bunt sign

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

A double dose of harsh reality hit me this morning. A fog of uncertainty surrounded me as I contemplated a future without this job I like (and, in turn, without this house I love).

The Boss is having back problems. He's in good health overall, and he works hard to keep himself that way. But he's ten years older than I am, and because of family money he doesn't have to work. He works because he's compelled to by something inside him, but if it ever came to the point where he couldn't work, he could afford to stop.

I couldn't. He could cut me loose at any convenient time, and I'd be twisting in the wind before I could slam the cellar doors shut. My skills are so specialized that they fit only this job I've been doing for sixteen years. I've become insulated from unpleasant tasks by being good at others, allowing the Boss to overlook my weaknesses.

Is another boss going to be so forgiving? Is another boss going to pay me enough to maintain my life, when they could get someone half my age for half my salary?

That's the future I face, when I squint and try to focus. Most of the time I look the other way, because if I didn't I'd go crazy (in the non-clinical sense). (Is there a clinical sense of "crazy"?) The rose-colored glasses I wear are tinted by hope and denial, a treacherous combination.

The second jolt was a message on my answering machine from Tim, the Boss's son (and heir, I guess, although he also has three daughters). He's out selling our services to various clients, and he has big ideas. He wants the company to grow, and of course he wants to be the point man in this growth.

We design, we build, we install. We don't manage large publicly-owned facilities, but he has one such project on the hot burner and he's pursuing it rabidly. Today he left a message about a much larger project, one that would tax our resources beyond anything we've attempted. Growth is good in business, but overreaching can be a death sentence. You have to know how far you're capable of going.

This new project that he wants me to look into would be too much for the Boss to design, and too much for our meager crew to build. Beyond that, it requires a track record in management that we just don't have. It's a little like asking the night manager at Panda Express to run a five-star French restaurant. Probably wouldn't work.

So I can see a day when I might be working for this guy, and trying to hold back a tidal wave. He wants to grow, but he doesn't always believe in the limits that are so clear to me. I get scared thinking about the future either way. Either we're growing beyond our own abilities, or we're stagnating under an unhappy leader. I'm not sure which would be worse. Worse for me, of course. I'm talking about which might be worse for me, which is all I really care about.



After all these years of working hard to make myself so valuable that no one would think of firing me, every so often my vulnerability stares me in the face. I blink, and then go on with my job, because what else is there to do?

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