Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Taking Care of the Boss

I haven’t posted any stories from my work life before now; mostly because my work isn’t all that exciting. My job is what they call, in the engineering world, an FE analyst; in layman’s terms, we’re the guys the other engineers think of as nerds.

Now, the Conventional Wisdom on How to Get Ahead at Your Job includes the idea of Taking Care of the Boss – make him look good to his own bosses, cover his ass when you can, and see that he’s never embarrassed on account of something you’ve done, so that when he gets promoted for doing a good job, you’ll be in line to take his place.

Anyway, when I was young and fresh out of college at my first ‘real job’ (back in the days when engineers still wore ties to work), my boss was a guy named Alex. One of the other guys in the group who reported to Alex was a crusty old guy, a Navy veteran named Bill. Bill was just a couple years from retiring when I started there; he and Alex had been working together for a long time, and had developed a kind of symbiotic relationship.

One day, I was scheduled to be in a meeting that Alex was supposed to be leading, and Bill was in the same meeting. Just before the meeting, Alex, Bill and I were gathered outside Alex’s office, and Alex heaved a heavy sigh. “I really don’t want to be in this meeting,” he said, explaining that it was pretty much a useless meeting, and besides, he wasn’t really prepared for it.

“No problem,” Bill said. “I’ll take care of it.”

Alex looked at him quizzically for a second, and we all went down the hall to the conference room for the meeting.

When we got into the room, and the other attendees were all there, Alex called the meeting to order, and the small talk settled down. While we were all waiting for Alex to ‘officially’ begin the meeting, Bill let loose with the loudest, longest, most odiferous fart that I have ever experienced in my life. We all just sort of stared at Bill in awed, open-mouthed silence, until finally Alex said, “Good grief, Bill – did you shit?”

As the noxious cloud spread through the room, someone suggested that maybe it would be a good idea to postpone the meeting to another time, and Alex quickly agreed, rescheduling for a week later.

I was walking back to my desk afterward, and as I passed by Alex’s office, Bill was standing there, and I heard Alex say, “Thanks, Bill – I owe you for that one.”

Bill answered, “No problem.”

And that was my first, best lesson in the Art of Taking Care of the Boss. . .


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