The Op-Ed

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know exactly which Op-Ed I’m referring to. If you haven’t read it (and I hope you have), then you’ve at least heard about it. I’m talking about the anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times, written by a senior official in the Trump administration, and published on September 5, 2018.

Entitled I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, it is easily the most important Op-Ed in this nation’s history. It reveals the cracks in the foundation of the White House, and by extension, in our very democracy. It basically asserts what we Democrats have been saying all along: The emperor has no clothes.

Some of the many things this Op-Ed accuses our president of are:

  • Not fully grasping things.

  • Having misguided impulses.

  • Being amoral.

  • Having an impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective leadership style.

  • Ranting.

  • Being impulsive.

  • Behaving erratically.

  • Being unstable.

  • Making bad decisions.

This is the guy who is steering the ship of state. Right toward a freakin’ iceberg. This is the man who is tampering with our judicial system, our environment, our foreign trade, our citizenry, and our alliances. This guy, with his misguided impulses, is never more than a few feet from the football.

If you’re not freaked out, you’re not paying attention. But Trump is. And his head’s exploding.

But here’s what scares me even more: if this Op-Ed is true, and a lot of the senior officials are doing what they can to resist this insane man’s worst instincts, then the guy we put into office, love him or hate him, is being thwarted at every turn. In this specific case, I thank God for that. I’d really rather not be at ground zero for a Trumpian mushroom cloud.

But think of it in the broader context. If it’s possible to do that, then we will never be able to be confident in another president ever again. Based on this Op-Ed, presidents have been rendered powerless. We are being ruled by anonymous bureaucrats. And while the author of this Op-Ed probably meant his essay to comfort us all in these uncertain times, it kind of gives me the chills. Because I want to know who’s really in charge.

It’s time to clean house.

Crack

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Screwing Up Once

So my phone rang at 7:03 am. I woke up, took one look at the clock, shouted, “Oh, SHIT!!!!” (causing my sleepy dog to give me the hairy eyeball) and answered the phone. I knew it was my supervisor. Before he could say much of anything, I apologized profusely and said I’d be right there. My alarm hadn’t gone off. I had set it for PM instead of AM.

It happens to the best of us. But you have to understand: Bridgetenders cannot, simply cannot, be late. Ever. First of all, if you don’t show up on time, it means the person you are relieving can’t leave. That tends to cause discontent amongst the troops.

But even more importantly, since we are regulated by the Coastguard, abandonment of a bridge can constitute a $10,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison. You just don’t get to impede maritime passage like that. It’s a big no-no. Granted, I’ve never seen this regulation actually enforced, but it is a possibility. It’s why I’ve only been late to work 3 times in 15 years.

Let’s do the math, here. 15 years times 50 weeks a year (allowing for vacations) times 5 days a week equals 3750 days of work. Number of days late: 3. That’s a 0.08% error rate.

You know what that says to me? Congratulations, Barb, you are human. Alert the press.

But instead I got written up. Here, it’s called a “coaching and counseling” and we’re told it does not become a part of our permanent records. They just hold it for 6 months or a year. (The fact that I can’t remember the length shows you how much I care.) I guess they want to see if you are a chronically late person.

Upon receiving my copy, I asked if there was any documentation of the 99.92% of the time that I actually show up 20 minutes early. I was told no. “Well, that’s fair,” I said.

What a destructive policy. All this does is make your staff feel unappreciated. It is a blow to morale. It makes one want to do the bare minimum for an organization that clearly does not care about its employees. Bad business.

This is not the first time I’ve observed companies come down like a ton of bricks on a good employee who screwed up just once. It makes absolutely no sense. It’s the equivalent to setting fire to your own hair. (“Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…”)

Here’s what I don’t get. I screw up once and get written up. Trump screws up several times a day for 6 months running, and he’s allowed to destroy our governmental infrastructure and our standing in the international community, all while robbing the taxpayers while he golfs, and there are no consequences.

WHEN DO WE SAY WHEN??

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Idiotic Policies

I had a weird conversation the other day with Bloodworks Northwest, my local blood bank. It seems that I can’t donate next time because if I do, I’ll have given blood more than 6 times in a 12 month period.

Me: “Can’t you give blood every 8 weeks?”

Them: “Yes.”

Me: “6 x 8 is 48, and there are 52 weeks in the year, so sometimes you’re bound to be donating more than 6 times in a year.”

Them: “But you can only give 6 times a year.”

Me: “So you’re saying you don’t want my blood?”

Them: “Not until after June 22nd. Would you like to reschedule now?”

Me: “No. I’ll get around to it. Maybe. Later.”

WHAT AN IDIOTIC POLICY!!!!

This makes absolutely no sense. By doing this, they are alienating their most faithful donors. They are rejecting every 7th donation. That runs entirely counter to their mission.

I could swallow it if there was a logical reason behind it. But nothing makes me chafe more than being told, “That’s just the way it is.” There are some policies that I deal with at work like this, and they make me want to scream. Someone needs to tell the emperor he has no clothes. “Your highness, not only are you naked, but you’re also stupid.”

So, Bloodworks Northwest, if you wonder why you’ll never be seeing me again, it’s because I’m taking my blood down the road to the American Red Cross. They let you donate every 8 weeks, full stop. Just like every single solitary other donation center I’ve used my entire adult life. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.

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Don’t Fence Me In

I had been shopping at this grocery store for decades with no complaints. Then one day at the check-out line, the bag boy started walking with me to my car. I glanced down at my two bags and said, “Never mind, I can handle it.” He looked mortified. He said it was now policy that they had to escort every customer to his or her car and put the groceries in for them.

Seriously? Am I three years old now? Do you have to hold my hand while I cross the street as well? If I need help, I’ll ask for it. Sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t. This made for an awkward few minutes as he did his job. I wasn’t irritated with him. He was only doing what he was told. I was irritated at some white guy in a suit in some corporate ivory tower for thinking he knows better than I do what I want or need.

This went on for several weeks, until enough of us threatened to go to another grocery store if they didn’t stop this stupidity. Then, glory hallelujah, things went back to normal. I don’t know who was happier, the bag boys or the customers.

Similarly, I used to go to a pharmacy that suddenly implemented a mandatory automatic refill policy. Whether you liked it or not, they would refill your meds in a month’s time, and then start harassing you with automated phone calls to come pick them up. Well, sometimes I skip doses to stretch out my prescriptions, because I can’t afford the refills. When I want a refill, I’ll ask for it. I no longer do business with them.

It’s one thing to give a customer options. Some may want an automatic refill or assistance with their groceries. Others may not. It’s great customer service to give people choices.

But when you start limiting their possibilities, when you start thinking that you know best, that’s when you alienate people. That’s when you lose customers. That’s when people vote with their feet. I’m not going to be told what to do and give you my money for the privilege. Honestly.

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An Immigration Story

For reasons that will be more readily apparent in my next “Exploring Seattle” blog entry, my maternal grandmother has been on my mind a great deal today. I’m staring at her copper pot that has been passed down to me and is one of my most prized possessions. It must have been one of hers, too, because she hauled it all the way from Denmark when she came here.

Other things that I know she carried with her on that long ocean voyage included an oil painting of pansies that my sister now has, a bible, family photographs, some Danish Silver and a Danish/English dictionary. She traveled alone, her first time at sea, to meet her husband who had gone before her. That must have been terrifying. On the journey she taught herself English by using that dictionary and deciphering an issue of the Saturday Evening Post. Needless to say, this did not make her completely fluent, and she never quite got there, but I admire her attempt.

She was fortunate enough not to travel steerage class, so her trip was not nearly as miserable as it could have been. She did go through Ellis Island, but was not subject to the horrible button hook eye inspection or the long lines with the “great unwashed.” But still, she was a young girl all alone after weeks on a cold unforgiving ocean, greeted by the familiar Statue of Liberty, then subjected to nothing familiar except her husband ever again. Ever again. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Having just moved 3000 miles to a place I’ve never been, where I know no one, I am starting to have an ever so slight sense of how she must have felt. Lonely. An outsider. Never quite comfortable. At least I know the language, and with the internet and widespread telephones I can keep in touch with my loved ones. It’s quite likely that my grandmother never heard from or saw many people ever again. Ever again.

But she did it. All my grandparents did. That’s how badly they wanted to improve their qualities of life. I totally relate.

As I gaze upon grandma’s copper pot, I can do nothing but admire her for what she did for future generations. And because of that, I can’t begrudge anyone’s attempt to become an immigrant. I can’t judge one immigrant over another based on their country of origin or their skin color. I can’t look at them as an evil “them” that becomes a threat to “us”. Every human being has hopes and dreams and family to support. Borders are artificial constructs. If you go far enough back in anyone’s family tree, you’re going to find an immigrant. Even the Native Americans crossed the great land bridge once upon a time.

No one is born with some golden ticket of privilege that makes them superior to others who, by simple misfortune, came to be born on a point on this little tiny planet in this vast universe that just happened to be a few degrees north, south, east, or west of opportunity. So you may or may not like our American president, but when I heard this speech, I cheered. For all of us. Everywhere.

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Why I Fail to Thrive in a Bureaucracy

I have never been one to suffer fools gladly. I suppose that actually sums it up. I could stop this blog entry right here. And it’s not the first time I’ve addressed this subject. See also my entry entitled How to Give HORRIBLE Customer Service. So I don’t suppose I really need to go there again. And yet, here I am. It’s only fair, though, because there are days when you just can’t avoid bureaucracies no matter how desperately you try.

Like the time I was applying for college and they asked me to provide my transcripts from Surrey Community College. I called them and said I never went to Surrey Community College. In fact, I’d never even HEARD of Surrey Community College. And they then told me that I would have to get a letter from them proving that I’d never been there. Thank heavens they cooperated, because they could have very easily laughed at me. So somewhere in some folder at Indian River State College is a letter that says that I, in fact, have never attended Surrey. It made me want to transfer to Surrey, frankly. Stupidity like that makes me want to tear my hair (or someone else’s) out by the roots.

Believe it or not, I once was a bureaucrat. I was an eligibility specialist for the State of Florida’s Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Over the years I saw, time and time again, someone come up with a form to make our lives easier, and in no time it would turn into a MANDATORY form that made our lives much, much harder. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had to say, “I know it’s stupid that you have to have this form filled out before you can get benefits. I know this form has absolutely nothing to do with your situation. But you have to have this form filled out before you can get benefits.” The inmates truly run the asylums. I only lasted 4 years in that job, and it nearly sucked the life out of me. The best thing I’ve ever done was quit.

When you do not allow your employees to exercise any form of independent judgment or common sense, you create the world’s most illogical monster. Anyone who deals with AT&T or the federal government knows this. And the people who are willing to stand up and point out that policies are idiotic, or, essentially, that the emperor wears no clothes, are the very people who are labeled as troublemakers and are generally hounded out of the organization. It’s a shame, because those are clearly the very employees who care, and therefore the ones that are most needed.

bureaucrat

(photocredit: positivesharing.com)

I guess I’m ranting because today I had to get up 4 hours early to drive 15 miles across town and take an annual test to prove that I am a competent bridgetender. Never mind the fact that I’ve been on the job for 12 years, and if I didn’t know what I was doing by now, there would be a lot of boat wreckage at the bottom of the river. Never mind the fact that a lot of the questions on the test had nothing to do with my ability to competently perform my duties, and yet if I get less than 90 percent right, I could lose my job. Never mind the fact that this is the only district in the entire state of Florida that requires that bridgetenders take such a test. So why am I having to take this test? Two reasons. Because it’s mentioned vaguely in our contract, and because the Florida Department of Transportation Drawbridge Supervisor guy has “Give bridgetenders a test every year in February” on his evaluation form, and if he doesn’t meet all the criteria on his evaluation, he loses his chance of getting a raise. (And yet we only get raises once every 6 years, of less than 10 percent.) So that’s why I woke up 4 hours early today.

I’m trying not to scream.