posted by Joe Anaya on September 26th, 2011

When I was a young man and starting in the work force, I understood that I’d have to do the lame stuff nobody else wanted to do but needed to get done. Being the low man on the totem pole, I would be stuck doing the menial tasks until the next “new” guy came along. Pretty standard operating procedure. What I did not expect was the occasional stuff I had to do that seemed completely illogical and stupid.

Many years ago, for a photo shoot, I had to crumple two reams of paper, one sheet at a time to stuff inside an empty bag of charcoal. But now the bag didn’t have enough mass to stay in place. So, of course they sent me, the new guy, to scramble around the neighborhood picking up rocks to put in the paper-filled bag. Why didn’t they just use charcoal bags filled with round objects that had weight? What could they use? Oh I don’t know, how about charcoal! I swore when I got to be in charge I would not make anyone do anything stupid. But alas, what I didn’t know was stupid rolls down hill.

When I moved up to the next level of management and had people working for me, occasionally, I’d get a request from my boss to do something that didn’t make any sense. The only way to accomplish the task was to get my subordinate to do something stupid. “Sorry, it’s just something my boss wants,” was the best reason I could give. As I worked my way up the ranks, I tried my best to keep the stupid stuff away from my staff. Often it involved talking my superiors out of making us do stupid things. I got relatively adroit at explaining the difficulties in accomplishing a task that didn’t make sense or acting confused in the logic of a task in a way that would non-threateningly lead my boss to recognize that his request made no sense.

Like Michael Corleone from Godfather III, each move upward led me to believe I would rise above the stupidity, but I always got sucked back in. At one point in my career, I was a producer of my own TV series, the height of control of our little world. We ran a smart tight ship. No stupidity allowed. Then it happened. In a meeting with the network president, the head of the whole shebang, he asks me to do something stupid. This is a guy who gave notes I’d disagreed with, but never gave anything I didn’t understand. I asked, “So you want us to make a temporary version of this episode and put it on a DVD?” “Yes.” “I’ll have to divert time and resources away from completing the finished version which is due Friday.” He sighed, “I understand.” Having a good relationship, I venture, “Do you mind if I ask why you can’t wait for the actual finished version Friday?” He looks at me seriously, I’m not sure what this means. Have I overstepped my bounds? Did I underestimate his commitment to this temporary version? “Sorry, it’s just something the Chairman of the Board wants.”

File Under Working Stiff