Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 127 - The Big House

          Sorting, packing, labeling, taping—this will be the drudgery of our days till the end of the month. Today was punctuated by a trip across town, way across town, to pick up a van-load of boxes in the parking lot of an apartment complex. My wife found them on Craig’s List. The lady selling them was an emaciated little Asian of undetermined age. She could have been 20. She could have been 50. I couldn’t tell. She had the boxes piled into the back of one of those dual wheeled, king-cab pick-up trucks. It was as incongruous a sight as I have seen in a long time—that teeninesy woman next to that gargantuan truck. The boxes appeared to have come from an import store of some sort. There are hundreds of them over in that area of town, selling bric-a-brac and souvenirs to the tourists flocking to Disney.
          I had some time on the drive over and back to reflect on just how far down I’ve been brought in the space of a few short months. I’ve been striving all my life it seems for more, bigger, and better circumstances. I didn’t think I’d got very far, but where I got is a considerable luxury compared to where I’ll be at the end of the month. Even after I get there, even after I’m settled in to the confines of the small bedroom in Nelson’s house, I’ll have to continue shedding the accumulated accoutrements of my former life. The big house, the locus of my dreams, the focus of my strivings, the place where I hoped one day to hold court and entertain my admirers, is a fading memory of vain expectations.
* * * * *
          Rod continued to circumvent my aspirations. I took a run at Quentin to get out from under Rod’s supervision at one point. It didn’t work. It was early on, just after Quentin rewarded me for all my hard work by giving the job I wanted to Rod. Rod then came to me and promoted me, officially, to the operations controller position that reported directly to him.
He offered me a token raise, one that, adjusted for inflation, was actually less money than I had originally taken to come to work at Albatross. I told him I was disappointed, that I thought it should be more. He offered nothing in return, not even consolation. “It is what it is,” he said. I’ve heard that phrase thousands of times in my career. Whatever 'it is' turns out to be, I've never known it to be anything good.
All the new guys who’d been brought in to run the various divisions I was now responsible for had made more money than the company was now offering me. They were all gone, all except Rod. I was now doing their jobs, and Rod was now doing something else for another quantum increase over my pittance. Almost everyone left reported to me. I reported to Rod. I was Rod’s only direct report. Once again Rod had found a situation where someone else did all the work, and Rod got all the credit. He had plenty of time left over every day, after sending me off on meaningless missions, to manage his career to his best advantage. It did not escape me that, under the circumstances, one or the other of us was superfluous. If anyone ever had to decide between us, I knew who would be leaving.
          I went to Quentin. I thought if I complained just right, making my case plain and making it clear that I didn’t want to work for Rod, that I might at least get him to make me one of his direct reports. He didn’t go for it. He didn’t even want to give me any of his time. I went as cautiously as possible.
          “I guess Rod told you I’m not that happy,” I said. I was standing in front of his gigantic new desk. Marjorie had ordered it for him. No one else was allowed to spend any money on office furniture.
          “He might have said something about it.” Quentin’s manner was evasive. I knew he didn’t want to get into any crap with me.
          “I thought you ought to know why,” I said. “I’ll not take up a lot of your time. I’ll just say it once, and when I’ve had my say, you’ll never hear from me again on the subject.”
          He looked resigned. He gave me what looked like polite attention. I plunged in. My plan was to cover the money angle first. It would be easier for him to deal with. He would understand it better. I told him how my responsibilities had increased nearly four-fold since I’d started at Albatross. I told him how through all the comings and goings I had always been there to do what was required without complaint and to the best of my ability. I told him how all the guys that they’d brought in at big salaries to do the work I was now doing were gone, some of them found to be inadequate to the task, some of them unwilling to commit their careers to a failing enterprise. I was left, the best of the lot, and still working for the same money I’d made 5 years before.
          A kind of beatific smile came to rest on Quentin’s lips. I thought that I’d made my point, and he was going to agree to make things right for me. Quentin did no such thing. He remained frozen in his big, over-stuffed executive chair, nestled in its buttery, brown leather, grinning. I realized that he had tuned me out. He wasn’t listening to anything I said. I was spinning my wheels, and he was daydreaming—probably about Marjorie’s latest purchase from Victoria’s Secret. I beat it the hell out of there. If I disturbed his reverie by insisting that he focus on my piddling discontent, I would just piss him off. He wasn’t going to do anything for me. I damn sure wasn’t about to bring up the fact that I didn’t want to report to Rod. I’d just have to figure out how to live with that.

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