somebody set me up the bomb

Man is it ever a blue-sky gorgeous day up here in Oregon.

I mean, the weather is about as perfect as anyone could ask for.  One thing about Oregon, when the weather is on, it’s on.  One other thing about Oregon, the weather is hardly ever on, and when it’s off it’s off. But today, it’s definitely on.  Blue skies with just enough wispy white clouds for accent, and temperatures in the mid 70s.  Anyway, it’s not that beautiful from within the walls of this stupid cubicle… but I still have the memories from the minute I was outside the car and restaurant at lunch.  Savoring them now…

I got ambushed at work today friends; straight-up entrapped, set-up.

See, I was asked to come up here today for what’s known at my sawmill as a “face to face” meeting.  This is where a bunch of people who work together “virtually” on a daily basis physically come to a central location and meet each other, well, face-to-face.  It’s a common meeting here, and also a very valuable one.  It’s my belief that you can talk to someone for years over the phone and through e-mail and never really “get them” at all.  One lunch sitting across from each other though, one beer after a conference, and you can “feel out” personality quirks, working styles, and all other manner of useful (read: exploitable) information about coworkers you’ve only known as voices.  So, anyway, I was looking forward to the face to face.

My role in the meeting, as communicated to me beforehand by the meeting organizer, was simply to meet, greet, and listen.  There was a published agenda, and I wasn’t on it.  So for me this was more of a networking trip than a working one, at least as far as the face-to-face goes.  But, about an hour into the meeting, they turned on me y’all.  I was handed the plug for the projector and the entire room turned to me as the leader said, “Dave, do you want to present your material now?”

My material?  My material?!

My face was hot, I was stammering.  People were looking at me, I was still holding the cable for the projector… hovering it near my laptop like I might hook it up.  But for what?  I have no “material;” I have nothing to share, I’ve prepared zero.  I’m not even on the agenda.  No one told me I was supposed to present, no one asked me to bring data – I’m just here to shake hands and exchange business cards and ask how your kids are doing.  I do the only thing I can think of:

“I didn’t actually prepare any material for this discussion, as it wasn’t on the agenda,” I said, regaining a little piece of my composure as I did, each word coming out in a voice a little more confident than the last.  “I can, however, give a brief verbal update.”  I proceeded to talk, talk, and talk.  I wasn’t really sure where I was going, but at least I was dumping real information – facts.  You can’t call me on facts, even if they are things that won’t become fact for months.  I start to see heads nodding along with me, I hear “mmms” of approval and understanding.  It’s working… I’ve got ’em.

But then, just as I thought I was beginning to roll: A challenge.  Someone asks me when they can have my information, wants to pin me down to days and hours and minutes if he can.  Information that I’ve not created yet, and now they’re telling me they need it yesterday and I’m holding up their schedule.  The tone in the room changes, gets more aggressive towards me.  “Tell you what,” I say, “We need some more information from you too before we have the whole picture here.  Surely my piece isn’t the only piece causing delay. When do you plan to have your data available?”  “Any day now,” the challenger replies.  “That’s my timeline too, then,” I reply, a little smug.  I mean, vague is OK for you – it must be for me too, right?

“Well, let’s put a date on it…” he follows.  “OK,” I say, “When can you have your data ready?”

What’s this?  What have I done here?  Now who’s on the spot, Mr. Challenger?

“I can have mine in two weeks,” he says.  “Then so can I,” I reply.

Done.  Didn’t exactly turn the tables, but at least got 100% of the heat off me.  Still, wasn’t my best showing by a long shot.

Thing is, I know these guys are antsy to have some particular data for me.  I should’ve been able to read the ruse, to see their game, and could’ve come in over-prepared.  I wish to the Heavens that I’d had that foresight and come in with a fully decked-out presentation I could throw up on the projector – man I wish.  But nope, I had to wing it.   Next time, perhaps… I’ll be a little more cautious, a bit more suspicious of motivations.  Da bidness world is hardcore, y’allz… hardcore gangsta bidness.

The day ended a lot better though.  I drew up in front of my folks’ place (where I stay when I have to work from the Oregon sawmill), and we went out for dinner at one of my favorite outdoor pub-eatery places.  It was a long relaxed dinner over beers, a good time.  Fine way to turn around an off day.

And now, I’m off to bed and then back on a plane tomorrow.  Have a good weekend readers, I love you.

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