My nine-pound hammers
This is my scheduled Tuesday post, but as I sit here and write this, it is still Monday morning before work. It’s a special period of time I like to call The Dark Time. I just woke up and before I know it, lickity split, I’ll be back in the shit hole.
The act of going to work has a physical and emotional impact on me. The closer it gets to 9am the more ill I feel. And on Mondays this effect is especially pronounced.
Because I love my job so much I thought this would be a good time to share a couple of videos about work.
As we all know, those of us who work full time have to face certain realities. The first is that in a typical week, “work” is the single most important aspect of our existence based on the amount of time. As far as hours are concerned, work is rivaled only by sleep. If you think about your week as a pie chart, things like spouses and family are inconsequential slices compared to work and sleep. And one of the smallest slivers that can be found in that pie? Time spent doing things we enjoy and voluntarily get to do. In other words, the time we spend doing what we choose to do. For most of us, that’s the smallest part of the whole damn week.
So it is important to step back and evaluate our existence from a different perspective. How is work working out for us? Is it meeting our needs? Or only those of the boss?
It’s a surprising idea to think that we can take more ownership of our work experience and proactively make it better for us. This idea is explored in the first video.
In the second video, some important questions are raised. Why is it required for employees to go to places called offices which are actually obstacles to work getting done? How is it possible to get more work done? And who and what gets in the way?
So, the theme of this Monday morning post is fittingly: Work. It’s what’s for dinner. (Or something like that.)
Stop meeting like this
Today I offer up two stories of business meetings for your consideration. One is old and one is new.
The Day I Quit My Job
No, not my current job. Ha ha ha. This story takes place many moons ago. For you kids, that means there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. Hell, we even carried pagers back then. (Which was mandatory while on vacation, by the way.)
A bit of background info. I was a production supervisor in a manufacturing facility. My peer group consisted of approx. 15 supervisors who were responsible for approx. 250 production employees. Our department made stuff and the environment was loud, noisy, dusty and had lots of equipment like forklifts, conveyor belts, big machines and so forth. We were are 24 hour operation so there were three full shifts. On the particular day in question my buddy Raiko and myself were working the #1 shift with a 6am start.
One more thing you need to know. At the time I was a fully-thriving member of the rat race. That means I lived in one county and worked in another. My daily one-way commute to work was 90 miles, 89 of which were a major highway. My routine was wake up at 4am and hit the road by 4:30. I had to gas up my car every other day. (Back then that was about $14 a tank.)
The drive to work was usually a breeze. It was always 90 minutes. Due to the early hour the ride was pretty deserted. The drive home, however, was quite another story. About the best I could hope for was a two hour drive if I left work on time. If I left at 3pm or later, though, I was officially screwed. The drive would balloon to a whopping three hours. It was a real mood killer.
Yes, you don’t have to tell me. I know I was a monumental dumb ass for having a 180-mile round-trip commute by car. (We didn’t have a commuter train.) It was something I had to do in order to chase the American dream when the opportunity of a lifetime to buy a house fell into my lap. The only problem was that the house was 90 miles away. So I ate the commute and got the house.
Anyway, that’s it for the boring back story. So there we were, my buddy Raiko and myself, at 6am working our #1 shift. At some point we were informed that there would be a mandatory management meeting at 5pm. We both naturally raised our eyebrows at that. I went to my division manager and politely inquired about the importance of the meeting and if those of us who started work at 6am really needed to be there. What I got back was an emphatic “yes.” The meeting was vital and we had to be there. Blah blah blah. Now I found myself staring down the barrel of a four-hour commute. Lovely.
Raiko and I worked our shift then went and grabbed some dinner. After all, we had a few hours to kill before the all-important 5pm meeting.
Finally meeting time rolled around. It went down a little something like this:
- The first 15-minutes were consumed by birthday cake for one of our co-workers. I shit you not.
- The next 45-minutes were consumed by our division managers passing around memos and then – wait for it – fucking reading them to us like we were in kindergarten. (It’s true that some of my peers would notoriously ignore the memos in their mail slots, but I was not one of them. Rather than dealing with the problem, our managers did what bad managers always do. They punished us all.)
That’s it. That was the meeting. Legend goes that I fell on the ground and blood was leaking out of my ears. I really don’t remember. I blacked out. When I woke I found myself in a pile of flaming rubble where the building used to be.
I walked out of that meeting too livid for words. I walked back to my desk, picked up the phone, called my wife, and had this conversation.
“I just got out of my meeting. I’m quitting. Is that cool with you?”
It was now 6pm. I had a four-hour commute which, if undertaken, would get me home well past my bedtime in order to wake up at 4am and do the whole thing over again. I made the command decision to spend the night. That was something that happened quite often, usually when the company forced it up my butt by making me work a #2 shift followed directly by a #1 shift. (That meant getting off at midnight and being back to work by 6am.) I had a local hotel I used for such occasions. Nice way to treat your management employees, eh?
This time I was too angry for such things. I sat at my computer and pounded out my 30-day letter of resignation, printed it, then walked over to my manager’s office and slapped it on her desk. Game over, man. This rat race is officially over.
Fast-Forward to Present Day
My wife had a mandatory meeting yesterday. (Her place of employment was previously mentioned in an earlier post entitled On the twelfth dice of Christmas.) She works in a department with a team of three persons, including herself. Her department has incredible work load and is subject to government deadlines that must be met to remain in compliance with certain standards. Failure to meet those deadlines can result in penalties assessed against the company.
The situation this week is that one employee is on vacation. Then, the other employee’s step-grandfather died and she is gone on bereavement. We all know what that means, right boys and girls? My wife is flying solo.
So yesterday along comes our good, good friend, the mandatory meeting. My wife politely inquired if she could be excused. Nope. It’s very important stuff. It’s mandatory. I am a boss. I speak like a robot. You will comply. This is my robot dance. I am programmed to make many kinds of decisions except for ones that have any actual meaning. There is no I in Team. You are imperfect. Nomad will sterilize the carbon-based infection.
What the hell? Fuck it. She goes to the meeting. It went down a little something like this:
- 15 minutes fucking around with the “sack lunch” theme where food was distributed.
- 45 minutes of minutia regarding another department that had absolutely nothing to do with my wife’s job and/or department.
- A video presentation regarding positive attitudes (which was preceded by 15 minutes of the room exploding into chit chat while a projector was brought in and one thing after another went wrong). Gee. You think the brainiacs in charge would think to prepare the equipment ahead of time?
It was right at the end of the meeting when I swung in like Rambo without a jock strap and mowed everyone down with my M60 machine gun. Survivors later testified they heard me yelling over the sound of gunfire, “This is fucking beautiful, man!”
My wife took it all in stride, got out of the meeting, and found her desk destroyed with paperwork, the phones jammed with tons of voice mails, a full fax machine, and all the phones ringing off the hook. She was home late last night and had a bad day.
Seriously, we have got to mother-fucking stop meeting like this!