Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 124 - Slouching toward Decrepitude

          I miss Bud a lot. I’m not really sure why this is. I haven’t really known him a very long time, and most of the time I have known him I’ve also known that he was sick and not likely to survive his illness. I had plenty of time, in other words, to prepare for his death. So here in the realization I ought to find resignation, acceptance, closure, and peace in the finality of it, but I don’t.
I want Bud back. Bud and I had an affinity that I can’t explain…or maybe can, but don’t want to admit. I find the things that I miss most about him are his least redeeming qualities. I miss his stinking breath. I miss his messy eating habits. I miss the tortuous way he got up off the floor to go do his business. I miss his general slovenliness and his abiding uselessness. When I think of all the things I miss about Bud I realize that, except for (hopefully) the bad breath, these are all attributes that I possess in equal measure.
I haven’t eaten a meal in recent memory that I didn’t get part of on my shirt. I’ve taken to telling people that at my age and with my history of colon cancer it’s important to keep an accurate record of what I eat. I keep mine on my shirt.
It takes me forever to get up out of a chair. It takes me an average of 28 seconds to get out of our car. I know this because my grandson times me. He got tired of waiting for me. He’s usually out of the car and inside our destination before I even get my seatbelt off. Putting a stopwatch on my torpor seems to him like a good way to occupy otherwise wasted time just waiting. He takes a lot of pleasure in announcing my times to the general amusement of the rest of the family. If I had anything to leave I would consider writing him out of my will.  
Now that I’m unemployed I just putter around getting in other people’s way. My wife often has to park me in a corner when we go shopping together so that I don’t impede the flow of traffic up and down the aisles of the stores. Bud and I were images of one another. We were old men sliding inexorably into decrepitude, and both grown useless as the tits on a boar hog. This is why I mourn Bud so much. It’s as if a big part of me has gone missing.
There was a point in the midst of all the turmoil at Albatross where it seemed as though my star was in its ascendency. It was short lived. This happened when the new CFO, let’s call him Quentin Parks, asked me to assume the duties of the Operations Controller in addition to my own. This was to be a short term assignment that would be made permanent if I acquitted myself well. I planned to acquit myself well. There was, of course, a monkey wrench waiting in the wings for the opportunity to hurl itself into the mechanics of my forward progress. Let’s call him Rod Chandler.
Rod was a nemesis of monumental proportions, although I didn’t realize that at first. Rod was the new controller of the North Alabama plant. Rod had a career track in mind, and that track intersected mine. My problem was that where my career track was a passive thing that went where I thought the company needed it to go, Rod was actively engaged in mapping his track to take him where he wanted to be.
Where he wanted to be was where I thought I was going to end up if I acquitted myself well. So while we were both headed for the same destination, I remained blissfully unaware that I was in a competition. I had a huge amount of work and responsibility to take care of in order to acquit myself well. Rod on the other hand, less blissful and infinitely more aware, arranged to have nothing to do but lay track.
I know this because the old controller of the North Alabama plant complained to me about it. The old controller was trying to retire. He had announced his retirement, and the company had hired Rod to replace him. The old controller agreed to stay on and train Rod in the particulars of the job.
Even in the worst circumstances, this shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of months. Rod was, after all, a degreed accountant with years of experience in manufacturing as an assistant controller and controller. He didn’t need to be trained. He only needed to be shown where things were.
It took way more than just a couple of months though. This is what the old controller complained to me about. It was taking forever because Rod never got to the point where he was actually taking over the work. The old controller continued to do all the things he had been doing all along while Rod engaged full time in managing his career.
Now I don’t mean to suggest that Rod wasn’t doing any useful work. He probably was. At least he was doing work that seemed useful to the plant manager at North Alabama and to the CFO at the corporate offices because the work he did was deliberately tailored by Rod to appeal to their particular management sensibilities.
It was not, however, the work he had been hired to do. It would have been nice if the rest of us finance and accounting stiffs had the same luxury—to have some poor slob who was trying to retire do our jobs while we cherry picked tasks and projects calculated to make us look like geniuses to senior management.

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