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Cat Herding for Dummies

Mar 02, 2015 09:12PM, Published by Stephen Dupree, Categories: Community Opinion, Blog



Stephen Dupree

A number of years ago I had a temp job with a package delivery company. Large vans would go out and do deliveries but also pick up outgoing packages which were brought to the terminal and loaded into a tractor-trailer rig for transport to the sorting hub. I was hired to unload the vans. There were a couple of us doing that job. We would carry the packages from the van to a conveyor which took the packages to a scanner and then to the trailer. The two of us unloading the vans were in constant motion. Everything was time sensitive and they needed to get the trailer out of there by a specific time if it was to make it to the hub in time get the packages where they were going at the speed advertised.

I worked my ass off. Regardless of the exterior temperature, I and the other gent unloading the vans, had sweat as a constant companion. But every time I looked up, the pudgy guy loading the trailer was just standing there smoking a cigarette. I mean, he was doing the job, he would grab the package as it came down the line and casually place it in the trailer and then smoke some more. The supervisor, the only full time employee of the company, was at the scanner but other than that, trailer loading guy was senior and obviously had the easiest job.

So, one day trailer loading guy calls in sick. The temp agency sends over another guy but finally, I was the senior non-employee. I got the cakewalk job of loading the trailer. I was going to smoke and look good and quietly lord it over the junior minions busting their asses unloading the vans. At least that was the fantasy. Karl von Clausewitz said that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Reality took the spirit of that dictum and used it to beat my fantasy into a state of unrecognizability. I have never worked so freakin' hard in my life. There was no smoking! Hell, I barely had time to breathe. The packages just kept coming and coming and I kept trying to find stable places for them in the rig. Try as I might, I could not keep up. Several times during the evening the conveyor had to be stopped so that I could catch up. Not one time was I able to "casually" do anything. Frantic movement was the order of the day.  

Turns out, trailer loading guy was seriously good at his job. He had some sort of knack for seeing where a package would fit. I suspect that he was looking multiple packages ahead.  Whatever it was he did to make the job look easy was exactly what I wasn't doing when I had the opportunity. It might be that with practice and repetition I would have approached his skill level. We'll never know because I lost any desire to do that job that evening. Trailer loading guy came back the next day and resumed his smoking and casual trailer loading. I was happy to let him. Unloading the vans seemed a lot easier after that.

Because of that experience, I almost feel sorry for Mitch McConnell. Almost. Senate Majority Leader was his dream job. He did not, by all accounts, ever aspire to be POTUS. The job he now has was the one he wanted. Turns out, he is not quite the cat herder he envisioned himself to be. Here we are months into the republican Congressional majority and the gridlock continues. The only thing republicans seem to have accomplished with their gerrymandered victories is to free Obama from having to consider the effects his actions might have on the re-election chances of Democrats. I imagine that from a distance, it really looked like a plum job. I imagine that there was a fantasy associated with sweeping into the leadership position on the crest of republican victory wave. I would bet tomorrow's lunch money that the reality doesn't look a thing like the fantasy that used to reside in McConnell's head.

It might be that with time and practice, he will get better at the job. Or it might be that the ill-will he sowed as leader of the minority, ignoring the needs of the nation in his failed quest to prevent Obama’s reelection, will keep interrupting his plans. Either way, he can't depend on the previous Majority Leader to come back tomorrow. Unless something changes drastically, he stands a good chance of inhabiting the history books as the least productive Senate Majority Leader ever. As dream jobs go, this could be his worst nightmare. Unfortunately, I am getting the government he deserves.

Stephen Dupree, Opinion Columnist



Blog Opinion Stephen Dupree


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