Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back on the platform

Miss Bender regrets her absence from the scene. Some stuff has been going on, and not all of it bloggable, which is not to sound mysteri0ous, but to acknowledge that one of my roles in life as your spinster auntie friend is to step in all Supernanny-like when situations call for it. And you trust me to hold those situations in the vault. So nothing more about that, I'm afraid, but there is plenty else for us to discuss.

So here's a recap since Oscar Night because we haven't talked since then.

Had dinner with my fifth-grade teacher. I should explain that more, because that sounds like we reunited after 35 years, which would be an entertaining story, but not the truth. We have been in touch all along, so really I should say, had dinner with a home-town friend who happened to be in Boston for a weekend. But that is not quite the same paragraph opener. When I was a ghastly 11-year old, in big-eyed panda bear sweatshirts and converse high-tops with no socks (because that was my "thing"), and she was an ivory-skinned 26 year old who believed she could influence the lives of children, she went ahead and did it. It was entirely my pleasure to take her to a chowder dinner on the coldest night in Boston.

The teens she was chaperoning were attending a Model Congress conference. And that gave me renewed hope in the young people of America, who do look promising in dark business suits.

Renewed hope in myself came from an invitation to speak at my favorite local college campus, at the invitation of someone I met through (that's Otto's joke. I am very jealous of it, and tried to make a whole post about it, but stands alone). I haven't been on this campus in so long it doesn't exist anymore. That's not a metaphor. They sold every building I ever worked in and built and converted new ones, so if I was worried about any Scene of the Crime feeling, I didn't have to.

Most of the day, down the Mill, I can expect disaster. and not of the catastrophic kind, but of the inept, ridiculous, nonsensical, who-is-driving-this-bus kind. Often, in response to some executive act of clumsiness, I am known to declare, "I have worked with 19 year old girls who would have known better," and certainly I have. And over the years I have begun to wonder whether excellence is just something outdated, like the IBM Selectric and pegged jeans. These are things I enjoyed at the turn of the 90s that simply can't be found anymore. I am "counseled" by my current leadership that "chaos is the new structure," and "it's like this everywhere."

I went into this speaking engagement expecting more of the same -- so I made a slide deck in case they didn't really have an internet connection like I had requested. Then I made printouts of the slide deck in case there wasn't really projection. I called twice and made 2 email confirmations. I requested a snow-plan. Then we cancelled the snow plan because it wasn't going to snow. So it snowed.

And, I promise you Readership.... it was only snowing on the Mill. I stood there at my desk and watched it fall, and bit my lip and prepared myself to never get to the city on time, to not find a parking space, to have no one show. As I approached the city, it was only rain. The group hosting me had 3 people in charge -- one to make sure I got there, one to make sure I had my requested tech set-up, one to introduce me and show me around. He wore a tie. A tie that didn't match his shirt, which was so wrinkled it looked deliberate, but these are Emersonians, so he acknowledged it as "what not to wear." I myself was in a purple suit, which is the college color. I feel in love with them all over again, and I didn't even know them before.

So ~~ MEMO to you overpaid executives who don't know your asses from your breakfast. No, wait, I will type it in my pica-ball font:

TO: Overpaid Boneheads
FROM: Caroline Bender
SUBJECT: Your replacements
DATE: every bless-ed day

Please be advised that I am requesting that you be replaced with the leadership of the Zeta Phi Eta fraternity, as I feel they are more prepared to run this company than you have shown yourselves to be.

Specifically, they have excelled in the following areas where you are collectively the most weak:
1. Organizational planning, both long- and short-range
2. Attention to professional development for their members
3. Events planning
4. Distribution of labor
5. Contingency planning
6. Professional courtesy
7. General likeability
8. Group dynamics
9. Women in leadership
10. Let's face it; I just hate you

I flew on that high for the rest of the week. I am also pleased to report that I still got it, platform-wise, and can sustain a 60 minute talk on fewer than 10 slides, and 45 minutes of follow-up questions. And yes, they did send a thank you note.


  1. Congratulations on your speaking engagement. It just proves you CAN go back again even if it is different. I myself had a longer speaking part at new hire class this morning than usual and if I do say so my self, covered someone else very well for the first (and likely not the last) time. Marn

  2. Miss Bender...easy on the leadership. One of the challenges in our stupid corporate world is the absence of time to think. Your young Emersonians actually have some time to think. Your corporate leadership has unrelenting email, stock market pressures, kids who need braces, and a 75 minute commute.

    I get that many of the decisions are, um, challenged, but give 'em a little slack. Afterall, we would do the same for you. ; )

  3. Jay - really good point. But I must admit - in my world, I too wish someone would take a moment to be a leader and prepare for a meeting before wasting everyone's precious time.

    Hey Ms Bender - do you think I could be a fly on the wall!? Good luck with your talk.



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