The Art of Being Out of One’s Depth

Source: The New Yorker

There is current discussion on whether our president has a complete grasp and understanding for the necessities required to fulfill the duties of his office. In particular, his awareness of the need for caution, restraint, and discretion.

I can sort of relate to his predicament.

Many years ago someone rather high in my workplace had a habit of calling me just to gab. At first I thought it was work related, and I so I would quickly grab a paper and pen to write down everything he said. I figured wherever he was going, it would ultimately end up as some kind of assignment. But it never did. I would write furiously, add in a few oral “mm-hmm’s” just to let him know I was still on the line, and eventually he would end the call with a thanks for the chance to bend my ear. I would shake my head, ask myself what the hell just happened, and eventually move on to the next thing.

This routine went on for the better part of two years. Weeks and months would go by with no contact at all, but then sure enough he would call again at some point for a chat. I finally stopped reaching for the pen and paper and just sat back in my chair and listened.

Some calls were long, others short. What every call had in common, though, were topics germane to our organization and workplace. I was hearing information which had an appearance of being privileged. More than a few times I hung up the phone thinking, “am I supposed to actually know this stuff?

It was both intriguing and uncomfortable at the same time.

Source: Wikihow

Eventually the day came when I finally felt I was hearing information not intended for a mere mortal such as myself. Over time it morphed into being more gossipy and less privileged, but it still felt like the kind of dope shared only at senior executive meetings or get-togethers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love office gossip as much as the next person. But all things being equal, I’m more comfortable hearing it from blabby ‘ol Doris in Procurement than someone as high up as my phone buddy was. With such access comes the same need for caution, restraint, and discretion.

Quite frankly I was really only there for the paycheck and the 401(k), thank you very much. I didn’t want that kind of responsibility. Ambition for me was being the first one out the door at quittin’ time. Out of my way, I have a date with an elliptical machine.

I realized that I was out of my depth in having to keep all of this to myself.

One day I decided to contact my boss to tell her about the calls. Like any supervisor worth her salt, she went with the response I’m pretty sure they teach at manager’s school: delay and avoidance. I was to monitor the situation, write a memo to the file if I felt anything privileged was revealed, and get back to her with occasional updates. That definitely worked for me– I was given the opportunity to cover my ass and still not really have to do anything. God, I love bureaucracies.

Eventually the calls stopped coming because the man left the organization. I never had to write a memo and there was no paper trial. End of story… for me anyway.

Which brings me back to the Orange One. Apparently we’re learning that there is a paper trail in his situation with the fired FBI director. While I suspect Mr. Trump’s tweet about recordings and tapes is most likely shooting blanks across an imaginary bow, Mr. Comey, on the other hand, is loaded and ready for bear. Reports are that he’s written a memo or two after each one of his conversations with the president. Congress is noticing and wants to both read the memos and hear from Mr. Comey in person.

We are only at the very beginning stages of this particular drama. There is a lot more that will play out over the next weeks and months.

The president is also out of depth. But unlike me, he won’t cut and fold by coming clean with his superiors (i.e. the American people). I think we pretty much know by now that admitting errors, apologizing, etc., are all signs of weakness to him. He will continue to double down with accusations, toss blame at staff, throw vulnerable subordinates under the bus, and tar all of his critics with his usual abandon. He’s a man with a Twitter account after all.

I won’t even compliment his strategy with that old saw of “the best defense is a good offense.” In order to use that sports analogy you have to understand the rules of the game. Mr. Trump doesn’t understand DC’s “swamp,” and he’s completely unable to drain it because he can’t be bothered to try to learn how it really functions.

A plea to fellow liberals: please keep your gunpowder dry for a bit. For once don’t overplay your hand like you normally do, and stop using the “I” word so frequently. Apt comparisons to Watergate are fine, but remember that this is going to take plenty of Republicans to start moving towards the center. Stop alienating everyone with histrionics that might play well on Rachel Maddow’s show or the Daily Kos, but will also turn off voters in “purple” districts.

Until next time…

36 thoughts on “The Art of Being Out of One’s Depth

  1. Okay…I was going to ask who this orange person was that you keep talking about…then (cue the Twilight Zone music)…none of the other comments came up and my phone kept going back to my wallpaper…which is okay because it’s Wentworth Miller…but….Hmmm. Quick! Call 911 ( I can give you the number)! I think we’ve been hacked!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks Marty,
    I fully agree. In particular with being careful not to delve too aggressively into this as the Americans really cannot afford to alienate the people who voted for the orange one.
    Great writing, loved your into…bureaucrats. yep!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I had a similar but different experience with a higher up a long time ago. During a field trip he told me confidential information (it really was). I was stunned but kept my trap shut. Somehow it leaked out and I was in his office on the carpet. Obviously others were privy to the info but I was the first one he asked. After that, don’t want to know! Over my pay grade! As for our fearless leader, I continue to be stunned everyday not only at what he does but that he still has fervent followers. What am I missing here?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I did always think it was interesting how information flowed once people left the workplace, higher-ups included. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, though I was always more comfortable, as you wisely put it, to stay in my own pay grade peer group.

      CBS News last night had a report from a rural town in Illinois where his popularity is still holding. They are clinging to the myth. Possibly forever.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to be careful at gatherings. I worked in HR so I could write a book on weird things people do (like the woman who came to tell me she was leaving her job and going into witness protection. The gov was moving her 10 miles. She could keep her phone number and she gave me her forwarding address. I told her it doesn’t work like that. She insisted it does.) As for the leader, I expect there will be a ton of books written after this on group psychology and various theories on why people have their heads in the sand. Perhaps it’s hope. Hope can be blind.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. T. did say today that he is a ‘politician’. I thought that part of his platform was the he ‘was not a politician.’ You’re correct. There is a lot more to come.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m stocking up on the popcorn and beer ‘cuz it’s gonna be quite a show! And very wise advice about not getting too crazy about things (even though I don’t see how any thinking person who loves our country can help it…) I guess I need some duct tape too! Thanks Marty for a great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. God, I know. It is a great drama, isn’t it? If you can get access, the Guardian Newspaper in London got an American psychologist to talk about Trump in very clinical terms (normally this is a no-no among American doctors about public figures). His analysis is spot-on about all those narcissistic tendencies.

      Thanks, AGMA!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I also don’t want us to overplay our hand because, well…I hate the idea of a President Pence. I don’t think it would be an improvement, especially since Mike Pence *would* know what he’s doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would love to see this buffoon out, but realize what the back-up team looks like. How did the Republican Party accumulate so many fools over the past few years? I’m an independent and want a 2 or 3 or 4 psrty system, but this crew is mystifying!

    Liked by 1 person

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