What did I learn this week?

For the last five years I’ve had the odious distinction of being the lead planner for an event that brings upwards of 1000 people from across the country into buildings, tents, bars, restaurants, and pool halls of our little part of the world. I’ve been fortunate in each of those five years to assemble a team the least of whom could be described as acceptable. Most were easily best in class. We got along with a few nudges from leadership and delivered each year’s product on time, to standard, and on budget.

This year, for reasons surpassing any kind of human logic, “help” as poured in from each and every one of four management layers above me. “Help” poured in from the lawyers. “Help” poured in from the people who manage the contracts. “Help” poured in from quarters that have been otherwise silent for years. Which is nice since we really have no idea what the time, standard, or current budget are supposed to be anyway.

All of this magnanimous help has made properly certain that every god damned thing that gets touched comes flying violently off the rails at every available opportunity… and especially on Friday afternoon. Which is tremendously helpful for both my mood and blood pressure.

What did I learn today? Ha. Well, if there’s any possible way that we can fuck this up, but still blindly stumble on without even considering whether it’s a thing we should do, that’a exactly the direction we’ll follow.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. New and improved. Last week the powers that be implemented a new procedure that was aimed at speeding up the time it takes to get people through the front gate. As far as I can tell all it’s succeeded at doing is creating a cluster fuck of the traffic pattern and made the wait time even longer. Forty years of experience tells me that “new and improved” rarely is… and mostly exists because someone needed a big box checked off on their annual performance appraisal.

2. I’m not particularly chatty at the best of times. When I have Post It notes stacked up like cordwood and a ten page handwritten list of shit to do, I’m even less inclined to want to chat about, well, anything, really. Sorry if the blank look on my face while you’re talking to be about a radom sportsball team I have no interest in at the best of times seems rude, but I have a limited amount of bandwidth. I’d really like to use it to make sure as many of the bits of paper on my desk are on someone else’s desk before the close of business. Unless what you’re telling me is something that’s going to make my life easier, it’s best for both of us if you bugger directly off until I’ve dug out from under the clusterfuck of the day, week, or month.

3. Maryland E-Z Pass. Let’s forget for a moment that until recently tolls at roads and bridges in Maryland were sold to the public as something that would be dropped “as soon as the cost of construction was paid off.” E-Z Pass is one of the ways that many states, including Maryland, have offered up to make their ongoing extortion backed by the full authority and power of the government less obvious to the average citizen… and I only say less obvious because the other option is handing over a fistful of physical cash money every time you drive through a toll plaza. If the state is going to continue to extort money from its citizens for things that have been long paid for and depreciated, it feels like the least they could do is make sure the back office is keeping the books right and not generating a daily email threatening to cut off your account for having a low balance when a quick look at the customer facing website shows there is very clearly both money in the account and a valid credit card from which to siphon more money as needed.

The utter soul of indifference…

My opinions on some certain topics are considered, in some circles, subject matter expert level by virtue of long and painfully won experience.

When we’re talking about issues in one of these area, life becomes much easier for everyone in one of two ways: 1) Accept that I do, in fact, know what the fuck I’m talking about and stop asking for more data and analysis or 2) Tell me the answer you want and I’ll find a way back the data into it.

I’m the utter soul of indifference with regard to what the answer is and how we get there… as long as we can bloody well stop revisiting the same three or four data points multiple times a week with no end in sight.

On having the talent, but lacking the tools…

I haven’t had access to one of our internal networks in over two months. I haven’t been able to print since Friday morning. For the last week, Outlook demands that I enter my pin three times before allowing me to send an email. My workload is spiraling upwards at an exponential rate while I’m being told that I can’t use the resources that have been successfully brought to bear on the exact same issues for the better part of the last decade. 

I am, however, being given as much “assistance” as I can drink from echelons higher than reality who have at long last decided to pay attention now, versus six months ago when their participation might have in some way proven useful. 

Management is always going to be management. There’s no hope to reform it.

But expecting basic office technology to do something that approximates working doesn’t feel like it should be a goddamned bridge too far. It is, of course. It’s a bridge way, way too far. 

It’s during these moments I can absolutely understand some people’s impulse to live life inside a bottle or pop every pill. If anyone needs me I’ll be over here trying not to have a stroke, a nervous breakdown, or possibly both simultaneously. 

Not to reason why…

Even if you’re not steeped in the history of the Crimean War, it feels likely you’ve heard about the charge of the Light Brigade, or at least know of the phrase, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.” Few lines of English poetry are, in my mind, more evocative.

The (very) short version is that the British light cavalry, owing to confused orders and the fog of battle, was sent charging down into the valley against well placed and defended Russian artillery positions instead of towards the far more suitable target intended. The Light Brigade, brave sons of England, faultlessly loyal to Queen and country, was savaged by the Russian guns.

Mercifully, I haven’t been put on orders to seize anyone’s guns. In the better part of two decades in service I’ve made my bones by delivering projects on time and to standard regardless of impediments or restrictions. I’ve worked projects I’ve hated with the white hot fury of a thousands suns and a few that I’d have almost paid to be a part of. My personal feelings never figured into the effort if there was a job that needed doing.

I’m not the kind of guy who gets frozen with self doubt. It’s not my nature. I want to get the job done smartly and move on, always. But here, now, we have the first time a job’s been put in front of me where I don’t see any good or reasonable path forward. Every avenue of approach bristles with pitfalls and obstacles… and the clock is running.

I’m in the deeply unfamiliar and unhappy position of legitimately not knowing if I can get there from here – in some large part simply because I don’t know what I don’t know. If you think what you don’t know can’t hurt you, well, you’re a damned fool.

Let’s just say that my usual sense that if I drop my shoulder and shove hard enough, I can move the world seems to have abandoned me at the moment. After seventeen years, it’s possible I’ve found the job that I just can’t deliver. If you think I’m not well and properly shook, you don’t know me at all.

Theirs is not to reason why, indeed.

Eyes on the prize…

We’ve been back to work for a week now. It’s situation normal, but unavoidable if your life goals include not living under a bridge or in a van down by the river. Add in not going to prison and you’ve basically covered my Tier 1 Life Goals. Anything beyond those few things is really just the gravy.

Still, if I sit here and try hard to channel my inner Mr. Brightside, there is a federal holiday coming up. That’s something. The glimmer of a promise of hope in the darkness. It really feels like I’ll spend the next decade and a half casting my eyes from holiday to holiday looking for the dim gleamings of days not tethered to the cubicle.

So eyes on the prize or whatever

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Nextdoor. My neighborhood is one of many that have elected to use the Nextdoor website and app to take nosy-neighborness to the next level. The current conversation that seem to be monopolizing everyone’s time is focused on barking dogs, the causes, and what can be done about it. Participants are divided into two broad camps by this discussion. Without spending time recounting the dozens of posts, I fall pretty firmly into the camp that says that even though the lots here are large, we do, in fact, live in a neighborhood. That means we all have to endure a certain amount of fuckery we find personally obnoxious from neighbors (and their dogs). Yes, I’ve heard the occasional barking dog – and from time to time, mine have contributed to the cacophony. In the grand scheme of obnoxious shit neighbors do, the dogs aren’t even close to the top.

2. The House of Representatives. A few weeks ago, at least according to leaders in the House, the President of the United States represented a clear and present danger to the republic. Hearings had to be conducted and a vote held with all possible haste. Since then, though, the leaders of the House have spent weeks sitting with their collective thumbs up their own asses while refusing to deliver the charging documents to the Senate. Since they seem to be in no rush to get the trial underway, I can only assume House leaders no longer think President Trump is a pressing threat to the country. If he were, surely they would have pressed for a trial to go forward as quickly as possible… unless, of course, these fearless leaders of the House are more interested in political theater than actually standing upon their dire warnings for the future… and dealing with the fallout from their actions.

3. Doing for others. I’m generally open to lending a hand, or taking on a project, or generally at least attempting to make myself helpful. What I have consistently resented the hell out of over the course of my career are the things that land on my desk that could have been done by someone else faster or with less explanation required than pushing it over to me with a laundry list of instructions. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the details of everyone’s workload, but I’m willing to bet that if I walked the halls I’d be hard pressed to find someone with more ash and trash cluttering their inbox than I’ve had this week. The fact that so much of it is stuck there by “trusted professionals” who could handle it themselves isn’t surprising, but it is annoying as hell.