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Monday, November 27, 2006

What Does London Smell Like?

Julie London?

Tween girl: It so smells like London out today.
Hippie chick: What does London smell like?
Tween girl: Really damp.

--10th St & Greenwich

Overheard by: Intimidated by children

via Overheard in New York, Nov 26, 2006

I was walking across a bridge this morning in a very dense fog, and people half way across were disappering into the fog. It reminded me of the old British headline-joke, "Channel fogged in, Continent cut off."

I'm afraid I understand now why my colleagues accomplish so little. I've been working on the same Board presenation for two weeks now, and am scheduled to have it prepared by Thursday for circulation. It would have been done a week ago but for the five meetings I have had to endure to follow up on where I am with my presenation.

Each time I have to have one of these meeting, I need to bring what is a working draft to near-publication-perfection, a process that takes a couple of hours, because my boss and his boss are more focused on style rather than substance.

Me: "What do you want to say?"
Them: "There's an extra line over here."
Me: "Yes, it's a left-over from the last time we changed the table. I will clean it up when we are settled on the content. Now, what do we want to show in the new table?"
Them: "There are also some lines between these cells."

At this point I wish I could do a Tony-Blair during Prime Minister's Questions and say something like, "I refer you to the answer I gave some moments ago." Instead, I spend another two hours discussing how the finished product should look without actually ever getting them to focus on the underlying content. Once they said they were relying on me to decide that, so I did, and they proceded to pick apart every point I put to paper only to put them back together in the same form by the end of the meeting. My colleagues don't accomplish anything because to actually attempt something is to risk plunging yourself into several weeks of this hell. It is much more enjoyable to pretend to work, a lesson I have yet to learn.

We work in a production-oriented company. On the floor or in the shop, nobody would ever think to stop production just to see how it is going. They might take a sample, but the line keeps rolling, because downtime is money. Senior management gets that ... middle management seems to think that working in the middle office is not the same as working in a production environment, and they think nothing about taking me off line five times in three weeks. And this is not a "stop by my office and tell me how things are going" routine ... this is, "please bring us the current version of your presenation."

In the USA, when this sort of thing got hairy, the higher-ups would come by my office and we would brain-storm together. Yes, sometimes they were distracted by lines and colors, and I spent enough time going through the same conversation above to know that I should be careful to whom I showed rough drafts. With these two, there are no rough drafts, ever. And these two won't sit down to kick around ideas. Yes, It's nice to think they might have such confidence in me, but then their insecurities comes out like a tidal wave when we finally do sit down.

And so I cross the bridge into another day in the fog. And then I arrive home to several e-mails that tell me there is still life out there.

The first was from an old (girl) friend, who asks what I'm up to for New Year's and reminding me of the year we stayed up way past all of our friends talking until sunrise. At one point I handed her another drink, which she immediately dropped. She mentioned that she was amazed that I didn't get mad or anything, that I simply asked her if she'd like another. Always there with another drink, that's why the ladies always liked me, eh?

My two favorite former interns took a few moments in their hectic schedules to say hi and tell me what they are up to. It is so nice to know you have positively influenced someone's life, nicer still when they actually tell you so, even better when they don't have to.

And finally, one from a consulting firm in London asking if I am still interested in working for them. Incredible timing, this one. I wonder if I can credibly explain why, after two months marking time and banging my head in this organization, they should consider me as anything but flaky for wanting to jump ship to them.

So, gentle reader ... What would you say in this situation?


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