I live in Portland, Oregon, which mostly receives electrical power from Portland General Electric. Founded in 1888 the company was eventually owned by Enron Corporation from 1997 until 2006 until Enron went bankrupt.
See? I just used a writing technique known as foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing is a literary device by which an author hints what is to come.
By dropping the name Enron, you are now on notice that this story does not bode well. The portends are decidedly not in our favor. It’s time to omen up.
Yes, I’m being mysterious. I’m trying to leave you in the dark. Just like Portland General. Bazinga!
Being a major metropolitan area, the City of Portland is designed with security and reliability in mind. Power outages simply do not happen unless:
- The wind blows up to one (1) mph
- A squirrel gets hungry
- Water magically falls from the sky
- A drunk person, in a trillion-to-one event, rams their car into a pole
Such simple criteria means the city loses power about every 42 minutes. Who knew that cramming 625,000 people in the same area would make stuff happen? Yes, I live in a city where squirrels are frequently blamed for power outages.
At least Portland is safe. No one, not even a terrorist, could ever fuck with this city unless:
- A tweaked out kid needs to take a whiz in a city resevoir
- The wind blows and a branch falls and an entire power grid goes haywire
- Water magically falls from the sky
Portland has many names. The City of Roses. Bridgetown. Stumpdown. Rip City. Little Beirut. PDX. Cloud City. But, during autumn at least, it could also be known as The City of Leaves. (Leaves are the unpredictable byproduct of shitloads of trees.) And the city has a great strategy for dealing with them. “Clean ’em up your own damn self. You want your storm drains to work? Better get on it. By the way, we’re adding a street fee. You need to pay more taxes for this.”
So it rained on Sunday. We were out running errands. We had to retrace our steps. We drove through St. Johns. Then it started to rain. An hour later we went through the same area. It had already flooded the size of Lake Erie. It wasn’t even a heavy rain.
There had been a few brief gusts of wind. So, yeah, the power was already out. We pulled into a bar just as thunderous lightning spooked everyone in the place. They were amazed. Lightning? Wowwee. Perhaps Portland has exactly the power company it deserves?
We continued on our way and that’s when I noticed it. The traffic signals were are dark. None of them were red. None were yellow. None were green.
You know what that means, right? The entire city went Starman on steroids. Perhaps we can add “Starport City USA” to our lengthy list of nicknames?
[Starman is driving the car, and speeds across a recently turned red light, causing crashes for the other motorists]
Jenny Hayden: Okay? Are you crazy? You almost got us killed! You said you watched me, you said you knew the rules!
Starman: I do know the rules.
Jenny Hayden: Oh, for your information pal, that was a *yellow* light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully. Red light stop, green light go, yellow light go very fast.
Apparently the collective wisdom of the hipster lumbersexuals in PDX is this: No street light, go very fast.
That’s weird because the law says an unpowered traffic signal is to be treated as a four-way stop. It’s so weird that no one in Portland knew that. Keep Portland weird.
So we sat at an intersection watching an endless stream of cars whiz by at top speed and we never got a turn. To pass the time we celebrated several birthdays. And I plotted revenge. Now I understand where Joker, Riddler and Penguin are coming from.
This may be my last blog post for a while. I’ve decided to keep my computer turned off when I think Portland General will be unable to keep the grid powered. By my calculations that means I’ll have a 42-minute window of electricity per day.
Tom’s Law #42
Like a boss or a customer in a restaurant, anyone paying you money to do work on their behalf believes it is their duty to make your life a living hell.
Demon clients are customers where you lose money. They are basically squeaky wheels that aren’t worth the grease to fix. (That’s not to say, however, that a fix would be having them greased.)
Consider: You and another person are customers of some product or service. You pay on time, are reasonable, and an all-around good egg. The other person, however, is slow to pay, constantly whines, excessively consumes your time and resources, and basically sucks your life away like the machine in the dungeon in The Princess Bride. Coincidentally they use the word “inconceivable” a lot.
What if you both pay the same rate? If so, then simply by being nice, you are getting ripped off. Big time. Essentially your function is subsidizing assholes.
Smart companies know this and charge demon clients more and good clients less. Generally speaking, less subsidizing that goes on the better. Subsidizing is an affront to concepts like fairness and equity.
PITA? That stands for, of course, “Pain In The Ass.”
When you combine demon and PITA into a single client? That’s where the magic happens. That’s when it’s truly something special. A singular experience worth writing home about.
Being a bad boss isn’t easy. It takes effort and skill. At first blush it may seem that being a bad boss is the easy way out and the path of least resistance. But, like most things in life, being a truly extraordinary bad boss takes a lot of commitment and hard work. There’s no such thing as a free lunch!
Sure, a lot of countries still allow employers to legally kill their employees, and you can certainly take that route, if you wish. But be honest. There isn’t much sport in giving an employee a love tap with a Luger to the skull. Real destruction takes a little more finesse and effort. Most employees have the potential to be worthy prey. Why waste that potential on a mere head shot?
–Excerpt, How To Destroy Your Employees, by Tom B. Taker, 2010
Today we examine a textbook example of bad bossiness. There’s a lot of bad bosses still on the fence. With any luck, by the time we’re done, they’ll have the tools to be the worst that they can be!
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I’ve never been into fast cars. As far as I’m concerned, the male analogy stops right there. While the other guys were talking about engine blocks and rattling off weird nonsensical numbers and making lamps out of blocks of wood in shop class, I was taking “home economics” with 29 girls and learning how to sew my own apron and make chocolate chip cookies.
Yet, when it came to driving itself, suddenly I was interested. I just didn’t care what went on inside that thing. On my birthday and the day it became legal I obtained my learner’s permit. Exactly one year later I aced my driving test.
My dad taught me to drive. We practiced together in his car (an automatic) and my car (stick shift) which I had already bought with my own money. The car cost me $300, money which I had earned working part-time at a variety of local fast food establishments. It was a 1969 Pontiac LeMans hardtop. The driver’s door never opened, you had to slide across the one-piece seat from the passenger side, and the manual transmission was so wonky and loose that I eventually became the only human who could drive that baby. You had to perform little maneuvers while shifting, like lifting, twisting and pushing down to get it to go into gear. But that baby was mine.
I moved to the big city to live with my dad but I wanted to finish my senior year of high school in my little home town. So I became a commuter at the age of 18. My daily commute was a 30-mile drive (one-way) to school.
I enjoy driving. I’ve done a lot of it. It’s the one area of my life where I am the one percent unlike the 99% of other idiots on the road. My instincts and cat-like reflexes have kept me alive when most other idiots would have perished in a fantastic ball of fire.
And I’ve never forgotten one of the most basic principles my dad taught me about being a good driver on day one with my learner’s permit in hand: Drive so that you don’t impact other drivers on the road.
This is a story about a typical idiot who never received and/or heeded such critical training.
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What’s a boss? Someone who does a lot of shit you hate. Repeatedly. And does it a lot.
An example is getting pounced by the boss the exact nanosecond you walk into work. As the door swings shut behind you and you begin to walk across the room, the boss patiently counts to .1 then lets it fly.
“Oh. Um. Hey. I have some prices and stock changes for the website for you I need done.”
“For you.” What a quaint way of putting it.
“They need to be entered and saved into the website.”
No shit? I was going to try sticking them in my ear. I have no data to suggest that would work, but I figured what the hell. I’m just a blubbering idiot compared to glowing brilliance that is you.
“I need it done right away.”
What? You’re not giving me five years lead time on this grand project of yours? I’m literally shocked.
You can guess what came next. Yep. I took an additional 15 seconds to walk across the room and reach my desk. I paused to savor a feeling of accomplishment. Wow, I sure accomplished a lot in my first minute at work. Team building? Check. Project management? Check. Blood leaking out of ears? Check! That’s why I keep tampons in my desk.
The boss was watching and waiting expectantly. I put on a little show consisting of setting my coffee down, sitting in my chair, adjusting my chair, turning on my computer display and lots of exciting stuff like that. I could feel the boss’ beady little eyes drilling into me. Creepy. How many minutes left in this day until quitting time? I already feel like I’m roasting in Hell while demons with tongues of flame lick the flesh from my bones.
Finally I turned to face him.
“Sure thing,” I said, being careful to speak to him as if he was a small child. Bosses respond well to that. “Let me know what you want changed and I’ll be happy to take care of it. I’ll make it my top priority.” Bosses like words like “priority.”
This response excited him. He peed himself a little.
But first there was a day full of important boss stuff to get done. This included things like buying stuff on Woot.com, taking 42 phone calls from his wife, reading news stories, playing with his Ameritrade account, “cooking” multiple meals in his disgusting microwave, playing Plants vs. Zombies on his iPad while sitting on the toilet, and, of course, a nap on the office sofa, his Hobbit-like bare feet sticking up in the air.
Several eternities later, it was quitting time. I got up out of my chair. I gathered my things. I slug my backpack over my shoulder and headed for the door.
The boss looked up and said, “What? Are you leaving?”
“Afraid so, old chap. Quittin’ time and all that. Cheerio!”
“Wait,” he cried. “I was just about to send you those changes.”
There followed a long and pregnant and awkward pause. I swallowed my bile and spoke The Question, breaking the silence.
“You don’t want that done now, do you?”
“Yes, I need it now. It has to be done today. My wife has been riding me hard on this one.”
Ah, fear. That’s why it was so damn important you fucked around on it for an incredible eight and half hours. Top priority, indeed.
Like a boss.
It’s not that I minded that much getting a little OT. But seriously. Is there any possible way this grown person with firing power over me could act any dumber? I think not. He’s perfected the art.
This is yet another work-related post in a long series of work-related posts. Sorry, sometimes work just has to come out of me, usually in the form of vomit and/or poop.
The boss came to me a few weeks ago and said he wanted a company-only “wiki.” Yeah, just like that famous encyclopedic one. He explained it would be a good place for everyone on the team to document critical information. We’d all benefit by having searchable information at our fingertips.
Even I had to admit that sounded like a logical good idea, if everyone chipped it and actually used the tool effectively.
I should have smelled a rat.
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