Friday, September 16, 2005

I feel for you, President Bush

Once upon a time, I had a day job. The specifics varied from time to time, with occasional planned and unplanned vacations at random intervals. For a while I worked for Pacific Gas & Electric, a private enterprise that is actually as tightly run a ship as FEMA. You may shake your fist at George Bush and Enron every time the power goes out, and you're quite right to, but all the same, having worked at PG&E I consider it a minor miracle each time the lights actually work. (It's rather like GTE phone service in the bad old days, where each outgoing call had a better than 98% chance of connecting, at least to some other telephone — if perhaps not the one you actually dialed. You had GTE phone service back when you lived in Plano, Mr. President — remember?)

My department never bothered with those online scheduling things, because we were a separate special project, off in a different building from the rest of the company. Because of the nature of technical support work, you generally come in late unless they're going to pay you overtime (and we know how often that happens), because you just know you ain't leaving at 5:00 sharp. However, we had a Very Important Meeting one day to meet with some people from another department to coordinate with some people from some other department to figure out how to split our project into two separate special projects. The meeting was scheduled for 7:00 a.m., because all the attendees showed that as an available time slot in their online calendars, including me! Because I never logged in to the online calendar program, my profile defaulted to "Sure, I can come in at 6 a.m.; no sweat!" because of course that's when everybody comes in to work.

Well, okay, making me come to this meeting is kind of like making FEMA people drop everything to tell Secretary Chertoff how many pounds of ice you've delivered to Plaquemines Parish, but still, I wished to keep the job and so I obeyed my pointy-haired boss. I dragged my ass out of bed before the crack of dawn — not just before the crack of noon — and showered and shaved and put on a nice shirt so I could look like my job was something other than crawling into the dust bunnies under someone's desk to figure out which LAN subnet they're plugged into. I even used hair conditioner. Woops, failure to plan there. I underestimated the insurgency that would result if I didn't send in enough water in the initial rinse invasion to remove all traces of the weapons of mass silkience. There I was, half an hour into a morning business meeting when I reached up to my unexpectedly goopy head. Oh, yes: work conditioner into hair, ... , towel dry — yeah, there was a step missing.

My situation worked out fine — we took a bathroom break, just like that little note you passed to Condi in class the other day, and I rinsed my hair out in the sink, returning looking only a little the worse for wear. For future reference, it's all right to just say, "Let's take a 5-minute break," most especially when you're the President of the United States of America.

Now you might think that's the end of the tale, but it's Friday so we'll have double story time before our nap.

This meeting was to discuss setting up a framework for establishing the parameters under which to discuss a timeline for planning the delegation of the execution of moving their goddamned files off of my overcrowded server. (They had a server with a whomping 32 bazilliobyte hard disk, only 3% full, but wouldn't get their crap off of my little 8 bazilliobyte disk which was 99.7% full.) Do you know what happens when a server gets 99.8% full? I can tell you: nobody in your department has e-mail, nobody has shared files, nobody can even log in to the network, for about a week and a half. Somehow, I thought we should do something before next month, but I still got blamed when things went kablooie.

So, Mr. Bush, I know how you feel, not being functional when you've been dragged out of sleepy time for a big meeting, and I also know how you feel when you get blamed for something you had no way of anticipating something you had no authority over leaders not listening to the advice of the people "on the ground."

Well, Mr. President, it's time for milk and cookies now, so Laura will come tuck you in and give you a teddy bear security blanket Bible quote to help you sleep.

Night, night, Mr. President. I know you're all tired out from praying for all those poor people down in New Orleans, but tomorrow you need to wake up bright and early and take concrete action to ensure that the federal disaster response is catching up to where it ought to be go clear some more brush at Prairie Chapel Ranch spout vague platitudes about "taking responsibility" in hopes that the press corps will turn back into lap dogs.