Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Manual of Detection

“If you are not setting a trap, then you are probably walking into one. It is the mark of the master to do both at once.”
“Woe to he who checkmates his opponent last, only to discover they have been playing cribbage.”
- Jedediah Berry, The Manual of Detection

Have you ever had a workday filled with rain and gloom, and felt you were the only awake person populating your nightmares filled with zombies? If you answered yes then have I got the book for you. Here is how one character describes it:

“…that is how I feel sometimes, as though the world has already ended, the shades drawn over every window, the stars burned down to little black beads, the moon waned beyond waning, all life a dollop of ash, and still I remain at work trying to explain what happened”.

Allow me to digress.

Before retiring from my secret identity as a bureaucrat with a brain, and becoming a gardening superhero, I had a lot in common with the book's protagonist, aptly named Charlie Unwin. As my retirement to a cottage in the country approached, I began to shut down some of these dreams of dreams and dreamers in my professional life. I paid for my own last set of business cards. Instead of using my “payroll title” of Buyer IV, I printed “Buyer Princess”. Some people asked what the fuck, but most people silently shuffled these cards into the deck of business cards exchanged like poker chips at the outset of any meeting of three or more overlords in management. They might have been sleepwalking.

But I digress.

Unlike Unwin, my last official act before I got promoted to retirement, I too took steps to leave my own mysteries behind. I left the following message on my voicemail and changed the password, from the number neatly printed on masking tape to the phone: Hello, today is October 24, 2003. I’m not available right now, but I care about your call, so please leave a message and… Yeah, no, wait. I’m retired. I could give a rat’s ass.” Followed by a first class evil laugh bbbwaaahaahaa.

I dreamed that this message was finally deleted by tech support at the request of an unnamed middle management overlord who, when this matter was brought to his attention by an angry overlord who out-ranked him, felt it necessary to employ considerable use of the f-bomb in describing his rank and importance, not to mention his opinion of the level of sick humor and fucking wooden-clogs-thrown-between-gears this once loyal and highly competent former teamwork-award-winning employee (me) managed to do to his customer satisfaction ratings.

I papered some of the certificates of recognition I’d received, removed their plastic frames, and embedded them in the wallpaper behind some rooms in my dollhouse, in an attempt to leave clues to this mysteries. But again, I digress.

For all my bureaucratic exploits, the bureaucrats in this book make me hang my head in shame at my own level of competence. My business correspondence never rose to the level of obfuscation employed by the sinisterly named Miss Burgrave:

“This will not do… You know what it means to be on a schedule, of course, so I will not rebuke you unnecessarily, as that would be tantamount to redundancy, which I already risk by speaking to you at all, and risk again by observing the risk, and so again by observation. In this we would proceed endlessly. Will you not relent? Are you really so stubborn? I ask these questions rhetorically, and thus degrade further the value of my speech.”

The Manual of Detection helped me understand that when I retired, I took something more than the smoke and ashes of bitterness with me. I took: “The long-term memory of our esteemed organization. Without it we are nothing but a jumble of trivialities, delusions, and windblown stratagems.” I can hardly tell you how sorry I am about that. I couldn’t be sorrier.

So, bureaucrats rise up! With all due respect, I insist that you discard your copy of latest the organizational guru cheerleading substance-free book/cd/2-day continuing education course with the phrase “…making the most of hidden skills…” that your management development team manager recently assigned. Buy the Manual of Detection and study it well. Then, google “sabotage,” wake up, and promote yourself.


Cicero Sings said...

I am so grateful that I don't have to go back to work.

I like your pictures ... you must have been playing with Photoshop!

walk2write said...

I've never felt the pleasure of being a bureaucrat, but I get to enjoy it vicariously through someone else familiar with it. Thanks for providing such a great book review.

Les said...

In my former life as a "hospitality professional" I had a manager who sent us to all those day-long motivational seminars designed to unlock our hidden potential. I have always thought some things are hidden for a reason. Anyway, my favorite of the dozens of these skill building events was led by a former Miss USA. As the time for the seminar arrived, the lights were shut off, her face appeared lit like in a campfire ghost story, a sound track began with airline noises, and she proceeded to tell us how she clawed her way out of a fiery plane crash. That is all I remember from the day and am not sure what I learned, but at least the first five minutes did not sedate me.

colleen said...

I so needed to read this post! I've been thinking that maybe I need a job again ( not looking forward to a British winter) but this has put things in anarchic perspective. Hooooorah.