July 14, 2000
Controlled Burn/Pissing with Gasoline


The Human Resources Director Person and I have registered to attend a CareerTrack seminar together in September ... a one-day workshop fittingly entitled "Self Discipline and Emotional Control."

"Now all we have to do is *control* our emotions until then," she muttered between clenched teeth, as we stood at the fax machine together this morning.

I suspect it's going to be more of a challenge for her, at this point, than it is for me.

Most of her vacation tan has faded. She already looks frazzled and worn. She sits in her office with her door closed and stares vacantly out the window a lot.

I haven't seen her smile since I e-mailed her the Dilbert cartoon last week. (Little corporate doofus holding a cardboard arrow, upside down, says to his boss, "We have a problem. They all point to the right. I need LEFT arrows.")

I want to strap her down and force-feed her some St. John's Wort. But I guess I can't blame her for being depressed.

She spent most of this past week flying around to the various Totem Pole Company offices in Southern and Northern California, putting out the latest Franz-fueled company fires. They're voting another entire office off the Totem Pole -- this time, the office in Colorado -- and a big bunch of people are about to lose their jobs. The HRDP was given the unenviable task of going around and breaking the bad news to everybody this week (since Franz was busy here at home, buying a new planter for the lobby ficus tree).

She would check in from time to time by phone, and I could hear the despair and exhaustion in her voice. "Every single Office Manager is ready to quit," she said yesterday afternoon, when she called from the Burbank airport.

(To paraphrase David: the Totem Pole is on fire ... and Franz is pissing gasoline.)

I feel so sorry for her. I don't believe *I* would be a Human Resources Director Person, for this company, for all the tea in China.  Not even for all the KFC Honey BBQ Chicken Strips in Alameda. Why would I? It's a shidt job. You get zero respect. The hours are hideous. Your tan fades in less than a week. Everybody hates you.

You have to fire people.

Nope. No Human Resources slag work for me, thanks.

I'm having wayyy too much fun right now as the Executive Ass in Charge of Manipulation, anyway.

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Franz is seriously confused these days ... and *I* am largely responsible.

I'll admit it. I've been messing with his head, just for fun.

I am close to perfecting the art of sounding absurdly delighted and surprised whenever he calls in ("HI, Franz!!") ... as though he'd caught me sitting next to my phone, like a dateless sixteen-year-old on Prom night, praying for the sound of his fabulous voice. (Try it! Next time somebody you don't particularly like telephones you, sound all excited to hear from them!  And then enjoy those eleven seconds of stunned silence, on the other end of the receiver.)

I do the same thing face-to-face. When he comes into the office now in the mornings  --  standing there, frowning at me from the doorway  --  I force my face to light up like a Christmas tree  ...  I LEAP out of my chair, all radiant smiles and expectant happy expression ... and I greet him with all the warmth I can manufacture.

How was traffic on the bridge? Did you sleep better last night? Gosh that's a great tie. Can I get you some coffee before your conference call?

The first few times I did this, he was audibly/visibly startled. Was I mistaking him, perhaps, for the Second Coming of Mr. Roy Orbison? Were my glasses malfunctioning? Was I on drugs? But after a while I could tell that he was really beginning to dig all of this adulation. You can see it in his face: he feels it's sort of like having his very own personal fan club.

(Or like having a SecraTerri who actually likes him.)

But my evil, insidious plan goes much deeper than prefab friendliness and random acts of courtesy.

I have begun extending to him all sorts of little kindnesses, without being asked. If I hear him coughing, I bring him another cup of Throat Coat Tea. If I see him struggling with the window blinds, I step in and politely wrestle the cord away from him. ("These are vertical blinds, Franz.") When he is running late, I call the doctor's office and ask them to push the appointment back another twenty minutes. If he is sound asleep and drooling in his chair, I put his phone on DND and quietly shut his office door.

Yesterday I brought him a big hunk of Kerry's cake and a can of orange juice in the middle of the afternoon, because he'd skipped lunch.

I make sure that he always has two working pens and a pad of paper right next to his phone. I check his thermostat several times a day, since the mid-afternoon sun shines directly into his office and it gets hotter than blazes in there. I empty his pencil sharpener, refill his dispenser of antibacterial hand goop and swap out the outdated employee phone number list on his bulletin board with an updated version, as soon as it's distributed. I oil the little round thingies on the bottom of his chair, so it glides more smoothly. I mail his mother a copy of the company newsletter every month.

I say a lot of stuff like "All righty then!" and "No problem!" and "I'll get right on it, Franz!"

I even laugh at his jokes.

He's probably wondering what I'm up to. I'm sure he's wondering if he's going to have to pay me more money, sometime in the not-too-distant future. And meanwhile I'm still quietly growing my savings account, reading the classifieds every weekend, collecting *networking contacts* like they were Pokémon cards ...

... and dreaming about my own eventual leap to safety from the burning Totem Pole.

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So do I feel at all uncomfortable about this little charade of mine? Manipulative, maybe? Morally bankrupt?

Guilty, because my boss is clearly becoming fond of and dependent on me, and I'm merely tolerating him in order to pay my rent and pad my résumé and entertain the *FootNotes* audience?

Yeah, OK. Maybe a little.

But give me a break. This company is unravelling quicker than a pair of K-Mart underpants caught on an outhouse nail. I suspect -- no, I know -- that there will be no more Totem Pole Company in five years. Maybe two and half.

Maybe six months.

I further suspect that I won't give three-tenths of a crap when it all finally, mercifully, inevitably, spontaneously combusts.

I'll be too busy expressing genuine delight when I bring a cup of tea to my groovy new boss ... and he/she actually says "thank you."

Happy weekend, everybody!

throw a rock