Old Friends

Dear J-

I just ran into someone on the train I hadn’t seen for months — not since the day after the Giants won the Series, late October then. He’d showed up drunk as anything, vowing revenge on his coworkers for not supporting the Giants and talking fifty different kinds of trash and forever all day but I couldn’t help but think that it was a terrible idea to be heading in to work that impaired, for fun or not, on vacation or not. He’s working a different job now — not surprised — and if that’s a story strictly to save face then so be it; it’s not my job to check veracity or believability here. I’ll say this: it’s believable enough and that’s fine too.

The assertion is that you don’t quit jobs, you quit bosses and at the moment I’m my own boss, which is somewhat frightening. What do I do to get away from this guy, anyway? I’ve reached a point in my career where I’m that most dreaded of all individuals, a middle manager, put on earth solely to cause grief for the immediate layers around me: transmit forces from above, suppress feelings from below and I’m not so sure what to do that will remedy that situation. I’m probably not smart enough for that anyway, but there are metrics and tools to measure job performance and it’s another system to be learned and mastered, right? Let’s start there. We can get this.

Sometimes I wonder what grades meant, whether it was more about being polite than spirited, manageable and docile while learning that system, or to see how social orders were arranged and arraying yourself accordingly, measuring up to the different ways they use to measure progress. It’s like learning how to take a test in order to do better, not necessarily what’s on the test but using the system to your advantage. And then I wonder if that’s smart at all or just cheating but those sorts of things are better left to long, contemplative nights when there’s nothing on the television but old faces and familiar ways.



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