Friday, April 18, 2008

Day Without End

The announcement arrived in an email, fitting communication to a soulless drone glued to a screen in an office cube farm that stretched from Corridor G to Destiny. “Please join us in Take Our Daughters And Sons to Work Day!” Goodness. Finally the chance for my three sons to get a load of what the old man does every day of his moribund, monotonous life. In fact, I dimly recall this exercise in parental futility from last year. Back then, faceless human resource bureaucrats even gave us a check list to follow while emphasizing our career failings to our kids. Here’s what happened…

“On this day, children between the ages of 8 and 12 will visit the agency with their parent to learn about our work.”

“Boys,” I said in dramatic fashion as we sat in my workspace after lurching through an endless traffic jam of public servants, “My work is about changing the world. It’s all about thinking outside and inside the box, playing in the sandbox, expanding parameters, breaking templates, modeling models, framing frameworks, having dialogues with folks above my pay grade, singing off the same sheet of music, bringing my A game, taking it to the next level with my elevator speech, cross walking when I’m not partnering, and leveraging the metrics of everything I see. Now, hand me those rubber bands and paperclips – that’s right, next to the tape dispenser -- and I’ll show you how to make a catapult.”

“Explore with them the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the future workforce.”

“Hey guys, here’s a skill.” I log onto my computer, whisper to them the secret Caddyshack password I use, and then when presented with a prompt screen, take a short cut to get to my Outlook email box, where there are no new messages for the day as of about 10:00 a.m. “Onwards, gents.” I take a bunch of papers that I haphazardly printed out, staple them together, and place in a wooden Out Box. ”What does that box mean, Dad?” says young Darby. “That means I’m done with that little project.” “What did it do?” he presses me. “Hell if I know,” I say distractedly, checking my empty email account once more.

"Expose the participants to an environment that values the balance of work and family life."

I expose the three to my workspace – they're crowded around my dingy desk in a cube with 6-foot high partitions. “Wow, Dad, you get to have carpet on your walls.” Yep, I tell them, one of the perks of being a key employee. The eldest, Dev, squeezes into a chair, Darby sits on the floor, and Braden crouches on the desk and peers over the low walls at my coworkers. I clear my throat and brush the glazed donut flakes off my tie. “Your dad is quite aware of the balance between work and family life and how the two intersect. For example, we play basketball all the time and I help coach your teams, right? So watch this,” and I wad up a piece of paper and shoot it at the waste can down the aisle outside my work area. It goes in. “See, just like at the gym or in the driveway, I can hit the 3-pointer here at work as well. Get it?”

"Showcase the abilities needed for the future workforce. "

I point to a stapler on my desk. “Dev!” I shout suddenly, “What do you do if that runs out of staples?!” He’s frozen in shock. “C’mon pal, you don’t have an hour to chew on this!” I shriek. “Call the stapler person?” he says hurriedly. ” Exactly, man! Good job.”

“The children will be able to shadow their parent and participate in other hands on and interactive activities."

When I hear the word interactive, I think one thing. So I take them to the copier room. “10 years ago, gents, this room was the nerve center of the modern office. If you had five copies of anything, you were a hero in a meeting. I know, because I often brought seven,” I say matter-of-factly. The boys stare uncertainly at the whirring machinery. “Now listen up, you rascals, because this is important. In the old days, you didn’t have machines that could collate. Can you say that word?” They repeat it with a vapidity that bolds well for following in Dad’s footsteps. I continue: “However, today, you can program the machine to actually staple individual copies together. It remains one of the major technological breakthroughs of our time.”

"The activities will reinforce the importance of education and preparation."

“Education and Preparation are important,” I tell the guys at about 3:30 p.m., reading from the Human Resources prepared statement. By now, all three sons are in daze from the office environment. As we review the day and the numerous coffee breaks, Braden notes, “Dad, you don’t even drink much coffee. You just sit around and chat with people.” “That’s right. It’s called workforce cohesion – everyone you see is in this long, tedious haul together.” “Maybe that’s why no one is smiling around here,” he says as he periodically peers over the partition walls. “Bingo, pal,” I answer.

The theme for this Day without End is “Making Choices for a Better World.” So as the wise father, I break it down for the boys. “My three loyal, optimistic, talented sons. Please look at your old man in his element here and then review all the choices you have before you. Make the right ones and you won’t have to bring my grandsons to this kind of world.”