Daddy always told me, “Never take anyone at face value.” Took me a lot of years to figure out what the hell he was saying, but eventually, I did figure it out. Never trust your first reaction to anyone. Never take anyone’s actions, or words, by how they appear. Always look deeper. Always learn who they really are.
Sitting in my chair at that meeting, Daddy’s words echoed in my head, and for good reasons. Every last person at that table had their own motives, their own agendas, their own goals. And none of them matched what they were saying.
Laura sat to my left. Pretty lady, and I admit that. But, pretty as she was, she had an ugly side when it came to the project. She was ruthless with the schedule. “George can finish this set of functions by a week from Sunday. Larry can get the new module written by then too. That way, Sue and Tim can test things out for 5 days, with George and Larry on call, to fix any problems they find in testing. And in 3 weeks, we can have this update ready for production.”
So much in there she didn’t say. Like how George and Larry could spend all night, every night, during that time frame, getting the work done. After all, what’s 60, 70, even 80 hours of work, when Laura’s project management future was at risk?
Next to Laura was Steven. He was the project manager for the hardware team. He was like Laura. All business looking, never got mad, nice guy. And would crucify his wife and both his kids, if it meant the hardware was ready in time. Steve never worked a minute extra. That was what the hired help was for.
Across the table from Laura was Henry, who was in charge of the project contract for the US Navy. Henry minced no words, and declared everything had better be ready for production on time, since it was going to be fielded in one month. Henry didn’t care how it got done, as long as it was done.
Across from Steven was Mr. Edwards. That’s it. He didn’t have a first name. He was Mr. Edwards. He worked for the base commander. “I find these timelines acceptable. I’ll be happy to inform the Admiral the update will be ready on time, and working.”
At the head of the table was the President of the company I worked for. “I’m glad we had this meeting, and have been able to straighten out the kinks in the plan, and clarify all the details.” The man would fire anyone who didn’t meet a deadline. Because. Not meeting a deadline made him look bad. No one was allowed to make him look bad.
There we all sat. At that table. At that meeting. And not one honest word was said.
“Remember, the contract does not allow for overtime, or comp-time. Only the flat rate 40 hours a week. That’s it.”
“Oh, we don’t work overtime. Our people know that. They plan ahead, and schedule things properly.”
Laura, Steven, Henry, Mr. Edwards, and the President, would all go home on time that afternoon. They’d eat dinner with their spouses, and their kids. They’d go to the PTA meetings, or the school orchestra performances, or the basketball games. They’d be there for their families.
George and Larry were working 65 hours a week, for 40 hours pay. Full time employees. Exempt from Overtime. No overtime for them. And they worked 65 hours a week, because they couldn’t afford to lose their jobs.
George told me he hadn’t seen either of his kids in the past month. He left the house each day before they got up, and worked until after their bedtime. His wife had stopped fixing any food of any kind for him. George was living on fast food breakfast biscuit sandwiches, black coffee, candy bars, potato chips, 4 16 ounce cans of energy drinks a day, and grocery store bought, throw it in the oven and cook it pizza at night. He was main lining ibuprofen, like a street junky mainlined crack.
Larry was divorced. His daughter never spoke with him. She’d sent him a birthday card a few weeks ago. She’d scrawled, at the bottom, “I hope you die soon, you bastard.” He lived in a trailer park, and drove a 1981 Ford Pinto. I don’t know how he kept it running. Larry was brilliant. Larry was an alcoholic. Sometimes, he coughed blood onto his keyboard. No one in the company would touch Larry’s keyboard.
And there were Laura, Steven, and the President. Killing George and Larry. And they knew they were killing them. So what? They were just expendable human resources. Tools to be used, and replaced when they broke.
And every deadline that got met, every birthday that happened, every time someone’s kids made honor roll in school, Laura, Steven, and the President all called time out, for cake and soda, to celebrate the occasion.
My Daddy said, “Never take anyone at face value.”
He was right. I always look deeper than that. I always look for what’s inside their cold, empty, ruthless, heartless souls. Just behind that facade they hide behind.
Who cares how many words
The picture for Week 225 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge got to me. I had to figure out how to put what it said to me into words others can read if they wish. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.