Slow for the Cone Zone

Slow for the Cone ZoneA few years ago, I worked for a wonderful manager ("S") who had an orange vest reminiscent of a Caltrans worker; it didn't help that the California Department of Transportation was ubiquitously promoting its safety awareness campaign "Slow for the Cone Zone" during that time. Anyhow, as with any seasoned manager, she was set in her management style and had some hard-and-fast rules that we all had to respect. One of these rules was "Thou shall not miss a meeting, less thy lie in a death bed."

On with the story ... I was driving from an off-site breakfast meeting (read into it what you will) and was stuck behind out-of-town drivers -- they were actually going at the posted speed limit! A word for visitors driving in California: please ignore posted speed limits, they're posted so we can get federal funding*. Knowing that I was going to be late to her weekly meetings, I considered all my options:
As usual, time was my enemy and the meeting was to start in less than five minutes, and, even in the best of traffic and driving a decked-out concept car, I was at least half an hour away. I panicked like a MOFO and reached for my bottles of Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil and Buspar***. In a moment of sheer brilliance, a lightbulb light up in my dimming mind on how I to save my budding career.

With minutes before the meeting was to start, I managed to weave traffic and took the first exit to hell. Not knowing the neighborhood, my eyes scanned for the possibilities of a pay-phone; I wasn't a chosen member of the echelon to warrant one and this was before it was chic to issue a cell-phone to every corporate drone. The only pay-phone was in a Jack-in-the-Box parking lot, near the PA drive-thru ordering system.

I dialed into the meeting, and, expecting "S" to be irritated, I blurt out that I had a flat tire. The meeting's discussion of strategic campaigns and tactics was often interrupted with, "Would you like fries with that?" or "No mustard and onions on the burger, is that right?" or "Can you repeat the order please?" There was no way to shield or muffle the PA system or the phone. At the end of the 90-minute meeting, I offered to take orders for those who wanted a late breakfast or early lunch.

That afternoon, with her CSI-like mind, "S" figured that I did not have a flat tire. Later that month, she took me out to lunch and said that my call-in cemented her authority within the company (apparently that story got around). After lunch, she surprised me with a modest gift-certificate to Nordstrom.

I know for a fact that "S" is reading this blog ... she knows my mischievous personality and, if I've offended her, then I'll get an email shortly with the appropriate suggested edits. "S" was the kind of manager that you could really talk to about anything. She was a "manager for the workers" -- much unlike the army of rank-and-file corporate clones that stifle productivity with paperwork and nonsense rules. "S" valued free-thinking and creativity. In my own career development, I reflect on "What would "S" Do?" all the time. My appreciation of her management skills was obvious when I took the course "Leadership Continuum: Behaviors of Managers and Leaders".

*All kidding aside, don't ignore posted speed limits -- CHP (California Highway Patrol) loves pulling people over so they can make quota while cranking out more of those "COPS" shows. Sometimes, as in the case of Rodney King, you can get lucky and cash-in on police brutality, but that's rare. Evidence often "disappear" or are contaminated, and, thus, no case.

**I'm not an orphan, and have never claimed to be one (until now).

***I have never, knowingly, taken any of these.

tags: ......
another point of view ...

Anonymous Anonymous

Very nice.. I enjoyed this post. The company I work for employed many managers that were former military types when I started 37 years ago. Punctuality was therefore engrained in me very early in my career. Unfortunately, due to growth and changing attitudes the rigor that was once standard is no more.

Blogger jaja

Dont you just hate it, when that happen to you, you are running late, & some joker go and do some sunday-driving..

I am working in a Japanese Co. where 1 minute late, is considered very late, & you'll be sure to received evil-eyes from the bosses, when you walk in late... hihi !

This is actually no problem to me though, cause I am one of those people who always try to be punctual at all time...

What upset me most is those people who refuse to be punctual without valid reasons...

Blogger Nam LaMore

CANADIAN DUDE: well, well .. i knew this post would be to your liking .. people in HR love that whole leader/manager stuff. i always get brownie points whenever i bring up that course i took. you've been at the same company for 37 years?!? i understand that the average worker has about three to four careers (not jobs) in a lifetime. can i use up your surplus?

Blogger Nam LaMore

JAJA: wow, that is strict at your company. i prefer a relaxed environment where they don't keep an eye on the clock. heck, i've been known to work 15+ hours before, for weeks! and i suspect my co-workers also work during 'off-hours' while at home, so none of us ever think of another not pulling their weights.

but, i do have to say that my habit for running late is legendary -- most of the time, it's due to back-to-back meetings -- i have difficulty turing down meeting invites -- never know when the next political coup will happen at work!

Blogger Kallun

You should do what I do when I'm late... don't bother getting out of bed, hide under the covers, and pretend like the world isn't really out there. Denial is a n art, and I'm a master of it. Of course, there is no guarantee that you would have your job the next day, but these are the things you're going to have to prioritise.

Anonymous Anonymous

uh oh.. i actually go the speed limit in AZ, must be because of the housewife, no place to be lifestyle I've developed.

"Do the right thing", yep, that's a leader for sure. I've seen a few quality people do the right thing, standing against popular opinion, and I really respect them for that.

Blogger Anthony

I'm also notoriously late for everything. Luckilly I have only had awful student jobs and have never had to face the consecquences of my tardiness (ie. get fired)

Kallun: I once did the whole stay-in-bed-denial thing, but then my employer called me and I was forced to make up some hideous lie about taking someone to the hospital. One of these days Karma will catch up with me.

Blogger Nam LaMore

KALLUN: can't say i ever traded work for sleep. i'm one of those who got 'perfect attendance' each year while in public school.

there's just too much guilt for staying in bed when i know the work is piling up, and people are depending on me to review, edit, approve, etc. my part of the responsibilities. makes it sounds like if i were not to show up at work, we would go to war, non?

oh, wait .. we are at war already .. mission accomplished.

Blogger Nam LaMore

PERI: well, from what i hear .. it's ok to go at the speed limit in AZ, everyone is so laid-back there! the notion of road-rage is very californian - i think it might actually have originated here - i'll have to look it up one day.

as for "do the right thing" .. well, that does take a lot of conviction and courage. i'll have to tell you a story some other time, but let's just say it invovlved the sr vp of diversity calling me.

Blogger Nam LaMore

ANTHONYPEREIRA: oddly, i find that as i get older, i'm much more aware of keeping others waiting and avoid tardiness when possible. luckily, i've never been warned about the hours i keep .. if anything, "it's late, go home already!"

Blogger Jaded Maniac

I've actually tried staying home a few times when I was REALLY sick (fever, chills, etc.) but my office would call at least 4 times (always when I'm sleeping or trying to sleep) So I never played hooky from work, either. I just wouldn't have any fun!!!

Blogger Nam LaMore

JADEDMANIAC: well, isn't nice to be wanted at the office? :-)

unfortunately, they only want us for our minds!

Blogger TrueJerseyGirl

So if I speed in California will I get pulled over by an Erik-Estrada-circa-1978-looking-dude? That's all I can think of when I hear about CHPs.

Blogger Nam LaMore

TRUEJERSEYGIRL: sadly, estrada is doing infomercials (like most actors from the 70's, i suppose) for california pines (real estate opportunities).

when i think of CHP, i have fond memories of police brutality and riots :-)

Blogger Lester T.

where i'm from, speeding tickets are $150 and higher, depending on how fast you are going. the fines are doubled in construction zones, so most people obey the limit. in my younger days, i racked up so many speeding tickets, i had to give up my license. strange thing is i don't recall NOT driving!?

Blogger Nam LaMore

LESTER T: i'm not sure the fines for speeding tickets, so can't say ;-)

actually, i'm just in denial. i continue to rack them up .. can't afford them .. i do show up to court each time, and the officer is almost never there, so i get away with reduced fine and weekend of community service (re: caltrans vest).

Blogger yudeology

talk about lateness, i still remember how my boss gave me a verbal 'don't-be'late' warning even before i started the job! why cant they just be more flexible??! hell.. i know i have cultivated a perpetual habit of turning up late at work in the mornings since n-years ago, but from that day on, i knew the feat of upholding my lateness record is going flop!
always wish for another 5mins of the time just to stay in bed every morning. hahhah!

Blogger Nam LaMore

YUDEOLOGY: my habit for running late to meetings have improved over the years, but sometimes i can't help it -- mostly because of back-to-back meetings. one meeting is late, or over-run, and the schedule is thrown off!

sorry to hear that your boss set up the ground rules before you started, that's not very welcoming!

Blogger Dutched Pinay on Expatriation

I kind of like "S", thats also my kind of superior. Like you I hate to be tied, I wanna spread my wings and fly *emote* haha.

Will you get a raise when "S" reads this? hehe

Blogger Dutched Pinay on Expatriation

Oh about the traffic and driving and meetings. I can 101% relate! I was speeding fast whilst groping for my mobile and managing a curve. I have to catch a lunch with a client and I realized I need to call someone urgent before I jump into that meeting. But too late, the car climbed up the small island (that thing that separates the highway). It happened so fast, in just 2 seconds or so. That was the worse accident i have ever been to.

Blogger Nam LaMore

THE DUTCHED PINAY: i don't work for "S" anymore (haven't in a few years), but, i did get a nice email from her - of course, she was being coy and asked if i was writing about here! LOL

i would work for her again in a heartbeat -- but that would require a move to another state and i'm not up for that. perhaps this is where my path with her will diverge (work-wise) .. the mystery of the future is clouded to my scrying crystal.

wow - you risked your life for a meeting! that's crazy .. i've used this like more than few times at work before (people just roll their eyes when they hear me using it): "would you rather that i arrive to the meeting on time, or hear about my fatal accident trying to get here on the evening news?"

yes, i can be sassy when i need to be!

Blogger Dutched Pinay on Expatriation

Oh darn, I loved that excuse. I should borrow that. No patent, ok?

speak up!

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