We’re having a garage sale to get rid of our excess stuff. There’s a lot of excess stuff. The garage is already full of stuff we don’t have room for in the house. We haven’t been able to put a car in the garage in years. I hate garage sales. I hate moving. I hate organizing and packing crap that, when I look at it, I wonder what the hell we were thinking when we bought it. I want to set fire to the whole lot of it, and run away. I’m not looking forward to any of this. It sucks to be me. It probably sucks even more to be my wife because in addition to all the crap I have to deal with, she has to deal with me.
Another problem for me is the growing possibility that I’m not going to get a job at all—that the economy is so well and truly flushed that it will never recover to be like it was. That is not to say that there won’t be growth in wealth and income, or even that there won’t eventually be a return to something like full employment, but that the growth of wealth, income, and jobs will look completely different from what it did just a short time ago.
There is no question in my mind that certain things have changed permanently. For instance the transfer of manufacturing capacity and jobs from the
to U.S. is a trend that will not reverse. Even if the China were to take drastic protectionist measures now, it would only slow the erosion of manufacturing base in this country and create an artificial respite from the inevitable. A better—that is more logical—tack would seem to me to be a quantum shift in our knowledge and skill base toward more technical and service oriented productivity. U.S.
Some of this may happen naturally and organically, driven by market forces, but a lot of people are likely to be displaced one way or another along the way. Some are going to lose their jobs. The less fortunate are going to lose their livelihoods. The pitiable are going to lose their homes, their utility, and their dreams.
A quantum shift in a population’s knowledge base is a long term enterprise. It will take years to accomplish. Even on an individual level—the level where it will begin and end—it takes a long time to change careers and get back up to speed in something new. For a guy over 60 who still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, there may not be enough time left. The problem on a personal level, my problem in other words, is to determine where all this is going to lead and to anticipate both the pitfalls and the opportunities that are going to be presented. Hoo boy! Tell me that’s not a tall order.
Like most places, there was sub-text at Albatross—stuff going on beneath the surface and behind the scenes that influenced and flavored the larger currents. Some of these had to do with the by now familiar bane of my working life, philandering. I’ve grown to hate philandering. Men and women who are seemingly at the mercy of their baser instincts, unable to resist the charms of the opposite sex, powerless to cool the flames of their own ardor, are willing in the end to crater their workplace and ruin the lives and livelihood of their co-workers, friends, and neighbors to sate their passions. That something as pervasive and banal as lust can undermine the flow of commerce and industry seems ludicrous to me, yet I’m sure it is so.
The principals this time were the corporate CFO and his secretary. Let’s call them Quentin Parks and Marjorie Tinn. Quentin was a distinguished looking gentleman, silver haired, ruddy complexioned, a sharp-dressed man. I never saw him when he wasn’t splendidly turned out.
Marjorie was much younger of course—a thirty something divorcée, exceedingly pretty, who spent most of her income on smart dresses, killer shoes, and a regimen of physical enhancements calculated to augment her appeal.
Together Quentin and Marjorie were a resplendent couple, the very picture of a titan of industry squiring arm candy like the spoils of war. Of course I had to imagine that. I never actually saw them together in public other than in the office where it was completely appropriate for them to be together performing their various work day duties.
There were few people in the office who did not know or suspect what was going on. Marjorie would drive Quentin’s silver Mercedes around town on errands like picking up his laundry and getting lunch for the two of them to share in his office with the door closed. She spent way more time than one would have thought necessary in his office, bending over his desk, standing behind him with her hand on his shoulder, leaning against him, even occasionally rubbing his neck. When she wasn’t busy attending to his needs, professional and otherwise, she sat at her receptionist station in the middle of the finance department and played solitaire on her computer.
She was not a popular girl with the other women in the office. She was popular with most of the men because she was pretty, as I have already mentioned, and flirtatious and happy to describe the intimate particulars of her lingerie with anyone who would listen. But the women hated her.
I know this because they came to me about it, complaining and demanding that I do something. It wasn’t just that she didn’t do any work other than for Quentin. Ostensibly her job was to provide reception and support for the entire department. After she took up with Quentin, she pretty much refused to lift a finger for anyone else. And she didn’t just refuse. She copped an attitude. She let it be known in no uncertain terms that her station was improved and that any secretarial drudgery was now and forever beneath her.
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you know that women do not like that shit. They do not like a woman who doesn't pull her own weight. They do not like a woman who screws around because it seems to put their own husbands at risk. They do not like a woman who screws around with the boss, and leverages her intimacies into what looks like a better position. They may like all these things in soap operas and day-time TV, but they do not like them where they work. It's like the difference between a frog on the Discovery Channel, and a frog in your house. Too close to home is just wrong. I knew all this. It was painfully obvious to me, but there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I knew that too.