ve always thought a meeting should be a quick affair. It’s a chance to pull a lot of people into a room and convey information that can’t be shared any other way. That’s fine in principle. The problem arises when people want to use a meeting as a forum to “do the work.” In my experience that’s the very last thing that happens in a meeting. There may be loads of discussion but you should never confuse that with having accomplished a great deal of work. It’s the kind of thing I think about during the first in a series of three and a half hour long meetings – wherein I have seemingly limitless time to ponder bad career choices and the 210 minutes of my life I will never ever been able to get back.
Now that the initial buzz (and corresponding sales) for Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees has died down, it’s time to start getting serious about the long term marketing plan. The big push this week is to get press releases to the local newspapers here in the greater Ceciltucky area (local resident does good), in Western Maryland (hometown boy does good), and to the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, and New York Times (because my ego clearly knows no bounds). I’m willing to concede that this whole thing may just be an exercise in vanity, but a bigger part of me still feels like there’s plenty of room in the marketplace of ideas for another snarky, sarcastic jerk who you’d probably still enjoy having a beer with.
As for what comes after that, well, to be perfectly frank I don’t really know. Writing and marketing are two tremendously different skill sets. I have some raw skill in one and a touch of formal education in the other, but I’m not anywhere near a master of either. The part of me that writes because it’s what I enjoy doing would be happy to get back to doing that and ignoring everything else. Of course the part of me that wouldn’t mind making a few coins from the effort is still chomping at the bit to sell, sell, sell. As usual, reality is going to land somewhere in the middle and be guided at least as much by the limits of available time as by anything else.
May 4th isn’t a day particularly noted in the annals of world history. To me, though, May 4, 2011 resounds with just as much meaning as July 4, 1776 or October 14, 1066. May 4th, you might remember, is the anniversary of my deliverance. It’s the day I got the long sought after call to end my long, unhappy exile in Memphis and return forthwith to my right and proper home in the great State of Maryland. I may have spent happier days, but I’m sure I can’t remember when.
It’s been a turbulent, chaotic, and altogether expensive year setting things right after they went so badly wrong, but I don’t begrudge it an instant of the aggravation or expense. It would have been a deal at ten times the cost as far as I’m concerned.
A year’s distance has softened the worst of the hard edges that surrounded my departure. In fact, some parts of my time in Memphis I can even look back on fondly now. Knowing that 90% of my problems there were attributable by a single individual is still a bitter pill to swallow. Then again, if it hadn’t been for that narcissistic prima donna I might be in Memphis still, rather than having fought my way back to the shores of the Chesapeake.
Every time I’ve gone away I’ve always managed to find my way home again. This time I’ve landed where I belong and it’s going to take a pry bar, a court order, and high explosive ordinance to get me to budge.
Reading blogs can give us a window into what someone half a world away is thinking about. It’s fascinating in its way. It’s not without its problems, though. One that’s been troubling me lately are the blogs that have been around for years that suddenly just disappear. It’s frustrating because you’re invested in the story the author is telling and when it goes away it’s like you’ve been cheated out of learning how the story ends. For some of them, the troubled ones, you wonder if they finally found peace in their writing or if the end of their blog means something more ominous. Because the can be such a transient place of broken links and bad URLs, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that some pages just up and vanish.
Still, it’s disturbing in its own way, because it represents years of work gone in some cases. I think the thing that bothers me most is the not knowing. Did the author just decide it was time to move on or did something horrendous happen? Maybe the only thing any of us are doing here on the internet is building a monument to our own electronic egos, but now that I’m closing in on 500 posts, I’d like to at least think that I’ve put together something permanent here – a record of what, at any moment in time, mattered to one person. If I decided to stop writing, I mean, geez, I’d at least leave a note or something.
After a long stretch of blogging five or six nights a week, I’m starting to understand why television shows go on hiatus between seasons. No matter how crack a writing staff you’ve got, getting anywhere in the vicinity of a consistently good product is tough. It’s tough for a staff of writers and it’s tough when all you’re looking for is a couple of hundred words a day. The only reason I haven’t declared a summer hiatus here is that I’m notoriously bad at getting back to things once I walk away from them. Once I stop doing this on a regular basis, I’ll find something else that needs ridiculous amounts of attention and then go hellbent for leather on it until something new and shiny comes along to be interested in. It’s not exactly that I suffer from a short attention span as much as it is I suffer from a long attention span punctuated by periods of extreme indifference and then substantive redirection of attention.
Maybe I’ll scale it back for a bit and see if an easier schedule is more to my liking. Then again, it’s possible that the ego hit of seeing the daily hit count drop off might drive me right back to daily posting. It’s a battle royal between summer laziness and shameless self promotion. Should be an interesting match.
I suppose if you’re an egomaniac, it’s easy enough to confuse your way of doing something with the only actual way of doing that thing. Usually when the boss is out trying to manage by walking around, I make a concerted effort to be on my own walkabout and thereby avoid the three or four random tasks that he wants to focus on that day. Sometimes, though, he’s on me before I can make a clean getaway. Yesterday was one of those days… and led to this exchange:
Boss: What are you doing?
Jeff: I’m reviewing the last twelve monthly reports from human resources to validate year-over-year workload and staffing requirements.
Boss: There’s nothing on your desk.
Jeff: Everything is on the network drive. I’ve got all the data I need on the computer. *gesturing weakly towards my monitors*
Boss: If there isn’t paper on your desk, you’re not doing anything. You’ve seen my desk, right?
Jeff: Uhhh… Yes. I’ve seen your desk.
Boss: Good, then. Make an appointment to talk to me about some-random-other-issue.
Jeff: *Bangs head on desk as boss walks away.*
I’ve increasingly come to suspect that the reason that an employee “goes postal” from time to time just might not be a defect in the employee.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
Ever have one of those feelings where you’re pretty sure you’re about to do something dumb, but know you’re going to do it anyway? Yeah. That’s what’s on my mind tonight. I’m a smart enough guy to hold my own in most situations, but there are times when even I (and my ginormous ego) know that we’re being outclassed all the way around. It then becomes a question of whether we can step it up and meet the rising challenge, whether we’re going to take the beatdown of a lifetime, or whether it’s better to cut and run. Cutting and running hasn’t really been my style in most things so I’m pretty sure that’s going to be an option. And I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance of either of the other options coming to pass.
I’m not really as pessimistic as that just sounded. In fact, I’m confident that it’s going to be one hell of a ride either way. How long the ride lasts, however, is anyone’s guess. Buckle up, gang. This ought to be fun.
This trip reminded me why I have enjoyed the work in emergency management since I first got the bug five years ago… It’s also reminded me why it’s time for me to go. While I’ve been here smoothing ruffled feathers and talking up our operation, I’ve been constantly peppered with emails from the home office about things that could more easily be handled by others. With a rare few exceptions, everyone in the office is senior to me in terms of years of service by 20-30 years. With that many years of experience stacked up, an office should be able to run for a week without sending major decisions through me for evaluation or to send in a report about how many of our people are working overseas. Sometimes I can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s amateur hour at the icecapades around here.
This trip is probably my last big roundup before moving on to other pastures, but one of the most gratifying things in it all is knowing that my opinions in the field are sought out by senior leaders and people who awed me when I was just starting out. It’s a little humbling… but fortunately, my ego is sufficiently large not to be too deflated by that.