April 13, 2000
Hurricane Franz


In my lifetime I've survived a major earthquake, a near-fatal car accident, burglary, two emergency C-sections, a collapsed ceiling, a volcano, four broken toes, food poisoning, a quadruple root canal, eviction, toxemia, alcoholism, divorce, cyber addiction, and a Mary Kay makeover.  Disasters, natural or otherwise, are nothing new to me.

But until today, I'd never experienced a hurricane.

yeah, i know ... this is a tornado, not a hurricane.

Midway through the morning we started hearing unconfirmed rumors -- or *storm warnings* -- that Franz was headed toward the office.

No one was able to verify this, of course, because no one had actually spoken to him directly in four days. While he continues to deal with a heartbreaking building-contractor crisis at home this week, we here at the TPC have been forced to *communicate* with him through voicemail, faxes to his house and mental telepathy. ("Yo! Franz! What am I thinking, RIGHT NOW!")

So nobody ever really knows for sure where he is. Not even his SecraTerri.

Word that he was finally on his way into the office began circulating around 10 a.m.  "He says he'll be here in an hour," announced the CFO.

This threw my co-workers into a frenzy: they immediately started lining up outside my door, vying for valuable space on his calendar.  We have all learned, from frustrating experience, that when Hurricane Franz blows through the office, he brings approximately eleven *attention molecules* with him. If he uses up his molecules before you get a turn with him ... forget it. You're boned. Your check doesn't get signed/your budget doesn't approved/your project doesn't get initialled/your vacation request doesn't get blessed. So they were standing outside my Isolation Booth, three-deep, like anxious townspeople lining up to buy bottled water and batteries before the big storm hits.

I had my own quiet reason to panic. At that point I was only a third of the way through "Project: Organize Franz," and the truth is I wasn't ready for The Great Unveiling yet.

Mind you: HIS office looked great. It was a thing of beauty, if you ask me, worthy of showroom space at the new Emeryville IKEA store. But my office was still a disaster ... boxes and hanging files and stacks of paper and banana peels everywhere. I didn't want him to look at his office and say, "Wow! This is beautiful! I'm all impressed and amazed and stuff!" ... and then look across the hall and see the recycling repository that *my* office has suddenly/temporarily turned into, and say "Oh. So that's how you did it."

(An Exec Ass needs to maintain some mystique: I don't let him see me staple my blouse together, for pretty much the same reason.)

By noon, though, he still hadn't arrived. Terrified that he might blow through while I was across the street grabbing a sandwich, I sat at my desk, instead, and ate emergency provisions: a stale Health Valley Raspberry Granola Bar and a couple of Penguins.

Shortly after 2 p.m. there was a storm update. "He says he's 'stuck in traffic,' " the Human Resources Director Person reported. ("Maybe the drive-thru clown is out of order again," I suggested solemnly.)

By 4 p.m., the line outside my office had thinned considerably: only a couple of the more desperate engineers were still hanging around, waiting for audience. The storm warning was beginning to look like another false alarm. I decided that I had time to finish tidying up the mess in my office, after all, and I began emptying boxes and stashing folders into file drawers.

By 5 p.m., people were quietly packing up their belongings and sneaking out the back door. (When the cat's away, the mice will leave early. And those who don't are sitting at their desks playing DoomBall.)  I probably would have been one of those sneaking-out-the-back-thirty-minutes-early people ... like the girls in Accounting, or the Sr. Vice President of Marketing ... except that it was one of the nights when David picks me up later than usual.

So I was still sitting there at my desk, trapped and off-guard, at 6 p.m. ... when Hurricane Franz finally touched down.

It would be nice,  for the purposes of good storytelling, if nothing else, to report to you that Franz reacted in either of the following ways to his wonderfully organized "new" office:

  • Stunned, speechless delight, followed by a torrent of heartfelt thanks, praise ("Wow! I can see my floor again!") and promises to give me the next available *window office*
  • Stunned, speechless dismay, followed by a torrent of expletives, invectives ("Where the f**k are my take-out menus?") and threats to toss me OUT OF the next available *window office*

Unfortunately the truth isn't anywhere near as interesting.

Basically he blew into his office ... upended the contents of his bulging briefcase onto his desktop ... grabbed a handful of "Action Items" from his In Box, signed them, and tossed them into *my* In Box ... and then slammed back out of the office, as dramatically and noisily as he slammed in.

His only official comment to me? "I hope you didn't throw anything away." And then he was gone.

I just sat there at my desk for a few minutes, in the aftermath of the storm, stunned into silence. And then I went across the hall to his office ... took a look at the big messy pile of papers and gum wrappers and "napkin notes" he'd thrown onto the middle of his pristine desktop ...

... and began scooping them up for filing.

throw a rock