Posts Tagged ‘week’

Mid Week

18 May 2011

Dear J-

When I worked for Worldcom (in those days MCI Worldcom; does anyone remember Microwave Communications International today?) our presence in Sacramento was split into three distinct locations: White Rock in Rancho Cordova, our office at Creekside Oaks, and the terminal close to West Sac. What struck me was the families you’d see — husbands and wives, sisters and brothers — working around those three places, the casual way you’d let slip that so-and-so was your husband out at the terminal or that your new manager was his sister coming from the tech center. Not unusual and actually encouraged — they offered a recruitment bonus to employees who got employees on board and who better than your unemployed, lazy brother who might otherwise be a productive member of society?

There’s the same feeling where I am now in that there is what seems like some long-running soap opera of whole families being forged out of long hours at work and after work. You have to remember that we have a large contingent of 20+ year veterans of original construction on site and given that you spend nearly half your waking life at work it’s only natural to assume that you’d be getting to know those folks. People come and go but you end up seeing the same faces over and over again, whether separated by weeks or years, it seems once you’re part of the family it feels like the Family — in the Mob sense. Together they comprise a good chunk of the last twelve years of my life — my entire working life — and I’m sure that’s shaped me in ways I can’t begin to suspect.

If I had gone to work for smaller companies or myself I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am today — the uncertainty would be killing me and the security of the big company has been quite helpful though stifling. I wouldn’t have learned the lessons of loyalty and family I saw — I see — in my waking life. If I stayed the course in academia I would see the world differently just based on the people you come to meet — schools are generally filled with bright young students and I’ve not seen that everywhere I’ve gone, for good and bad (academic engineering demands you understand why the solution works, while practical engineering emphasizes repeatability and effort). It has been as great an education as I could find everywhere and I’m grateful to have had the chances I have had.

Mike

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Rambling Man

7 August 2010

Dear J-

As if to tell me that it’s not quite over, this particular week, I sliced my finger open on the can while feeding the cats.  The tally this week has been staggering if I think about it:  missing my cousin on Sunday, denting the van on Tuesday, breaking the computer on Thursday, and yesterday, both running over (and destroying) a memory card and then finding out that I’d lost my iPod that I’d carefully loaded with music and books for the trip (this I hope I just managed to leave at work and not, as I suspect, dropped somewhere in those fifty miles in between).  And then I start to feel sorry for myself before I know it:  I sulked yesterday evening and dreamed of ways to justify making a quick run north to check and retrieve, if necessary.

Really, though, I’m pretty lucky — hey, I’ve got stuff to lose, and I can always replace those things — and I made it a point to remind myself of that today.  I’m headed off to Alabama in the morning on a business trip and I kept ticking off little last things in my head:  last time I get to help put figgy to bed for nearly a week, last time to laugh at some antic, last time I carry a sleeping child out of a car, last time last time last time pays for all.  I’m looking forward to the mental reset, and I’ve got a room on the road to recharge but those little last times keep intruding in my head.

Mike

Size Class

11 March 2010

Dear J-

Back in Washington, the state used to classify school athletics by enrollment; AAA schools had a thousand students or more, AA schools were five hundred to a thousand, and so on until you got to the B schools, whose exact numbers I don’t remember, but I believe were less than a hundred students in the entire high school. The really big schools were all from the major centers — Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and the Tri-Cities — and our town was big enough to support a AA school (I think our exact number was close to eight hundred when you counted in the 9th graders?), And our town was not huge by any stretch — eight thousand people inside the city limits, maybe a total of ten including the borders of the district.

Some of the B schools, though, had to draw from two or more towns to even field teams; that’s where you’d hear of names like Almira-Coulee-Hartline, Tekoa-Oakesdale, or St. John-Endicott (whose St. John contingent called “Emptysquat” to emphasize just how small the town was), and they were all, almost without exception, east of the mountains. This is the background that shapes my perspective; I knew about cities and subways but only as a theoretical exercise; a determined bicyclist could make it across town in fifteen minutes, which led to thoughts of becoming a bicycle messenger in a place with no demand for one.

In comparison the county and corridors we travel (fifty miles of city along I-5) are asprawl with concrete and streetlights; I still goggle at it every so often to remind myself of the St. Johns and Coulee Citys of the world, where time stood still for us one week each summer. With any luck we should be able to find ourselves someplace a world apart yet close in my mind, some time this summer; the unexpected reminders of home are always waiting to ambush my head.

Mike

Facial Rub

7 August 2009

Dear J-

I was so ready for it to be Friday yesterday; I sat around in a stupor, thinking that surely there was some reason I had to go to work today and finally deciding that I can’t exactly complain about having the place run ship-shape, spit-and-polish, decks swabbed and plastic grins plastered across our faces.  One of our supervisors ended up on a midnight to whenever pleased our vice president because of a crisis that consumed our group earlier this week; we were told in no uncertain terms that we would work the hours we were asked or we wouldn’t work, period.

I suppose a crappy job is better than no job; I haven’t described it that way before, but we all have the perception that we’re just spreading stress around, top to bottom, side to side.  If life is about the courtesy you extend to the next guy or gal then we’re failing right now; managers are pounding on subordinates to do more, as we have been for the past year, we’re pouncing on each other for the smallest things.  Yesterday someone did an impression of me, doffing imaginary glasses, screwing up their eyes, and rubbing temples with the left hand, “Hmm … I think that …”  The impression was dead-on, and I’ve thought about it since.

Me injecting some false drama into every question is, I think, some sign that either I’ve reached a limit on my patience or I’m just stalling for time; for someone who was in speech & debate in school, I never seem to be able to get the words out quickly enough over my teeth and out the mouth.  There are days I’m tempted to shift into cryptic Oracle at Delphi mode and pretend a singularly unhelpful answer, but work is hard enough without being a conduit for the stress.  Better, then, to just ball it up inside, I suppose?  Not when it’s just as easy to deflect with a joke or an unexpected smile, sending it glancing off into the distance somewhere.   We’ll get there; we may have lost the map and I don’t know if I respond better to the screaming or the cheerleading, both being equally impossible to think over, but we’re on our way.

Mike

Stretching Exercise

21 May 2009

Dear J-

The weeks are starting to extend themselves into a bit of a blur; we keep working what feels like a whole month’s worth of work in eight hours.  When I reflect on the things I did at the start of the day, they seem like remote mysteries from some ancient past.  This is, of course, not to say that I got a lot done — to the contrary, most days I’m lucky to have kept the deficit between tasks and accomplishments to a manageable level.

Treat things as they come in, then; don’t let them grow to absurd proportions.  I said as much yesterday.  It’s one of those things that you set as what seems like an achievable goal but one you inevitably end up missing in favor of putting the right details in.  Okay, by you I mean me; must be accurate with the man watching in the mirror.  Tasks and weeks both, then, blurring in the rear-view; sometimes I pick up pictures of figgy from not long ago and marvel at how different everything seems.

Stretch your arms around the issues; very few things will escape your grasp if you are ambitious enough.  Acquiring more tasks is entertaining, but how long can you keep those plates spinning on sticks?  When your world contracts on itself and you find yourself having to account for your actions, how proud can you be for having spent all those extra hours at work, instead of on your family?  Priorities shift and so do lives.

Mike