Nine years from John’s present time-line. 3 Years ago.
Typing up a report on his laptop, John could hear the faint sound of people’s voices outside his office. One was a woman, the other a man. He recognized their voices.
“Have you seen that new show on cable about all those crazy “prepper” types?” Karen, a Human Resources Specialist. John was sure of it.
“No, no, I haven’t but I saw the commercials, I can’t believe I missed that! It’s kinda weird, right? I mean, why would anyone build a bunker in the middle of nowhere? Eventually you’re going to run out of supplies and then you’re S.O.L.!” Sean, one of John’s many people he reported to. They were scheduled to work on the report that John was already filling out. Sean was late for their joint-projects almost all of the time. John wondered if it was because Sean was slightly above him that he did this. Sean was, for the most part, an affable man. Something just didn’t seem right with him in John’s mind.
Even though it wasn’t directed at him, the banter going on just outside his office got his attention. Hitting save on the file, John pivoted his chair to the left and looked slightly over the same shoulder towards the door, listening.
“Well, I watched it.”
“Oh yeah, how was it?”
“Pretty neat. They showed two episodes back to back. It wasn’t what I expected. There were some pretty “normal” people on there, I mean if you looked at them you wouldn’t think it. But there was one couple on the show that you could definitely tell….” The person did a sarcastic whistle, apparently to describe how crazy that couple was. It had its intended effect, the other laughed.
“So they weren’t all crazy, inbred, red-neck militia-types?”
“I know, right? There was this one family who lived in a subdivision like mine. Years ago, they took out an equity loan on their home, used part of the money to have contractors come in and finish their basement and used the rest for emergency stuff and to make a “hidden” room in the basement.”
“Wow…so what are they going to do when their neighbor’s see it on this show? If things really do go bad, they’ve just advertised themselves, right?”
“Yeah I guess so, not too smart!”
John leaned back in his chair, nursing his coffee, amused at the conversation.
“Well, I’d better get over to HR, I need to fill out a few req’s for some job openings.”
“Sounds good, I need to pop in and get some things done with John.”
John could hear Sean say hello to another worker passing by, John turned back to his laptop just as the screen-saver came on, locking his station. He entered his password and the report popped back up into view. He heard the door swing open and Sean walked through.
“Hey there, Sean. I thought I heard you out in the hall.”
“Well, why didn’t you pop out?”
“Oh, just trying to get this report done up. Got a lot on my plate today, you know?”
“Yeah, do I ever! The life of a boss never stops, haha.”
At that, John’s left eyebrow raised slightly. A non-verbal challenge to Sean that he didn’t notice or pick up on. “Sounded like you guys were having a good conversation.” John said as he pivoted his laptop around as Sean sat down across from him. “Take a look at what I’ve come up with so far. I think we are going to need to move about 10,000 more units to hit the goal we set ourselves for the quarter.”
Sean squinted at the screen. It was his “look”. The look he used when he was posing at doing something important. He nodded in approval.
“Yeah, so far so good.” Sean scrolled down the report further and was typing in a few notes. “Yeah, Karen and I were just talking about that new show about those prepper types. Bunch a crazies…” Sean looked up real quick at John. “Hey, John. What do you think of all that zombie apocalypse prepper stuff?”
“I don’t know, Sean. I mean, it sounds crazy, yes. But it also sounds like they are trying to do what they feel is best for their families.” John tried to stay out of a lot of conversations regarding pop culture, politics, religion. He had his views, to be sure, but even at 35, he had seen too many small, insignificant conversations blow up. Who fucking cares about the next reality show contestant anyway? Apparently a lot of people.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, if you think about it from their end. They believe that something bad is going to happen. So, since they love their family, they want to do what they can in order to be prepared and protect their families. I haven’t seen that show, but I would suspect that they are probably thinking about their neighbors and community too.”
“That’s a lot to think about!”
“Yeah, I’m sure it is. But you gotta start somewhere, right?”
“Huh..I guess. Haha, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were being an advocate for them!” Sean flipped the laptop around again and John leaned forward to review the additions that Sean had put in.
“Just trying to look at things from their point of view, Sean.”
“Always the diplomatic one, eh?”
“Sometimes…” John said with a smile. “My projections stated that if we do 10k more units, we will hit the 150% mark of corporate’s goal. Why are you putting that in as our projected production? Under promise and over deliver, remember? If we put that in there and don’t hit it, it’s not going to reflect well.”
“Well, we need to give your sales and production teams something to strive towards, don’t we?” Sean said, with a slight authoritative tone.
“Yes, that is why they know our goal is 150%. To tell them that they now have to hit that mark when we have barely a month in the quarter… I’m not sure that is a wise decision, Sean. I know my team can do it, but what is going to happen is that corporate will start putting up even larger goals. You know that, man. This division has put up solid and consistent numbers every quarter for the last three years. We’ve always met and exceeded the goals. But to commit to hitting that bar…” John was trying to get through to Sean about their original plan.
Under promise and over deliver. It was a solid theory and worked out for everyone involved. If they over promised and under delivered, there would be a few meetings John would not want to attend with higher-ups who didn’t give a damn about the people on John’s teams. They would only want to know why they didn’t hit that goal. Forget the fact that Sean let his arrogance and posing get in the way. It would be a trickle-down effect. Shit rolls downhill. It stops at John.
They both went back and forth about the projections for a while. They’d gone at it like this before, basically anytime Sean was about to step on his dick. John pulled out charts and reviews of prior quarters to make his point. Sean tried to use those same numbers to make excuses for his demand. John wasn’t a micro-manager. Sean was. John preferred to equip, train and trust his employees to get the job done and hold them accountable at the end of the quarter when they reviewed goals. Sean preferred to take a proctologists point of view, wanting to track weekly, daily and hourly production. Sean’s math made sense. A certain amount of units produced/sold in a quarter would theoretically equate to a certain amount per month, per week, per day and per hour. In the real world, where production and sales ebbed and flowed, it didn’t quite work out that way, which is why micro-managing didn’t work well. John was able to talk him down off of the prideful cliff he was on, John settled for committing to 130%. It was more than doable. John had withheld from Sean that he had already spoken to his team leads this morning and had informally reviewed and recapped where they currently stood.
The two men digitally signed the report, John saved it and attached it to an email to Sean’s direct report and shook hands on it.
“You go hunting and shoot guns, don’t you John?” Sean liked to have personal conversations, especially after a disagreement. It was his way to make sure things were mended between the person he disagreed with.
“Sure, occasionally. Let’s just say I don’t get out hunting as much as I’d like to.” John smiled politely, walking over to his coffee pot. John raised his glass towards Sean, non-verbally asking him if he would like some.
“Thanks, definitely need to refuel!”
John nodded as he swallowed the last of his cup. He took the empty pot over to his water cooler and filled it up. The sound glug-glug-glug filling the room, John chuckled.
“My kids love that sound. Haha. Makes them laugh every time, they say it sounds weird.” John said as he walked back over to the coffee pot, filling the reservoir, changed the filter and put more coffee grounds in. The machine started to gurgle, John walked back over to his desk and sat down. “Five minutes and you’ve got your fresh coffee, Sean. I definitely need to refuel as well.”
“So do you do any of that prepping, John?”
“Hmm? Why would I?”
“Well, like you said, from a family perspective. You have a wife, a handful of little ones.”
“Oh, I’ve read the government’s preparedness website and just followed their advice. Just a small kit in case of a natural disaster, you know, so we can get along if we needed to evacuate the area.”
“Sounds reasonable enough. So, no underground bunkers or anything like that?” Both of them laughed.
“No. Just the small kits. Besides, Sean. If I did….” John leaned in and locked eyes with him seriously. “You’d never know.” John let the silence make him uncomfortable before laughing again. Sean laughed, slightly nervously.
“At first I didn’t think you were joking, man! You have one helluva poker face!”
“Yeah, well. How do you think I won that watch from Simmons?”
“Oh yeah! I totally forgot about that. Hahaha. What did you ever do with that watch?”
“I let Simmons sweat it out for a few weeks, called him into my office and gave it back to him.”
“What?! You are too fucking nice, man. Wasn’t that one of those fancy pilot watches? I would’ve kept it or sold it!”
“Yeah well, that was his father’s watch. He had passed away about a year prior, his father had been a pilot for the Air Force.”
“Oh wow. I didn’t know that.”
“Know your troops, Sean. Know your troops, besides I just wanted to teach him a lesson and I think he got the point.”
“Don’t be a pompous, bragging dick when you are out of your element.”
“Was he mad at you.”
“No, quite the opposite. We’ve actually gotten our families together a good handful of times over the last year. We’ve even gone hunting a few times. He’s a good guy, solid, and he’s done a good job as one of my team leads.”
“Oh, that’s right. Simmons is in charge of Team B. They do a good job over there.”
John got up and poured two fresh cups of coffee for each of them. “Creamer?”
“Nah, I’m not a pussy John.”
“Well, I am….” John said, handing the mug over to Sean and in a more feminine voice said: “I like my creeeamerrrr.” Sean almost did a spit-take.
John kept it light. John did keep the majority of this thoughts on preparedness out of the public view. Sean would not be someone who John could trust enough to talk seriously about preparedness. If things ever did happen, Sean would be one of those people showing up at his door asking for help. A liability. Trying to show people the view from the other side was John’s way of trying to open someone’s mind to thinking about topics like that. It did no good to defend or talk about it if they couldn’t understand where they were coming from.