End of the Line: Part I

Alas, we can never go back, but we can still listen!!

I thought that person’s comment on the song was quite fitting as this story nears its close.

There’s a nice park called The Green in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a pleasant place to visit with various sculptures and abstract art on display. What stands out in my mind the most are the artistic benches and chairs. On each piece are prominent letters spelling out words such as honor, truth, perseverance, and so on.

All words but one lie flat on the top of the pieces . . .

The one that sets itself apart from the rest is the word “Risk,” and its first letter is hanging on the edge.

I’m fascinated by the wonder of when a person takes that first step that defines who they become. My construct of consideration began in April 1988: One moment of truth that set the foundation for all that followed. That teacher didn’t need a letter or a lecture, just a look and a few choice words. He revealed something I couldn’t see, as I was blinded by my disgust in being so royally wronged.

The bigger picture is a beautiful thing — as your interests can be served in ways you wouldn’t have imagined had you gotten what you wanted.

Rollo took another path

He turned away from what struck a nerve — I turned toward it.

I found it immeasurably valuable to take that journey, so that’s all I needed to know. I wasn’t interested in what felt good, I was only after the truth and what was right — regardless of how it felt.

If I knew that admitting that mistake to the DBAs at Hannover would cost me my job — I would have sent the exact same email without hesitation. I will not allow anyone to share responsibility for something solely on me.

I went to bed completely at peace after emailing Head Honcho. But before I did, I forwarded the email to End Run — saying that I didn’t mean to interfere with his approach, but that this was just something I had to do on my own.

Within minutes of waking up that morning, change was in the air.

I certainly didn’t see that connection coming. I haven’t heard that song in ages, but it immediately came to mind when I wrote, “change was in the air.” So I started watching the video and they show that picture of Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (been there and hope to return) — which brought me back to a paper I wrote at Purdue.

And that brings us to Yasmin . . .

They are not aware when life asks them a question

I can’t speak for what Purdue is like now — but back in my day, I had a political science teacher named Yasmin who was a purist in her purpose. She made an impression on me right off when she told us that she doesn’t vote — as a means to not harbor any political leanings in her teaching.

I immensely admire that.

I respected her passion, objectivity, and desire to make the material as enjoyable as possible. While I always did pretty well on my papers, I fell short a time or two on the exams, so I was on the border for getting an “A” in the class. I knew the final paper would put me over the edge, and I was dead set on making that happen. But when I got my paper back on Nazi Germany, I discovered that she had given me a “B” — decorating my paper with a lot of red ink to point out my mistakes.

I was not too happy about it and went to her office hours to talk it over. I wasn’t angry, but I wanted to raise my objections.

We went over every single item, and while I disagreed with her here and there, on the whole she made quite a convincing case. By the end of the discussion — she could tell I was still frustrated and she looked right at me and said,

If you still think that you deserve an ‘A’ on the paper, I will give it to you.

That concession would have meant an “A” in the class, and in so doing provided a boost to my lackluster GPA. But here we go again with another moment of truth.

Without hesitation I replied, “I’ll take the ‘B’”

To accept the “A” would have been tantamount to disrespecting Yasmin and everything I had learned in her wonderful class — making it more about a grade than the value of the knowledge.

Don’t tell me that “college isn’t the ‘real world’” — everything is about how you approach it.

I had my shortcomings in school, but when it came to papers, group projects, presentations, debates, and so on — I tackled it all with great care and sincerity. Even though I needed that “A” and worked hard for it, it wasn’t good enough — so I didn’t earn it.

It doesn’t get any more real than that!

Scrambling” is not a good look for a leader

I put that word in quotes because someone else at Elara said it, and added . . .

[Rollo] talks in circles and is all over the place

Ya know, it’s your business to butcher if you like — but when you hired me and let Rollo’s ways run rampant, you made it my business. Just hire people like you and do whatever you want. Then you’ll never have to burden yourselves with reality, or have someone like me come along and remind you of what it looks like.

As I told Head Honcho during my firing —

You’re not minding the store

Rollo was on fire with fury

I could feel the heat all the way from the East Coast.

I’ve been told that “our customers are not getting the attention and timeliness they deserve.”

Now we’re really in dangerous waters — as those are my words in Rollo’s message.

The icing on the cake was that End Run replied that morning to tell me it was perfect timing, as his meeting just happened to be scheduled with Head Honcho for that very day.

That’s beyond perfect — that’s cosmic

If I sound giddy about that moment — I admit it, I wanted to put the screws to this guy. I was sick of being embarrassed, being behind, our customers getting shafted, having no sense of order and accountability in anything we do — and the whole circus that surrounds Rollo and his shield of certitude to deny it.

So yeah, I took some satisfaction in seeing him squirm. But that’s just fleeting joy in the presence of poetic justice.

What really mattered was that hope was on the horizon, as the elephant in the room had been revealed.

Keep in mind that no one is more keenly aware of Rollo’s potential than I am. Without his ego in the way, who knows what he could accomplish — and that’s good for him, good for me, and good for everybody.

This man needed to get smacked down so he could be built back up again — anew in ways he’s never known.

Rollo had other ideas

I’m in project-management mode now

Good grief! Instead of just pausing for once to take stock of a situation, Rollo was off to the races once again — trying to solve a problem in the very way he created it.

If he had any awareness at all, he would have noticed my non-reaction to being told that our department wasn’t getting it done. I stepped away for a few and when I returned, I saw that he had called — and boy was I ever relieved that I missed it. I would not have purposely ignored it, and had I gotten on the phone — I don’t know how I could have kept it from coming out.

It’s one thing to be matter-of-fact in messaging, but on the phone, that’s a whole other challenge (especially with my transparency).

I didn’t ask Head Honcho to not tell Rollo, but till the dust settled, I’m sure it was best that he not know. So I’m thinking — it looks like Head Honcho‘s not screwing around.

I told friends and family that I’d never seen anything like that in my life. Rollo went to bed with one job and woke up with another (in the sense of changing times).

My principles have put my parents through hell over the years, so you can’t imagine the extended joy they have experienced in my time at Elara. Almost 2 whole years of peace, out of debt, money in the bank, and very happy at Elara.

I know — you don’t get it, it’s ok

You’d get it even less if you saw my view from my wall of windows as I write these words.

When the pandemic came along, I had a couple of colleagues express their concerns to me. I told ’em I wasn’t worried one bit. All my successes, setbacks, and struggles got me here — and I’m eternally grateful for it. But if it all comes crashing down, I’ll be fine. All I can do is make the most of each day (which is not just a saying to me) — and the rest is out of my hands.

A friend of mine asked if I was going to watch the first debate. I didn’t even know about it — and no, I didn’t watch it. Short of being in the Amazon Jungle, I’m about as cut off from the world as you can get.

I’ll do my duty and vote — but nothing more (except for this site, of course). You won’t believe this — but I won’t even look to see who won (and who knows how long I’ll go without knowing).

One final point on that: If Trump wins, I’ll have no reaction. If he loses, same thing.

Not even the people closest to me understand that.

So when I told my parents that I took a huge risk and it paid off, they were ecstatic — just beaming with happiness (laced with enormous relief, no doubt).

They know how important these things are to me — from a lifetime of me pushing the envelope of possibility.

Rollo asked me for my task list — which was an ongoing thread tying back to JIRA and Planner. And here we go once again with how he makes up his mind on one data point. Since I hadn’t kept up my tasks in Planner, he assumed that I was just using JIRA and didn’t come through on my commitment to maintain both.

Just one problem with that line of “reasoning” — I hadn’t been maintaining them in JIRA either.

Sure, I had a few — but nothing on the order of what I had in mind all along. It took me almost 3 days to document my tasks (in Excel first and then putting them into both JIRA and Planner). I was thrilled — this is what I wanted, so I was happy to spend that time (all weekend, as usual).

So in the thick of it all during the summer (where I can’t even tell you how many 12-15 hour days (and beyond) that I worked, every weekend, 2 or 3 all-nighters . . .

Just where was I supposed to find 2-3 days for those tasks?

Oh, I’m sorry — you just wanted a few bullet points without any substance in the understanding of the requirements.

Why did you hire me again?

But change was on the move — and doing that investigation and documenting it was all part of that transition.

This is what I wanted and this is what I was getting — so I felt fantastic.

Rollo didn’t

“Scrambling” as always, he came right out of the gate with hurt in his voice during our team meeting. To watch Rollo go Jekyll & Hyde out of nowhere was not a pretty sight, as he tells the team his demands:

If your tasks aren’t in Planner on Monday . . . we’re gonna have a conversation

What a flake

And I do not use that word lightly — I reserve it for special occasions.

Slack for 2 years and now you’re a taskmaster?

I’m glad he was serious in conveying his orders — we needed that. But there’s a way to go about such change — and THAT is not it. I didn’t personally care — since I knew what was going on. But to treat the team like that . . .

Not cool — and in no way representing leadership.

He filled them in on what happening and how he’s meeting with a consulting company to get a project manager in here. To listen to him massage his ego in trying to engineer the best possible look in this mess — the pitiful desperation of it all.

It just blows my mind how this man deflects failure at all costs.

If you read every word I’ve ever written, you’d still never understand how utterly icky I find this behavior — along with the Head Honchos who indulge systematic self-delusion without an atom of concern for the cost.

Ol’ Head Honcho in his halo — these [$&^%#$^3] automatons and how they issue their preset instructions to preserve the lie.

I understand all that, but . . .

No, ya didn’t — but the second you hung up on me, you were going to.

Not that it made any difference — in fact, I appreciated the time I got. I was stunned that you and HR stayed on the phone as long as you did.

I must say, it was perfect that the line went dead in the middle of my “straight trees” quote — as it provided the segue to the site. Thanks for that!

I asked Rollo if we could be involved in the interviewing of the project manager — and he got defensive, as he’s perennially in protection of his image. My input was good enough for interviewing developers, but not welcome on project managers. Got it.

Had he just said, “Head Honcho and I prefer to handle it” — that’s fine. It’s a different type of role and it’s totally understandable if they prefer to go it alone.

I was just asking to be involved (even if only to submit a question or two). Doubting their ability to find the right person never crossed my mind.

It’s the only thing that crossed Rollo’s — still in a huff from people having the nerve to expect better service:

If you don’t think that Head Honcho and I can do a good enough job getting a project manager . . .


When he told the team that some had questioned his leadership — “including our own team,” I didn’t know what to make of that then and I still don’t. On the surface it seems obvious that he’s referring to me (especially with the comment above) — but his other actions at the time didn’t strike me as though he knew.

It doesn’t matter — I’m just curious.

Rollo — is not

A lifetime of opportunity and clarity wasted by not embracing these words:

I didn’t hear one word from Head Honcho until later that afternoon. He had a couple of questions about a resource I recommended in that email. Rollo had twice rejected the idea — citing budget issues. The first rejection I can see, because COVID was just ramping up. But the second — I just don’t find the claim credible (but I could be wrong).

And let’s face it — how can I take his “budget” claim seriously when he never puts much thought into any decision of long-term impact (not in my experience with him, anyway)?

All I know is that we’d be robbing this resource at the rate he was asking. We’re talking about a guy that would be of enormous benefit to us on multiple fronts — for a drop in a bucket.

I don’t understand that math

Moreover, this is one of reasons why working ridiculous hours for so long is such a problem: It doesn’t reflect the reality of the demands — preventing a company from properly staffing and prioritizing.

And hey, if you wanna forfeit your life for these companies, they won’t stand in your way.

Rollo always operates that way (and I was doing it all summer trying to catch up). So I’m killing myself week after week, month after month — and he’s been probably been doing that for years.

I had other plans. So this abuse (self-inflicted by both of us) — was short-term for me.

Unlike Rollo, I look up once in a while.

We needed someone in our area of expertise — but that bulldozing mentality of his trumps reason, just like his ego. I was looking at the lay of the land long before it got out of control, but on matters above my pay grade — my advice was ignored with doubt-free ease.

That wouldn’t bother so much if these guys made better decisions.

Instead of getting our engine in working order, Rollo and Head Honcho wanted to hire another painter. Both guys they hired are great and Elara is lucky to have them, but the 2nd one was not a smart move — considering the far more pressing needs at the time.

Incredibly . . .

They even considered getting a 3rd painter. Okay, 2nd’s one’s arguable, fine. But a 3rd?


In any case, at least Head Honcho gave my resource suggestion some thought — and asked good questions about him. He didn’t go for it — but I appreciate the sincerity in his consideration.

That’s a hell of a lot more than I ever got from Rollo on anything in the realm of bigger decisions.

But there was something missing in Head Honcho’s reply. In addition to the suggestion about the resource, I asked if I could have the opportunity to share some additional concerns.

That was not a good sign . . .

I purposely chose “Flexible Fabric” — only to be delighted further when I saw “Memory-Weave.” But I howled when I saw these (especially the 3rd one):

  • Stretchable
  • Comfortable
  • Moves with you

And the reality-bending of the body capped it all off

I went looking for some “Writing’s on the Wall” imagery and struck gold.

So when Head Honcho asked me about the resource, I took the liberty to sneak in some of my concerns by framing them within the answer.

Oh yeah, I was testing you — and you said everything I needed to know about you in your complete lack of thirst for anything beyond paint-by-numbers leadership.

Yeah, Head Honcho — you put a good show that Saturday night when you called about Turnover and offered your token nod of appreciation. I was there for Elara time after time, but when I asked for your help on a company-wide concern, you didn’t do jack shit.

So you lit a fire under Rollo that morning — congratulations on executing the bare minimum.

And then you left the door wide open for this guy to manufacture a new reality.

If I were wearing Rollo’s shoes and had such news dropped on me like that — the first thing I’d be doing is writing an apology to the entire company for my failures. And I would tell them that from now on — anything you have to say to me, no matter what it’s about, don’t hesitate for one second to share.

And that I would be absolutely committed to earning their faith in me again.

But that’s me — and this guy . . .

“I Told Ya, Didn’t I!”

I doubt you’d understand, Head Honcho . . . and your boy damn sure wouldn’t.

In John Wayne: The Life and Legend, the author relays a story about The Duke growing up as Marion Robert Morrison — and how every day he rode eight miles to elementary school on a horse named Jenny. No matter how much he fed his horse, Jenny was still too thin.

Some ladies in town took notice of what they perceived as malnutrition and reported his family to the Humane Society. After a vet examined the horse it was diagnosed to have a disease and eventually they had to put her down. On top of losing his beloved horse, Marion was understandably unhappy with how he was treated:

[A] sense of outrage over being falsely accused never left him. “I learned you can’t always judge a person or a situation by the way it appears on the surface,” he remembered. “You have to look deeply into things before you’re in a position to make a proper decision.”

In the book: DUKE, We’re Glad We Knew You: John Wayne’s Friends and Colleagues Remember His Remarkable Life — in the forward is a 1979 article that includes the following:

To him a handshake was a binding contract. When he was in the hospital for the last time and sold his yacht, The Wild Goose, for an amount far below its market value, he learned the engines needed minor repairs. He ordered those engines overhauled at a cost to him of $40,000 because he had told the new owner the boat was in good shape.

— The Unforgettable John Wayne by Ronald Reagan

Off to the races we go

Possibility was on the horizon, so even with the haphazard handling of it all (and runs-in-the-family blankness of Head Honcho), I was happy and hopeful.

End of the Line: Part II