Tender

Tender

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Unions (a "Just Doing My Job" memoire post)

I don't know why this came to me today, but I'll share it. Maybe it will give you something, and give something to me in the sharing.

Early in my career, when I was so green and clueless I had no business talking, I toured facilities across Canada to bring a “face” for head office HR. During a meeting about benefits, an employee asked me, out of the blue,

Why don’t we have a union?

I felt completely blindsided. I had never thought about unions at all. I basically knew what they were, but I’d never worked anywhere that had one. My answer was pretty na├»ve (but I might make the same one today, so maybe not). 

I said, well, unions are meant to stand between the employee and the employer, and the employees pay them for that. So I guess you don’t have a union because you don’t want one.

That’s right, called out another guy. I’ve worked in a union shop. Guys there, it’s all about working the system, not about the work. Here, we don’t make great money but we have benefits, the work’s not too hard, and the big guys take care of us. They bring in business, and let us get the work done. If I want to switch a shift I don’t have some 90 page process I gotta follow.

Well, said a woman, my husband works at a union shop and they make $10 more an hour than I do here, the salary bands are  posted. Four weeks’ vacation after five years.

And no favouritism, called another. Everything’s by seniority.

Seniority? Called a young guy from the back. Yeah, so old guys can sit back and let us do all the work while they get their pick of shifts and twice the pay. At least here, we have a merit pay system.

Whatever, said a disgruntled man. Favouritism’s everywhere, it’s just how it shows up.

I think we’re getting a little off topic, I floundered, completely missing the moment in my panic. Does anyone have questions about the benefits plan?

Then I noticed the manager standing in the doorway. He was pissed. No, he growled, I think it’s time for everyone to get back to work.  The employees scattered.

When we were alone, he closed the door and shook his head.

I don’t know what they’re thinking, sending a fresh-face like you out here. Do you know what a union would do to this place? We give these guys flexibility for their hours, so they can consolidate their shifts and do other things in their lives besides work here. We got a good system, it works for everyone. But business is slow, they’re looking to sell this whole operation or our plant might close. A union run at this point would destroy any chance at a sale. It would get us all tied up in negotiations and contracts and processes and procedures and drag us even further down the toilet.

And you know what, he went on, getting more agitated, they’ve got it good, here. Sure there’s favouritism sometimes, but it’s usually because someone’s doing a better job, not just for no reason. And some guys do get paid more than the housewives taking shifts for pin money or the students just working here til they get through school. Look, these guys have more skin in the game. If this place goes belly up, they lose their jobs, they got families, mortgages, what do those young kids have to worry about but themselves? They’d get another job right away. Some guys have more they gotta do with that money, people counting on them. The whole town gets affected if they can't work. No offense, sweetheart, but you probably make more than most of those guys for pushing paper, just because you’re head office, and you haven’t had time to know shit about life. None of it’s fair. But it’s good here. And if anyone ever asks you why we don’t have a union again, you tell them, because we don’t fucking need one and SHUT. IT. DOWN.

I wondered for a moment if he was going to slap me. He turned abruptly and left the room, slamming the door behind him.


I cried. For about a minute, then I pulled myself together, put on a smile, and headed back out to do my job. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bird Brains

Safe vantage


There's a little flock of sparrows that likes to make the backyard rounds looking for food. In winter it's got to be hard, and our neighbourhood's cats don't make it any easier. I wanted to watch these birds a little more closely, so I put out seed. Lots of seed. I put it in the snow-filled garden, where critter-repelling walls will give them a heads-up if any cats want in. I put it in the centre of the yard, where a cat would have to be in the open so they could fly away before its approach. While I can't guarantee their safety, the seed placement is as safe as it's going to get, given that I don't have a bird feeder.

And I put out lots of seed. Half a bag. Enough they could come back, day after day, for weeks, before they'd eat it all. I focused on the seed as an offering, an invitation, and my energy put out a call to lunch.

Then I waited.

It didn't take long to get their attention. First I heard them in the woods, telling each other they might have found something. Then five swooped over to check it out, landing in the trees at the back of the yard, watching that seed like it might tell them a story. But not one bird ate the seed. They took off. This happened several times over a couple of hours. More chattering. More watching.

Mr. Brave
Eventually, one brave soul was nominated from the group. He swooped down, landed close to the seed for a few seconds, and took off into the trees. He did it again, landing a little closer. The third time, he boldly grabbed a seed before taking flight.

Based on his success, another brave bird tried the same thing, in the same way, with the same success. The two brave souls traded back and forth - swoop in, grab a seed, make for the trees. Swoop in, grab a seed, make for the trees. They had perfect timing, one swooping in, the other landing, like a dance. I could almost hear the music of the rhythm of their wings and the wind. Meanwhile, other birds watched from the trees, while most of the flock stayed well away.

After maybe half an hour of this, Mr. Brave decided to land and chow down. The other birds watched, waiting for him to be eaten, waiting for him to be trapped, killed, taken down for his daring. When he seemed safe enough, the second bird landed, not too close to him, and ate. Before long, the dance of two birds had become a slower dance of 12, then 20 birds. The bravest got the most food.

Even so, they were easily spooked. If even one bird went on alert, the entire flock would take off into the trees like lightening. Then another ten or fifteen minutes to forget and feel safe again. Over and over, the flock flirted with the abundance I'd left for them, taking off, coming back, never quite settling, never trusting what they'd found.

For good reason. This world is a dangerous place. It's hard to tell the abundance from the traps. It's hard to settle in and enjoy what's good in this freezing weather where cats prowl and you never know what those crazy humans might decide to do.

Am I not equally skittish?

Our bird brains don't let us trust or enjoy abundance. They want to keep us safe, and alive. But watching while someone else takes the risk isn't how I want to live. Picking at their leftovers and taking off in fear every few minutes uses more energy that I get from the meager seed I score. I think I'll wait till that cat is ready to pounce before I turn from my feast - after all, I can fly!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Maverick Musings (a diversion at best from reality)

1971 Maverick (origin of pic unknown)


I don’t believe in Maverick. But he’s real.

He says,
You are an observer, an anthropologist, a judge (too harsh), a helper (too soft),
a being apart from within.

He says,
Do not expect understanding from the humans.

He says,
Do not expect them to recognize you. Me, in you. Do not encourage it.

Maverick says:

You are reality tv for the stars
You are the comic relief of existence
You are the most tender thing in the Universe
You are impossible, improbable and unreal
You are a serious joke.
Your earnestness endears you to Helium and Beryllium
You might yet get the votes.
You could clear some substantial soul debt, if you stick to
if you come through, before you’re through.
(so do.)

Maverick tells me that this moment is such an old replay that I am quaint to think I live in it.

He says these things, not so I will understand them (I don’t) but so I will Know them in my molecules, at the mitochondrian level that actually matters. He doesn't much care what I think. Brains are ridiculously inefficient and slow processors of a bygone technology, anyway. 

Maverick prowls in me always, often at rest but vaguely listening, occasionally interested, sometimes (begrudgingly, unkindly) helpful; once in a while, kind. Always with love, yet rarely loving. 

His patience with me wears thin
while he knows I am perfect and All Is as it Is.
I confound him. I infect him. He resents it. He craves it.

We have a complicated relationship.

He wants to speak but does not want to impose. He mistrusts the humans to hear or understand. He prefers stealth. 

(I prefer wealth.)

He also does not know why we are here.

Maverick understands more than I, but what Is cannot be understood.

He asks for patience. It’s not as easy as I think, he tells me, to shepherd What Is to accommodate Favours of the Possible.  

He may seem magical to me, he sighs, but he is no more magic than I. In some ways more free. In others, more limited. In this corporeal world, I have more access than he does, he claims. But I know for a fact he can blow his breath like the wind changes the direction of the flame, and still he holds back, testing me, waiting for a proof I don’t understand and couldn’t provide if I did.

Maverick feels embarrassed by his attachment to me. He would deny it if he could, if it weren’t Apparent. He punishes me for it, then abates, but never really makes it up to me. He has not always been a good friend. He has not always respected my life as an experience I have a right to. He has not always been kind in his teaching moments.

He left me for a time, fed up, done. Left me for dead, or not much better than, but I rallied and came through. I did what I had to do. I soldiered on with others.  I found ways and means.

Am I to celebrate his return? Am I to submit, now, in ways I didn’t before, because he deigns to rejoin the picture more actively?

He tells me he never left and I tell him I know.

His sorry feels too begrudging to believe, but I don’t really care. Because, how can I deny him?


He is me. 

(choice is the illusion of the naive)

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Perfect Storm

Weather the Storm


It's a perfect storm to test me.

A.'s away. So I start with a handicap - it's just me to be responsible, me to own it all, me to be the parent and everything else, too...

in the week my hormones ride me...

on the day my morning client meeting is really important and the afternoon's meeting is several women at my (currently messy) house...

on the day I'm trying to close a somewhat scary real estate deal and arrange the financing out of thin air...

on the morning they close the school for weather...

and the kids are still in pj's
as I surrender to the day and do each thing that needs doing,
in order,
in order to say,
I'm here.

(breathe. move. be.)

And after all, I should have this one mastered by now. I feel confident going in.