Friday, February 01, 2008
The Duck who walked on water
There once was a duck who walked on water. Yes, I know this is a limerick struggling to be born. It's also a fact, or more precisely, exactly the same as a one - only different - and that makes it perfectly true in every sense of things. That shouldn't make sense, but I'm very sorry to report that where I work it does.
Technically speaking, it is completely true that while ducks can float on water, so far none have really mastered walking on it. However, if one were to give the duck years of spiritual guidance, an understanding and mastery of the basic tenets of the universe, and a warming spark of enlightened human values like compassion, love and kindness, then take the duck to a place like Galilee where there is at least an historical precedent of walking on water, you just may actually get a duck to pull off a miracle.
On the other hand, modern corporate greed and ineffectually enforced contracting rules have joined forces to create another possibility. You take a large sheet of ice and submerge it in the water. Sprinkle cracked corn round the middle of the ice sheet. Then gently place the duck on the center of the ice. As the duck walks around the block of ice pecking the corn, take a witness and put them in a viewing booth just far enough away from the water so that they can't see the ice, but are still close enough to see the duck walking ... on what appears to be the surface of the water. Then quick as can be done, get a check collecting drone in procurement to pass around the approval documents and a pen. Take check to bank before anyone is the wiser.
For the sake of argument, let's suppose that your team is very busy with a real project and a deadline that is right around the corner. Out of the blue, something like this happens...
Hey ah, we've got a little problem.
"We" means you and the mouse in your pocket, no?
The Contracting Officer just called and he needs one of the engineering leads to go over to a Brand X Contractor's corporate office for a meeting. You'd better hurry and get over there ... because the test started about ten minutes ago.
So on the way over to the Brand X Contractor's corporate office, you read as many of the technical documents as you possibly can. The Brand X Contractor has proposed and been granted approval (and tons of bucks) for a requirement that so closely resembles getting a duck to walk on water that you want to scream.
The meeting not only goes badly, but another person from Corporate, appropriately named the Chief of All Things, publicly denounces the idea that this is a duck walking on water. It is, as everyone can plainly see, much more closely related to a poke - a small sack or bag and is the origin of the word pocket. No, it is obviously has no feathers at all either, but is more porcine because of the extreme cost of the program. Q.E.D. - a pig in a poke. Everyone congratulates the Chief of All Things for his snappy banter, quick thinking and cat-like reflexes.
During a break in the meeting, one of the Brand X Contractors approaches you stealthily. He reminisces about a temporary duty assignment he had with a certain female employee of the corporation. He wonders if she still works there. Naturally she does - she works for you in fact. He whips out a business card, scratches his business phone off the front and writes in his personal cell number. He says that she promised to sell him an Ostrich egg and asks if you knew how her side business was going.
You finally return to the office. You have to talk to your boss. You find him talking to a Vietnamese lady. Her name is Thuy - pronounced "twee". Your boss says that even though the employee's mother intensely disapproves of it, he thinks it would be great if she married Mr. Byrd from Central Accounting because then her name would be Thuy T. Byrd. Neither of them laugh when he says it.
You interrupt the conversation to say that you think the corporation needs to buy a new piece of safety equipment for the office. Your boss looks deeply disturbed. You are unaware of a pending Workman's Comp claim in the office by one of the employees who sat down without looking backward first, thereby missed planting his butt into his chair, where upon gravity kicked in sending the vegetable-minded employee crashing to the floor and fracturing his tailbone and two ribs in the process.
What kind of safety equipment?
A shower to help get rid of that dirty feeling you get from dealing with our contractors.
You follow the boss into his office where he writes (yet another dammit!) piece of paper for your personnel jacket.