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April 22, 2006

Don't Pay the Ransom -- I Escaped!

I might as well start at the beginning, since doing it in medias res wouldn’t make much sense.

One of the downsides to being a contractor is that there isn’t a whole lot of job security -- which I found out back in November, when our project’s budget was cut by 87% (calm down -- the funding was diverted to Disaster Relief, not some boondoggle). We managed to operate week-by-week with MACOM handouts, but things got a bit shaky. Then, on Christmas Eve, our Parts Manager sent each of us other contractor/parasites (hereinafter referred to as "c/p") an e-mail saying, in essence, there was a major train-wreck fast approaching. We were all invited to the primary contractor's Christmas Holiday Party after quitting time and were informed the limit was two cookies and a cup of flat soda apiece. I donated mine to the forlorn-looking secretary checking IDs in the entryway.

Then our Parts Manager bailed for another job on New Year's Eve. And us remaining c/ps split his workload.

In early January, our Team Lead casually wandered between our desks and sotto-voce’d, “Update your resumes ASAP, guys -- I’ll endorse them.”

Then, in late January, he bailed for another job. And us four remaining c/ps split his workload.

In February, the ex-squid muttered something about shoals ahead and split for deeper water (literally -- he took a job in Guam). And us three remaining c/ps split his overwork-overload.

Then, at 10:00am one Tuesday in March, the MACOM handouts were further reduced, so, at 10:05am, our gummint oversight guys told us three remaining c/ps to turn off our computers, grab whatever personal stuff we had in our desks and be out the door by 10:06am.

“Umm -- Do you want the stuff we’re working on? Reports? Data collections?”

“Nope. Don’t forget to return your badges to Security.”

The chuckle is, the gummint guys’ sole job was to tour depots to see how things got repaired and then provide PowerPoint slides each week to keep the MACOM Commander updated on the project’s progress. They used the data us c/ps collected from the field and supplied them after we made sense of it and punched it into the database, along with the funding requests and work progression on the previously-inducted stuff.

Which, obviously, they haven’t been getting from us of late.

The project is still alive, but my guess is, depots have been playing host and the slides have been showing “NO CHANGE” for the last month or so.

Meanwhile, back home, we’ve been brewing a revolution. By the end of March, Town Council still hadn’t finalized the FY 05-06 budget -- which was due to be voted on NLT 1 July 2005 -- so it guesstimated the amount of money it’d take to keep the township rolling and promptly hiked everybody’s quarterly taxes by 25%. Heh -- the idiots even pi$$ed off the Town Socialist with that one. Soooo, since the local Republican Party has been moribund for the last twenty years or so, us wingnuts have cranked up a splinter group under the Republican banner, dragooned a bunch of Independents, Libertarians and conservative Dems and now have some talented challengers to the In Crowd.

KtLW was acclaimed campaign manager because she could argue Old Scratch into installing central air. Unfortunately, she’s also discovered that using the computer is more fun than playing phone-tag, which means she’s online until the wee hours. Now I can only jump in when she’s asleep, at a meeting which isn’t being held in our kitchen, or adding to the list of things for me to do (“Move that 15-foot hemlock with the 10-foot rootball to the other side of the stream and mow the lawn. Then come inside and eat breakfast while I tell you what else needs to get done before noon.”) during my leisure hours, usually between midnight and 5:00am.

Primary Day is 6 June (yup -- everybody noticed that one) and the first fund-raiser is at stately Tuttle Manor. In two weeks. Which means I have to get the Jungle in shape…

Oh, yeah -- about my “leisure hours.” A friend of ours who owns an irrigation systems company recently had three of his crew split to become long-haulers. Since he saw the waterfall I built, he figgered I knew the basics of Hydraulic Engineering (e.g., water flows downhill, water shoved through one end of a tube will come out the other end of the tube, etc.), he asked if I could give him a hand. And since the outfit I contract for hasn’t posted anything that doesn’t require a Master’s in Linux and Mandarin Java, I’m now getting an immersion course in Meso-American Spanish and three green-card Costa Ricans are getting lessons in English grammar and Yankee pronunciation.

Hal (el Jefe), Jorge, ‘Steban, Luis and me -- doin’ the Residential, Commercial and Industrial Jobs that Murricans won’t do. If you’re not proficient in all aspects of plumbing, heavy equipment operation, landscaping, subsurface electrical wiring requirements, blowback-bypass codes, acetylene torch operations, determining the differences between a black widow and a brown recluse, camouflaging recent excavations and digging trenches six inches wide and eight inches deep by hand (when necessary), stop on by -- we’ll be happy to teach you. Bring lots of bottled water, BTW.

UPDATE: My forehead is healing nicely after Wednesday’s episode involving the repair of the winter-killed pipe under a customer’s deck, the overly-territorial black widow spider and the two-by-six joist. I was awarded the section of pipe and the spider’s corpse as trophies and received a “Commendable” for Invective Originality and Speedy Shirt-Removal in a Confined Space…