Just for Fun

The eclipses have sent us all reeling. The guidance I keep getting is, “Relax. We got this.” I am still responsible to stay the course, and away from fear. And fear has been knocking… I just refuse to answer. Anyway, I wrote a workplace fairytale many year ago, and just came across it. I am sending it to you, in hopes of brightening your day with a little humor. Keep life light right now, and let the world move around you. Enjoy!

“Once upon a time, there was an idealistic, young airline executive named Sir CC. Sir CC believed that the airline industry could be revolutionized with the proper technology and software. One day someone with a thick German accent told Sir CC of a state-of-the-art flight planning system called LIDO that would save time and money for all who used it. LIDO was magical software that would actually make airplanes burn less fuel and remove the requirement to employ FAA certified dispatchers.

Sir CC was very happy to learn of this magical system and endeavored to implement it immediately. Unfortunately, Aero Azul refused to accept this story, and soon thereafter Sir CC traveled west to make his fortune at another airline, Front-n-Rear, in desperate need of technological advancement. At this new airline, Sir CC began telling people about the magic of LIDO within months of his arrival, because he was so excited to see his new employer lead the industry.

But even though Sir CC believed so deeply in the magic of LIDO, others at Front-n-Rear wanted to see comparisons and charts and graphs to prove LIDO’s power. This was a daunting task, but luckily Sir CC had a trusty side-kick named Grumble the Weasel who could do all the leg work for this project. His name was somewhat misleading, for while Grumble’s values resembled that of a weasel, his appearance was more like an angry leprechaun. Grumble was hesitant at first, because he wasn’t fond of extra work, but he became quite enthusiastic when his research required an expense paid trip to Germany. Soon Grumble became as enchanted with LIDO as Sir CC and he devised a plan to bring it to Front-n-Rear, and at the same time, expand his own professional horizons.

First, Grumble set up comparison trials with other flight planning systems and invited the dispatchers to various presentations. Whenever a dispatcher would raise a question about LIDO, Grumble would tell them they just didn’t understand how magical LIDO was. Then Grumble calculated that Front-n-Rear would save $9M per year using LIDO. When the dispatchers pointed out that was impossible, Grumble would tell them they didn’t understand such complex calculations. Then Grumble told all who doubted LIDO that he could personally think of nothing better for dispatchers, pilots and the bottom line. When the dispatchers said it wasn’t user-friendly and took up to 5 times longer for them to produce paperwork, Grumble told them they were just being resistant to change.

The executives were so impressed with Grumble’s charts and graphs and inflated numbers that they agreed to bring LIDO to Front-n-Rear. Shortly thereafter, Grumble was hired by LIDO to sell their product to other airlines, and the Front-n-Rear executives took this as further proof of Grumble’s complete belief in the system. To this day, no one knows for sure what his motivations were, but considering his personality and values, it is suspected that this move was “best for Grumble” and probably quite lucrative.

Sir CC was ecstatic. He finally succeeded in bringing LIDO to his small airline, thus bringing Front-n-Rear one step closer to being state-of-the-art in technological advancements. But all wasn’t well as Front-n-Rear began the transition to LIDO. The dispatchers kept pointing out problems. The software wasn’t compatible with other systems and departments. ATC refused to let Front-n-Rear fly the magical plans and disregard all their rules.

Sir CC was discouraged and began to doubt the magic of LIDO. But then he thought back to the feeling of exhilaration he felt when the man with the German accent first told him of this system, and remembered how much energy and belief he had invested in this mission. So Sir CC quickly surrounded himself with agreeable people that would support him in his vision of magical software, and pressed on.

The dispatchers had to eventually come to the only logical conclusion: one of them must have inadvertently broken a mirror, thus condemning the group to a 7-year contract with LIDO.”

 

 

Part Deux

 

These were dark and dangerous times at Front-n-Rear Airlines. The implementation of the LIDO system brought many flight delays and a deep depression to the entire Flight Ops department. The dispatchers could be heard whispering the Serenity Prayer under their breath: Lord, grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed, courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the difference.

Indeed, the wisest of the dispatchers were striving for the serenity to accept LIDO, for the decision was clearly out of their hands and above their heads. A few of the moderately wise dispatchers attempted to alert various managers and directors to the evils of LIDO, but were swiftly greeted with the same “change is hard” mantra and promptly ignored. There was only one dispatcher, Natty the Rookie, who persisted in parading the truth long beyond the point of reason.

Natty suffered from a serious affliction called philo-psycho-ful engorgement which, coupled with her uncommon abundance of common sense, resulted in an almost constant sense of bewilderment at the actions of her superiors, and an obsessive drive to understand how they could reach such ridiculous decisions. The other dispatchers graciously accepted her as part of the group, though few took her seriously owing to her world-view being too big and her understanding of the proper order of a workplace too small. But this LIDO business was just the thing for Natty to obsess over and it generally kept her occupied and out of the way, so no one objected much.

Natty enjoyed finding patterns in behavior and this LIDO debacle reminder her of a situation many years ago in a nearby kingdom where an emperor was sold some high-end, designer, magical clothes. Either due to poor quality magic in the manufacturing process, or really good salesmanship of thin air, the emperor ended up with his end out, as he paraded around proudly in his birthday suit. How he didn’t notice the chill is another matter. Natty couldn’t help but wonder if the tailor involved in that incident also had a heavy German accent or was a distant relative of Grumble the Weasel, since they were both instrumental in acquiring LIDO at Front-n-Rear. This was too great a puzzle for even her overly analytical mind to process and she eventually had to seek expert assistance.

Her journey to deeper understanding started with the Ghoul of Corporate Greed. Natty asked the Ghoul what would possess an ambitious, young executive to replace a functioning system with a nearly legal and highly dysfunctional one, based only on the promise of unreasonable results. The Ghoul replied in a somewhat condescending tone, “Silly girl! The answer is in the charts and graphs… the numbers show it will save the company money! Money is the only reasonable basis for any decision.”

Now Natty had pondered human psychology ad nauseam and knew that if the people didn’t have the proper tools to do their job theoretical cost savings was a moot point, and she politely queried the Ghoul on this concept. The Ghoul replied, “What works or does not work is no concern of mine. Numbers are the only basis I rely on and profit for the shareholders is my only goal. You should be thankful! It is only because of my greed that we can afford to pay your measly wages!” Natty could sense the Ghoul’s patience growing thin, and decided to take her leave before pay cuts could be discussed.

Although the Ghoul of Corporate Greed had a terribly skewed view of the world, it was nonetheless quite a chilling encounter. Natty took a few moments to verify her alliances were a bit more balanced, and promised herself she would never mistake greed for a reasonable excuse to do anything, especially to adversely affect a group of people who just want to do their jobs. After assessing the encounter, Natty decided that the Ghoul’s perception of the world was cold and lifeless and the people she worked for were not (in various degrees of not), and there must be more to the puzzle than this. She needed insight into the more passionate, human side of poor decisions…

 

Meanwhile, back at Front-n-Rear, Sir CC was living in the midst of the turbulence of LIDO. As more and more people took note of the ill effects of this magical software, more and more people questioned the wisdom of his decision. Some even said LIDO was fashioned with dark magic and they questioned Sir CC’s true intentions. Poor Sir CC felt confused and lost, and his unwavering faith in LIDO now wavered, thus letting in the smallest glimmer of doubt. And doubt, of course, is the precursor to progress, as it allows one to question answers and open the mind to new possibilities.

Sir CC conferred with his newly appointed side-kick, commonly known as the Martyr of Jargon, about his doubts. The Martyr, having been placed rather unwillingly in the middle of the whole mess, suggested that they temporarily remove LIDO from common use so that they may learn more of its magic, and reevaluate the promises given with the contract. “Perhaps,” said the Martyr, “we are trying to use the magical software incorrectly. Or perhaps… perhaps we have been swindled!” While this idea was disturbing to Sir CC, it was time such things be considered, even at great risk to his dreams of magical software.

 

After a brief scan of the Yellow Pages, Natty found her next destination, which took days of determination to reach. As she arrived at the cave at the top of the mountain she saw a kindly old wizard picking daisies in a field of wild flowers. He appeared to be wearing a night dress and cap, and was quietly singing to himself. Odd as this seemed, Natty cleared her throat loudly and asked, “Excuse me, but are you the Guru listed in the phone book?” The man turned to her and smiled a most pleasant smile, looking carefree and comfortable in his unusual attire with his daisies, one tucked behind his left ear.

“Hello there,” the Guru said, “Are you inside my head or out?” “Out,” Natty replied, wondering if this journey was for not, “I was hoping you could tell me why people make bad decisions and then stick to them.” “I see,” said the Guru, “Being that I am the Guru of Ego, I suppose I would be a good person to ask.”

“Um… yes, that was precisely what I supposed.”

“But are you ready for the consequences of this knowledge? For it is quite difficult to unlearn things, and with the power of knowledge comes the weight of integrating new information. Not exactly a relaxing hobby.”

“My mind is wrought with the desperation of trying, without success, to understand how people can make such strange decisions with such conviction, and nary a care about the obvious issues involved. I am exhausted! The weight of integrating this new information will be a welcomed respite.”

At this point, the Guru of Ego led Natty to a lovely group of large rocks arranged as a small table and chairs, and motioned for her to take a seat. “The long and the short of it,” said the Guru, “is simply that self-delusion is the key to true happiness.” Natty attempted, with no success, to understand that statement, and finally had to admit defeat. The Guru adjusted his night dress to cross his legs and continued, “People are generally run by their egos, with little attention paid to logical thought, especially when logic interferes with the course the ego has set. The only thing the ego wants is to get its way and be right, and it controls the person’s behavior to accomplish this.”

“So we are all controlled by our egos?”

“Generally, yes.”

“But that doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t logic and reasoning be better?”

“Generally, yes.”

“So humans sabotage themselves by ignoring logic in order to satisfy the ego’s need to be right?”

“Now you’re getting it!”

“But…”

“Now I really must tend to my flowers. This has been a most enjoyable visit, you should return some time for more tea.”

“We didn’t have tea…”

“Good day.”

And with that the Guru of Ego turned and began singing to himself once again, dancing amongst the wild flowers. Natty wasn’t quite sure which alternate reality she had happened upon, but decided it was best to descend the mountain and try to return to her own world. But the Guru was right about one thing, this information about the human ego wasn’t easy to integrate. Some things are better left a mystery, and it is quite a task to un-learn something, especially something so fundamental to the quest to understand bad decisions.

Natty spent the journey home in quite a funk. People had to be made of something more than greed and ego. If that were the whole picture progress would be a product of happenstance and no useful skills could ever be applied. What a mess!

As Natty relayed the stories of her adventures to her co-workers, she was still at a loss as to what to do with this conundrum. Luckily, friends generally have a firm grasp of the obvious, and point it out readily. The current monarch of Front-n-Rear was known for his cunning and would most certainly be interested in this costly, ego-based endeavor. So it was settled… Natty the Rookie was off to visit Sylvester Monetary, or Sly Money as his friends called him.

Not many people had a personal audience with Sly. Not that he was too busy, more that he was a little intimidating. He never let on what he was really thinking, a defining attribute of being cunning and business savvy; and knowing that the Ghoul of Corporate Greed made regular visits to board meetings made it that much more unsettling to speak with Sly. Especially alone, as Natty the Rookie found herself again.

Natty knocked on the big, oak door, for even though it was open (as was policy) it did not appear welcoming. “Come in,” said Sly, “Please have a seat and tell me what’s on your mind.” I may very well be completely out of my mind, Natty thought to herself. But she politely took a seat across the big, oak desk from Sly, and told him her sordid tale.

Sly listened attentively, but never showed any sign of what he was thinking. At the end of the story Sly simply said, “Thank you for sharing your concerns,” with a sense of finality in his tone. Natty took her leave, feeling very little hope, but knowing that she had at least tried every option available to revive the flailing and weak body of common sense.

 

The weeks turned into months, and still there was very little news to brighten the days in dispatch. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, Sly announced he was courting a rather homely woman in Indiana. This was a wonderful union for Sly and all the employees at Front-N-Rear, as this would unite both their kingdoms under one Republic. It was only a week later that LIDO was returned (with force) to the German with the thick accent.

No one knows exactly what transpired within Sir CC, or even if that mattered at all to the outcome. Did Sly talk some sense into him? Did his brain overcome his ego? Did the Martyr of Jargon prove that LIDO held no magic power at all? Whatever it was, it was cause for celebration, as the dispatchers were finally free of this dysfunctional software. Shortly thereafter, Sir CC graciously stepped down from his post, hopefully having learned quite a bit about people, corporate greed, his own ego, and the true cost of sticking to a bad decision. At last report, he was headed even further west to court a young Virgin.

 

And this is the story of how the dispatchers were saved from the evils of LIDO… and there is still much rejoicing.

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