Boy, you ever have one of those days when you just can’t accomplish anything? It’s like the tiny ship of your soul is bounced from one storm to another and never finds purchase on any solid ground. There has been so much correspondence both verbal and written running through my mind today that it has officially given me a huge headache.
The whole thing started at 8am when I opened my work email. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a note from management that, while perfectly reasonable in its content, made me wonder if they really understood anything about how the department works? Long story short, the missive made me wonder if *I* was being blamed for something largely outside my control. It also made me wonder if I was going to be held accountable for things that were totally outside the scope of my work. Was this the first sign, I thought, that rather than narrowing the scope of my position as developer it was actually going to expand it into things completely outside my purview? And more importantly, would I spend a fourth sentence saying the exact same thing for a fourth time using different words?
In short, in one fell swoop half of my optimism drained away into the gutter. Optimism is such a delicate flower. It has now been over two weeks since the last time I spoke to management about the current reorg. In any other circumstances I’d chalk this up to the holidays but I’ve seen movement in other areas of the company; clearly change is under way. I’ve even heard bits involving my department but it seems clear that whatever’s happening doesn’t require my input. Perhaps I’ve had my say and I’m no longer necessary or perhaps the changes don’t involve me, but I’m getting edgier by the day. I’m still officially reserving judgment but I cannot remain unrestrictedly optimistic.
During the lunch hour I broached a topic with the wife that resulted in an extremely protracted and extremely heavy conversation on the topic of interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, for the most part I can’t really reproduce the results here; it’s one thing to broadcast your own innermost thoughts to the world but wives tend to prefer to speak for themselves. She did, however, ask one very good question that I can answer: “What exactly are you looking to get out of friendship?” That, I thought, is a damn good point. Why exactly do I care about any of this? What is the result of success and how do you know when you achieve it?
The answer, of course, is a complicated one. It first must be understood that the goal of any friendship isn’t really something you can dictate. You can’t expect to find someone to walk the Appalachian Trail with you among those with 6-month-old babies at home. No matter what your goals are, they have to be compatible with the person on the other end of the handshake and in many cases, you have to take what you can get. For ease of analysis I think we should first break friendships down into at least four easy categories:
Category 1: The Fred and Barney Friend (FAB)
As outdated as the reference is, there were no better friends in the universe of Honeymooners-copycat-animated-sitcoms than Fred and Barney. These two fought together, played together, schemed together and generally looked after each other like brothers. Even if they hadn’t worked together they would have been fast friends for life. Fred could have called Barney at four in the morning to come help fix a leaky pipe or at the last minute to go out to dinner together with the wives. While they weren’t the only friends the other had they were certainly the default option for whatever was going on. The FAB friend is also the one you call to complain to when your spouse does something stupid or the first person you tell when he finally buys you those diamond earrings. Your FAB friend also generally throws your baby shower or bachelor party.
Category 2: The Recurring Outside Work Friend (ROW)
One of the things that defines a friendship for me is the effort one puts into meeting ‘outside the bounds of convenience’ and generally this means outside work. The ROW friend comes over to watch the big game and goes bowling occasionally but isn’t typically the ‘default’ option if no one else is available. You might call your ROW at four in the morning but only if all other options have been expended. Your ROW will probably ask if someone is throwing you a shower but find it’s already being planned. If you work with your ROW then you’ll commiserate with them about work issues in great detail but you’ll also be aware of their non-work interests.
Category 3: The Work Friend (WF)
As you might expect the work friend’s interest in you ends more or less when the foreman pulls the birds tail and he screams to signal the end of the work day. Little effort is made to meet outside work except at work-related functions but discussions about work could be quite detailed and in-depth. You’d typically never consider calling your WF outside of work hours no matter how many pipes break because you probably don’t have their phone number.
Category 4: The Occasional Work Friend (OWF)
Lowest of all on our hierarchy are those with whom we relate only when fortune throws us together by chance. OWFs may exchange words in the hallway on the way to the loo or lunch together in the breakroom but no attempt is made to seek the other out. You won’t call an OWF for emergency plumbing needs because chances are you don’t know their last name or their phone number.
So, now that we’ve got the categorization out of the way, what was the question we were asking? Oh yes, what’s the goal of all this friendship crap? Obviously enough, the goal is to have as many friends of the highest grade possible. (This makes it sound so logical and antiseptic; it’s so flattering isn’t it?) Right now I consider myself as having 4 somewhat weak ROWs, one strong WF and countless OWFs.
Clearly, there’s a vacuum of leadership at the top of the food chain that I’ve always found impossible to fill. I didn’t realize until somewhat recently why this was the case and as usual it was my wife who pointed out my stupidity. Before I get to the direct stupidity we should make a clarification on the ROWs. I describe my 4 ROWs as somewhat weak ones only because they have other commitments. I can’t ask any of them to go out at the drop of a hat because they have kids or other ‘stuff to do’. Clearly people have their own lives. Every one of them is deserving of more of my attention but circumstances simply don’t make that possible.
Ready for the stupidity of which my wife so kindly reminded me? Years ago when I still worked in the office one of my WFs invited me over to the house to watch a movie. For whatever reason I evaded the request. Not long after I evaded a second similar request and as a result my WF devolved slowly into an OWF. As you might have observed, months later I was on here bitching about not having any friends. Again and as usual, I allowed my discomfort of doing something new to keep me from achieving my goals. Just like the library story yesterday, I was complaining about a situation that didn’t actually exist. People are making every effort to promote themselves up the chain but I’m actively smacking them on the head and sending them back down the ladder. WTF was I thinking? Anyway, enough of that; lesson learned I guess. I’m never turning down another invitation again, even if it’s one of those “Holiday Decorating” parties where you have people over to put up your Christmas tree for you.
Several hours of that later I got an IM from one of our remote employees who, despite the holidays, is obviously a bit depressed. I spent half an hour trying to put a positive spin on his somewhat glum situation but to little effect I’m afraid. I’m happy that he at least found someone to talk to for a while. I’m half expecting an IM right at midnight tonight since his plans seemed to be to sit home alone for the final day of the year. Sadly most of that is beyond my power to help but I can at least listen.
Lastly and most frustratingly I was informed today that the cube I intended to use while in the office got assigned to another employee. So unless I can weedle a proper cube out of HR I’m stuck at home forever. Well, not strictly speaking I guess; one of the ROWs offered to let me set up a TV tray in his cube. He may need a promotion for that one.
So after all that… and writing all that… I’m kinda worn out. But my headache is gone. Apparently it’s good just to vent hot gases from your head once in a while… anyone know a good trepanner?