Tuesday, December 1 2020

mondays, management tactics, and the countdown snowman



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody! Happy Monday, and welcome to the first day of December. Isn’t it exciting rolling over into a new month? It’s like the new car smell equivalent of the calendar. A new month, and a much shorter month if we’re talking about work. Thank goodness for all the holidays and days off we have coming up.

I’m feeling much better this morning. The long holiday weekend made it difficult to start the week. My brain felt like a cold engine that had been sitting in the garage all winter. But between getting some laundry done, getting a French soup in my stomach, and getting a regular Monday’s worth of work down on the books, I’m feeling totally restored today.

Sip. How was your Monday? Mine started as you’d expect - after my Monday morning meeting with the team I shuffled down the stairs to refill coffee. Rodney’s chipper greeting fell on deaf ears as I gave him a careless tired wave, passing through his pile of toys in the living room. I slumped into a chair at the dining room table across from Marissa. I could tell from the look in her eye that she was feeling just as dead and tired as I was.

“Monday’s, right?” she sighed. She pursed her lips in a silly way, letting her eyes roll in her head. I broke out into laughter. I don’t if it’s more of a character, a bit, or just a recurring pointless joke, but lately Marissa and I like to act as if we’re workplace acquaintances, sharing painfully awkward small talk around the figurative water cooler.

“What a struggle today,” I sighed.

“My current plan is to do a craft with Rodney in the morning, then I’m going to let him do his own thing,” she replied.

“Sounds good,” I replied. “I’m going to drink obscene amounts of coffee while watching a training video, then I’m going to half-ass some mac ‘n cheese for lunch.”

I’d return an hour later to find Rodney and Marissa finishing up their craft. They had made a paper chain snowman to hang on the wall, each of the links in the chain numbered one through twenty-four.

“It’s a countdown,” Marissa explained. “Now Rodney can rip off a link every day until Christmas.”

“And then on Christmas day, what?” I said. “We just throw his head in the trash?”

“Something like that,” she laughed. You’d think Rodney would be proud of their creation, but taking me by the hand he led me passed their dangling Christmas countdown snowman to the other wall. There was a piece of white paper taped to the wall. It had a snowman’s face, and sparse coils of popping out of the wall.

“What is this, dude?” I asked, trying to act impressed. Rodney proudly extended his arms, gesturing at the wall. “It’s my CHRISTMAS COUNTING SNOWMAN,” said Rodney, emphasizing each word with a small thud hopping in place on the floor.

“Rodney made his own countdown,” explained Marissa.

“So tell me how this works,” I asked earnestly.

Rodney pursed his lips, slowly extending his hand to the snowman. He delicately shook his paper hand.

“So… you just shake his hand?” I asked.

“Yep!” said Rodney, jumping.

“Oh OK, I think I get it,” I said. “So every morning leading up to Christmas, we shake the snowman’s paper hand. I’m not gonna lie, that makes a lot more sense to me than throwing his body in the trash.”

Rodney nodded, and satisfied with our interaction, he scampered away into the living room. I remained at the wall for a few minutes, drinking coffee and admiring the elegant mess of scotch tape and paper.

“He was really specific about it,” said Marissa. “He spent most of the time arranging the coils around the body. Then after it was taped to the wall, he ran up to me and asked to help him make arms and legs.”

“Positively frightening,” I laughed.

I’m left wondering what the snowman installation is trying to communicate. On one hand, a flattened snowman implies some kind of tragedy, like I just witnessed a horrible accident that left him splattered on the wall. But much like the Mona Lisa, his wry smile confounds the message, as if he’s saying I’m supposed to look this way - trust me. Deep stuff, right? Rodney is really coming into his prime as an artist I think.

After wolfing down an uninspiring bowl of blue box mac and cheese for lunch, I returned to the bedroom office to finish out the day. I attended some meetings, then joined Marissa in her studio in the late afternoon.

“Are you done for the day?” she asked.

“Almost,” I replied. “I’m not letting myself sign off for the day before I find something for the interns to do this week.”

Marissa lifted her brush off the painting and took a step back in thought. “Can’t you just say something like… ‘this week, why don’t YOU tell ME what you’ll be working on’?”

A role reversal - a classic management tactic. And while it was tempting, I think I’m better off saving that card for later on in the year when I really run out of ideas.

“I think I’m just going to go clean leeks until it comes to me,” I said before trudging up the stairs.

I would eventually land on something good for the week, and after disappearing in my room to write the work ticket, I finished out the day. We had leek and potato soup for dinner, and thanks to Rodney’s final effort to cram the remaining soggy croutons into his mouth, we were rewarded with an adventurous game of hide and seek in lieu of Rodney time. Marissa and I are positive we have tried every single hiding spot in the house - not that it really matters when Rodney is playing. He hides in the same spot every time - underneath the coffee table by the couch. He switches the lamp on and off too while yelling with his puppet voice too.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone.