September 11, 2000
Crissed as a Picket


The atmosphere in the Subaru, driving to work this morning, was slightly more subdued than usual.

"Slightly more subdued," of course, is relative. David was in full Crocodile Dundee mode, blathering on and on about wallabees and vegamite and "marsupial penguins." ("'Ere in the outback, we call 'em 'guins,'" he said, in his big dumb faux-Aussie accent.) I suspect that we're going to be hearing a lot of this sort of silliness, over the course of the next few weeks ... or for at least as long as Matt & Katie & the gang are broadcasting The Today Show from *Down Under.*

But all silliness aside, it was clear that neither one of us wanted to be sitting in that car, heading for our respective offices, and for whatever ghastly Monday morning fate(s) awaited us.

Today is David's first day in his groovy new managerial position at the newspaper, for one thing. While we're thrilled to pieces that he is finally getting the professional recognition he deserves -- personally, *I* think they should be measuring him for that crown and scepter, even as we speak -- we're less-than-thrilled with the poopy way it all came about. (But this is actually HIS story to tell. And I'm going to let him tell it, on his website or via his beloved message boards or however/wherever he wants to tell it. All I will say is that he was railroaded into taking a "promotion" that will actually mean LESS money than he was making in sales, and that sucks some of the *grooviness molecules* out of the whole thing, if you ask me.)

As we drove into Oakland this morning, he was experiencing major "First Day on the New Job" jitters.

My sense of foreboding was a little more generalized. Franz returns to the office today, after his five-day backpacking vacation last week, and I have absolutely zero idea what to expect. Will he be rested and relaxed? Will he be smiling? Will he say, 'Wow, it's really great to be back' ... and then pass out little Yosemite Park souvenir snowglobes as gifts?

Or will he dump the contents of his briefcase onto the middle of my desk, order me to get all seven office managers into the conference room in five minutes (including the guy who died last year) and send my Nach Hundertwasser poster crashing to the floor again, as he slams his way out of my office?

There is simply no way to predict. Nor to prepare. It's like being tied to a railroad track in a beautiful new Louis Feraud suit: you know you look like a bazillion bucks ... but that sooner or later you're gonna be road pizza, just the same.

To *my* eye, everything looked just fine when I left the office for the weekend. Everything looked perfect, as a matter of fact. I labored mightily, every day last week while Franz was gone, to stay on top of all incoming mail, faxes, e-mail, phone calls, schedule changes, company memos, voicemail messages. I intercepted as much of the crap-communication as possible, before it even landed in his airspace: no seminar brochures, or Christmas Card catalogs, or voicemail messages from annoyingly nasal salespeople asking if Franz is thinking about changing his long distance carrier. And I "logged" the living fudk out of everything: nothing got past my desk and onto Franz' desk without a date stamp, an authorization signature, a minimum of four photocopies on file and a teeny-tiny tracking device, embedded into the subject heading.

While he was gone, I took copious notes at all staff meetings and transcribed them into clear, concise minutes ... replete with lots of       white       space       and BIG BOLD SUBJECT HEADINGS and

  • teeny
  • tiny
  • rows of
  • extraneous bullets ...

... just the way he likes them.

I rearranged all of the paper piles on his desktop. (I didn't actually remove anything. That's a lesson I learned the hard way, last spring. But I did make it look like someone had thoughtfully and painstakingly reviewed each and every fax, memo and Japanese take-out menu ... even if all she really did was move the new stuff to the top of the pile and move the old stuff to the bottom of the pile.)

I polished his coffee cup. I Windexed his conference table. I oiled his squeaky door hinges. I emptied his pencil sharpener. I renewed his subscription to "Hot Mix Asphalt Technology Monthly."

I even came back to the office briefly Friday afternoon, after the stoopid "Self-Discipline and Emotional Control" seminar, just to make sure that his air conditioning was turned off and his door was locked, and to scoop up any last-minute mail, and to switch his voicemail message over from *Totally Incomprehensible Vacation-Franz Message* to *Totally Incomprehensible Regular-Franz Message.*

In short: I achieved new levels of organization and competence. God Himself would probably hire me to be His SecraTerri.

(God: "Umm ... only if you promised not to spit in my coffee.")

But none of this matters, of course.

It doesn't matter that I did everything I was expected to do, as an Executive Ass. It doesn't matter that I did a lot of extra stuff I wasn't expected to do. It doesn't even matter that I did most of it perfectly. Because Franz will waltz into the office this afternoon ... cranky, cussing, complaining a blue streak ... and he will immediately spot the one *disorganization molecule* in the entire Totem Pole office.

"What's this?" he will say, frowning. And he'll walk over to the dwarf schleffera and pinch off one teeny-tiny, slightly-yellow leaf, drooping from a branch at the very very bottom of the plant. He will then give me a look that says I go away for a week and THIS is what happens?

And then I really WILL be up the gum tree. Crissed as a picket, and nacked as a Poddy dodger in a Dilly-bag.

As they say Down Under.

Peter Cave: "Whut the bloody fudk are you TALKING about?!?"

one year ago: portents

throw a rock