Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 61 - Tears and Implants

          I had another downtown interview with yet another recruiter today. I think I am going to stop making appointments with recruiters unless they have a real job order that they are trying to fill. This one was a plump little Asian woman. At least she was dressed smartly. She may have been as smart as she looked, but alas she was another youngster conditioned to become a non-reader by a relentlessly digital world.
Personally, I have trouble operating my cell phone. I think texting is a ridiculous waste of time. I do not Tweet. I don’t post daily updates on my activities on FaceBook or MySpace. These young recruiters, however, adept as they may be at brief, digital communications, can’t be bothered to read the very résumé that made them want to talk to me in the first place. Yet they seem to be thriving while I am unemployed. I guess that ought to tell me something about how useful my focused, linear, and structured mindset is in today’s workplace. The world is a very different place than it used to be when it made sense to me.
*****
          When Fische first met Alicia I didn’t even own a cell phone. Even so, looking back, this is about the time that the world started coming off the tracks for me. I’d like to blame the digitization of social interaction for this, but that’s just because I am digitally disadvantaged. Digital media may be linked in there somewhere, but the reality is much more complicated and sinister.
          To say that Fische was fascinated by Alicia is to make short shrift of what in Fische’s mind at least was about to become one of the great love stories of all time. Fische was smitten, mesmerized, dumbstruck—good for him perhaps at the time because he was thus prevented from declaring himself early and derailing the whole enterprise. Instead of falling to his knees and making a fool of himself, Fische plotted a conquest.
A good marine in all things, even Amor, Fische developed an overall strategy. He did reconnaissance. He requisitioned the necessary supplies and resources. He enlisted troops and reinforcements. He planned a series of small engagements. Then he threw himself into the fray with courage and abandonment.
That Fische eventually succeeded appeared at first to be a testament to his marine training. Nothing else made any sense. Where Alicia was young, pretty, engaging, smart, and sexy, Fische was anything but. He was an aging, paunch ridden, intolerant, bellicose mass of overcompensated insecurities. His grey hair was receding faster than an estuary tide, and his nose, viewed from straight ahead, was the approximate shape of the state of California.
Fische started his campaign by ratcheting up the attentiveness. He became Mr. Sensitivity. He made it a point to stop by Alicia’s desk several times a day whenever he was in town. He inquired after her health, her family, her work, and her aspirations. He traded bits of philosophy and what passed for business acumen. He carefully mixed the personal into the work-related. He maintained an air of propriety in these exchanges while continually testing where the border between that propriety and impropriety might lay, and whether the border might shift as he continued to pitch his subtle woo. He encouraged her to think of him as her mentor, ever willing to guide her through the intricacies of corporate life at Quilnutz.
Alicia ate it up. She wanted a champion. She wanted a lot of guidance and feedback. She had told me as much in our interview. Trouble was I didn’t have near as much time to devote to it as Fische. His title was Director of Executive Administration. You figure out what that’s supposed to mean. To me it meant that Fische’s job was bullshit while I had actual work to do. Alicia had actual work to do too, but Fische was eating up an increasingly unreasonable amount of her time. He was in her office constantly, leaning over her desk, chuckling over some insight or some shared intimacy while he helped himself to a view down her blouse. He came to town more and more often. They started taking their lunches together. What I saw as time spent feeding Fische’s libidinous ego, Alicia saw as career development. She was not being naïve. She was not even innocent, not by a long shot.
Things really came to a head when Alicia had breast augmentation surgery. She actually came to me about this. I guess she felt she had to since, technically at least, she still reported to me. She needed a couple of days off for a medical procedure. I said okay. She told me it was a female problem. I didn’t want to know the details. I said okay again. Then she told me it wasn’t a female problem in the way I’d probably thought, but was in fact breast implants. I was quiet for a long time trying not to let my face twitch, and then I said okay a third time. Then she told me a whole bunch of the details I had been hoping to avoid. Her husband wanted her to get the surgery. She couldn’t understand why, but she was willing to be the trooper, the dutiful wife, and do what she could to keep him happy. By the time she had laid it all out for me I actually felt a little sorry for her.
I have to say that the results were spectacular. I had seen women with boob jobs before, and not been overly impressed. I didn’t really understand what all the commotion was about. I think that my problem was that I had never known a woman in the before-and-after context of breast enhancement. Up until Alicia’s procedure, I had only known after. With Alicia the change was instantaneous and remarkable. She went overnight from merely curvy to full-on voluptuous. I have been a big fan of implants ever since.
The first time Fische saw Alicia after the surgery he left a trail of drool down the hallway. If I thought he spent too much time in her office before the implants, I figured he’d need to pitch a tent in there after. I was wrong. Instead he decided to take her out of town.
He told her he thought it would be a good idea for her to travel to the Florida facility for an open house that they were having. It would give her an opportunity to meet the Florida staff, meet some customers, and get a better idea of how things were done there with an eye to what might be worth incorporating into our processes in Arkansas. Alicia was anxious to go. She thought it would be a big boost to her career. It didn’t seem to register on either her or Fische that she would be leaving right in the middle of month-end closing when I needed her to be accumulating and reconciling the costs in our work-in-process and finished goods inventories—the job I had hired her to do.
I told her she couldn’t go. She went to Fische, and he called me and told me I needed to let her go. I told him I wasn’t against her going, I was only against the timing. He said they couldn’t move the open house to accommodate my closing schedule. I told him it wasn’t my closing schedule, it was the company’s closing schedule and it was the same every month. He told me to get over it. I went to my new boss, the vice president and manager of the division that had been Henry’s company. He was an import from another division of Quilnutz, but one who was at least willing to listen to reason. He called Alicia in to his office to discuss the situation. She came in tears and pitched a serious and unnerving fit about my apparent determination to keep her from developing into a fully realized cost accountant. I could hardly believe my ears. All I wanted her to do was stay in town and do her job.
My boss called Fische to impress upon him the importance of Alicia’s presence for the closing. Fische stood his ground. My boss gave up.
“You need to pick your battles,” he told me. “Fische is a director. You are a division controller. You can’t win.”
I was really beginning to hate working for Quilnutz. I had hoped that they would be more orderly, more logical, more businesslike in their decision-making than Henry had been. I had hoped that the combination of their good business practices and our products would create a synergy that allowed us to meet our potential. I had hoped that my one twelfth share of Henry’s company would grow under Quilnutz’s management into a real stake in my future. Instead I got counterintuitive decisions based on the prurient aspirations of venal and stupid men.

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