The Illustrated Peter Principal

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I am always impressed by companies that stick to their rules without any consideration for the reason or reasons that one or more of these rules may have been broken. A good CEO knows that his or her reputation for good sound thinking will be remembered forever by his staff, his employees, the shareholders and the public even though sometimes that decision may very well make the CEO look like a (very bad word) idiot.

A case in point: In 1994 New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority docked Michael Durant, a 31-year-old bus driver a day’s pay for being twelve minutes late for work. His excuse: he had stopped to pull a man out of a burning car on the highway. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t fire him.

In case you think I just made this up, I read this in one of the finest publications on the market today, a collection of true facts designed to keep us informed on all the important things that make us the most knowledgeable people on earth even though most of that information is pure drivel and best forgotten. I refer of course, to Uncle John’s Absolutely Absorbing Bathroom Reader, the Bible of intellectual citizenry eager to keep abreast of current events and columnists who can’t think of anything to write about and a deadline draws nigh.

In 1981 (I guess 1981 is hardly keeping abreast) Peter Stankiewicz of Rockland, Maryland stopped his car and dove into the Potomac River to rescue a driver whose lumber truck had crashed through a bridge railing and plunged 60 feet into the icy water. After hauling the driver to shore, Stankiewicz was informed that his car had been towed to the pound because it was blocking traffic. I hope a stiff fine was also involved. Who in hell does he think he is?

I will not steal anything else from Uncle John today although I still have three or four hundred words to go so maybe . . .

We all have had bosses who have done stupid things. The few of us still alive will remember this, I remember a morning at Otaco when the president of Galtaco, our parent company, came to visit us peons and take his traditional walk through the foundry being careful of course not to get his shoes dirty. As it was nearing lunchtime and he wanted to get to Pearson so he could be back home in Detroit in time for dinner, he had all us lesser beings (did I mention I didn’t like him?) gather in the main office for his inspirational speech usually made before someone got fired. It was during his message, a message that will live forever in my memory, that he actually said that we had to cut down on expenses and (now get this) even wasting paper clips and other office paraphernalia add up.

It just so happened that after the usual round of polite applause, (I mean what else can you do when someone in authority blathers on for half an hour saying absolutely nothing?) that I handed him an envelope containing a report about manpower or something to go to head office. He said he had enough to carry already and told me to send it by Purolator. I was going to mention that it would cost thirty or forty bucks and that would buy a whole pee-pot full of paper clips but since I wanted to continue eating I said nothing.

We had another president a few years before the last guy, or later, I forget which, who was going to speak to everyone, office staff, management and the factory and foundry union employees, (they are the people who actually work) a sort of State of the Union address I guess you would call it. It was scheduled for 2 p.m., I remember that.

The brass went out for lunch at an Italian restaurant on the northeast corner of Colborne and Andrew Street. I needed to tell you that because the president dropped a plate of spaghetti on the crotch of his tan-coloured suit. Now he was a good speaker at any time, and a wanderer whenever he had the floor. At 2 we all showed up and there he sat at a table with a tablecloth covering the remains of his luncheon. He was still sitting there when everyone else had left.

I wonder if Uncle John would be interested in that tidbit. (It should be spelled ‘titbit’ but my cousin Sue Ann isn’t convinced)(neither is the editor).

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