Mistake Monday – Stick My Ego Up Your Drainpipe

I can really be an ass sometimes.  I get pretty wound up and I have a hard time letting go of certain issues.  I’ve been astutely described as “particular”.  Fine, maybe I hang on to a lot of issues.  Whatever.  Sometimes it works out fine.  Sometimes it’s a huge waste of time and energy.  I suspect ego, pride, “concern for what other people think” are all ways I reconcile this.

Let me tell you about one of these times where I was an ass and I wasted several thousand dollars in the process.  I was spurned by my boss and turned spiteful in response.  You might say, “spite can be fun!”.  And I would agree with you; spite can be a great deal of fun. But you should really read the rest of this because… spite is really not necessary.  Spite is the ugly side of the need to be right.  I bet we could be right without the spite.

On a related note, it’s not the best idea to deploy spite against your boss or employer.  One time, I had a boss in California.  That’s all you need to know.


This boss really loved to drive the action of his employees with fear and stress.  The employees were like ants to him.  He loved to step on the mound and watch the ants scatter and scurry and scream in terror.  While some people find this productive, I think it’s f&%$ed up.  I contend that humans are not ants, right?  Yet, there are many people who accept and allow their managers and employers to communicate like a boot on an ant mound. 

This may come as a shock, but I DO NOT find this motivating.  In fact, I operate on a single principle: if you want something, tell me what it is, and I’ll make it happen.  Simple.  If you want something, but don’t tell me what it is and then try to prod me like a steer with an electric poker, well then, I’m going to kick you.  Maybe in the face or in the nether region.  Probably both.  See, there’s that spite.  It’s sharp.  But it IS honed.

Anyway, I digress… This boss loved to send me texts early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends.  Generally, if I was doing something important outside of work, that was the time he would send me a text.  Most of the time the texts didn’t bother me.  The favorite thing this boss liked to harp on, at least in the vineyard, was ensuring the property drains were clean and not blocked.  In Sonoma and Napa vineyards, really anywhere there are hills in California, they have extensive drainage systems.  This avoids severe erosion and keeps many of the vineyards: a) looking amazing and b) not creating landslides.  Win-win.

This boss of mine, liked to visit while I was not present and send me a photo of a drain that looked like it needed to be cleaned and unblocked.  Property drainage is a very important thing in California.  California makes sure the environment is accounted for.  In California, a car passenger can smoke pot from a bong while driving down the highway, yet, you will go to jail if any soil from your vineyard washes into a creek.  In Texas, you can fill the creek full of your soil, yet, you will go to jail for smoking pot while in a car.  Different strokes.

“It’s a little like Where’s Waldo, but with drains.”

So, here’s what would happen: 1). I receive a photo of a drain that needs to cleaned; 2) Either myself or one of my employees check it.  If I’m lucky, I’m given a rough area where the drain is to find it.  A ranch might have 20 or 30 drains.  Once you’ve seen a few drains, you’ve seen them all.  They look pretty similar unless the photo has context.  Without context, it’s a little like Where’s Waldo, but with drains.  Sometimes we found Waldo, sometimes we did not.


One Sunday morning we had some rainstorms and my boss text me a photo of a drain that looked plugged.  Not good.  Only this Sunday was different in two ways.  First, I was really tired of his texts, so I made sure all the drains were cleaned the week before this rainstorm.  I was 100% sure we prepped them all.  The second difference is absolutely crucial to this whole game of “poke the ant mound and make the ants scurry”.  Second, my boss sent me the identical photo he had used to prod me with previously.  Yep, he re-used a photo from his arsenal.  Uh-oh!!!  The gig was up.  This boss of mine was not even checking the drains.  He was just sending old photos of drains to scare me and make sure I remembered to check the drains.  Awww hell nawww…

Just then, the sky opened up and rays of warm vitriolic sunlight streamed down upon my face.  I now understood, crystal clear, why sometimes he would send a photo of a drain and we would struggle to find it.  It was because the photos were FAKE.  I had just assumed we weren’t on the same page if I couldn’t find the drain in the photo.  But never in a million years did I think, that this Son of a B%$*#, would just be sitting around sending me his own “stock photos” of problems to chase down. 

I was not pleased with this turn of events.  Though, I admit, part of me was a little pleased.  I had suspected in the past that some of this “Where in The World is Carmen San Draino” game seemed shady at times; odd at other times.  Turns out, it really was.  And as I mentioned, I have some fire and spite in me.  I thought back on all the times I’d been sent a photo of a fake, unkempt drain.  I decided to do something about it. 


On Monday, I called up one of my employees and gave him two instructions: 1). I wanted every drain found and given a number (#1, #2, etc.), to which we attached a stamped metal medallion for each drain; 2). I wanted him to drop GPS points at each drain and draw a paper map of the drains, too.  This took my employee roughly a week.  There turned out to be 39 different drains.  This was more than I suspected and all the more reason for this masterpiece of anger to be on display.  Sure… some of these drains were not clean, but that’s not important!!!

What IS important is that none of the drains we marked matched the photos I received, which was the cherry (bomb) on the top of this little project.  As a show of force, I sent him a GPS map of drains, the hand drawn map of the drains, a numbered inventory of the drains (with sizes, thank you very much…), a link to a photo catalog of all the drains, and told him that anytime he saw a drain that needed cleaning, take a photo and tell me what number “so we can get right on it”.  Guess what happened after that?  My boss responded back, “Cool. Thanks.  Will do.”  And he never mentioned drains again to me.  Damn right!


So, OK, you’re thinking this is Mistake Monday, so… where’s the mistake?  You got the better of your boss, so what?   THAT’S the MISTAKE.  I should have resolved the matter without spite, but instead, I let it get to me, and I let it cut deep.  It started a little fire inside me that was not there before, which, eventually turned into a fire that made me leave that job.  I would have left the job anyway, but it didn’t help matters.  I really should have found a better way to handle it.

That hot fire portion gets me in trouble sometimes, but I’ve learned how to make it useful.  The important distinction is that I don’t let it go, I just handle it differently.  I actually think that letting it out is required if people want to be happy in their work dynamic.  Society often looks at submission as the high road, especially in the boss/employee dynamic.  I just don’t think it’s sustainable.  Communication and respect should be the focus.  I advise you communicate that to your boss, or heck, your client.  I sure try and I’ve seen it work.  I DO NOT advise, however, to communicate indirectly to your boss to “take your ego and stick it up his drainpipe”.  Definitely a bit much.