Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 126 - Dangerous Flora

          My wife is sorting out what to sell, store, or take with us, and organizing the impending garage sale. It's a huge undertaking. We are moving out of a four bedroom house with a pool into one tiny bedroom in her dad's tiny house. The logistics are daunting. Fortunately my wife is good at stuff like that. I’m not. My natural inclination is to pile it all up in the back yard and set fire to it. Unfortunately you don’t get any money for bonfires.
          We’ve schedule the sale for the third week-end of the month. We’ll be moving on the last week-end. The 31st is a Saturday. The new tenants will be moving in on the 1st of February. Arranging for the trucks and the moving help is my job. I’m probably not any better at that than I am at organizing a garage sale, but at least there’s nothing that I can reasonably set on fire.
          In order to complicate matters as much as humanly possible, we will be renting a storage unit near our son’s place on the other side of the state. Rentals over there are about half what they run here on the East Coast. Hopefully the dollar savings will more than offset the added inconvenience of having our stuff three hours away from where we live. I guess it all depends on how well we choose what to store and what to keep with us. I’m already beginning to dread the hours I will be spending bouncing back and forth across Florida in a rented truck. My back is killing me.

* * * * *

Marjorie Tinn’s attachment to Quentin Parks became problematic for me in dramatic ways in fairly short order. She was like a bromeliad in the swamp, nestled in saw grass and scrub palmetto, surrounded by mangrove, bald cypress, slash pine, gators and snakes . She was pretty to look at but more trouble than she was worth. You just couldn’t get close enough to reason with her, and if by chance you ever did, you'd find her as bristly and dangerous as the stuff that seemed to protect her.
Probably my most telling run-in with Marjorie had to do with rearranging the offices. This was a task mandated by my new nemesis, Rod Chandler. Rod decided that we needed to move cubicles and people around and shuffle some offices in order to optimize work flow in the department. I suppose this was a laudable goal, but given our by now dire cash position, we weren’t allowed to spend any money to reach it.
My feeling was that we had plenty of other, more pressing things we ought to be doing. We were out of cash. Our vendors were on the phone sunup to sunset every day screaming for the money we owed them. Our production lines were constantly running out of parts that our vendors wouldn’t ship because we hadn’t paid them. Optimizing workflow in accounting was precisely like the proverbial rearranging of deck chairs on a sinking ship. Still, I had my orders, and Rod was not the type of manager who would brook a challenge to his authority. I had tried logic on him before. The interjection of logic looked like insubordination to Rod.
Eddie Sharpe and I set to redrawing the cubicle farm in the center of two large rooms that were ringed with private offices. There was no easy way to do it. It took several days of back and forth until we had what we thought was a workable plan. Any improvement we might achieve over the current state of affairs would be marginal at best.
The real difficulty would be not to piss anybody off. Since we would be asking several people to move all their years of accumulated stuff anywhere from 5 to 15 feet into a smaller cubicle to achieve an “optimum work flow” that would represent hardly any improvement, we were at a pretty considerable risk in that regard. Naturally that’s just how it worked out. Everyone who had to move was pissed, and not just a little bit either.
I knew this would happen. I took some pains to prevent it. We had several meetings with all concerned parties where I explained at length what we were trying to do and why. I asked for input. We shared the drawings. We got a crew from maintenance to do the heavy lifting. We gave everyone plenty of time to adjust. I apologized to everyone in advance. Maybe that was my problem. Apologizing made it look like I wasn't really committed to the project, made me look weak and susceptible to whining and chafing.
When the day to move came, Quentin, who may not even have known what Rod was having us do, was at a meeting of the board of directors. The maintenance guys were dismantling cubicles and re-running electrical service. Eddie was coming to my office with constant progress updates. Rod was holed up in his office seemingly oblivious to the project he had ordered. We made it to almost 10:00 a.m. when Marjorie came to my office to tell me that Quentin had finally put an end to our foolishness.
“What foolishness is that?” I wanted to know.
“Moving all these girls around for no good reason,” she said. “You’ve got the whole department upset. I finally had to call Quentin to get him to put a stop to it.”
“Quentin is the one who wanted us to do this!” I protested. I had Rod’s word on this. I would have been skeptical, but I had actually discussed some aspects of the changes with Quentin. He certainly knew what we were up to.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Marjorie said. “Quentin would never authorize this kind of chaos. This is you and Eddie trying to make everyone miserable.”
Apparently Quentin could not stand up to Marjorie’s disapproval. When she called him to dip me in the grease, he pretended not to know anything about it. He was either afraid of her, trapped in the web of her defter enchantments, or both. It wasn’t the first time the bastard let me go down a path with his explicit blessing only to pull the rug out from under me at the worst possible time and place, but it was the first time where my undoing at his hands had been orchestrated by Marjorie. The realization of how thoroughly I had been skewered left my stomach churning for weeks.

           Rod took the afternoon off, and escaped any connection to the events of the day. He may have been as deft as Marjorie at feigning innocence while screwing the hapless. What he had ordered me to do and pestered me to do sooner rather than later, was suddenly my mistake to answer for…and mine alone. That happenstance would have set a lot better with me if I had ever thought what we were doing was a good idea. I don't like fading the heat for my own mistakes, but at least it's fair. Being made the scapegoat for someone else's folly sucks...a lot. 

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