Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 77 - Sermons

It’s been another day with nothing to do but reminisce on past jobs. Future jobs are for the moment impossible to contemplate except for the notion, proved by a preponderance of anecdotal evidence, that they are likely to be more of the same and to require the forbearance of fools.
It’s not easy for someone who generally thinks that he is smarter than most to exist in an environment where the people who control his day-to-day involvement in the implementation of his own future think they are smarter than him. Yet this is the condition under which many of us toil. Some of us would be correct in thinking we are smarter than most, while most of us would, by definition, be wrong. Right or wrong however, your capacity to achieve either greatness or mayhem depends on the conviction with which you cling to the notion that you know better than everyone else. 
Fische and Alicia continued to make my life difficult at Quilnutz. I had good intelligence on their activities, but I could not manage them. They were capable, when they got a really novel idea, of acting on it in swift, decisive, and surprising ways. I could usually get my guard up, but I could never get ahead of them. The one thing that worked best in my favor is that they also thought they were smarter than everyone else. If some of their machinations had not been so comical I might have been persuaded to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Once Fische came to town with a retinue of clingers-on from Florida that included the head designer. He brought her to get our design department to start turning out interiors that looked more like the Florida boats. (Some of our Arkansas workers naturally thought this was so that it would then be more credible for the Florida facility to re-badge our boats as theirs.) Anyway Fische decided to take the design department out for lunch with the Florida designer to help foster teamwork and cooperation. He wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to spend some time with Alicia though so he included her in the lunch invitation. He wanted to cover up his ongoing association with her even though by this time it was pretty much common knowledge in the plant. To cement the subterfuge he got one of our designers to extend the invitation to Alicia for him.
“Go up to accounting and ask that cost accountant—what’s her name?—if she’d like to join us for lunch,” he said.
He said it with a straight face. The designer did not have a straight face when she came into my office to tell me what he’d said.
“Who does he think he’s fooling?” she asked.
“Everyone,” was the only reply I could think of.
I had occasion shortly after that to lecture Alicia on the harm she was doing the company by carrying on with Fische. Alicia was forever going on about how there was too much divisiveness in the Arkansas workforce, and that they needed to swallow their misplaced pride and do things the Quilnutz (meaning the Florida) way. This made it obvious to the local masses that she had taken sides in the issue—and the wrong side at that. I didn’t think I could persuade her to adjust her loyalties westward, but I knew she had left me an opening to appeal to her avowed interest in the ‘big picture’—the good of the company as a whole.
We were discussing the difficulties we were having in hiring qualified help for the plant floor. I told her that I thought that it was at least partially her fault. She wanted to know how I could possibly think that.
“We live in the middle of the Bible Belt,” I told her, and that much was true and obvious even to Alicia. There was a Baptist church on every corner of town and every other intersection in the county.
“Your affair with Fische has given the company a reputation,” I said. “I hear about it in town. Employees have left here because of it. The folks who attend all these churches around here talk about it. They think we are a hotbed of loose morals and infidelity. Otherwise qualified employees do not even apply here even though we offer good benefits and competitive wages because they don’t want to be tainted in the community.”
“What affair are you talking about?” she asked.
“Do you really think I’m that stupid?”
She sat back in her chair, and I never heard another denial from her. I don’t know if that was the beginning of the end for Fische or not. I’d like to think that I got him cut off with a few well timed and supremely lucid sentences, but that’s just because I wanted to be the author of his unhappiness. Far more likely is that Alicia had already discovered herself mired in the sticky morass of Fische’s neediness, and was actively looking for ways to extricate herself.

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