I was privileged to serve in the US Naval Service for over twenty years. Hands-down, simply the finest organization in the world. But after I retired I made the mistake of taking a job for the civilian side of the Government. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said in “The Last Action Hero,” Big Mistake!
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston was looking for an electronic technician – someone to install, repair, and reinstall the myriad of CCTV cameras, monitors, door strikes, man-traps, VCRs, motion-detectors, etc., that are the heart of all modern banks' security. I was recommended by a friend who was VP and I got the job. Fair pay, 401K, pretty good package on the surface. But I did not know how the civil side of the Government works against the interests of both its employees and the tax-payers it serves. Bummer, man.
The first problem appeared several weeks into the job. The Bank wanted an electronic technician. The shop supervisor, an electrician, wanted another electrician. Electricians work with alternating current and big hardware while trons work with direct current and small/tiny hardware. Their worlds are far apart. My supervisor simmered with resentment.
With this as a background, January 1, 2000 approached. Bank management reacted as government civilians always do – with a combination of wild-eyed, drooling panic and abuse of their subordinates. It is necessary to point-out that Fed top executives are butt-ignorant of anything technological. Bank sensors worked through black magic as far as they were concerned, or cared. So as the Dreaded Y2K Monster approached, management retreated behind locked doors and made plans on How To Survive the Coming End of the World and Not Be Blamed. At midnight on December 31st would the Y2K Monster make all the bank vaults and doors fly open and all the money fly-out into the street, raining-down on South Station like some biblical epic gone wrong? Would all the anti-theft systems suddenly go dark so laughing burglars could waltz through the bank, filling pillow-cases full of money? Would the fire suppression system suddenly be activated, filling the bank with water and turning it into Boston’s newest attraction, Bank Aquarium World? Would stray bolts of high-amperage electricity start shooting-out of the bank, incinerating passers-by? Oh, what terrors awaited??
Management quickly settled on a dual course of Six Sigma cowardice: some workers would be required to stay in the Bank from Friday to Monday to ensure that when Y2K hit, they would be able to save the Fed. The managers, never people to dodge responsibility, decided that they, too, would stay in Boston to oversee the saving of the Fed. Of course, they were to stay in penthouse suits at the Copley Plaza and the Boston Hyatt, but they would be in the bank in spirit!
As low man on the totem pole, I was selected for the 48-hour hitch in the bank’s Security Floor. I wasn’t really clear on how I would save the bank if the stroke of midnight Y2K Monster created a rip in the space-time continuum through which would pour a Klingon boarding party to pillage the Fed, but Management felt that with my Volt-Ohm Meter and precision screwdriver set, I would somehow prevail. Hey. I was a Navy vet, right?
As you may know, Y2K never happened. But on weekends the Fed turns-off the heat and lights, so for two nights I huddled on a canvas FEMA cot, shivering in the no-heat bank, and cursing management in their penthouses. I left the bank on Monday with what I thought was a bad cold. Several days later that turned worse. I finally called-in sick and went to the doctor, who asked me why I hadn’t been in earlier because I was developing a fine case of pneumonia. So I was out sick for eight days.
Several weeks after I had returned to work, I received an attack review, during which I was told I was being disciplined for missing eight days of work. I thought they were joking at first. I’d gotten pneumonia after having been ordered to stay in the freezing-cold Fed because management was as dumb as a bag of hammers and utterly unconcerned with the workers. But no, it was not a joke. I was being punished for getting sick on the job under orders.
I left the Fed shortly thereafter and never looked back. And now Obama plans to “save” the country through the greatest increase in government growth and deficit spending in our history? Please. Have someone in the new administration drop me an email so I can help set them straight. Otherwise, all we taxpayers are likely to be punished for getting sick.