Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Two Stories

The company I used to work for in Austin is gradually shutting down. They've transferred a bunch of people to another state and laid a lot more off. But they're not closing down altogether, and my former manager, through the departure of several others at his level, has gained a great deal more power, prestige, and influence.

This is his story.

Twelve years or so ago, my supervisor left the company to work for an independent consultant, so her boss, the division director, set out to hire a replacement. She posted the position, screened applications, and conducted interviews. When she had narrowed her choices down to four or five people - all internal candidates - she called a staff meeting to get everyone's input as to which one would be the best fit for our group. One of us - a good friend of mine - was traveling that week, so he was piped in by speakerphone. The rest of us sat around the conference table and discussed the applicants as our director reviewed their qualifications, projecting each one's badge photo on the screen at the end of the room.

None of us really knew any of the candidates, but when the director got to a particular one, my friend on the speakerphone piped up. "Oh, I've worked with him before!" he said. "He's very good, knows his stuff, and he's a really nice guy. I think he'd be great for the job!"

"What do the rest of you think?" asked the director, but we all shrugged. We knew his name and his face - it was a small enough company, no one would have been completely unfamiliar - but we didn't know anything about him. Still, if our coworker could recommend him so strongly, we certainly had no objection. So he was hired.

Several months later, my friend and I were at lunch. "Do you know," he told me, "that day when we had that meeting and decided to hire Bob? Well, I thought she was talking about somebody else."

This is my friend's story.

We were working a conference out of town, and at the end of a long day, we hung out on his hotel room balcony drinking Coronas and talking. After it got dark we went inside and watched Austin Powers on TV. My friend leaned back on one bed, and I lay on my stomach on the other. And after a while, Coronas being Coronas, you know, he got up to use the restroom.

And left the door open.

"Oh dear," I remember thinking at the time, "this can't be good," though at least the bathroom was around the corner, and not in direct line of sight. Still, when he came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, it turned out I was right. Though I don't mean to complain, because it could have been much worse. He did have on underwear.

"Well!" I said brightly, "just look at the time." Or something like that. The next time I saw him back at the office, a week or so later, he apologized, and said he hoped he hadn't made me uncomfortable, and I said oh no, really, no big deal, don't worry about it. And that was that. But our friendship was never really quite the same, and fizzled out pretty shortly thereafter.

I think the moral of both of these stories is that life is random, unpredictable, and weird, so always be sure you have on clean underwear.

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