Thursday, November 14, 2013

Confessions 4: Oil Can Harry's Grease Emporium

"Clean up on aisle three!"
God only knows, God makes his plan
The information's unavailable to the mortal man
We're workin' our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway, when in fact we're slip sliding away...

Paul Simon

Unlike my eventual departure a few months down the timeline, I initially washed up on the shore of Oil Can Harry's Grease Emporium after being adrift for months at sea. I first came upon a businessman, a proprietor of toil who sold...I mean placed people into mutually agreed upon servitude.  However, unappealing the surroundings, she did get me a tidy sum at Oil Can Harry's, who was just looking for a person with my kind of skills. Oil Can Harry was the owner of a broad-based lubricants company started by his father, a legend in his own right during the time of Henry Ford. And as exemplified by the old oil cans from the past, including one with a swastika on it in the front office,  Henry Ford wasn't the only U.S. industrialist that was a Nazi sympathizer back then. Granted, it was an impressive 100 year history business...the facility, not so much. But beggars can't be choosy!

Once again, the true nature of my eventual tasks there were veiled by subterfuge designed to ensnare me in the task before I knew what hit me. They hired me officially on a Friday as a QC manager since the one they had 'didn't work out.' Note the past tense. So imagine my surprise when I arrived that Monday only to be informed, "Oh, by way, you'll be working with the guy we intended to fire this weekend. Until we eventually actually do fire him, that is." Awkward.

The QC lab was at the end of a railroad spur clear on the other end of the facility, so they hooked me up with the operations manager and we made the trek to meet Colonel Kurtz, the renegade ruler of this backwater QC kingdom. He was also the repository of all pertinent knowledge and master of  his domain... and definitely not happy to see me at all. Despite the upper management's assurance that Kurtz was not aware of his impending doom, I could instantly tell that was bullshit! So this was not only awkward, it was potentially hazardous. Then I met the rest of the comedic cast.

Kurtz had two loyal techs who believed he hung the moon: Barney Bear and Cartman. Naturally  both were hostile to me from the time I walked in the door. Barney was more passive aggressive about it but Cartman was definitely overt. Barney was a long term employee, former in the plant, with vast insider knowledge of how the processes worked...actually worked, not just on paper. He would answer my questions, but only the ones asked, not any permutations implicit with the question itself. I could live with that. Cartman, on the other hand, was a whiny, overcritical little bitch of a man whose snide comments and intentional misdirection got on my nerves from the first second he opened his big mouth. Feeling like a hired gun that had ridden into a dusty town to kill the beloved sheriff, I sought to deflect the sniper bullets by pretending to be just another chemist there to take some of the oppressive workload off of Kurtz. And oppressive it was. Not only was Kurtz expected to handle all QC duties, he was also responsible for product development, product licensing, MSDS editing, product information sheets, and basically anything   technical on the lubricants side of things. Oil Can Harry's first email to me was a cc to Kurtz, berating him for absolutely everything, embarrassing and definitely unprofessional. Thus began my immediate sympathy for the man I was sent to kill. If it were sympathy for the Devil remained to be seen.

Kurtz had been there for a decade and knew the processes inside and out. Naturally ambitious, he relished in the role of being the only manager who knew jack shit everything that mattered. He performed operations manager duties since the operations manager, Wimpy, was apparently only there for the free lunches. With a belly that looked like he was birthing a baby, he basically drove me down the tracks and left me there in this hostile territory for three weeks before even bothering to check on my corpse. It was a tough time, but I was a tough guy. This wasn't my first rodeo. I'd survived without his or any other management help for three weeks before he took me to lunch, apologized for not "getting together with me" and debriefed me on how I was doing. My immediate response was to casually give him an overview of the personalities at work...which I knew he already knew...without being inflammatory or degrading. after all, it was clear that i was on my own with these people in the prison block, and the last thing i needed was anything I said getting back to any of the parties. Hell, they were already trying to shank me on a daily basis.

I made some inroads with Kurtz, taking some of the tasks off his plate so he could ride a  forklift like a white horse under the guise of of being the tireless champion of the poor huddled masses working in the hellish conditions of the plant. While being willing and able to jump into the manual side of things was admirable, I quickly found it trite and self-aggrandizing.  He was smart, but not THAT smart when it came to practical things, I found. Being smarter than the average bear in this backwoods place left him with an exaggerated sense of  worth. While he was the undisputed expert on all things in this particular set of operations, it didn't exactly qualify him to swim with killer whales. I'd swum in cold water with killer whales many, many times before, but, I wasn't out to make that point. I decided the best way for us to survive...both of us...was to divide this jungle up between us. While he initially warmed to the idea, he quietly drifted away, and it wasn't hard to see that he intended nothing less than to outlast me and keep it all for himself. He was vague, he was passively resistant to my learning process. Plus, he had minions to watch his back and stab me in mine, so I finally realized the futility of it all. While I had mad skills in ferreting out information and  working around obstacles, I saw the advantage of keeping him around. Basically, so I wouldn't have to do all the work they expected him to do. Not that I was anxious to either save or depose him, but his continued survival suited me, nothing more.

Oil Can Harry owned this and one other plant but it was the general manager who actually ran Bartertown.
With 40 years experience in this very plant, Quagmire ran things.  He was Harry's right-hand man and confidant who appeared to like his semi-autonomy over what he considered his personal playground. A divorced bachelor old enough to be the grandfather of the women he pursued, his bachelor pad and hot tub were the gossip of the plant, as was his predisposition to hire sweet young things and chase them around the office. Anyone caught breathing a word of it was gone in 60 seconds. That wasn't my business, so my neutral stanch kept me off his hit list for the duration. But he failed to provide me with any of the 3 P's I needed: "Praise, Protection and Profit." My best chance of survival were with Kurtz and the support of the rest of the plant. Against great resistance, I began to make in-roads.

As I mentioned, I have a good ability to find out stuff. The first thing I found out was why some people of great work skills or knowledge were laboring for low wages under harsh conditions. What I discovered is that many of the employees were ex-cons of some sort, trapped here by past transgressions. But, what about Kurtz? The owner and upper management obviously despised him. He was capable and knowledgeable. Why was he here? Then I found it: his record. It's not the kind of record that you can escape, and while everyone can make a youthful mistake and change, some offenses carry more stigma than others. That explained his mule-like stubbornness to staying here. He'd have to explain to any future employer things that might be too sensitive to discuss. My first thought was to perhaps "leak" this newly found information to his loyal subordinates.  'So, he walks on water, eh?  Well, did you know he did time for THIS?" But, that's not how I roll, so I kept it to myself. Didn't even use it as leverage against him personally. This wasn't personal, it was survival. But other information began percolating up from Barney, as he warmed to my presence there after a couple of months.

Apparently, Kurtz was a tireless whipping boy for Harry, Wimpy and Quagmire  (for reasons I now knew)
for years, working long hours because he had no personal life anymore.  Jail will do that to you. The concept of endless redemption was used against him because, frankly, he had the personality for it, and I'm sure they used it against him. But Barney provided the final clue as to when his relationship with management went south. Kurtz got married. Suddenly, he wasn't willing to devote 18 hours a day to hair-brained schemes and arbitrary brain-farts. According to Barney, 'That pissed them off". Bullying didn't work. He was too well entrenched into their operations. He was indispensable and he thought he knew it. In reality, no one is indispensable. He didn't know that. While it was admirable how he resisted management's bad judgements, dragged his feet on questionable implementations and passively gave them the finger, it was leading to his demise, if not by me, then some young gun looking for a reputation. In my mind, his ONLY chance for survival was with me. But he was too stupid or arrogantly misguided to see that. A smarter than average bear swimming in cold arctic waters is just as dead as a slow seal.

While remaining coolly civil, Kurtz passively avoided giving me too much information about anything that really mattered. This forced me to become a sleuth of sorts since neither Cartman nor Barney were giving away much either. In fact, the only thing Cartman was giving me was criticism and grief. Being thick skinned, it didn't emotionally or intellectually bother me as much as just slightly annoy me. His approval meant only two things to me: jack shit.  But, I recognized the need to stay on slightly less belligerent terms so I held my tongue. For now. But there were a few times his big mouth almost resulted in a thermonuclear strike. But, I was trying to get out of the nuclear war business, so I hunkered down....which I suspect he mistook as intimidation. Bad assumption, but then again he was a complete idiot. That's what he referred to everyone else as, of course, but i found him seldom right about anything that mattered in real life. Sure, he was very competent as an analyst in this podunk laboratory, but little more.  I could smell his insecurity. But, I was existing in a complete vacuum emanating from both sides of the fence. Management never checked my pulse and simply used my still warm corpse in the pits to toss down unfinished projects Kurtz refused to do. The Devil, as always, was in the details, and those were hard to come by. But little by little I was starting to see that many of Kurtz's descriptions of  "dumb-ass management" were not all posturing. As time went on, I began to realize that these were indeed some ignorant motherfuckers.

The status quo persisted for another three months. The uneasy detente held...barely..and I gradually got a grip on the most basic routines of the lab. The more technical details were held closely to the chests of Kurtz and his lackeys like the black cards they were. No matter. Ii was gradually eroding the wall they hide them behind like acid eating  through a steel vault. I'm good at that. No need for them to know the talents I possessed since  they were steadfast in their efforts to deprive me of any useful information. the uppr management was of no consequence. Oil Can Harry shunted tasks down the vacuum tubes form oblivion without the faintest regard of my situation in the cell block, so I had come to understand that in any important matter, they would be absolutely no help. But I was accustomed to flying solo so having no expectations meant I similarly had no disappointments. I even wondered if they had any idea any idea about the mechanisms that went on in the bowels of their "Big Picture" as obviously distorted as it was. I began to question if they had reconsidered the fate of Kurtz, which would have been fine with me. As weak a leader as Kurtz was, I was content to be the bench researcher and let him have the rest of this menagerie. But the day finally came. I saw Quagmiere's grim face as he beckoned Kurtz out of a meeting we were having with vendors. By the time I got out of the meeting, I saw Kurtz making a lap through the plant, shaking  hands and bidding his subjects in this busted ass kingdom adieu. Summoned to Quagmeire's office, I was told, "It's all yours." And that was it. I  returned laboratory to a ull of the sulfuric stench of an entirely new level of hostility.

As if to toss another 50 pound weight on my leaking life preserver, Quagmeire and Harry threw me another curve. There was a professional certification that persons in this industry coveted and next week there was a 3 day course followed by a certification test. Many had tried and failed in spite of  many years in the industry, including Kurtz. It was a hard motherfucker! Just to qualify to take the test required a minimum of 3 years in the industry. I understood taking the school to bring me up to speed more quickly in the fundamentals of  lubrication. But my additional task: talk my way into the test and take a run at it. Needless to say there was some resistance by me, but at their insistence, I made an attempt at getting into the school. I was relieved when they refused me entry. "You don't have the minimum experience required to qualify to take the test."
Passing this information forward, I thought it was all over, but Harry summoned me to his office the next time he was in town. "You've changed the oil in your car, haven't you? THAT'S lubrication experience." I begged to differ, but what are you going to say to the mad king who just executed your predecessor?  Besides, with the parade of women Quagmiere had marching in and out of his hot tub, seemed to me he would be a bigger expert on lubrication issues. Why didn't HE take the fucking test and become the certified lubrication specialist for the company? That apparently wasn't an option, so I shut the hell up and nodded.

Thus, I looked at my long career of varied chemical applications and laboratory duties and pieced together three years of combined lubrication experience like a Frankenstein monster. I thought it was deceitful but what could i do with a gun to my head like that? Surely they'd just laugh their asses off and tell me to just go away.  I confidently waited for the final rejection, hoping to put an end to this misadventure certain to end in failure, but it never came. I was fucking accepted for the goddamned  test!  It was almost like they were gleefully opening a door to a torture chamber saying, "C'mon in, sucker!" Well, as much as I hated tests, at least the multi-hundred dollar fee for the school and the test wasn't coming out of my budget. What's the worst that could happen besides dismal failure on a test requiring three years, failed by people with 30 years when I had only 3 months?  That shoe dropped once I was accepted when Quagmiere informed me of Harry's part of the deal. "Pass the test, and we pay for the school and the test. Fail it...and it's all on you." As the door slammed shut of this maze, I realized why Kurtz had only attempted it once. Oil Can Harry was every bit the crazy motherfucker Kurtz made him out to be and now that trap door had been sprung behind me.

There was no preparation. The school was supposed to be a fast-paced prep course for "experienced" lubrication professionals to be able to pass the rigorous certification test, no a basic course to introduce a novice to the area. Sure, I was a chemist, and a damned good one, but the specifics of any tangential  field with chemistry at its core...along with engineering and physics...can be overwhelming. To make matters worst...Kurtz was there, trying to earn a certification on his own dime! He stared silently until the first break when we exchanged uneasy greetings. The rest of the time he spent telling his colleagues about the raw deal he got from Oil Can Harry.  There are several different ways to tell someone how you got fucked.  His was the most mundane of many methodologies, a pathetic, self-serving,  pity-soliciting scheme. He became less god-like than his former co-workers imagined him and more of a whiny, wimpy victim. He reminded me of Marvin the depressed robot in " Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", using almost the same tone of voice. Of course, to prove he had a "brain the size of a planet"...and since he'd taken the course before, he was the first to raise his hand to answer the obscure questions the instructor presented as examples. A cheap ploy that deserved much less respect than I had for him before. The instructor, a well-renown expert in the field, played right into it, probably because he was privy to the tale going around. But, I certainly didn't like the looks he was giving me, the interloped that stole this good man's job. I was fucked every way to Sunday
because I could tell the instructor didn't like me one bit .

What he didn't count on was the fact that most of my college professors never liked me either. This was familiar territory. He was simply taking my money with all expectations that I'd die a slow agonizing death in three days of classes, drowning in a subject matter that was clearly over my head. He was partially right. Except I wasn't actually drowning, I was barely treading water using my experience, education and keen skills of concentration as crude floatation devices. As Kurtz grew more comfortable his belief I was gulping down water and my resolve grew to wipe that smug look right off his over-confident face. But first, Id have to memorize enough material to cover both 25 years of experience as well as professionally edited trick questions sufficient to flunk even the most savvy experts in this area. However, the daily practice tests weren't exactly reassuring me....or anyone else that I'd be that endeavor. This obviously made Kurtz very happy, and the instructor's smirks made it more and more apparent that was was sadistically enjoying putting my smart ass in its place. And that's when I got pissed off.

After days immersed in technical trivia of which 99.9% would not even be applicable to my current job, I knew I had to pass this thing. I spent the evenings in my hotel room going over the previous day's facts and figures while my class counterparts partied in the college town this class was held in. Having gone to the rival school, I was neither familiar nor interested in the nightlife this town had to offer.  I restudied the practice test questions I got wrong, developed associations between long lists of gear types and lubrication issues and sweep the loose bits and pieces of factoids into more distinguishable piles of useless bullshit knowledge. When the morning of the test finally came, I was no more confident of passing this test, but comfortable in the fact that I was much more knowledgeable than I was when in walked into this circus. Using virtually all the time allotted rechecking my answers using the old college board test advice: "Guess if you absolutely don't know, but don't change any reasoned answers unless you are pretty damned sure." Most changed answers are....wrong. Kurtz finished in half the allotted tme and confidently turned in his test. That didn't matter to me. Whether he passed or not had nothing to do with me, and I did not give a fuck.

I turned in my test, and had one last conversation with Kurtz outside where I expressed my polite yet sincere sympathy for what had happened to him at Oil Can Harry's hands.  He advised me to watch my back, and went our separate ways. i immediately informed management that the credit card they'd give me to rent the hotel room for three days was inactive and what they owed me. I accepted their tepid disavowal of any knowledge that the card was bogus. My other expenses of food and fuel were trivial in comparison. Now came the three week wait for results as I plunged back into the job amid the hostility of those that Kurtz left behind,. It was hell. I needed a posses, some allies, someone to tell me when to duck around here,, but offerings were slim. What I did have were Ringo, Paul and George, three disinfranchised employees who among other things could use my help.

George was a operator and truck loader who'd developed the disdain of  Wimpy the operations manager by being, well, too verbally critical of his lack of involvement and bad decision making which made George's job more difficult. There was little I could do to help, but what I could do, I did for him. I also put up with his nonstop discussions about his paintball hobby. Small price to pay for insight into the internal workings of this outfit, though. Paul was a relatively new production manager who was learning on the job, kind of like me. Unlike me, he had no anchor points from which to construct a reasonable framework within to operate. He was totally out of his element. What his operators fucked up in hooking up wrong hoses and making bad blends we could fix in the lab. Well, I could fix in the lab...Cartman adamantly refused to help remarking, "He should know how to do that by now," was his opinion on everything.

But, I found out quickly that Cartman's timeline of coming up to speed was a sheer vertical climb for everyone else except him and Kurtz. His mutterring of what dumbasses everyone else was, including me, hit a flash point about three weeks into my tenure as manager. Fixing yet another problem from production while trying to manage an unwieldy, cumbersome program that was more art than science, I asked Cartman for help. He refused...and i snapped in a controlled manner. "So what good are you? You either help or shut the fuck up so I can concentrate!" I told him in no uncertain terms. His response was like those of most big talking wimps...he shut the hell up. Oh sure, there were muttering, but none that I could hear. Plus, he actually tried to be ore helpful. But nothing lasts forever at Oil Can Harry's and he was back to undermining...a little less no time. But, I had a better handle on the situation then. Barney Bear was helpful in fixing production problems, having spent years there. His problem was attendance. He was out "sick" at least three days every week. I hit my first 'wall" when I went to management about totally getting rid of Cartman and putting Bear on part-time while i hire someone new. I was denied. In fact, Harry called Barney up to his office and gasve him a blanket statement of infinite security. Barney triumphantly returned to the lab to tell me, "Harry says I have a job for life!" Well, talk about cutting me off at the knees! There were two things wrong with that bullshit. One, there should be NO jobs for life, it only encourages the bad behavior. Which it did. This guy was hardly ever there after that. And secondly, it would have been proper to tell that to the manager, motherfucker!" i needed some people that had my back, and fast.

My final member of posse was Ringo, the new environmental manager they hired the same day as  me.
He was lured away from a contract environmental services with promises of his own title, section and a house by the lake owned by Oil Can Harry that he could occupy all summer long until he found his own place. What he got was a shitload of problems he knew nothing about at the plant, a mouse and snake ridden, run-down lakefront house that may have been livable in the 1970's and all the environmental and safety responsibility for a problem plagued plant with no resources. He became part of my posse for the same reason as George and Paul else: I could help him. He quickly realized that Oil Can's Harry's lucrative offer came with strings and issues. Having left the consulting company Harry used on a contract basis, ringo found himself without the resources he'd come to rely on at the consulting firm. And so did Harry. He'd have to create all those databases, subscribe to the vast number of data sites that he relied on to give him the information he needed. Quite simply, his youthful ambition exceeded his ability to spin straw into gold. His only choices were to re-create a system of resources like the one he took for granted when he left the consulting firm, or to overlook the piles of environmental issues he uncovered on a daily basis. Being highly ethical, he couldn't do that in good conscience. So he did what anyone else like him does in that situation. He lost sleep.

I had environmental experience, so I helped out and fit his issues into my already overloaded schedule. He in turn took on some of my pending product specification issues...which were jointly assigned to us anyway, being as we were the only two technically competent people in the plant. That's the way it rolled around here, with competence being rewarded with more responsibilities, whether those responsibilities fell within your area or not. Between Harry calling down to the lab with a laundry list of specifications and physical properties he wanted a product "created" to 10:00 today, or the bitchy contract companies we did blending for...who hadn't actually paid us for previous work yet, I found out, it was a chaotic and dangerous environment. Though I was coming up to speed on all things, it didn't help the rampant rat fucks that gave me headaches every goddamned day that I was responsible for in spite of having absolutely no control over any aspect except "testing". These contracted blending folks were starting to be a maor pain in my ass.
First of all...they absolutely LOVED Kurtz. He NEVER was late, he NEVER experienced a delay. Bullshit, I found out. Kurtz moved around resources he wasn't authorized to move around to accommodate their fucked up shipping schedules in favor of our own. Plus, I found out he never even billed them. Upper management was too busy taking free lunches and fixing their hot tubs on the company dime to notice that Kurtz was basically expediting their work at our expense....for free. After one late afternoon chewing from someone who was not even my boss or the owner of my company, but somehow had the blessing of this brain-dead son-of-a-bitch, I decided to hit back.

Digging through Kurtz's computer, I located all the work that had been performed in the previous six months, but never invoiced, and I spent an entire weekend on my couch hand invoicing them for the work we had done up to this point. You'd think they had an invoicing program but no...Oil Can Harry's was an archaic mess in many departments. I went in Monday morning and tossed 20 grand worth of charges on the General Manager's desk, which he cheerfully turned over to his clerk for billing. But, not even a "Thank you" or "Good job" or even a "Holy shit, where did you find all that/" after all the bitching about what Kurtz WASN'T doing, not even an acknowledgement of getting it done. Of course, the shit hit the fan quickly once they got that bill. first, the vice president of the contracting company called me and left a nasty message. I called him back and calmly but firmly informed him that this was work they contracted and indicated that we were a business, not a charity. When he brought up Kurtz, I cut him off and said, "Kurtz never charged you and I'm not sure management is happy with that. But, I could look further." He shut the hell up and got polite.

Not yet invoiced work was not all I found in Kurtz's work computer. He had a pile of personal stuff in there, from personal taxes, salaries, house purchase information, wedding info, pictures, emails from old girlfriends, complaints from Cartman made years ago (I realized then what a whiny wimp he really was despite that nasty front) and incriminating stuff. Despite the genius intelligence his followers bestowed on him, Kurtz was really a dumb-ass using a work computer as a repository for personal stuff of that nature, using it like his own home computer. and when I discovered what his background was in, his criminal offenses, his savings, and salary....I got really pissed off. You pay a guy you HATE this much money and you try and dick me as manager by paying me on the low end of the chemist scale? That was before Ringo quit and fled the scene stage right. Suddenly, I was environmental manager, too.  But then something fortuitous happened. I got my notification that I had PASSED my certification test! I was a Certified Lubrication Specialist!  The instructor had promised to call each and every one of us to see what we thought of the test, and to express a personal congratulations if we passed it. For me, he did neither. Having that certification can add $20,000-$25,000 to one's salary, however, that still wouldn't put me up to Kurtz's salary. I knew to to try and jump to that in one bound, so I presented Quagmiere with a copy of the certification and a dollar figure on it. He laughed out loud at the certification, surprised, and promised to pass my salary request on to Harry. Afterall, he was the owner. I thought myself as diplomatically patient. The dollar figure was to just the top of my hired in bracket, not including environmental duties, CLS or QC manager responsibilities. Didn't want them to get hit with 'sticker shock" right up front. I figured, I'd ask for a big raise next year on my anniversary since, in all actuality, I had only been in this entire business sector for four months. I had to respect the industry, at least a little bit and put in some time.

Kurtz I found out passed it too, but it was about time. Having a CLS on your staff adds industrial cred, which is good for business, even if it doesn't exactly translate into any real concrete changes on the basic operational level. What I didn't expect was that it would piss Harry off! I didn't get it. I'd taken his challenge, got the piece of paper, asked for only a modest bump up which i should have had upfront based on my vast chemical experience and HE'S pissed? Quagmiere sudden began ducking my questions about the status, saying only that he's 'talk to him' when he came to town next week. Next week, always next week. But the biggest insult came when Harry and some dickweed salesman came into the lab and Harry lead off with something snarky about my "Little CLS", spat out with disdain in an effort to belittle the entire thing. But, this wasn't my first rodeo, I caught the drift and intent and refused to be baited into a pissing contest with the owner of this half-ass company, so I kept working until he phrased something in the form of a question. But he didn't, he just kept needling then grew red in the face when I didn't respond to his taunts or accept the diminished value he was suddenly trying to place on something he clearly coveted. That old man should never play poke. Then his little yappy lap dog of a salesman told me in a smart-ass manner how he'd taken the class numerous times, and he just "takes a nap".  I responded, "Oh really," but it came out more like, "Well that's probably why you don't have a CLS, motherfucker!". They moved on, but the resentment lingered in the air for days after that. that's when i realized my long range plans for this place were probably misguided. My long game became a short game of getting the hell out. so i sent out resumes, while still negotiating for better salary, titles and some goddamned respect.

Harry could no longer discombobulate me with his random tasks. I was on top of them. Cartman's rude remarks were now met with meaner ones from me because i no longer gave a fuck if he liked me or not. Being the pussy he really was, he finally shut the hell up, but I  still had to keep an eye on his sabotage. He watched me watching and it made it more difficult for him, but not impossible i discovered. Plus being sabotaged was old hat for people like me (and would be into the foreseeable future I was to find out later). Most of my career, I'd dealt with sabotage and would continue to do so.  Since he wasn't well liked by the owner like Barney Bear (or anybody else for that matter), he knew he had NO recourse should I push the button on him. They kept him for his knowledge of analysis, and i was nibbling away on the edges there. As long as he knew it, we had an uneasy truce until I learned the "Model T" class analytical instrument he kick started on a daily basis. Then, he would be dead to me...and he knew it, thus his efforts to keep the precise operation of the instrument vague and the devil in the details hidden. But, I was gaining on that.  The work level and requirement was still high. The unfinished tasks of Kurtz were steadily piling up, pushing up against annual deadlines. and while he hadn't removed a shitload of personal information from the computer, that someone savvy and devious could use to personally exploit him, he HAD deleted anything that would help in completing work related times. He was an idiot, but I digress. So I had to reinvent the wheel time and time again while keeping up with the daily chaos and anarchy. Then there were my environmental reporting duties.

Then one cold late October morning, I was attending a spill by a friend of Harry's who occupied a small portion of the property with a railroad spur. That's where the spill occurred. Any spill larger than a certain amount is reportable....but I imagine the old routine was to just allow them to clean it up and say nothing to authorities. But, if you read the regulations, that can put YOU in jail bullshit like that and this wasn't the mob; I wasn't going to take jail time for anybody here.  Had they promptly jumped on the issue, maybe...just maybe I'd have not gotten pissed off.  I'd have put in some preventative methods, made the process better. But, in this case, I just reported it.  We were obligated to reported smaller spills for a 6 month interval after the initial spill...and we had those all the time. As a result, I started the reporting the smaller ones (against their preferences but what could they do about it?) happening nearly every day. That's when they got off their asses and started cleaning that shit up better because agency inspectors were coming to visit. It was my job. They gave it to me at no additional salary. I was going to do it. Fuck 'em!

I had them more 'captive' than Kurtz ever did, by doing something rather than doing nothing. and I didn't even want this backwater kingdom anymore. The biggest thing I could do to them was leave and deny them my talents. That's when I got the call...from the ThunderDome. I didn't jump rashly, still pondering 'sticking it out" until things got better. But not only was Harry holding my salary hostage, he was holding my health benefits, which had been COBRAed in and were running out of time. Plus, there were licensing issues with our products I felt that were bordering on fraud. My professional reputation and ass were on the line in several diverse places. The negligence by management was on-going even though some of the hostility in the trenches was starting to diminish. But not Harry's. The person who needed me the most was acting like some senile old man in a pissing contest his prostate wouldn't let him win. All for what? Being successful against all odds?  Enduring awful conditions and overt hostility? Working with a man you couldn't fire in a timely manner? Made no sense. To me, it was a lost effort with no win. I called StrangeLove back and accepted what seemed like a good deal: same salary, singular responsibility, plus immediate benefits.

By now, you know how THAT turned out, but you also realize where I came from. Before I came to Oil Can Harry's however, I had a good job, with a nice office on the 13th floor of a great building. All the amenities one could want were only an elevator ride away. My salary and benefits were top-notch and I was the singular point of contact for my task in that division. Seems secure? It was, until the objectives of MY job collided with the objectives of the core business that made the money. These things could have been easily worked through....but they first made it personal and eventually nasty. A lot happened on that StarShip that lead me here, but not all bad. I will have to delay my revisiting of this period of time, this place, until later, however, as I'm still dealing with a lot of the issues that oozed out of there. It was an emotional period, starting with me turning 50 and learning not only that racism is NOT dead but a few more "isms" have raised their ugly little heads. Then things got worst....but then again, you already know that by now.

One day, I'll tell that story...or then again, maybe not. All that happened prior to the past 7 years are but moot points that have nothing in common with my current reality. Not in whom I've become or what I feel, that is.  All that I was before is only a marginal portion of the culmination of decades of experiences; and what I am now has been refined by the last three years of my life, redefined by the environment that made me this way. Now, I'm due back on the NightShift. After all, those floors ain't gonna fucking clean themselves....

Kinda like a cloud I was up way up in the sky.
And I was feeling some feelings you wouldn't believe.
Sometimes I don't believe them myself,

And I decided I was never coming down.

Just then a tiny little dot caught my eye.
It was just about too small to see.
But I watched it way too long.
That dot was pulling me down.

I was up above I'm down in it!

"Down in It" from Pretty Hate Machine 

Coming Soon--Confessions 5: "The Raft of Con"

"Whoa! Nice kitty! Niiiiice kitty!"

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