None of this is real, right? I’m just making it up as I go, imagining?
Monday. I’m turning photos of receipts from Boom Burger right-side-up and saving them as pdfs because our people in the field apparently can’t do this themselves and the company still handles expenses as if we live in an age where faxes and Xerox machines are cutting edge technology. Cognitive malevolence. A scraggly-haired clerk in a 7-Eleven on the outskirts of Richmond said this partly to me and mostly to his uncooperative cash register as he tried to ring up the snacks and gas I was buying for my three-hour drive through a Virginia summer night back to what was then home after visiting my dad. This was years ago, maybe ten. I remember the warm, humid night, remember the mosquitoes assaulting me as I filled the tank and washed the windows with blue-black water and a dirty squeegee, remember stepping in to that windowed box of stale-smelling fluorescence to grab a snack and pay, and I remember cognitive malevolence. That’s what I think of now.
Tuesday. The big boss man is in there talking loudly on the phone (speaker) with his old business partner about … business. The market, revenue, profit, leverage, accountability, scalability, drivability, movability, readability, squeezability—wait, what? I can more hear him reclining in his chair, looking off into business space than I can see him. I don’t need to. The news says a man went to the office where he works downtown today and shot his boss in the stomach and head before then killing himself. This is Chicago so some commenters on the articles I read when I heard about this awfulness immediately and instinctively turned it into a race thing until it was brusquely pointed out that everyone involved was white and it was downtown so how could it have been gang (i.e., black) stuff. Then it was even more of a race thing, as if it wasn’t bad enough already. I bring this idiocy upon myself but I can’t help glancing at comments—they show me that wide, too-wide, swath of society inclined to say and argue about the dumbest shit imaginable in that quasi-public sphere the internet provides to clash or connect with complete strangers in the charged space of relative anonymity. Meanwhile, speaking of race things and business and dumb shit, I’ve been watching videos of Kanye West talking his crazy talk because somehow that feels appropriate in this context and I just can’t concentrate on either work or thought with all this swirling around. It occurs to me that business is a variety of crazy—institutionalized, organized, socio-economic—whereas crazy is Kanye’s business, and he makes a killing off of it. It’s entrancing, in that repulsive, baffling, speechlessness-inducing kind of way, fitting right in with everything else and my day is complete.
Wednesday. The Important Person demonstrates its unparalleled importance with impunity. One way of doing this is to express extreme dismay and irritation at being left out of the loop, or the ring of fire, or the circle of trust, or whatever it wants to be firmly planted in the center of (the universe, let’s say). Today, for example, the Important Person complains it knows nothing about a project that has been going on for months with detailed updates provided at regular intervals. This is not new—the Important Person issues this complaint, in fact, to any and all within ear- and email-shot every time it gets one of these updates, incredulous, as if each time is the first time. You and your fellow un- to moderately-important people would surely like to explain that there’s a big difference between not knowing what’s going on and not remembering or understanding what you’ve been repeatedly told but, being short on importance, you have to swallow both pride and common sense and roll with that punch. But the Important Person is not done, not when it has you on the ropes like this. Right in the middle of your week, it defies all that is rational and sane (and possible) and gives the following order, in the following order: provide a progress update, stop working, and don’t tell me anything until it’s done. Huh? Wait, stop, I want to know what you’re doing, don’t do anything, keep doing something, don’t tell me anything about what you’re not doing until you’re finished (not) doing it. This madness is sometimes referred to in certain loops, rings, and circles as “leadership.”
Thursday. Dollars to donuts, this is mission critical and we better relook before we do too much interfacing because, to my mind, we might not have the bandwidth to generate more takeaways on this strategy path. Less is more, but at the end of the day, we need another layer of granularity around what that means, maybe some rightsizing, because old tools won’t get you new value, old tools won’t get you to a new place. We better retool the old tools to get new value because the old tools won’t cut it and we need to accelerate value with some new phrase-ology, moving us along the continuum of improvement (with new tools). TY, Thx, tx (how do you pronounce that?). Tap tap tap, click click click, nod nod nod.
Friday. First thing in the morning. A conference call is about to start. While we’re waiting to dial in, they, the big boss man, the Important Person, and a relatively important minion, say a worker shot himself at the airport and started a fire in the control tower in the process. They all laugh, yuk yuk yuk yuk. How comical, they can see it now, probably playing through their minds like a Marx Brothers skit, absurd and wacky, full of goofy sound effects. The incident forced the airport to shut down entirely, disrupting thousands of flights, possibly billions or gazillions, depending on your sources. Yuk yuk. Well he’ll be in a world of trouble… wait, yuk yuk, no he won’t! Yuk yuk yuk! Hardy har har! We assume he’s dead and don’t know the real story at all and gosh damn ain’t that funny how he blew up the control tower killing himself! What a dope! All flights canceled till noon, at least, at a major international airport,one of the busiest in the world. What’s the economic impact of that, one of them wonders. How much money do you think he caused airlines to lose, and the companies all those passengers work for? That’s the first un-comical thought. That.
Friday night. Finally. Wind-swept and chilly after a fully autumnal day of wet and wind and cloud. I drove past still-leafy trees that swayed and bowed and rolled with the gusts, thinking soon leafless, they’ll only jitter and quake. Home now, I wonder what the world is up to; it feels like I’ve been away, held captive on the nightmarishly absurd Isle of Boring and Crazy and Sad and now normal feels weird. Some of it (the world) I can see and hear from my window—lights near and far, the street below, not so distant sirens, the heavy old brick building across the street where people never pull back their curtains even though their windows get direct sunlight. I never understood that. Then my imagination starts to show me one of those cinematic sequentials where you get a flashing glimpse of so many scenes and lives that it has the effect of a blended general humanity, a full panoramic sampling of us. Some is given to the imagination, the rest is suggested, implied, there. You fill in the gaps with what you know and think, leaving some empty just because. I wonder who’s sad, who’s in love and who’s making it, who’s laughing, who’s fighting, why, and with whom. I wonder who’s afraid and what of and if they ever think they’ll come out alive. I wonder who’s out with friends ordering a meal at a new restaurant and who’s cooking dinner like they always do and who’s staring out their window thinking the same things as me, maybe writing them too. Each of these vignettes a story or more for telling, flying past in no order at all, blurry and fast. Lots are alive, I think, lots more are dead, and plenty don’t know either way. Here we are, we try to say. I wonder who’s lonely too.
Saturday morning. I slept it off. Just a bad dream, all in my head. That’s a relief. Now I can get down to my real business of eating pancakes and finishing some of these damn stories.