memo lands in my e-mailbox this morning, as I'm lingering over a second
cup of Peet's Dark Roast.
It's from the Dirt Company corporate
headquarters in Los Angeles -- marked Super-Quadruple Read-Me-Right-Now Or-You're-Fired-I-Mean-It!-Urgent
-- and it is addressed to everybody in the company.
pop another wedge of tangelo into my mouth and open the e-mail.
the company president, is issuing a new directive: effective
immediately, Dirt Company employees will no longer be permitted to use
the terminology 'impermeable membrane' when making recommendations for
vapor barriers beneath floor slabs. "You should refer to it
as a 'vapor barrier' or 'visqueen,' " the memo says. "Under
NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO IMPLY THAT THE MEMBRANE IS 'IMPERMEABLE'!!!
" Anyone caught in violation of this new policy
will be in big, huge, gigantic bunches of trouble. Furthermore, Armand
requests that 'impermeable membrane' be immediately added to the
permanent list of Taboo Words ... along with never, none, nothing, all,
always, only, ensure (all variants), insure (all variants) and the
other 43,897,621 words and phrases that are permanently banned from the
Dirt Company lexicon. The e-mail was written and sent, on Armand's
behalf, by Diana, his Executive Ass.
from four hundred miles away, I can actually hear
Diana grinding her teeth into little pointy stubs.
or twice a week, one of these deathless missives goes out to everybody
in the company. Armand will not respond to any e-mail composed in Arial
10 pt. font. Armand is restructuring the vacation request policy: if
you've submitted a request for 2002, it will have to be resubmitted and
reapproved. Armand would prefer that the company name come
before the salutation when answering the phone ... i.e. "The
Dirt Company, good morning," as opposed to "Good morning, The Dirt
Company." Armand has banned colored Post-It Notes: from this point
forward, only the standard yellow sticky note will be permitted.
obviously graduated summa cum laude from the *Franz School of Pointless
& Irritating Micromanagement.*
and Franz have a lot of stuff in common, actually. They are both
urbane, well-educated gentlemen of European extraction. They are both
in their early to mid fifties. They are both well-respected within
their industry. (At least, they're well-respected by anybody who
doesn't have to actually work with them.) They are
both fond of vintage sports cars, fine beaujolais and designer neckties.
they both instill rabid, wild-eyed terror in their employees.
watched the way my co-workers react when Armand calls our office every
day. ("You didn't tell him that I was here, did you??")
I've listened to the way they scramble to come up with legitimate
reasons to be out of the office when he is in town. ("I am
having my wisdom teeth extracted again, OK?") I've listened to
lunchroom horror stories about cancelled vacations, aborted bazillion
dollar projects and critically important meetings, blown off at the
all of this is déjà vu all over again for me
... except that this time around, I'm not the one sending out the
memo/re-rescheduling the meeting/calling the airline to cancel the
Now I'm on the receiving end, along with everybody else.
funny thing is: I'm probably the least-intimidated
person in this entire office, where Armand is concerned. Three years
with Franz have rendered me emotionally immune to this sort of
capricious, *I can because I can* executive
nonsense. It's like measles: once you've had them, they lose
all power to make you itchy and scabby and miserable again. Having
seen how this stuff works from the inside-out ... knowing that a crabby
memo about impermeable membranes probably has more to do with a hangnail (or a hangover) than with any genuine anger towards the
hapless Dirt Company schmuck who used the phrase in his last
environmental report ... has given me a unique perspective that my
co-workers might not share. Also, I fly pretty far beneath the radar
around this place. Most of my interaction with Armand is courteous, direct and conducted over the phone. I give him my
patented "I am absurdly happy to hear from you!"
treatment, whenever he calls. I thank him for holding. I almost never
hang up on him or transfer him to the wrong extension or accidentally
call him "Boo-Bear."
a professional relationship that works for us both.
-- for all the similarities between Franz and Armand -- there is one
critical difference: while Franz was usually less than four hundred
feet away from me, at any given moment, Armand is four hundred MILES
away. That means that while he may be *my* occasional ice cream
headache ... he is someone else's daily migraine.
I've finished my second cup of coffee, I take a peek at the contents of
my *In* basket. (Two reports to reproduce, a letter to type, a nice big
stack of filing ... and not a single soggy Kleenex in the pile.) It's
going to be another calm, quiet, productive day at The Dirt Company for
this reformed Executive Ass.
the meantime, I've already added "impermeable membrane" to my list
of Taboo Words, as requested. (As long as Armand's name is on my paycheck,
we play by his rules.) While I'm at it, I'll probably also toss
"impermeable membrane" onto my personal list of *Words That No Longer
Have The Power To Make Me Grind My Teeth Into Little Pointy Stubs* ...
a list that includes "dwarf schleffera," "jackass," "Rolodex,"
"nincompoop," "colonoscopy," "incompetent sack of shidt" and "Offset
Barrier Type-Y Crossings With Signalized Crosswalk Indicators."
And I'm sending off a big bunch of *positive thought molecules* to Diana in
Los Angeles. She can probably use them.