“I remember it well”*

Posted by jlubans on May 12, 2020

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Caption: Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier in Gigi.

I can see that meeting still. There I was with my administrative colleagues around the table with the bowl of M&M candies (pre-viral but icky just the same).
All of us - with the exception of the new boss - were like Kim Jong Un’s minions with note pads and pencils at the ever ready.
Sometime during that meeting, I scratched a personal note on my pad, “The (blank) have won”. No, I did not write "blank". The blank represents a forgotten word, a noun.
What was it?
I did have a pretty good idea of what prompted that penciled note and its meaning: concession and surrender, a figurative "hands up!”
But, like the song in the title suggests, the mists of time can fog over even the most pleasant or unpleasant memories. Anyway, the fog around my missing word was as thick as ye olde pea soup.
For the longest time I could not remember that missing word; I’d wake up in the dark and start tossing out words that might fit, a sort of counting of sheep. I came close a few times, but the word never bubbled up.
Was it “the fastidious”? Getting warm.
Was it “fussbudgets”? "Pussycats"? Getting close.
Maybe “traditionalists”? Close but not close enough.
How about “the punctilious”? Getting warm but a tad too fancy plus I would not have known how to spell it.
So, let’s put me back in the meeting and try to remember the faces and the topics,
Certainly, the weekly executive meetings had become more formal and conservative than previously, and humorless for the most part. Wording was careful and selective. There was an unwelcoming atmosphere for any “pushing of the envelope”.
What was on our agenda? Well for one thing, that enervating, soul sucking, exercise, the strategic plan was again front and center.
And, speaking of e. and s.s., we were to envision the new, improved performance appraisal system.
Appearances now mattered more. My gleeful, free wheeling days of “let’s try it and see what happens” were no more.
It was now our intent to keep up with the Joneses, our peers. No longer were we to differ from our peers; rather it was quintessential for us to blend in.
And, if you know me you know I was feeling out of synch with my colleagues, all of them.
I was like the red-haired stepchild
Aha! Prisses, that was the missing word. “The prisses have won”.
From that point on the writing was on the wall (besides on my notepad!) for me.
Words like “appropriate” and “proper” took on new meaning especially since my leadership could be categorized as inappropriate and improper even if the results were stellar.
Professional instincts - another nod to appearances, - now mattered more than data and statistics.
Likewise, annual improvements over previous years were nothing to point to. And, any dilution of the inherited tradition by allowing non-professionals to take on new responsibilities was highly suspect.
Hence my tacit sending up the white flag with “The prisses have won”.
Ah, yes, I remember it well.

* One stanza from the song, I remember it well:
“That carriage ride, (you walked me home)
You lost a glove, aha, (it was a comb)
Ah, yes, I remember it well
That brilliant sky, (we had some rain)
Those Russian songs (from sunny Spain?)
Ah, yes, I remember it well

© Copyright John Lubans 2020

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