Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 147 - Bringing Grace and Serenity to the Oppressed

          I picked up the moving truck from U-Haul first thing this morning. The loading crew showed up at 10:00 a.m. to load the boxes and heavy furniture that we are putting in storage. Our two sons showed up with a trailer for the stuff they are taking—a bedroom suite, refrigerator, grill, table saw, pressure washer, and the big TV I have already complained about having to give up.
The plan was for me to cart all this stuff across the state in the afternoon where the boys and their friends would help unload it into the storage unit. We did this, but there was a problem that has upset the rest of the plan. The truck wouldn’t hold all the stuff we’re putting in storage. So much for a 26’ U-Haul moving a 4 bedroom house—not my 4 bedroom house—not even after I unburdened myself of a drive-way full of things at the garage sale and donated another truckload to AmVets and Goodwill.
          Tomorrow we were supposed to load the things we are taking to my father-in-law’s place and clean the house. We’ve scheduled a steamer crew to come in and do the carpets in the afternoon. Saturday we say goodbye to the neighbors, and head off to our new life. Now we’ve added about 6 hours to our Saturday itinerary because we need to make another trip across the state to the storage unit.
Hopefully we’ll be able to get all the rest of our things in one load. We’ll load the storage stuff last since it’s coming off the truck first. I think it will all fit, but if I’m wrong we’ll have to go to my father-in-law’s place, offload, and come back for the storage stuff. This will add another day—a relative disaster in my newly foreshortened perspective.
Even if it all goes in one load, averting a disaster, it’s still not going to be any fun. There’s another element to how hard all this is going to be, and that is that I am also towing my car behind the truck on a U-Haul car hauler. That means when we stop to offload at the storage unit I will have to unhitch and re-hitch the trailer—not a big issue really, but another in a long list of irritants in this whole sorry process. I need to stop dwelling on the negatives, and just assume for the sake of my sanity that everything will go on the truck tomorrow morning. Tomorrow night we’ll be sleeping on the floor. I don’t need an unresolved problem added into the mix of things keeping me sleepless.

* * * * *

          I kept in daily contact with Dennis and Eddie in the weeks after I was fired. We also met a couple of times a week for happy hour and dinner to update one another on our respective job searches. Conditions continued to deteriorate at Albatross in spite of the hopeful future that was supposed to result from the bankruptcy and reorganization.
          I had actually had a conversation with Rod about this eventuality before he let me go. He was sharing his expansive outlook on things immediately after the bankruptcy. He told me that we should be able to get the production lines back up to speed, at least on one shift, within a matter of days. As soon as the additional capital infusion that had been agreed to by the stockholder banks came through, he reasoned, the vendors would release their holds on our materials and we would be back in business.
          I told him that was folly. He didn’t like it much, but I couldn’t let him erect a set of unreasonable expectations for which, eventually, he was going to hold me accountable. First of all, the promised capital infusion had not been funded. It was already late, and there was mounting evidence that, even though they had agreed to the deal in court before a federal judge, the banks were having second thoughts about doing what surely looked to their directors like sending good money after bad.
          Secondly, even when the funds did arrive, the vendors weren’t going to start shipping us materials overnight. We had forced some of the vendors into circumstances not unlike our own. They had reduced their work forces, stretched their suppliers, cancelled orders, shut down production lines, and generally adjusted their business to accommodate our failures. Many of them—not all, but a number sufficient to impact our resurrection—were going to take weeks and months to ramp back up and get our orders back into their production queues. Even in the best case scenario it was going to take months for us to get back to the production levels we were at before our fall from grace.
          There was also going to be the problem of trust. Vendors that had us on COD weren’t going to go back to extending us credit just because we had reorganized. We’d reorganized before. They had heard our song and seen our dance already. They would not be impressed easily with a new routine that featured the same old soft-shoe.
This would be especially true when you considered that the promised but lagging capital infusion would only address 75 percent of our past due payables. We were not, in my estimation, going to get our lines up to speed until we had our vendor obligations current, and we were not likely to get our vendor obligations current until we had our lines up to speed along with sufficient customer orders to absorb that level of production. We were, in other words, between the proverbial rock and hard place, and our lives were not going to get any easier just because we had given tens of millions of dollars to our lawyers and consultants.
This was reality as I saw it, and I saw it clearly because I had been dealing with the toxic fallout of our meltdown and its effects on our vendors for months. I knew first hand what we had put them through and how they felt about it. Rod and the executive management team, because they had been too important or too pre-occupied to deal with those issues when we were spiraling into the dirt, now had no clue what kind of trouble we faced as we tried to dig ourselves out of the hole we had augered.
It was not going to be easy, it was not going to be pretty, and I’ll be damned if Rod didn’t look at me like I was an idiot for saying so. Oh well, now that he’d fired me, he’d just have to figure out how to deal with it himself. I often wonder if it ever occurred to him how much he’d screwed himself by screwing me. Probably not. I don’t think he was that familiar with the concepts of cause and effect.
The day after I was fired, I had my wife take my picture in my best suit. I had decided to insert this picture in my résumé. I thought it would help the résumé stand out from the rest of the pile on the desk of a potential employer. I also thought it would help overcome any initial reservations an employer might have about hiring an old codger like me.
I was 57 at the time. Owing to a fortuitous dip in the gene pool I looked a good bit younger. This is principally because I inherited a lush head of hair from my mother, one that has resisted the thinning and graying that so often accompany a man’s survival into his fifties.
I thought a good picture might at least prevent someone reviewing my many years of experience and seeing the dates of my credentials from doing the math and conjuring up the vision of an ashen and stooped old man in absorbent underwear hobbling around on a walker. I needed a picture of a vigorous, dynamic, and accomplished man ready to climb over a stack of vanquished competitors and claim the prize of the job being offered. Somehow my wife delivered this picture in spite of the more obvious shortcomings of her subject. It became and remains the best picture ever taken of me, and its destiny was to drive Rod out of his mind.
Once she had a good shot, my wife loaded the digital image into her computer and made some improvements. Principal among these was to eliminate the optical aberration around my eyes caused by the thick lenses of my glasses. This was always a problem for me that vanity would not let me get past. I no longer have this problem, not since I had cataract surgery that gave me 20/20 vision, but before that my usual solution to the problem was to avoid having my picture taken. As this picture was my idea, that wasn’t a workable solution. Fortunately my wife by this time had developed a facility for photo-manipulation, and she made short work of the parallax distortion.
Satisfied, and maybe even a little smug about the improvement to my visage, she decided to add a golden halo above my head. “Just to leave no doubt about what a good man you are,” she told me. Have I mentioned how much I love this woman?
Naturally I thought this was great fun and well worth sharing so I told Dennis and Eddie about it at the first opportunity. They wanted to see it. My wife sent Dennis a copy via e-mail. He shared it with Eddie. Eddie was so inspired by the picture that he blew it up to an 11 by 17 inch print, which he then taped, surreptitiously of course, to the window of my old office with the caption “The Legend Lives On.”
Evidently it created quite a stir in the office for the hour or so it remained until Rod arrived on the scene and ripped it down in a rage. Honestly I don’t know what upset him so about it. I like to think that, had I been him, I would have thought it was pretty funny to see a picture of me with a halo taped to the door of my office like I had passed on. I would have thought it was something to lighten the tension occasioned by letting me go, and help those who were upset about my leaving to get past it. Rod’s not wired like me though, so he pitched a fit.
He called another meeting to get to the bottom of the blatant affront to office propriety. I guess he thought the guilty party would come forward and take whatever punishment he thought appropriate. No one did, of course, and I still chuckle when I imagine Dennis and Eddie sitting in that room biting their lips to keep from laughing out loud at Rod’s ineffectual little tirade.
Rod’s next step was to launch an investigation into the event. He enlisted the IT department to scan the incoming e-mails looking for any direction or files that might have come from me. There were some of course, but the offending missive, the one Rod was most interested in, had got to Dennis by a circuitous route.
I suspect that IT was fully aware of this and whatever other communication may have passed between Dennis, Eddie, and me, but they never gave it up to Rod so the investigation fizzled out like a damp fuse. This is when I got the bright idea that Rod needed some more exposure to my still considerable influence over his department. I became like the saint my wife had pictured—larger, more powerful, and better loved after my passing than I had been in life.
I printed scores of pictures onto 4 by 6 inch sheets of magnetic photo stock and delivered them to selected friends and admirers at Albatross for further distribution. I explained what had happened to those who did not already know. Not one soul was reluctant to oblige. In a matter of days my picture was plastered on filing cabinets in offices and cubicles all over the company.
Since these were items of personal décor allowed to Albatross employees under guidelines established in the employee manual, there was nothing Rod could do about it. I took immense pleasure imagining his blood pressure soar and anger throbbing in his temple every time he went into someone’s office to assert his authority only to be confronted by my picture beaming beatifically across the room, conferring grace and serenity on everyone but him.
Some of those pictures still hang I’m told, although Rod is long gone. Sometimes when I’m depressed or frustrated by my circumstances and need a lift in spirits, I think how wonderful it would be to find out where Rod is now and send some magnetic placards with my picture on them for his ill-used and hard oppressed subjects to display. Hell, unless Rod’s management style has mellowed by a considerable degree, I could probably sell them based on the apoplexy they would be likely to inspire in Rod. I wouldn’t though. Grace and serenity are best bestowed free of charge.

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