Hit Coffee is the story of Will Truman (trumwill),
transplant in the mountain west with an IT background who bides his time
substitute teaching while his wife brings home the bacon.
This site is a collection of reflections
on the goings-on in his life and in the world around him. You will probably
be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the
third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.
Greetings from Callie, Arapaho, a red town in a red state known for growing
red meat. And from Redstone, Arapaho(Aw-RAH-pah-hoe), a blue city with blue collar roots that's been feeling blue
for quite some time.
Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though
if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character
and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.
This website is maintained by Guy Webster (web),
who also contributes from time to time.
Web hails from the midwest and currently lives
in Truman's home city of Colosse, Delosa. He works as a utility IT person at
Southern Tech University, their alma mater.
Also contributing is Sheila Tone (stone) a West Coaster, breeder, and lawyer
who has probably hooked up with some loser just like you and sees through
your whole pathetic little act.
My employment satisfaction was at a high point about a month ago. I not only accepted that I would be spending the rest of my time at FalStaff, I was perfectly okay with it. Then my man Marc left for greener pastures. It was about that time that the power structure in the Reports Division started shifting in a way that I am still not comfortable with.
When Marc announced that he was leaving, I saw George (head of our sister department, ANG) talking to Golden Boy about “new responsibilities.” For the first time in my life, I sought out to sabotage someone’s promotion. This was a particularly easy trial run at the slit-throat pracitce. I basically alerted the ladies currently in the ANG QA and told them who their next coworker might be. They stood ready to make sure that didn’t happen. It didn’t. It looks like they’re going to leave the position unfilled.
I breathed a sigh of relief until I found out that he was getting new responsibilities. My boss Willard’s deputy Jarvis left a couple months ago and they never filled his position. I sent an email to Willard inquiring and, to no great surprise, he said that they were going to leave it be. That lasted about a month until they were reminded why Jarvis’s old position was created to begin with. Much to my consternation, Golden Boy Clem was tapped to replace him.
Jarvis was Willard’s deputy over report creation, not report quality assurance, so technically Jarvis was not my boss once I made the transition to QA and therefore Clem would not be, either. They also changed the position up so that it did not include a raise anymore (this seems to happen a lot around here. replacements are chosen with added job duties and given less prestige and money). I commented to Simon a while back that Clem was likely to leapfrog both us - this was the first step to that happening. With this raise, he was both a natural successor if Willard or George were to move on. It also opened to doors to a number of possibilities. Though I gather Simon has resigned himself to this sort of thing, I was left with an itch in the pit of my stomach as I watched it all unfold.
My anger at the situation was two-fold. First it was that Clem was now in a better position for greener pastures than was the more deserving Simon and that this was completely unearned. Clem is and always has been a low performer and one of the reasons he was moved over to OSI from ANG to begin with was personality clash with the all-female department. But the problem is assumed to be elsewhere because he’s a Good Soldier. He has this aura of competency and friendliness that is extremely hard to puncture. Willard, one of the most fair-minded people I know, expressed shock when I pointed him out as an underachiever.
Then he started making excuses for him.
I don’t know what disappointed me more when Clem was tapped for Jarvis’s position, that Clem was getting an undue promotion or that Willard could be so obtuse. Willard caught wind of the discontent and pulled Simon and I into a meeting to assure us that Clem has been given no managerial control and that he’s a process manager, not a manager of personnel. It helped to know that he wasn’t oblivious to our criticisms. But while it was good to know that he was more on top of the situation than I had expected, I still believed that he was making a huge tactical error. He’s letting Clem believe that he’s getting more out of this than he is.
I’ve been in groups before that have had “unofficial” leaders that had arisen by default where they never could have done so formally. When their weaknesses inevitably rise, it can be darn near impossible to wrest control away from them. They want to know why it’s so important that we stress that they aren’t leader, and then later they get upset that we don’t trust their guidance, and to the extent that we give in on the first couple even a little, he wonders why we won’t give him the title that he’s earned. It’s a constant struggle and I hate every minute of it. And I could see this happening with Clem.
Sure enough, late last week it came to a hilt. The conversation went something like this:
Clem: Marty, you can’t leave until this is finished.
Willard: Can I talk to you for a minute?
Willard: You need to ask, not tell, people what they can do.
Clem: Well it has to get done because blah blah blah blah…
Willard: Look, you just told him he can’t leave until he’s done, but you don’t have the authority to approve overtime, much less mandate it.
Clem: But I need that authority to do my job.
Willard: You job is to process requests, answer account manager questions about where requests are, and make sure everyone has enough work to do. Your job is to assign work, not oversee its completion.
Clem: You’re splitting hairs.
Willard: No, I’m not. One job function makes you responsible for things getting done and gives you the powers to assume that responsibility. The other doesn’t and doesn’t. We’ve been over this.
Clem: But if you’re not here, someone has to take charge.
Willard: Except that I am… right… here… and,
Clem: But what about when you’re not?
Willard: Let’s go talk about it in the conference room.
The subtext of Clem’s tone was “Why can’t you just give me what I want?!”
It was pretty obvious that Clem was fishing for the official title of number two. And so the process had reached fruition. He was using a position that seemed like authority to gain actual authority, just as Simon and I had guessed he would. Just as I’ve seen before. This tug of war has been happening ever since. Whenever I gave him some actual report creation work to correct, he complained about having to go back and forth. I also believe that he asked Willard for control of the database that I’m working on. Willard did not grant it, but he’s coming up with something similar for ANG (similar in the sense that it accomplishes the same ends, dissimilar in that his is laughably crude and my obscenely complicated).
And it’s been the tug of war I feared it would be. For a couple days after his “talk” with Willard, Clem was much more gracious. But then when I gave him back a FAIL he complained about having to go back and forth between his roles and then went to Willard to complain that I was grading him too toughly (truth be told, in other circumstances I might have corrected it myself, but the mistake could have been caught and fixed before it even got to me had he run a test print like he was supposed to - and this wasn’t the first time he made that error).
A long while back I was told that my smoking was going to come in the way of me and a promotion someday. In the abstract, I don’t really even have a problem with that. I’m not going to be here long enough for it to matter, really. But in the here and now it is driving me crazy. Not entirely for myself, either.
What’s particularly frustrating is that while I don’t have a future with Falstaff (because I won’t be in Deseret a year from now), others around here do. The thought of Clem passing over Simon makes me indignant. Not only Simon but Melvin the Prodigy, ten times the employee that Clem is, may too get passed over. Because they’re not of the right faith and because they don’t play The Game. One of the things I really liked about this company is how little attention it seemed to play to the schmoozing game.
The amount of hostility I feel towards him surprises even me. There are people there that I would consider less moral and even less self-righteous than Clem. Don’t get Marty Ross talking about Mac computers or Melvin Giles about Firefox. Yeah, it’s different, but seriously I would rather discuss religion and politics with Clem than I would computers with Marty or Mel. His personality grates on me less than others, objectively speaking. But I guess it’s all about context. It’s all about where the rubber meets the road. It’s Clem and people like Clem that make it difficult for non-Mormons to live and work in this state outside it’s urban capital. In an environment where Clem prospers, for reasons religious and mostly not, people like me don’t.
Simon, a lapsed Mormon, commented once that the LDS was the perfect marriage of Religion and Corporation. In one fell swoop, Clem has come to embody what I dislike about both.
When I first got out to Deseret, I took a job answering phones for a satellite TV company. There were worse companies to work for. Like most call centers, it was a pretty hierarchial organization. We had a supervisor, but we also had a supervisor’s pool for whenever ours was either busy or out. Paid no more than $8/hour, I’d wager, they were nonetheless the big men (and women) in the room. A handful of them (but by no means all of ) were also quite cocky and condescending whenever you asked a question.
I now make more than they do at a job that would have greater upward mobility if I planned to stick around these parts. A number of my coworkers came from a call center in Mocum. Supervisors there (paid more than at my former employer) were more than happy to take a lowly Reports job at FalStaff. Part of me would really like to go back to one former supervisor in particular and rub it in his face that I’m in a better position than he is. It’s petty, I guess, but I’d really get a kick out of it.
Though I haven’t written about it as I intended to, my nemesis at work was a guy by the name of Teddy Forbes. Teddy was in QA (where I am now) right before I got here. He was the king of condescending. He used his position in the company to project an aura of superiority even as, I later found out, he was a terrible tester that rarely did any work and was more-or-less blackballed from going anywhere in the company. He left the company when he gave an ultimatum: up or out. Out he was.
Everyone from Teddy on down, everyone at both my former call center employer to almost everyone I talk about here, makes $10/hr or less in a job that garners little respect within the company. It’s enough to make anyone with a college degree a bit bitter. Teddy flashed around his college degree pretty frequently, never answering the question “If you’re such hot stuff, what are you doing here?”
I read somewhere that the biggest problem facing blacks in the Jim Crow era was not wealthy whites but rather poor ones. They were never a real threat to the wealthy, but the poor and uneducated whites desperately needed someone to feel superior to and acted accordingly. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, but the observations behind it are true enough. I think that some of the mid-lowers took out mostly needed a chance to feel superior than someone to make up for their own shortcomings, and so they picked on us littler people.
The thought occurred to me today as I was commenting that Willard and George have been doing a great job of picking QA people to pull from programming. I’m biased because I’m one of those people, of course, but the relations between QA and programming are better than they have ever been. Marc was pulled in to QA over people with more experience due to his people skills. Four of the five current QA testers worked under QA people with rather toxic personalities and I think that actually goes a way towards explaining our disposition. We’ve dealt with being condescended to and patronized, and we’ve no desire to make anyone else feel that way.
I was raised to treat anyone that works with respect. Even if they are just taking my orders at Happy Burger, there is never any reason to be unhelpfully rude. I find it interesting how many people out there are oblivious to the simple mechanics of teamwork. I may be in QA grading the work of coders, but we’re all on the same team. I’m even on the same team as the guy behind the Taco Hut counter. We both want the same things, more or less.
Another thing I remember reading somewhere was a quote that unfortunately I cannot source: It’s no accident that the black chess pieces and white chess pieces spend so much time fighting that they never realize that they have more in common with one another than they do their masters.
I stumbled across this really interesting post by Tom McMahon. Sportscaster Jimmy Piersall was asked when a minor league baseball player should pack it in and get on with another career:
Piersall was straightforward and his answer went something like this: You have to remember here are two classes of players in the minor leagues: Those who are indeed going up to the major leagues, and those they keep around to play against the ones who are. If you’re in the first group, fine. But if you’re in the second group, you need to get out immediately and start pursuing your real career — every day spent chasing an illusion puts you another day behind competing with everyone else in the rat race. And here’s the kicker: If you’re in the second group, they’re never going to tell you, because they need to keep you around to play against the prospects they are really interested in.
I’ve seen this happening at work, actually. There are a couple perpetual low-performers, Charlie and Edgar. A while back we needed a few more people in QA and Willard conspicuously reached below them, seniority-wise, and picked Melvin and Dell. As time progresses, it’s going to become more conspicuous as Martin and Edmund are more likely to make it out of the department before they are, and neither has been here half as long.
But no one is saying anything about it. I’m not sure if they’re just a bit dim (well, okay, they are dim, I’m just not sure if this is an example of that) or they are noticing more than they are letting on. But they’ll never make it to QA and as such won’t be able to ever make it out of the dead-end, $9.50/hr job they currently now hold. Edgar’s wife is pregnant with his third (and they plan a fourth) and Charlie has three of his own. The money issue is pretty important, here.
From the company’s perspective, they’re making what they’re worth. More, probably. But they are good for contuity, which is what is needed right now. They’re also a great standard by which to judge others (hence the analogy above), because it demonstrates how above-the-curve some of the newer guys are. And the rest of the guys are new. They may be learning twice as fast, but the veterans do know quite a bit. And, of course, they’re two slots that they won’t be having to fill so long as they keep those seats warm.
I’ve wanted to pull Edgar aside a couple times and let him know that the raise and promotion he’s hoping on is not likely to arrive soon. It seems like the right thing to do, but it also seems like something that would blow up in my face. In addition to his mental shortcomings, his maturity level is sub-par as well and I couldn’t trust him not to bring me up when he inevitably goes off on Willard.
But it’ll all likely come to the forefront soon. I may get the Deseret Power job or I may not. There are also a couple other opportunities within the company for either my partner Simon or myself. Not only that, but Melvin clearly doesn’t want to make the transition and we’re falling further and further behind. Yet despite the desperation, they’re still not likely to get the call. They might hire someone from the outside first.
I am increasingly curious who would replace me in QA if I do depart.
Clancy made outstanding grades all throughout school. When she got to highschool, she was allowed in to the Delosa Leadership Academy, a public school meant to attract the best and brightest throughout the state. From there she got a full-ride scholarship to college and did so well there that she was accepted into medical school. She graduated in the top third of her medical school class (talk about stiff competition!). She is intelligent, but at that level intelligence is not enough. She worked her ass off to become Dr. Himmelreich.
She did not spend all that time working so that her colleagues could call her “Clancy” in front of her patients. But one of her colleagues does that. I met the guy once. Doctors are generally arrogant, but he’s arrogant even for a doctor. He comes from a family tree of Deseretian doctors. Beck County Medical Center burnt bridges with the local OB/GYNs so that he could get OB priviledges. He is a Golden Boy. In the eyes of the Zarahemla community, he can do no wrong. Especially not by calling a doctor (a female doctor at that) by her first name. What’s to be done?
It’s more than just his family name, though. He suffers from what I call Mormon Male Syndrome. The belief that being the religious head of one’s household gives one the right and duty to project this superiority to the community at-large. Particularly to the female population.
Clem Harford is a coworker of mine. He is The Golden Boy. From the moment he hit ground at Falstaff, he was the perfect Mormon boy. By-and-large, Missionary work is extremely good preparation for the corporate world. You learn how to approach people in all sorts of different directions. You learn to be calm under most all circumstances. You become articulate. It’s no accident nor even discrimination that Falstaff’s entire sales and customer service departments are Returned Missionaries. They’ve spent two years knocking on doors trying to make a very hard sell to a very disinterested and even hostile population.
So it’s no surprise that as an RM, Clem has gotten every benefit of the doubt. Indeed, I still don’t believe him to be a bad guy. But he is the essence of a lot that I don’t like about Deseret. He started off in ANG, our sister department. He was the only male, so naturally he was transferred to our department pretty quickly. Right now he actually does some work in both. He gets testy with us, but he is disrespectful towards our female counterparts in a way very analogous to Clancy’s colleague. If QA tells you something is wrong, you do not argue with them without first getting your ducks in a row. Even if the reason he got a bad FAIL (meaning that it should have been a PASS) was because he didn’t jot down the appropriate clearances, it wasn’t his fault.
Not only is he lack humility, but he’s not even that good. He’s consistently outperformed by people with less experience. He’s not the weakest link, but he’s not a strong one. And his numbers actually look better than they ought to because sometimes we will correct it ourselves just to avoid a confrontation.
The Mormons exalt the male to the head of the household, as do a number of religions. There’s something more institutional about it out here, though. Outside oftheir distinct religious roles, most Mormons act as most other members do. Every now and again there are some that take their role as head of the household very seriously and extend the idea of male dominance outside the household. Like Clancy’s colleague. Like Clem.
The gang got into a conversation about the marriage timeline. The basis of the discussion was premarital cohabitation, though Charlie butted in with his usual bitter rant about marriage. Clem dated his wife a couple weeks before marrying her. Considering that he’s roughly 21 and just back from Mission, it wasn’t hard to figure where he stood. The mission system is set up, sometimes it seems, so that a 21 year old RM and an 18 year old high school grad can get married. So I wasn’t surprised when he came out in favor of the marry-young position, but the way he said it embodies a lot of what there is to dislike: “It’s better to marry young because you can marry a girl straight out of high school, before she gets set in her ways and too comfortable by herself.”
This sense of entitlement is not unique to Mormons at all. I was raised in the south. The Catholics views on gender were downright progressive compared to a lot of what I was around. But because of the cultural set-up out here, there is a percentage won by acting that way as blatantly as possible. Again, it’s not that different from spectator Christianity (or spectator paganism, for that matter), except that it seems to be more effective.
This is sort of the difference, I guess, between Deseret Mormonism and Mormonism-at-large. It’s what my Mormon reader Beth notes is the difference between cultural Mormonism and religious Mormonism. I don’t have much against the latter. I admire their faith in many ways. Unfortunately, it’s the former that I’ve got to live with. I’m sure this subject is getting tiresome for many of you, but one of the purposes of this site is to air such complaints.
By and large, I’ve determined that assholes are assholes in any culture. An asshole Mormon I meet would probably still be an asshole if he was a Lutheran, he’d just be an asshole in a different manner. Religion, I think, does make some marginal cases more irritating - and, to be fair, some ethically marginal cases more moral - but those inflicted with the Mormon Male Syndrome would likely be inflicted with something else if they were raised outside of Deseret. But as an outlet to assholery, MMS is particularly problematic cause I often feel its target and it seems to frequently come at my own expense. More on that later.
On a couple of occasions, Barry and I have discussed the gas price hikes during hurricane season. For the most part I came to the defense of big oil, explaining that there really were reasons why gas prices would climb so quickly other than the obvious profit motive. The short argument is we have inadequate refining capacity huddled right down hurricane alley. In fact, I am relatively sure that a fair number of gas stations were actually selling it at a loss. There was a flattening of prices for a while, with name gas stations charging only a few cents more than the discounters and only a few cents difference between Delosa (where oil is generally cheap) and Deseret (where it is not so cheap). That’s usually indicative of gas prices running up against an artificial barrier (in this case, the $3 mark. The same thing happened when it hit $2). Gas stations by and large make their money through the convenience stores they’re attached to, and I am guessing that some of them were willing to lose a bit on gas to get people to come in to their stores. Or at least willing to forego much of any profit.
But that’s over now.
I believe my earlier position to be sound, but the situation has changed. The Washington Times outlines it all quite nicely. With the uncertainty gone, the prices should have dropped almost as quickly as they rose. The damage was less than feared (and fear was one of the big things driving the prices upward).
Even our oil-friendly Congress are getting a bit anxious about the prices, and concerns about record profits by the oil companies. I try to avoid getting too political on this site, but it seems to me some assurances of cooperation might have been a good thing to get before the Energy Bill that they got through that was very, very generous to those they are worried about being associated with.
It’s interesting the things that we attach ourselves to, sometimes. I was pretty much miserable at my junior high, for instance, but I generally compare it pretty favorably to my high school, Mayne High School. A couple years ago I went to a MHS football game and found myself swept up in rooting for the home team over rival Southfield, even though by most accounts I would have enjoyed Southfield HS more than I did my time at Mayne
But you belong the school you went to, not the one you didn’t, and your ties are with the place you’re from, not the place you would like more.
I have mixed feelings about Delosa, the state where I’m from. I imagine that a great deal of southerners feel the same. I could have lived without a lot of the evangelical sermonizing and I think a lot of the attitudes back there can be pretty backwards. I come from the big city of Colosse and its suburbs, so I didn’t have to deal with it the same way that those from Podunk did. When I graduated from college I made a point to dig myself as deeply in to the city as I could. Delosa’s schools are substandard. About the only thing booming is its economy, and that’s been driven by people coming in from out-of-state and has taken a number of hits in recent years besides. The northeast looks down on Delosa and its southern brothers, and by most statistic measures it has a right to.
But sometimes home is home. When people make disparaging comments about Delosa or the south, Clancy and I are both inclined to defend where we come from. You want to talk about trailer trash? Let me tell you about my ex-girlfriend Julie who lived in a trailer park until she was fifteen and is more educated and intelligent than most in Delosa or Deseret. Talk all you want about how all country music songs are about “losing your wife, your dog, etc”, but if you can find a genre that looks over a wider array of topics from a wider array of points of view, I’d love to hear it. Song after song proclaiming lover or lamenting love lost or song after song screaming about taking down The Man or getting hoes and shooting guns does not constitute sophistication.
Even if, privately, I do agree with some of their critiques, I’m inclined to defend where I’m from. Even things that I understand are meant to be a compliment sometimes come across as “You are a credit to your people.” When people express surprise that we’re from the backwood (cause a city a million strong is still backwood so long as it’s in the south) because we don’t sound like it, our response is something to the effect of “Sorry not to conform to your stereotypes, so what should I sound like?”
What I suppose I find interesting is rejecting the notion that I am smart and enlightened and all that jazz despite being a southerner, when I don’t see the two as being particularly mutually exclusive. Or at least I find the notion that it has to be a trade-off as abusive as the notion that a well-spoken black man ought to be treated as a novelty.
Some of my peers, on the other hand, were pretty excited to get out because they felt that they were better than their surroundings. Honestly, I’ve harbored that snobbish thought myself on a couple of occasions, thinking that I might he happier somewhere up north. But then you meet people from there and you are quickly reminded that the difference is more style than substance. And even if you make your way to Boston, you’re still looked down on by the people in London, who are looked down on by those in Paris.
And once you disabuse yourself of the notion that there’s a place you will never have to be defensive about, you discover that being raised where you were comes with its own set of lessons. I suffer no pseudo-intellectual fools. Even when I disagree with what my nation is doing at home or abroad, I don’t associate those beliefs with some sort of great, cosmopolitan enlightenment, because I know a whole lot of really intelligent people that disagree with me. I’ve learned what it’s like when July Fourth is more than just a holiday, it’s a religious experience.
Ultimately, I think, we all have a choice. Where we’re from is a part of us. The time and energy that we spend fighting that part of who we are is time and energy we are not spending on more worthwhile pursuits. There’s not much point in being bitter about the ways it disappointed you, and it’s silly to spend any portion of your life trying to prove that you’re better than where you come from. At best all you prove is that the part of you that was inevitably formed by where you come from is lacking.
One of my various tasks at Wildcat was to create an employee efficiency database application. The point of it would be to compare how long each employee took in comparison to (a) how long others took and (b) how long the shiftleader said it should take. Each step of creating a part or a piece of equipment was broken into five steps or so. Even the amount of time it took to set up the machinery was a separate clock-in and clock-out.
The results from the first run-through were quite interesting. There was an almost perfect inverse corrolation between someone’s ability to speak English and how well they worked, for instance. The Vietnamese, Mexicans, and South Americans outperformed our domestic talent by a margin of 2-to-1 in most cases. There were a handful of workers whose scores were extremely low. Suspiciously so.
My boss Cal told me to check and re-check the numbers. The last thing he wanted to do was take action of bad information. I spent days going over it, looking for any hole in the mathemathics that I could find. I found none. It was a Friday that I turned in all the numbers. On Monday, five employees were let go based on numbers that I had put forth. A couple employees that I talked to on every cigarette break were no longer around.
The reaction of the rest was mixed. Some were relieved to see some of the “slackers” go. Others worried that they might be next. I was forbidden from discussing the numbers (and was disinclined to, besides), but interestingly some of the best workers were the ones most worried about their performance. One guy, who was borderline and almost became the sixth to be fired, was one of the ones that was laughing at the “slackers” being “dumped on their ass.”
Funny how that works.
As mentioned, I’ve been working on a program at FalStaff that would do much the same thing as the one at Wildcat. So far only one has expressed concern that they’re not keeping up-to-snuff. All-in-all, I predict that he will be our second-best performer — not bad for the second newest guy on staff. One that I think pr0bably should be worried, though management says that the only reason they want these numbers are for the sake of bonuses.
But this is a tighter group than those at Wildcat, who were separated by race and nationality. More people will know that I’m responsible for anyone that loses their job. In some ways, I’m more nervous about this than any of them are.
Ethan is having a problem with an overly aggressive religious tone in the workplace. I actually find it a bit surprising since he works for a Fortune 500 company. I’d think they’d strive for sterility…
FalStaff has the tendency to say a prayer of grace before eating at any company outing. I’m not sure if that’s considered okay because it’s off company grounds and voluntary. I’d imagine so. When I worked for Wildcat, part of my job description was to edit the Come-to-Jesus book that he was writing. He was a deacon at his church and spent a fair amount of time in company meetings excoriating the theory of evolution.
None of this particularly bothers me and I doubt that what Ethan describes would, either. What is a problem, of sorts, is that these are emblematic of larger issues. In the office at Wildcat, I one of a minority (roughly 1/3) that did not go to a particular church. At FalStaff I am one of a third that is not Mormon. In both cases, a lot of socializing is done at church and in a sense morality is defined by allegiance to the ideals of their respective churches. Preference at FalStaff seems to be given to what I call Good Soldiers, those that are living by the Temple’s timetable. Wildcat had the same insider-outsider mentality.
But here’s the rub: I think that there’s a case to be made that such things increase cohesiveness. Part of me resents the setup that works against my advantage, but another part of me sees its virtue. There’s something to be said for a group that works and plays (or works and prays) together. So the question, I guess, is in what ways can unity be fostered without alienating those that think differently?
I drive the freeway every day and often see Covenant Transport semis. They’re somewhat religious in nature, both by their name and their “It’s a life, not a choice” bumper stickers. While I think it quirky and odd, I also wonder what right those of us that dissent have to tell someone what to do with their company. It’s a choice, after all, to work in one place or another. I’m in a bit of a jam myself because there aren’t very many secular employers in the area (which ward one belongs to is actually asked on some job interviews. It’s assumed that you belong to a ward just as it is assumed - often erroneously - that if you make a reference to “the kids” you are talking about your biological children and not your step-children. However, when you answer that you don’t belong to a ward, I’m willing to bet it doesn’t help your job prospects there). But it was our choice to live in Deseret, however temporarily.
But the problem that I have, being a non-Mormon in Mormonland, is not so easily alleviated for people who are devoutly non-Christian. Particularly true for those that are conspicuously something else. I may not like Paige a whole lot, but I can’t really dismiss the discrimination that she endures because of her religious choices. They can’t just move out of a particular state, they would have to go to Canada were every company allowed to hire only likeminded individuals.
But on the other hand, FalStaff did hire. And they did so presumably knowing that I was not a member of the brethren. And I think that they would have even if the law didn’t require it.
So I’m not completely convinced of my own victimhood, here.
My interview at FalStaff was an interesting one primarily because after asking me only a couple very basic questions about my background, they spent the rest of the time talking about the company and the job.
They were outdone earlier today by Deseret Power, who managed a 40-minute interview without asking a single question about me. Nothing about my skillset, nothing about my experience. Not a word about the previous jobs I’ve held, not a word about what I am looking for in a job. The only question I was asked was whether or not I had any questions about the company or the job.
This is more than I was asked the last time I was up for a position at this company. Last time I was up for a position at this company, there was no interview. Only a job offer.
And over and over again I am told that DP is one of the two best employers in the area (not including the public sector). Deseret Power, as one might guess, is the local energy company. They run the invaluable nuclear power plant that has keeps Deseret’s capital city going. I would be working in the (of course) Mocum office, though it’s a mobile job with work being done in multiple places. Mostly Mocum, though.
But the job itself sounds absolutely awesome. Better than I could have possibly hoped for. I was expecting to be offered a job I was skeptical of. Instead, I am very interested in a job that I haven’t been offered. I should hear back in a couple of weeks.
It was the easiest interview I ever had.
Whether or not my interview earlier today with Deseret Power was that easy or not depends entirely on whether or not I actually get the job.
it was the first time I had ever been asked pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top to say yes to a job. I’ve felt lucky for every other job I’ve ever gotten. I felt lucky to land the FalStaff job, but in this case the feeling was mutual.
I’ve got a job interview in about an hour-and-a-half. Kinda nervous. I’m not afraid that I won’t get offered a job. I’ve actually accepted the fact that I will probably be at FalStaff for the duration of my stay in Deseret. And I’ve determined that, in the grander scheme of things, this is not such a bad thing. The interview concerns a job I applied for a couple months ago. They’re just now getting back to me. So if I am not offered a job, there’s no real loss.
I’m afraid of being put on the spot. Last time I was a candidate for a position with these people, they asked that I make a decision and start right away. I usually like a full day to think these things over. Ordinarily I would have spent the last day or two (since the interview was set up) thinking it over, except one thing: I have no idea what the job is. The job title is pretty vague and I applied for a handful of jobs with this organization. If it’s a pemanent 9-5 job in IT, then I will probably take it. But if it isn’t permanent or it isn’t from 9-5, I don’t know. The last time I was a candidate they were hiring 7 people for 3 positions and going to let the best performer win. I’m also worried I’ll be put on phones. I’m not a phone person.
A few other things:
I came to work today dressed in a tie and suspenders. My boss Willard asked what the occasion was. I told him that I had a dentist appointment at 2. So that’s the running joke.
After I declined their last job offer, they offered the position to no less than two coworkers. Edgar declined, but Jarvis works there now.
There used to be a guy that worked here name Marlon, who got an offer at the organization about to interview me after only a couple weeks. I’m less excited at the prospect of seeing him again as I am Jarvis.
I’m moving all the stuff off my HD today, just in case it’s my last day. Last time they wanted me to start right away.
Simon is excited for me. He thought I really should have taken them up last time, even if it was a gamble. When I asked why he wasn’t applying for work there, he said that he was concerned about the drug testing. When I asked when he would no longer be at risk for coming up at the wrong end of a drug test, he said that it wasn’t how he would score right now that concerned him because he’s dry at the moment, it’s just that he doesn’t want to have to stay that way.
The application asks if you have ever done any illegal substances, and they single pot out. I’m really hoping they don’t make me take a lie-detector test.
This is really something that parents should bring up with their kids. Even if they don’t get caught, they will be foregoing employment opportunities in the future. I’ve had to pass on a couple because they did do polygraph tests.
In a way it would almost be a shame to leave FalStaff right now. I’m 3/4 the way finished with a project that will get scrapped when I leave, and I’ve never had a better situation socially.
On the other hand, there’s a couple of managerial decisions made around here that have me less comfortable than before. A wrong person got a promotion that wasn’t a promotion until it was a promotion. Supervisors should never be appointed by default. Even assistant supervisors.
This is not intentional. For the second morning in a row, I got up at 4 without intending to.
You know that scene in sitcoms and family stand-up comic routines wherein the wife says that she heard something and sends her underwear-clad husband armed with a baseball bat? Well, it’s the nineties and I’m a little atypical, I guess, so the story is a bit different. Clancy was up till 4 in the morning working on Electronic Health Records when the Internet went down. She crawled in to bed and muttered something about it. I was not sleeping very deeply - too much caffeine too late at night- and so it woke me up. Instead of “take the baseball bat and see what that noise I just heard was” it was “Network is down.”
Now Clancy is considerably smarter than I am, but unfortunately computers are not so much her strongsuit. While the words “network” and “internet” may mean two different things to me, they’re the same to her. As I had spent much of the weekend working on the network, I was quite concerned about it being down. I was relieved when I discovered it was the Internet because that meant it was probably not my fault. So anyway, I stumbled out of bed and was preparing to recycle the router or something when the net came back up on its own. I let her know it was back up. Repeat process half an hour later when it went down again.
Not sure why, I just get a bit of a kick out of the idea of being rustled out of bed to fix the net. Comes with being only a couple-years married, I guess. May not be as amusing a year from now.
So then this morning I get up a bit rougher than usual. Spend longer in the shower than usual. Feel like complete crap. Having gone to bed at a bit after midnight, I figured the less than six hours of sleep I had was taking its toll. I knew it was less than six hours, but I did not know that it was four. Not sure how, but my clock jumped ahead a couple hours over the night. Either that or I got up to the phone ringing and my alarm has yet to go off. There was a message on the answering machine this morning. Didn’t listen to it because it didn’t register with me that it was blinking until I was on the road. If so, Clancy’s about to get a surprise. In any event, the first time I saw a clock with the correct time was when I was on the Interstate, by then it was too late to head back. Or at least I thought it was, because I was dumb.
So here I am. Printing out stuff for a job interview I have tomorrow. More details on that to come, probably.
I’ve never really been a carpe diem sort of guy. Big steps of my life are taken with great care and are inevitably traumatic. It’s just the way I’m built. While my tendency to take a step back before taking a step forward in any direction is that the step back affords me a view that many miss. A brief glimpse at where I was just standing and a slightly larger peripheral vision of the directions to which I can go. With that step back I can see where I’m standing, and with that I can see the sometimes unstable ground on which I have been standing and, unless I move again, I will stand again. In other words, more often than not I can see an untenable situation before the bottom rots out of it. So while quick change is traumatic for me, I am sometimes change’s biggest advocate.
I was discussing Mocum with a coworker the other day. Mocum is the relatively small, staunchly Mormon town that I work in, roughly 30 miles away from the town I live in, half the size, and with twice the religious fervor. Needless to say, I much prefer Fort Beck and Zarahemla, where I spend my non-working hours. Mocum is assuredly a pleasant enough place. Mocum was once used in a horror movie as the idyllic little town a mean old serial killer stalked (haven’t seen the movie, but plan to). The bathrooms in the rest stop are impeccably clean. I can think of nowhere better to raise children, so long as you’re Mormon.
For those that are not, though, it does not lead itself to a particularly happy existence. Most of my coworkers live in Mocum and more than a few are either lapsed Mormons or have never been religious. The non-Mormons tend to congregate together. Nowhere else on the planet do atheists and born-agains have so much in common. My partner Simon, his former roommate Melvin, Melvin’s current roommate Adam, are all in this predicament. All three come from Mormon families so they have to treat ever-more-lightly in order to avoid causing family strife.
We were talking the other day about the lack of job opportunities in Mocum for people with a Computer Science degree. I commented, “But isn’t the point of a computer science degree to get out of Mocum?”
They laughed, but I’m not sure they truly got the joke. Melvin plans to move to Acropolis, but we’re not sure how he’s going to do it since he’s not saving money. Adam, who was the one originally lamenting the lack of opportunity in Mocum, has decided that when he pays off his truck he’s going to get a better truck. Nevermind that the payments will keep him in Mocum for another five years. Simon is building a house in the area and plans to finish up college here someday. But all three absolutely swear they’re going to get out at the first opportunity. I guess their definition of “first opportunity” is a bit different than mine.
For all of my caution, the idea of fritting away my twenties in a town like Mocum would snap me right out of it. I spent most of my twenties in big city Colosse, so I can afford to fritter away some of it here. But the twenties are the time t0 be moving around, to land wherever it is where you want to be so that you can settle down (or not, if you prefer not). I want to smack them over the head and say “Get out while you still can!”
Once Simon gets his house built, I have difficulty imagining him leaving. Instead, I see Simon and Paige raising her children here indefinitely, complaining the whole time about the “oppressive culture” and conservative dominance. I see Melvin sticking around, too, once he gets an inevitable promotion at work to a job that can’t be matched elsewhere (or at least it will seem that way). Adam… I don’t know Adam enough to know for sure, but he seems to be missing the point between A (Mocum) and C (out of Mocum) that involves saving up and foregoing a better vehicle.
I guess when you’re born and raised in a particular area, the idea of leaving becomes that much more difficult. It was really tough for me to leave Colosse and had I never met Clancy it’s unlikely that I ever would have. It’s just tragic for me to see unhappy people make decisions that will guarantee future unhappiness. How do you convince these people that not only do things not have to be this way in the abstract, but they don’t have to be this way six months from now with the right planning?
It’s sort of a tragedy of my generation, I guess, and of those the decade under me age-wise. Particularly since the economy started cratering in the early decade, there is a sense of helplessness. Unhappiness has become something to be explained, rather than something to be corrected.
A week or two back Ethan wrote about a subject that has unfortunately become significant to me. The issue is ownership of our product.
A couple of days ago I screwed up at work. Big time.
Edgar did a report that I’ve come to call The Poison Pill. To say that it was riddled with errors would be a vast understatement. The copycheckers (proofreaders) apparently missed the errors. So did I. One rather egregious error was caught by Legal Standards and Compliance.
It was something that never should have gotten through. A casual look at the report would have revealed two mutually-exclusive variations of the same paragraph that were not in the template. It was so bad that a meeting was called and new policies implemented. If you’ve never known the feeling of twenty people called into a room to mitigate an error you made, I wouldn’t recommend it. They singled nobody out, but I knew why we were there.
The interesting thing to me, however, was how Edgar and I reacted differently. We are, I guess, equally culpable. Something with a mistake like that never should have left his next nor mine. Yet Edgar’s reaction was absolutely soaked with resentment. Mistakes happen. The copycheckers should have found it. Why was everyone singling him out? He’s not the only person to make a mistake. When he passed it through again, he included the notation: THE ONLY ERROR IN THE DOCUMENT HAS BEEN CORRECTED. The implied continuation (as I read it, anyway) was “Happy now?”
I, meanwhile, reacted with horror. Yes, yes, it should have been caught by the copycheckers and it should have been caught by Edgar, but if I had caught it, none of this would have been happening. There was really no excuse.
This was all compounded when it was passed through a second time and sent back by LSC with a plethora of other errors. The entire document was poisonous. When I went through it a third time, I found a handful of other mistakes. Edgar has never been the pinnacle of competence (ergo I should have looked it over a lot more closely than I did), but what took me back was how unapologetic he was about the whole thing.
What it comes down to, I think, is a different sort of division of responsibility. In his mind, it was 10% his fault, 10% mine, 10% the copycheckers, and 70% that-sort-of-thing-just-happens. My division was 100% my fault, 100% his, and 100% the copycheckers. Yeah, that’s 300%, but any one of us could have stopped the mistake from occuring.
Reminds me, a bit, of a sign I’ve seen every now and again:
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
I’ve simply got to start doing a better job.
The company, to its credit, is looking at this as a process problem. Previous companies I’ve worked for would be taking scalps at this point. I would already be looking for new work. The bad news is that our department is more-or-less on problation at the moment. It will be a while before all this is forgotten. The good news is that they’re looking for ways to improve the situation. And personally, I’ve lost whatever halo I had. The defects in the quantity of my work were pointed out a couple weeks ago. The defects in quality were pointed out this past week. I probably lost the raise I had been working to get. On the other hand, so far QA (ie me) seems to have gotten a pass. We might get a good talking to tomorrow when Simon gets to work.
Let me tell you, I am really enthusiastic about finding out…
Simon, Martin, Charlie, and I were talking about the new dress code the other day. I took the unpopular position that our dress code was arguably too lax before they relaxed it. I’ll justify this at another time, but it’s important to note that I was on my high horse so that you know what they knocked me of off.
There seemed to be little consensus what the dress code ought to be. Kirk and Martin more-or-less supported “anything goes” unless someone important is supposed to be in the office that day. Simon, however, said that all that mattered to him was consistency. He said that it bothered him when people would wear sneakers with their slacks, but now that we work in jeans they were okay. In addition to singling out sneakers, he singled out workboots.
Naturally, he knew I was wearing workboots. I wear them to work every day. By “workboots” I mean steel-toed safety boots. The funny thing is that I own my various steel-toed boots not just to wear at work, but specifically for work. Not only that, but the pair I was wearing was purchased by work, some time ago.
I got my first pair when I was in high school. I got a job as a receptionist at Snippity-Snip, a national haircutting chain. Without thinking, I showed up my first day to work in a pair of black tennis shoes. They were inconspicuous, but they were deemed inappropriate for work. Now, I wear abnormally large shoes, so selection is somewhat limited. I stumbled across a pair of steel-toed boots at Academy that were the only non-tennis shoes I could find that I would still be able to stand up in all day.
I fell in love with them instantly. I don’t know why, but they seemed to suit me perfectly. It was neat to be able to walk in an inch of water without incident. I could also kick doors open, which with the heatswell in the south is not insignificant. I wore them until the sol was so ripped that it pinched my feet and I couldn’t walk in a millimeter of water without getting wet.
Not long after that, I used to work for Wildcat, an engineering and fabrication plant for oil refinery equipment. As you might imagine, I worked in the office. There was a shop outside. For insurance reasons, they would buy one pair of steel-toed boots per year. Once I was able to find them (I love you, Internet), I was completely set.
Now, in a just world, I would have been able to say all this during the discussion. Up until that point, it had never occured to me that workboots were inappropriate for the office place. It was like cowboy boots in that one of the things I liked about them was that they were appropriate for just about anything — though mom didn’t like that I wore them to church and I figured she had a point I switched to my biker boots, which are completely inconspicuous under slacks. Except, of course, to Mom.
You can look at the menu but you just canít eat
You can feel the cushions but you canít have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool but you canít have a swim
You can feel the punishment but you canít commit the sin Howard Jones, “No One Is To Blame”
Apparently, I didn’t get very good sleep last night.
You know when you drink tons of caffeine, smoke lots of cigarettes, or otherwise take a whole lot of stimulants, and your sleep suffers for it?
That’s how I feel, except that I didn’t take stimulants.
This makes me kind of angry in a couple ways. First is that I’m tired, which means that my work is going less slowly and I’m less friendly than I otherwise would be. Second, dag nabbit, is that if I’m going to wake up feeling this way, at the very least I want the benefit of having smoked the cigarettes, consumed the caffeine, and all that.
David St. Lawrence has a couple of posts on the subject of living with someone else’s lies. The only situations where I have been involved in the lies of others have been where I had unchecked loyalty to the liar. This is most notably true for the various infidelities my best friend had while in a specific, problematic, relationship. While the most “honorable” thing to do might have been to give voice to the lies, my sense was that the relationship was the source of the problem and so I tried to guide him out of the relationship. It worked to the extent that, as far as I know, he’s not had a faithfulness problem since.
But while I didn’t have a problem living with someone else’s lie, I did have a problem living with someone else’s secret.
My good friend Tony had been in a funk and it showed. It started when he told his girlfriend Julie that he did not intend to get married again. This was not a popular decision with anybody. I should have recognized at that point that the real problem wasn’t the lack of marriage, but the amibivalence that seemed to come with it. In a nutshell: “I won’t get married, Julie. Whether we stay together or not is up to you.” Had I recognized that, I wouldn’t have been trapped in a conversation that took place shortly thereafter.
I did say that while I was disappointed that they wouldn’t get married, I was more concerned as to why. I was trying to get him to think about how much he cared for her and to realize that it might be worth humoring her on this issue. Instead, I inadvertantly got to the heart of the matter.
“The truth is that I’m not happy, and I think Julie has something to do with it.”
Instead of using his love for her to get him to reconsider the marriage decision, I’d gotten him to reconsider his love for her by way of his marriage decision. Well not just me, but everyone that he had been butting heads with on this particular decision. In any case, it all came out.
He wasn’t happy. There were these sort of problems with Julie that couldn’t be defined. The relationship had a sort of “plastic” feel. It may have been well-sculpted, but it simply wasn’t alive. In fact, sometimes it felt like after being with her for almost four years, he didn’t really know who she was when she wasn’t trying to please somebody else.
It was devestating in its familiarity. Even more than he did, I knew that their relationship was doomed. He was asking all the same questions that I was — two months before I left.
It felt like I was in the eye of a hurricane. The first wind was the marriage. Right then was the calm of the false agreement. The second, coming wind was going to take the whole house down. Julie was gearing up for Marriage Discussion II when the next discussion was going to be Justify This Relationship. And every bit of discontent she uses to try to get him to change his mind of the piece of paper was going to be hurled back at her as a reason they should part ways.
For the next couple weeks I talked to Julie as she strategized on the marriage issue. I listened to her wonder aloud if there were problems that she wasn’t grasping and then listened to her dismiss those thoughts as paranoid.
Then the hammer fell. I had to feign a supportive tone and pretend not to know what I knew. I couldn’t even tell her everything was going to be alright because I knew that for the first time in a decade, she was going to be without somebody (Tony came right after me and I came right after someone else). And making it even harder, it was going to be for the exact same reasons that I left. I couldn’t even go on the offensive against Tony.
All I could do was sit there and listen to her heart break, listen to her try to assess the situation with a positive spin, listen to her search for one reason after another why everything could still turn out okay. The whole time the song “I know something you don’t know” garbling in the back of my head.
The first most difficult mini-secret was when I had to have a two-hour conversation with Julie, during which I couldn’t tell her that when she got home from work, Tony and all of his things would be gone. The second most difficult was when she was still trying to find a reason to hope and I couldn’t tell her that he had moved back in with his ex.
The situation was most difficult, of course, for Julie and Tony. But I tend to think that I took the bronze.
According to a USA Today article (pointed out by CT), stereotypes about nations have little basis in reality. That’s all find and good, but they ruined the joke:
Heaven, the joke goes, is a place where the police are English, the mechanics German and cooks French. Hell is where the police are German, the mechanics French and the cooks English.
I ran across a different and better variation of this joke a while back. There is a picture out there, but I’ll be danged if I can find it. Anyway, it goes like this.
The French are the cooks
The English are the police
The Italians are the lovers
The Germans run everything
The English are the cooks
The French are the police
The Germans are the lovers
The Italians run everything
The picture of the opera singer “fat lady” for the German lover and the mobster for the Italian running everything were absolutely priceless. The joke is lost without them, in my view.
On a side note, I absolutely loved this part of the article:
Poles knew themselves the best. “They have a fairly unpleasant description of themselves,” McCrae says. “They think they’re high in emotional instability, disagreeable and introverted. And they do measure up to some degree in those traits.”
Poor Poles. Even when they’re right, it’s only about how difficult they are.
For example, Americans think they are very low on agreeableness but high on assertiveness. It turns out they are close to average in terms of being agreeable and only slightly higher than the global average in assertiveness.
Canadians, who famously see themselves as very unassertive and agreeable, ended up looking almost exactly like Americans.
I am going to forward this to everyone I know in Canada. Pronto.
Posting kinda trailed off since Wednesday, but this time (and this time only) I’ve got an excuse:
My mother-in-law is in town.
The ability of Clancy and her mother to both be talking simultaneously about two different things and yet follow exactly what the other is saying just astonishes me.
And wears me out.
Anyhow, they’re headed over to Capital City for some recreation time, so I actually get the place to myself until tomorrow night. I’ve gotten caught up on comments and will get to email later on. I’ll probably write up some drafts for posts, but may delay putting them up until next week as I like to not post so much on the weekends.
Except this post. The exception that proves the rule.
I’m only barely coherent, so forgive any goofiness either here or in the comments.