June 4, 2002
Banana Days


It's the day after the storm, and we're all wearing our *real* faces again.

Gone are the false, icky smiles and the phony God-I'm-so-incredibly-interested-in-everything-you-have-to-say! body language: in their place, our usual placid/distracted/ever-so-slightly-cranky expressions. Gone, too, are the neckties and the uncomfortable high heels ... the weirdly pristine desktops ... the formal, politely modulated voices. ("Hello. How are you today? Will you have time to sit down and discuss the Yreka project later?")  Today it's back to T-shirts and paperwork mountains and shouting at each other down the hallway. ("LINE SIX! I said LINE SIX! ")

The day after the storm ... life goes back to normal around The Dirt Company.

Tropical Storm Armand blew through our office yesterday: the Dirt Company CEO's first stop on his whirlwind Summer 2002 tour of all the California offices. (Or, as the boys downstairs in the lab are referring to it this morning, "Armandapalooza.")  We were given plenty of advance warning that he was coming, of course ... more than enough time to ditch the Krispy Kreme boxes and dust off the employee handbooks. Still, knowing in advance that he was headed in our direction didn't prevent some of my more nervous co-workers from the sort of performance anxiety usually reserved for wedding ceremonies or spelling bees.

For me, of course, this was all a sort of backwards déjà vu. Back in the bad old days of the Totem Pole Company, when my work life revolved around rescheduling colonoscopy appointments and picking mealbugs off a dying dwarf schleffera, one of my favorite things in the world was shipping Franz off to the other Totem Pole Company offices for the day. It gave me a break from overflowing In Baskets and eighteen-minute voicemails. It gave me a chance to get some real work done. (Read this: some of my best *FootNotes* entries were composed while my boss was making life miserable for my Southern California counterparts.)  It helped me hang on long enough to put two years of Executive Assitude on my résumé . 

(So I could turn right around and become a RECEPTIONIST again. But that's another story for another day.)

Plus  --  and I think this was the part I liked best of all  --  it earned me valuable *Sympathy Molecules* from the other Totem Pole Company Asses. The 911 calls would start coming in before he even got off the plane.

"Franz is calling me from the airport!," Lori in San Diego would whimper into the phone. "He wants me to rent a mimeograph machine!"

"I don't know how you dooooooo it!" Carlene in San Ramon would wail. "He's only been here for five minutes and I'm already out of Advil!" 

I would listen to their complaints, and I would offer my best long-distance advice, and I would bask in empathy and admiration and Executive Ass solidarity.

And then I would kick off my shoes, close my office door and peel another banana.

Now it's my turn to see how the other half lives. While Armand's Executive Ass was no doubt peeling her banana in luxurious peace and quiet yesterday, six hundred miles away ... her boss was here, tilting the orbit of THIS office for the entire day. Officially he was here to meet with a client in the morning, and then to tour possible new office space in downtown Oakland with Scott and JoAnne, later in the afternoon. But we all knew the real reason he was here: to rearrange schedules and furniture ... to veto vacations and unplug pet projects ... to make everybody feel edgy and paranoid and under the gun  ... and to basically generate as much turmoil, havoc and emotional mayhem as possible within a nine-hour timeframe. 

(Where do they learn this stuff, anyway?? Do they teach it in CEO College or something?) 

Fortunately, I'm still flying pretty low under the radar as far as Armand is concerned. As long as I answer the phone on the first ring, I'm aces in his book.  My one and only *Oh Shidt* Moment yesterday was when he asked me -- at 4:47 p.m. -- to get him a cup of coffee.   

"I ass-ume," he said, in his cultured Mediterranean accent, "that there iss still coffee available in the lunchroom?"  

Basically I'm the only caffeine addict around this place, but even *I* usually quit drinking it by 10 a.m. every day.  "Can I offer you a cup of tea instead?" I asked him sweetly.

By the end of the day, when I finally snuck out the door and went home, four people were crying ... and only one of them was female.

So it was a relief to walk into the office this morning and see that things were back to normal, once again. Papers piled miles high on every desktop. Krispy Kreme boxes strewn across the top of the file cabinets. Radios blaring. Two of the geoscience guys playing hockey with a $4,000 inclinometer.

And no Armand.

"Thank god that's over," said The Main Nerdy Geoscientist Guy ... just before he bit into another Double-Chocolate-Custard.

I agree. Yesterday wasn't a big bunch of fun for anybody. But the truth is that I would rather put up with a couple of days' worth of Tropical Storm Armand, every once in a while, and then eat my banana in peace and quiet the other 250 working days ...

... than the other way around.


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a mess of clouds came over me
the night it finally rained.