Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Too old for this....

The alarm clock started its incessant blaring about ten minutes after Charles' head hit the pillow. At least that's what it felt like to him. Three nights on call added on top of his busy days had worn him out. As he stretched and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes he thought to himself, "I am getting too old for this shit." The bright spot this morning was after today he had two weeks vacation planned. No midnight calls, no day time emergencies. No fires to put out, no board meetings to attend, nothing but sunshine, beaches and sleep.

As he waited for the shower to heat up he spotted his suit laying across the chair where he had left it before crawling in to bed a few hours ago. He wasn't sure what he had gotten on it but that was definitely going to have to go to the cleaners before it could be worn again. Stepping in to the flow of hot water he wondered if he had any clean suits in the closet. When was the last time he had picked up his clothes?  For that matter when was the last time he had dropped off clothes to be cleaned? Fighting through the fog in his brain he thought again about how great a vacation would be.

Charles made his way to the kitchen for coffee. One of the best investments of his life was the automatic machine that meant he always had a fresh pot waiting in the morning. As he poured his first of many cups to come he heard the chiming of an incoming call on his computer. Clicking the button to answer, the face of his assistant Holly appeared on screen.

"Good morning, Boss.  How are you doing today?"

"Tired, but alive and so I am counting it as a win. How are you doing?"

"If I was any better I would have to be two people."

"As long as I didn't have to pay you double I guess that would be okay."

Holly was a true gift to Charles. She had been with him for years and ran his day to day business so efficiently he wondered sometimes if anyone would notice if he just stopped showing up. But he had never understood how she could be so cheery in the mornings. Oh well, everyone has their flaws.

"So what's on my plate today, Holly?"

"You have a board meeting at 10 to review applications for new members, I have the video conference information for you. You have a luncheon with The Make a Wish Foundation at 1. That should run at least two hours but I have booked in three. Then you have time to clear some paperwork and pack before your daughters pick you up at 7 for dinner."

"Did you review the applications, Holly?"

"I did. I put them in what I felt was the correct order. There were only three that were a possibility in my opinion. The top prospect has everything you are looking for. Talent, skill, aptitude. He's also based in our region so he would be a great help covering here since we have been shorthanded since Scarlet retired. The next applicant has less raw talent but she has worked incredibly hard to hone her skills. She also seems to have the right attitude for the job. She is based out of Texas right now but stated she is willing to move. The third file I pulled is trickier. He has huge levels of talent. I haven't seen anyone with more raw skill since, well, you. But his attitude isn't there. He comes across as a glory hound. Not interested in the philanthropic nature of the business as much as the perks. I could be wrong, but that is how he struck me. However the talent is so high I couldn't completely disregard him."

As Holly was giving her impressions of the latest batch of applicants Charles had been reading his own notes from when he first reviewed them. Everything Holly said lined up with his impressions. Now to see what the rest of the board thought.

"Thank you, Holly. Also, could you check to see if I have any clean suits to pick up?"

"Check the garage. I dropped off a batch of cleaning yesterday as well as some paperwork that needs your review before you leave for your luncheon."

"Ah, you're a lifesaver!"

"I know I am. Oh and one more thing."


"Happy Birthday, Boss."

"Thank you, Holly. I'll be in touch later. Call me if you need anything."

Charles walked to the garage to pick up his dry cleaning and any notes Holly left for him in the alcove. It was a good system. She had the code to the garage door and would leave items for him on her way to or from the office. All he had to do was remember to check for them. Which was where the system sometimes broke down, but a quick call reminder from Holly usually cleared that right up. Five clean suits for the closet, an empty dry cleaning bag to fill with clothes before he left on vacation and a stack of paperwork were waiting. And a Happy Birthday balloon. As much as he was feeling his age this morning Charles couldn't help but smile at the thoughtful gesture from his assistant.

After reviewing the paperwork for Holly and placing it back out in the garage drop box Charles settled in for his weekly board meeting. Nobody would ever believe the amount of meetings he attended and the number of moving parts they covered. Who was working too much, who wasn't working enough, what areas of the country were feeling neglected. Who needed better PR or less PR. What the local political scene was, what the weather forecast was. There was a lot of information to cover and they were all busy people. Though today it would be mostly focused on the new applications.

Steven called the meeting to order and asked if they had all had a chance to review the current list of applicants. "I believe there were only three out of this batch that are worth considering at this time. I think the bulk should get a recommendation for a mentor-ship program at the local level and there are a couple here who should get a visit by the local authorities to strongly suggest they look in to another line of work."

Charles wondered if Steven's top three would be the same as his and Holly's three. He knew the two that Steven was concerned about. Kids really, trying to do things that were over their heads to impress the board and were going to get them in trouble sooner rather than later. If they had been in his region he would have already paid them a visit to outline other areas where they could do more good.

Steven pushed a button on the desk in front of him and the view on Charles' computer changed from the collage of the board members to the face of Alicia Lestin. "This is my top prospect. Her skills still need sharpened but I am impressed with her resume. She has a degree in business management and has worked with various charitable organizations throughout her life. She's young. And lord knows we need some youth here at the National level. She's based out of Texas right now but I could see her fitting in nicely in the South Eastern region working under your watch, Frank."

The view screen changed again to show Franks's face. "I have her in my top three as well and I think she would be a fine addition to our organization as a whole and to my region as well. She's done a lot of work with youth charities and I could see her being very helpful in that area. I think she would fit in with the group working out of Orlando."

"Any one have any objections to Alicia?" When none were voiced Steven put her file to the side.

"Next we have Gray Stone. Yes, that's his real name. I know it sounds made up but we did have him investigated. Seems his parents were clever. Poor kid. Anyway, he is one of the most well rounded applicants I have seen in awhile. Nothing terribly flashy about him, but overall he seems to be very solid. Hmm...maybe his name fits after all? Charles, he's based in your region and I know you've been shorthanded up there for awhile. What do you think?"

"He was actually my top pick in this group. I agree, he's got a good base to start from and I think with the proper coaching and training he could be a valuable member of our organization. I would be pleased to have him in my area."

"Any objections? No? Well this is going quite smoothly today. Let me see if I can put a wrench in the works." And with that the screen image changed again to Adam Farris. Charles wasn't too surprised to see his face on screen, after all both he and Holly had deemed him top three worthy, but from the collection of gasps and no ways he was hearing from the other board members he was realizing that he was in the minority on this kid.

"Well I can tell from the reaction that Mr. Farris is not going to be a slam dunk. Let me start by saying I understand the hesitation. I feel it myself. He's a bit of a show off, a show boater. But you cannot deny his resume. He has the skills we need."

"But he doesn't have the attitude! Give me someone with less skill and more passion for the job and I can work with them, but someone who doesn't care? I can't work with that." Angela spoke up. Representing the North East region Charles hadn't even been sure she would make the meeting today. They had their hands full right now.

"But look at the level of skill he possess. The raw talent is there. He just has never had someone to help him build his character." This from James, representing the Great Lakes region. He was basic good mid-western stock who honestly saw the decent in everyone.

"Charles, Frank, what do you both say?" Steven switched the monitor to Frank first.

"I went back and forth on the kid. I couldn't ever settle on if he was a heck yes,  maybe yes, no or hell no." Frank's rating system for applicants had always followed this pattern. "He ended up in his own, who the hell knows pile. I'm impressed with his education, with his skill, even with his volunteer work. But I am put off by the arrogance he seems to display. The sense of entitlement. The glory seeking. Some of us who have been in the business for 20 or 30 years haven't amassed the press coverage this kid has garnered for himself working solo. So I just don't know. He could be great or he could be a disaster. Sorry I'm not more help."

The viewfinder switched so Charles was looking at the faces of all of the other board members so he knew that all they could see right now was him.

"I had him in my top three picks. His talent is so much that I think we ignore him at our own peril. He isn't going to go away. He likes the spotlight. So the way I view it we either take him in and try to train him right or we regret it later. I wouldn't offer him a full membership like I would Alicia or Gray, I would approach him with a national level mentor-ship. And I'd have him work under Earl."

The view changed briefly to Earl. The oldest member of the board. He had, in fact, trained half of the members sitting there today including Charles. Earl was the head of the Southwestern Region. It wasn't an area for glory seekers. It was an area that meant hard, hot, sweaty work without a lot of press. People weren't impressed with the Board there like they tended to be in other parts of the country. Earl was also very old school in his approach to work. There were no shortcuts allowed. Things were done by the book or you paid a price. If you made it out of training under Earl you made it out a changed person.

"If he accepts then we know he's serious. If he lasts through the training then we have a valuable team member. If he doesn't, then we have another problem we will need to solve. That level of talent and skill can't work rogue."

"Thank you, Charles, I think that's actually a brilliant idea. I would, of course, much rather be working with Mr. Farris instead of against him. Earl, would you be willing to take this young man on?"

The screen changed back to Earl. He nodded slowly. "I doubt he would be the worst of the bunch I've trained. Send him to me. My team will bring him up right."

Steven called for final votes on the three applicants that had passed muster. And then passed their paperwork on to his assistant to start the final approval process. Offers would be made and the round of testing would begin. Then the board covered the normal business of the week before wrapping up. "Is there any further business that needs tended to today? No? Then I have one last thing."

The view changed to the entire board again, now wearing birthday hats as they sang Happy Birthday to Charles and tossed confetti in the air. Once he stopped laughing at the site of these venerable men and women in their hats with the confetti falling everywhere he thanked them all profusely. And even got a little teary eyed at the thoughtfulness. These were not only the men and women he worked with but he admired them greatly and felt that only they truly understood each other and what it meant to be like them.

Checking his watch after logging off from the board meeting Charles realized he had just enough time to get in to a nice clean suit and get to his luncheon. As he got dressed he wondered if he should change out his classic cut suits for one of the newer styles. He had been wearing the same cut since he became head of the PNW region longer ago than he liked to think about. He knew the younger generation liked to change things up a bit more, different colors and styles but as he looked at his reflection in the mirror he decided that sometimes the classics really were the best. Lowering his mask over his eyes and putting on his cape he headed out to lunch with Make a Wish.

A Super Hero's work is never done. Not even on their birthday.

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