Monday, June 19, 2017

You All Suck (Exhibit #8 - The Illusion of Control)

The following is a true story. I can produce many witnesses. The point in telling it is to demonstrate what happens when you allow unserious, mentally-suspect people to assume positions of serious responsibility which require cool judgment and intelligence; eventually, farce ensues and everyone pays a price for the sake of saving one total dimwit's job or undeserved reputation.

Once upon a time, Your Overlord was a mid-level peon at a Japanese company which leased high-quality, specially-constructed, secure data center space to other Japanese companies doing business in the United States, along with "turn-key" operations support (this means, you rent it, we staff it for you).

The majority of our customers were companies operating small mainframe computing complexes, which require an expensive infrastructure (redundant power, chilled water systems, easy access to telecommunications methods), and specialized staff requirements (computer operators versed in various operating systems and processing methods, dedicated communications staff, expert facilities management). For all the bullshit I had to endure while I was there (just over four years), I have to say, that in many ways, it might have been one of the top three jobs I've ever had.

Mostly because the people I reported to had no fucking clue what it was that I did.

So long as I did it, and the customer didn't have any complaints about service, I could pretty much get away with whatever I wanted to. The people assigned to supervise me (a former tow truck driver, for example) simply did not have the background and knowledge to properly supervise me, and so followed the rule that so long as no one was busting their balls, assume that everything is just hunky-dory.

However, this lack of background and specific knowledge would often rear it's ugly head in the form of paperwork. After all, if you're a former tow truck driver who knows next to nothing about mainframe computers, JES2, TCP/IP, and can't tell your DOS/VS from your VM/HPO from your MVS/ESA, you're in a precarious position. For a start, you probably only have the job because you've managed a masterful production of complete bullshit during the interview process, your uncle got it for you, or maybe you've engaged in an awful lot of oral sex (and maybe all three), but one must maintain the illusion of control in order to keep it.

Someone in that position can't be at the complete mercy of an underling, for there is too much to lose.

Some measure of control must be applied, so as to at least make it look like you're running a department (a department, incidentally, that began with 10 operators; 3 years later, I was the only one left, and worked what came to be known as "The 3-to-November" shift, since I never knew when I would be leaving on any given night. Overtime bonanza!). The Former Tow Truck Driver's solution to this dilemma was to insist that I fill in reams of useless paper every night, documenting every activity, short of bowel movements, and worse, to duplicate that effort, too; at least two copies of everything to be left in every space I entered or left during the course of the evening.

Now, it was totally unnecessary; it was not required by the customer(s), no one else in the organization except he wanted it. The reason he wanted it was because....he knew I wouldn't do it, at least not religiously, and so whenever it came time to exert some kind of control over me, or to sit down for a performance review, the asshole who had no clue could always say "you're not filling in your 'required' paperwork".

This mania for otherwise-useless paper and duplication of efforts served but one purpose; since Tow Truck Driver could never nail me on a technical fuck up, he could always nail me on an administrative one. The Japanese executives -- being such sticklers for administration (even useless and repetitive administration) -- would consider this his prerogative as management, and even if the request was unreasonable, it should be done by virtue of someone in the chain-of-command asked for it.

In this way, an otherwise-unqualified doofus managed to keep a job he had no business having, and managed to exert the illusion of control of a situation he otherwise could never comprehend, let alone manage. Once he had learned this important lesson -- that paper and procedure equated to job security -- he took it to extraordinary lengths, to the point where my reporting duties extended to reporting the duties of other departments.

Hold on a second, we're getting to the farce. I'll wait while you pour some coffee to get through this....

One of our customers, a Japanese financial news wire service, since defunct, found itself with a quite unusual problem that Asshole Truck Driver decided to take control of with paper.

See, the people who worked in this particular space at night would complain of bizarre encounters with ghostly figures in the blacked out data center. They would report hearing strange noises emanating from the space they occupied. Everything humanly possible was done to identify the sources of these noises and visions -- microphones were planted in the space, infrared cameras positioned, the facilities staff went to work inspecting every aspect of the air conditioning system, every vent, every conduit, there were even structural inspections done to ensure there was no issue with the construction of the building or the space. Nothing was ever found; the sightings and hearings would continue.

Apparently, it never occurred to anyone to drug test the occupants of that room.

In any case, Your Overlord, in a bored mood one evening, spoke to the female operator who worked the night shift in that space. She brought up the subject of the strange happenings, and being a smart-ass who enjoys a good practical joke, I began to regale her with the (constructed-on-the-spot) story of "Robbie the Riveter", the construction worker who died while while working in that exact space.

She found this tale hysterical. So much so that she shared it with the Japanese account executive who represented the client. Next thing I know, I'm being called at home and told to arrive several hours early for work because we have "a situation", and someone needs to talk to me.

For those of you not familiar with the Japanese people and their culture, I'll make this easy; they believe in ghosts and evil spirits. It's an article of their Shinto faith (an animistic form of Buddhism) that spirits walk, and will often torment the living.

Imagine my surprise when I'm informed that the customer went through the trouble and expense of importing a Shinto priest -- flew him in from Tokyo that day -- to perform an exorcism on the room in question. And it's MY fault.

I can just about imagine the conference that took place in Tokyo to decide this issue. The only thing that might be funnier than a bunch of elderly Japanese men debating the existence/non-existence of evil spirits, must have been the reaction of Dumbass Tow Truck Driver when he's informed by the stateside Japs to "get to the bottom of this".

The real issue, of course, was that being good businessmen, the clients went through the motions of taking the tale of Robbie the Riveter seriously so as to wrangle a cheaper rent from the company. Nothing says "lower my rent" like "you sold me a haunted room, Dickhead". Ultimately, it's about the money and the need to CYA.

It didn't take long to identify me as the source of the rumor, so now I'm locked in an office with one very frightened Tow Truck Driver in Over His Head, who has been given a mandate to root out this potential paranormal handicap to business. This is one of those times, I can assure you, when it becomes crystal clear that Humanity is fucking insane, and that there is perhaps no hope left for the Human Race.

Naturally, the solution was another round of paperwork.

When all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. Bureaucratic process had worked to keep his tail out of the line of fire before, and BY GOD!, it would do the trick again!

From that date forward, anyone who heard or saw or experienced anything out-of-the-ordinary in that part of the building would be REQUIRED to fill in a "Ghost Sighting Report", and sign their name to it.

Yes, you've read that correctly. No, it's not bullshit. THIS REALLY HAPPENED.

The idea, naturally, was to be seen as "doing something"; it was intended to convey a sense of control over the problem. The issue of whether that space was being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, simply had a faulty air conditioning system, or whether the people reporting spiritual encounters were insane, on drugs, lying, or what have you, all went unaddressed. We now had a piece of paper to focus our efforts on, and this piece of paper was proof positive that Tow Truck Driver was on the fuckin' case, yesssirrreeee.

Of course, the number of "ghost sightings" almost immediately fell to zero.

The reason for this is easy enough to understand: would you sign a piece of paper that is perhaps indicative that you belong on a psychiatrist's couch?

And it had one, other, almost-totally-foreseeable effect:

Tow Truck Driver would complain, loudly and often, that someone -- everyone -- was failing to properly do their job, because if they were, goddamit, he'd have Ghost Sighting Reports on his desk. There simply HAD to be more sightings, and we weren't reporting them to avoid the paperwork. So, that was a strike against you come review time; failure to follow administrative directive.

Suffice to say that when I finally got sick and tired of working 60 hour weeks for a complete jerkoff who had the temerity to say to me "I can't give you a raise; with all the overtime you put in, it would break the payroll budget" (umm, Asshole, I'm the only one on the payroll, and I've been telling you for a year we need a second guy), I moved on to better (slightly) things, but the one thing you can never avoid in the business world is the CYA Directive, and it's axiomatic that it's the same sort of personalities and mental disorders that practice it to the nth degree, and who are totally unaware (or uncaring) of how stupid, petty, or dictatorial it makes them appear.

I regale you with this Blast From My Past because the CYA Kabuki Play (not to get all Japanese on your asses) is being beamed directly into my living room on a daily basis as I watch the FBI, the Department of Justice, The Press, and the democratic party (small 'd' intentional) tie themselves into physical, mental, legal, logical, and emotional knots over the truly ridiculous question of whether it's legal for the President of the United States to SUGGEST to an underling to not do something he's legally entitled to COMMAND him not to do. An "impromptu" meeting between a former President and a sitting Attorney General who just happen to be on the same tarmac while the Presidential Candidate Spouse of another is under criminal investigation was no big deal. I guess?

And the truly hysterical part of all of this is that when it comes to Comey, and Mueller, and Congress, it seems quite common for them all to commit felonies (leaking of confidential information, unmasking American citizens not party to a criminal investigation, invoking Special Counsels when there is no allegation of an underlying crime) in their quest to Cover their Asses while insisting they are upholding the law.

They have to explain why the democratic party, despite cheating, still lost an election.

They have to distract the republic with bullshit to deflect from the central question of the election and the major problem within the electoral system, itself: the democratic party was revealed for what it truly is, in it's own words, by WikiLeaks.

Hence Russians, hacked votes, foreign propaganda, "collusion", Macedonian server farms, "fake news", and the rest of it.

People don't wish to answer direct questions, such as why one person who hasn't done anything -- law enforcement says they didn't! -- must be investigated, while those who have actually committed crimes go unpunished.

You are watching the Tow Truck Driver, writ large, across the entire spectrum of government, coming up with their own version of the Ghost Sighting Report.

A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is a useless display of control that does not exist. The fact that it doesn't go away despite there being nothing at all to investigate proves the depths of insanity to which a certain mentality will descend in order to present the illusion of control, that they will leave no stone unturned in their quest to prove a negative.

And to keep a job they don't deserve to have.

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