Executive Assistance – Day 19

2013-01-12 22.01.02
I tell this story about John because I know that he knows that we are laughing with him – not at him.

I don’t remember exactly who was the instigator but Terry, Rich, or Frank were always up to some kind of scheme. And John regularly was their target. It always seemed like the right thing to do, for some reason. One could leave a few morsels for John and next thing you know, John would turn the morsels into a full-fledged Thanksgiving Dinner. He had a unique ability to take a match and create a nuclear explosion. It was pretty amazing how the guys were able to give so much love to John – and John took every bit that was offered to him. We all loved (and still do!) John.

So one day – in among the management of multi-million dollar contracts and critical design reviews – the guys decided to take some quality time and yank John around a little bit. Oh no…

Our entire organization was growing and growing and so quite a bit of high-level planning had been going on among our executives to begin preparing plans for the build-out and subsequent move of all of us to a new engineering facility. It sounded real nice. Turns out that on the particular day that Terry, Rich, and Frank were getting itchy for a John-caper, a covey of executives were, in fact, meeting upstairs to discuss the new building plans and our office move.

Well, what a perfect setup – it had fallen right into our laps. Terry, Rich, and Frank started up a pre-planned conversation among themselves in our engineering bull pen about the important meeting upstairs and “they want us to send someone” and “who can go?” and “it’s pretty important and our future hinges on the outcome of the meeting” and “it will be a long meeting” and “shoot, we are all so busy” and on and on and on. Of course, John was in ear-shot of this whole setup conversation.

To set the hook, one of the guys said, “Well, John would probably be the best to send up to the meeting. Hey. John. Can you go upstairs to the planning meeting with the executives?” And of course, John was more than happy to share his qualified opinions on new buildings and to rub elbows with the important people upstairs. He quickly offered up his services. Hook set! And off John went to the important meeting upstairs.

Oh my, did we all howl downstairs after John had left. Tears, I remember. What was going to happen to poor John when he walked into this meeting uninvited and they not having a clue as to who he was or why he was at their meeting? How did this guy even know we were meeting, they would wonder. This was setting up to be classic caper – one for the books.

And in fact, it did turn out to be one of the best John-enterprises I had ever seen the guys pull off. We could only wait – I remember it was probably almost an hour. Finally, John came back down to our bull pen and told us what happened. We just listened. He was a little bit confused, actually.

It seems that the meeting was just getting underway when John arrived. A bunch of suits were all wandering around and mulling over a new and quite large balsa model – it was even under a very large Plexiglass enclosure – of the proposed engineering facility. John said people were asking each other questions and taking notes – there were some design contractor personnel standing around the model who could answer any questions that the executives had about the proposed building. John got into the swing of things and even started asking some questions himself. Taking notes, walking around the model, glimpsing at it from one direction and then another. Moving around and among the executives. Acting and being interested. Asking a few questions here and there and remarking with a few of his observations.

This kind of noodling went on for some time. And it really looked to be quite a nice building for all of us, John explained. But finally – and after time had been taken for everyone to look at the model and to ask questions – the real meeting was going to begin. John said that it seemed that the contractors were probably going to give some kind of briefing or something. Except that, as John was looking for his seat, our Section Chief walked up to him and said, “What are you doing here?” To which John replied, “I was asked to be here.” To which the Section Chief said…something…and told John that John was not needed at the meeting, thank you. Bewildered, John left and returned to our bull pen.

And with John telling the end of his story, no one could keep a straight face any longer. The jig was up. I remember that there were a lot of groans, giggles, gee-whizzes, and general grunts of amazement at how well this had all worked out. This was classic!

I suppose we all had work to do so we went back to our cubbies. More work on our desks – it never ended. But the day had been a good day. A very good day.

And John is still our friend – my friend. John put up with these antics an awful lot during the years we were together. He never seemed to learn.

There is a good ending to this story. I’m happy to say that John retired from the FBI the first week of Jan this year. He had even turned into an executive suit himself at the FBI – he had worked his way up through the years. Good for John, and I wish him and his wife and his family the best in his well-deserved retirement. I also hope you get your plane, John.

A memory…

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