Jun 19, 2007

Ship Of Fools

I like this whole nautical metaphor for work. While I write this it's raining so hard that fish are out wandering around exploring the parking lot and frogs are strangling so it seems rather appropos.

I started this metaphor, what, three weeks ago? Four? When the new Captain took over and started to turn the big wheel, bringing this ship into the course she desired to be travelling on, steering by a compass only she can see fully. I think I might have talked about the near psychosis-level panic that gripped the ship, and the startling number of folk that went walking the long walk off the short boards. Well, since then we've taken on a whole host of new faces, all of whom have served on board other ships like ours, and a few who came from the new Captain's old ship.

Still with me? Good.

Today was rough. Bad day at sea, one of many in a long series; oily green-black swells hitting the ship one after the other, constant beating and roaring around us. Today the Captain decided to correct the course a little more, bring us closer in line to that point she has plotted out for us, and PJ decided to jump ship right in the middle of the day. The Captain turned the wheel just a little, the ship swung ever so slightly around, and it happened. With very little warning, just a few strained words and a few angry tears she was overboard and swimming for some shore that, to her, must have seemed verdant and welcoming. It was a hell of a shock, I can tell you. We've all been grumbling, it's the right of a sailor to grumble at all times and about all things, but for her to take the next step...we simply didn't see it coming.

It made me think, though, about a hard lesson I learned a long time ago. I learned that nobody, from the lowest swab to the highest commander is irreplaceable. Nobody. The day I learned that if I quit my job it wouldn't matter a tinker's dam to anyone but me really humbled me. Oh, I might be vital enough to throw a wrench in someone's gears for a while but soon they'd get over it, fix the problem, hire another body and in time I'd be forgotten.

I realised that about PJ today. It sucks profoundly that she's gone, but honestly? There's more sailors willing to do her job. Plenty of them. And we'll make do, and in six months or a year's time she might walk up to me in a store and want to visit, and I won't have the slightest idea of what her name is anymore. I'll make polite conversation, and when things get too uncomfortable I'll beg off with a polite lie and a smile and walk away, wondering who that person was, and where I knew them from. And then I'll forget about them. Again.

Don't laugh, it's happened to me before. Frighteningly often.

I don't know if this is a good thing or not. And truth be told, I think that in the long view it's all, like the man says, irrelephant.


Schmoopie said...

My Dad and I were talking about how different the workplace has become over the years. When my Grandfather worked for a large company in the St. Louis area, he was there over 40 years and they took care of him (and his family when he became sick in the '60's.) It really meant something to stay with the same company and show mutual loyalty. Nowadays, like you mentioned, ANYONE can be replaced. It is so sad that the corporatization of this country means that workers are no more than a number.

Maggie said...

Schmoopie is so right. Its a shame but it is the way now. This has happened to me too. I have forgotten a person's name I used to work with and it really confounded me to think that I was that shallow. But its not really shallow so much as having to get on with things I suppose.

meno said...

Oh, i know that the workplace that i left over two years ago is still pining for me to come back.

In my fantasies that is.

This is why i have never quit any job in a huff, because i know who will stew over it and suffer longest. Me.

Hope the cap'n soon gets the correct charts to avoid any further shoals.

Irrelephant said...

Schmoop, I hate saying "I was born too late," that sort of thing, but I think I must have been raised differently. I've spent my entire working life trying to find a job, a career, where I can be a permanent fixture, not a number.

Maggie, thank you for the reassurance that I'm still human. *g* As much as I don't want it, I've been through so many jobs and have worked professionally with so many people it becomes impossible to keep up with them all.

And Meno dear, you're right. No-one ever has so much grief and pain over those separations as the person leaving, especially when they genuinely care about doing a good job, a job they can be proud of. As for the Cap'n, I think she's going to be okay.

I PRAY she's going to be okay.

Okay, I don't pray, but I say mantras constantly that she's gonna be okay.