1. The US Postal Service. I probably shouldn’t say this out loud while my taxes are in transit, but they should have arrived at their destination by now. Emphasis on the “should have.” In any case, I’ve just received a Christmas card. It was postmarked on the 20-somethingth of December and delivered to me here on the homestead just in time for Valentine’s Day. Maybe I should award points for it getting here at all based on some of my other recent experiences. Increasingly the expectation that products and services should work as advertised feels like something that’s just too much to hope for.
2. Baltimore. One of the perennial joys of living in the State of Maryland is the unending shitshow that is Baltimore City. In a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, we somehow are home to one of the world’s largest live action shooting ranges. Year after year the legislature pours ever increasing amounts of money into the city, because surely that will fix all the problems. Let’s not get hung up on the fact that when asked, the city government generally doesn’t seem able to tell anyone where the money they’ve already been given went or what improvements were made as a result. For my entire adult life, Baltimore has been governed by increasingly feckless “leaders” whose sole purpose in life seems to be finding new and more ridiculous ways to convince Annapolis to give them mountains of cash. The city government either needs to get its house in order or the state should step in and get the city into line. Allowing it to continue to swallow prodigious amounts of tax dollars without showing even the most marginal of improvements feels downright criminal.
3. Mind reading. It’s worth repeating from time to time that mind reading is not among my many varied talents. If you tell me you want something, I’m going to proceed from the assumption that you know what you want. I’m going to do my best to give it to you – not some version of what you requested, not something with the flavor of your request, but the honest to God thing you asked for to the best of my abilities and within the time allotted. If it turns out what you end up with isn’t what you want, I can promise you that the issue is almost always with the description of the requirements, not with my being way out off the edge of the map somewhere.
Now it’s important to remember that when it comes to event planning at the very best I am nothing more than a marginally talented amateur. I’m reasonably good at establishing requirements and subcontracting them out to people who can do that actual work. What I lack in any meaningful way is the patience requisite to answering the same five questions 437 times after providing that information in a read ahead packet that clearly no one bothered to read.
The real problem, though, isn’t necessarily who did or didn’t read what… it’s that although I’m tolerable good at identifying requirements, I really have no actual control over them. In the parlance of my employer, I’m not a “decision maker,” and frankly, as I’ve said loudly and often, I don’t want to be one of those. The most significant “wheels coming off” moments I find at an event of any size aren’t actually a result of poor planning or staff work so much as they’re the result of one of the deciders being visited by the Good Idea Fairy twelve hours or so before the damned thing starts.
The result is that plans are made, flyers are printed, and advertising is done… and the new thing that’s being injected starts looking a lot like an after-thought instead of something that was carefully considered and added because it created value in the week’s proceedings.
But since I’m just a guy sitting here, what the hell do I know?
1. I’m not making things up. If I tell you there’s a new requirement, it’s not because I went home the night before and dreamed up some new and complicated way to screw with your universe. In each and every case I’m passing along decisions made by those at echelons higher than reality. You are, of course, perfectly free to ignore me. However, when a shitstorm rains down on your head it won’t be because I didn’t warn you.
2. Dreaming in PowerPoint. There comes a point in this one particular project I work on every year when the dream shows up. It’s never quite the same dream, but it always deals with PowerPoint in some way. The dream showed up Tuesday night. Like the three ghosts warning Scrooge of his sure path to hellfire and damnation, my PowerPoint dream has arrived and it’s a sure as anything warning that I’m heading at speed in the general direction of a breakdown – or at least a profound hissy fit. Possibly both.
3. Everything else. Frankly over the next 22 or so days it would probably just be easier to talk about whatever happened during the week that hasn’t annoyed me. There’s a far better than usual chance if I’m awake and not at the house I’m just barely restrain a scowl, eye-roll, or sarcastic comment. Occasionally the temptation will be so great that all three happen simultaneously. The only appreciable bright point is that on day 23 onward life should get considerably less rage inducing.
OK, I’ve filed my plans (for the second time) and have all the paperwork cut, reservations made, all the appropriate notifications that I’ll be floating around the old homestead over the weekend have happened (almost). When everything is going according to schedule, my day ends at 3:30. At 3:19 I got an email that I had been “uninvited” to the DC meeting on Friday. At 3:26 another email hit my inbox that I was “reinvited.” I appreciate you boys fighting over me, I really do, but this whole plan has all the classic hallmarks of a typical government operation… no one has a damned clue what is actually going on.
As of 8:30, I’m planning to fly out tomorrow. That, of course, is subject to the requirements of the service and can change at any time before “the cabin door has been closed and customers are asked to turn off their cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices.” If you don’t see a stark, raving post about government ineptitude by 6:00 PM eastern time tomorrow, you’ll know I’m winging my way somewhere over the Eastern half of the country. Stay tuned for developments as they happen.