Monday, September 27, 2004

He's baa-aaaaaaaaack......

Sometimes my "blog world" doesn't seem real.

I put words on a computer screen, and you read them, and sometimes you send words back. But as far as I know, I've never met any of you in person, and I've never even spoken out loud about this blog to anyone, EVER. Except for Doc, of course, but he's sworn to professional secrecy...

After I announced mom's death, and I saw the outpouring of sympathy from you, it all hit me: You cared about me, as a friend, or even as a family member, and you wanted to make me feel better. And you know what? You did.

I tried to thank each one of you who commented personally, but I am sure I missed a few. If you did not hear from me, rest assured that I read your comment, and that I will never forget you for it.

I am doing ok, and I am very happy to be back into my old routine again. "Mourning", such as it is, is a long, tedious, painful, and sometimes boring experience. Thanks for making it more tolerable.

I had one post already "in the can" and ready to publish when mom passed. Here it is.

I'll see you guys tomorrow....




I can't keep blowing up at mom that way. Something has to happen, one way or another, to resolve this. I don't think she is going to stop drinking, so I've just got to make up my mind that if she's "drunk mom", I walk away. Mom's not perfect. Our family isn't perfect, our relationship isn't perfect. But I have to try to make the best of it.

11:00am. I knock at mom's door. Aunt Shirley lets me in. "She's tired," she says.

Mom is at the kitchen table, smoking a clove cigarette. "Breakfast of champions," I say.

She looks at me like a kid about to be punished.

"Do you remember it?" I say.

"No. Shirley told me."

"Mom, I went through a lot. So did Chris, so did Greg, so did DAD. Don't put Lila through it, too."

"I'm sorry, honey."

"Don't tell me, tell her."

She picks up the phone, squeezing it tightly and dialing tentatively, like a kid learning to make her first call.

"May I speak to.... Lila?"


"Honey, I am sorry. Please believe me, I am so very sorry."

They talk for a while. Mom looks a little better.

She puts out her cigarette. "Come here, honey." She hugs me.

"I'm scared, Steve. What's gonna happen to me?"

"I don't know, mom."

I can feel her crying into my shoulder. Yes, I do know. And so does she.

"Will you go to rehab, mom? Will you do it? For us?"

"Yes, I will, honey."

No, she won't. This is probably as good as it's going to get.


I have decided to hold a mandatory monthly company meeting for all employees. Unlike my last meeting, I want to have a question-and-answer session at which employees can voice their concerns.

Our first meeting is today, Wednesday the 15th.

"Apparently I caused quite a stir when I talked about a positon review," I say at the front of the room. "I expected people to be fearful about layoffs. But what I didn't expect was that not one person came to me to ask about it. NOT ONE.

"The rumors made it all the way to the CEO's desk at corporate," I say, "but not to mine. He's 300 miles away; I'm right here. SOMETHING IS WRONG."

The room is as quiet as a whorehouse on Christmas morning.

"I don't know how some of you felt about speaking to the boss before," I continue. "Actually, I take that back: I DO know how you felt. But I am going to tell you something today: I will NEVER turn you away if you have a concern. I may not know the answer, and I may not have time at one particular moment, but I am committed to keeping the communication open. Come to me. Come to Bonnie. Call me. E-mail me. I will respond."

Heads nod.

"But what I will NOT respond to is rumors. I won't respond to 'Everyone is saying....'. I will not respond to, 'Joe Smith is upset about.....'. If Joe Smith is upset, let HIM do the talking. Joe Smith doesn't need a spokesman. You don't need a spokesman until you sign a movie deal.

"Many of you want to know if your jobs are in jeopardy. I will tell you this: I have no plans to lay anyone off. But I have not conducted the review yet, and I don't know what I will find. Maybe I'll find that we're paying someone $50,000 a year to change the water in the water cooler. I won't tolerate that.

"There's a temptation in a case like this to get the boss to use the word, 'Never'. And I will NOT use that word. I can't.

"It's not my goal to lay anyone off. It's my goal to KEEP everyone. But it's also my job to run this company efficiently."

We set up a microphone at the far side of the room, at least 50 feet away from me. This was intentional: Any closer would seem confrontational.

Mike from sales: "What do you mean by, 'Run this company efficiently'? That sounds kinda scary. What are the criteria? Do your profits have to be at a certain level, and if they are not, are you going to have layoffs?"

"First off, this has NOTHING to do with profits. If we are paying $200,000 in salary for a job that could be done with half that, expect me to address it. And expect me to address it, whether there are record profits, or record losses. It's never excusable to waste the company's money. We're not helping anyone if we do that."

Marie from accounting: "Are you going to take seniority into account if you have layoffs?"

"I assume you're asking because you just got your 20-year pin, Marie," I say. There's a little laughter.

"I hesitate on this one, because it's all hypothetical. That question sounds as though I am considering layoffs, or planning on them. I'm not. If I find wasted payroll, my first impulse would be to redeploy someone, to reassign them somewhere where they are needed, not to lay them off. A layoff is a last resort, whether you're here 50 days or 50 years."

Unless, of course, you are a temp, in which case you are fucked. As soon as I can find permanent replacements for them, they are gone.

The meeting goes well. I get five or six more questions, mostly concerning the position review. I think people feel better.

Ten or eleven people visit my office after the meeting to thank me. But still, not one person asks me if their position is in jeopardy.