Monday, February 14, 2011


Before I came to my current place of employment in December of seventy nine, I worked for a year at a business that expected you to give them all the time you could spare.  I found myself working sixty hour weeks including Saturdays and Sundays along with others in the Engineering department.  As you can quite imagine these weren't the best of working conditions and so there began to be a high turnover rate of personnel in the department about the time I started working there.

They were losing some good engineers under these conditions.  One of the engineers had scientifically figured out the best way to shoot a rubber band.  He had developed a shooting style that made the rubber band act as a gyroscope in all three dimensions enabling the projectile to travel at a very fast speed and with amazing accuracy.  This is still one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen someone develop and work out in an engineering department.

Every once in a while on a Saturday or Sunday a rubber band shootout would break out over the partitions that separated our cubicles.  When you were hit by a properly shot rubber band the sting would stay with you for awhile.  While we had worked out other things to derive pleasure from during the long working hours, the rubber band shoot was always on top of things to do.

The long hours that created boredom and tiredness also prompted a lot of teasing between us at others expense.  It never was taken very seriously as we all knew that joking was a part of the deal.  Most of the engineers were quick witted enough to shoot a dagger of words right back at the one who had thrown a funny insult at them a half of a second before.  It was an excersize in logic and quick wittiness that kept our brains from falling asleep on those long weekends.

New engineers were coming in to replace those leaving on a fairly consistent basis.  Before long I was sitting in the engineering department as fifth in seniority of about fifteen to twenty people.  It was a good feeling in a way but I was slowly getting burned out by the long hours as those who had gone before me had.  It was not a good working situation.

Joe began working in the department when I had been there about eight months.  He seemed like a nice guy and took to our system of working fairly well.  That all changed after he had been there for about two weeks.  On his second weekend of work he received his first verbal shot from over a cubicle.  It offended him much more than any of us could imagine.  Mike (of Datsun Keys fame) had thrown out a joke at Joe's expense.  Joe immediately told Mike that he was on the list.  I looked at Mike and he returned my glance with a shrug.

It wasn't until the next week when we found out what being on the list meant.  It meant that Joe would have nothing to do with you.  He would not acknowledge that you existed by not talking to you or asking questions of you or even working with you.  Mike was at the top of the list but others would soon join him.

The list was a piece of paper taped to Joe's drafting table.  Mike's name was at the top followed by Maury, Lloyd, Lanny, John among others.  As the list grew it became apparent that getting projects finished that Joe was working on were becoming more and more difficult.  It was starting to get the notice of the head of engineering that something was wrong in the department when we were still working extremely long hours but some projects were slipping.

It wasn't long before Lanny and Mike left the company and new blood was brought in.  When Lanny and Mike left Joe would cross their names off the list.  The only way to get off of the list was to leave the company where Joe worked.  As the new engineers came in and started working with Joe projects would start to move along again until the list started building up.  Then once again projects would start slipping.

It was on a Saturday when I finally made the list.  About three o'clock in the afternoon one of the infamous rubber band fights broke out.  Everyone was involved in it including Joe.  The problem was that no one had taught Joe the proper way to shoot a rubber band and so his shots were coming off slow and curving away from his target while the rest of us were zinging each other with hard shots.  The fatal moment came when I saw Joe looking in another direction with a rubber band and I let a zinger go at him.  It struck him on his neck and his hand immediately went to cover the sharp pain.  He look at me with stern hate filled eyes and informed me that I had just made the list as he wrote my name down on the paper on his table.

Frankly I was surprised it had taken me so long to make the list.  Making Joe's list had become almost a badge of honor secretly among all of us.  Now I had my badge of honor and did not have to worry about working with Joe or talking to him the rest of the time I was there.

Eventually the head of Engineering asked a few of us into his office for a discussion on why projects were slipping.  Although we really did not want to rat Joe out we had no choice.  We explained about the list and how we had all come to be on the list.  We went further to talk about what the consequences were of being on the list.  We were thanked for our information and dismissed from the meeting.  Later that day Joe was dismissed from the company.  On his way out the door Joe gave one last volley at us.  He informed all of us that we were now on his permanent list and if we ever found ourselves at the same company as him again the list would still be enforced.  He then quietly turned and walked out the door.

Two weeks later I found out where everyone was leaving the company for.  They were all coming to work for my current employer.  The company was growing at break neck speed with government contracts and there was an opening for me if I just came over and did the paper work.  I decided to do so as I was tired of the long hours that went unappreciated from where I was at the time.

I came over here and saw Mike, Lanny, John and some others that I had worked with in the last year.  There was no Joe here though.  When I started working there, one of the first questions asked was how Joe was doing.  When I told them he had been fired because of the list they all just shook their heads agreeing it was just a matter of time.

Joe never came to work here and I never heard of anyone who was on the list running into him after that.  I can only assume that the list is still in place somewhere and if I ever find myself working with him, I won't have to worry about talking to him.

This is a sad story when I stop and think back on the events of that year.  What a miserable existence it must be pushing people out of your life instead of bringing them into your life.  I sincerely hope Joe came to terms with his list and found a happier way to work and to gain friends.

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