Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book publisher wanted!

I was still unhappy about changes that had taken place so I decided to talk to Arnold Cline. Arnold was receptive, listened and then sympathized by saying it was difficult on a person when he didn't know where he stood. He said it with such understanding that I got the feeling my predicament was definitely deliberate. As we concluded our conversation, I mentioned something about maybe things would be better now that Ravi was fired.

With that Arnold said, “See what we had in mind?” The he paused as though he had something wrong and continued. “Not that we had it planned or anything.”

Of course it had been planned, but I didn't know why he didn't want me to think that. The only thing I could think of was the image of a fly-by-night outfit we were presenting to the courts did not entail planning strategies, but surely he was aware that I knew better that that! I left his office feeling the same way I felt after one of my futile conversations with Darth.

January 1977, began the new year much the same way the previous months had been. It was decided that the new “Rapid Set” needed a formal quality control sheet with instructions to be available to the customer for use of the product, Since I was responsible for the development of the product, I felt I should draw up the information on the Quality Control Sheet since it contained product specifications. Instead, Darth decided Jay Wells should do it. Jay had a copy of the Better
Supplies “Fast Set” specifications from which he copied the form and then put Gamma Supplies's name and logo on it.

I was then given the job to test the directions to see how reproducible the test results were. To do this I requested each member of the laboratory to try out the new instructions and I would collect the data. John, Jeff and Buzz responded by attacking me for writing such poor instructions. Then they questioned, bickered, and argued over every little point. It took two weeks of fighting and hassling to get done what should have been done in a couple of days. Lost in all the confrontation was the fact that Jay, not I, had copied the Better Supplies document and had decided what to include in it. And since Darth had to approve everything, Darth had to have given his OK.

Darth's involvement and presence in the laboratory suddenly became noticeably less conspicuous. In fact, the only time I saw him was when he told me that he, Ravi and I were scheduled to give depositions on January 19.20. and 21 concerning the litigation with Better Supplies. When he told me, I thought it was pretty stupid to have Ravi give sworn testimony a month after he had been fired. And I really did not want to testify for Gamma Supplies at that point because I was not happy with the changes that had been made and the pay raise I had been told I would be getting at the beginning of the year had not materialized. The latter point was quickly explained away by accountant Ralph Sampson, who said Carl was handling all the raises in the lab except mine. Mine was being handled by my arch nemeses Darth. He explained that Darth had handled all raises the previous year, and he had been tardy then too. As had become a standard practice at Gamma Supplies, I was given the explanation that this occurrence too was a normal practice. And, as usual I was not happy.

In late January, I was told by Carl what Jeff and Buzz's raises were to be and that I would tell them of their increases. He also explained that Darth would handle my raisewhen he got around to it. I dutifully told Jeff about his salary increase and then I told Buzz. Both were less that happy and I was left in a position of defending salary increases that I had no say in determining. In my previous job, I gave evaluations of the technicians that worked for me, then their salaries were determined by upper level management based in part on my evaluation and then I informed the employee of their pay raise. I was also told in general the procedure which was used to arrive at the pay raises. At Gamma Supplies I had to face Buzz's hostility and questions for which I had no answers since I had no input in how the raises were determined. Again I was put in a position of being on the defensive. This time I had a basis for comparison in the procedure used to give raises.

I also had no way of evaluating Buzz's performance, but the fact that I knew nothing about what he was doing was enough to convince me that he was not doing a satisfactory job. Another irritating factor which indicated that Buzz was not doing a satisfactory performer was the amount of time he spent talking on the phone. He would get calls from his wife at least three times a day, and frequently someone would have to scurry around the lab to find him. He spent on the average one to two hours a day talking on the phone! When I discussed this problem with Darth, he acted unconcerned and casually asked, “I wonder whom he talks to?”

I tried to get copies of the phone call records from the people in the business office, but I was told such records were not kept.

I said to Ralph Sampson, “then anyone can pick up the lab phones and call Hong Kong and no on will know?!”

The answer was affirmative! Buzz could be talking to someone in Iran and it would be fine. I knew that couldn't be true, but I had no way of getting the phone records.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Screwed Again

Early that afternoon Darth came around to my office and explained that I would be
reporting to Carl, and that he would oversee the technical area and production. In other words, Carl would be taking over Ravi's job and my function would be to be responsible for the upper lab. Since the major responsibility of the upper lab was to develop “Quick Set”, there was no real change in my status. The promise from Darth in October that I would take over Ravi's position was not realized.

Then as Darth was leaving my office, Jay and Carl caught him and started discussing the memo. I joined in and took the opportunity to inquire about the “joint venture”.

“What about this joint venture business with Tenneland?” I inquired.

Darth became very nervous and annoyed. He said, “Arnold can't get anything right. I told him exactly what to say and he fouled it up.”

Darth then changed the subject, and our joint venture with Tenneland was never mentioned again.

That afternoon, Carl called everyone in the laboratory and announced that Ravi would no longer be active in the operations of the laboratory, but he would still be allowed to use his office because he had a contract with Gamma which was good for another six months. He also announced that I would be responsible for the laboratory, but that he would make all the decisions concerning research and production. His entire announcement left my position very nebulous and left me with the image of having no decision making power. I hardly had what could be termed management responsibilities, and although Carl had an elusive title, it was clear that he was taking over Ravi's duties. I was upset and depressed at the turn of events.

The next day was the annual Christmas party. I was not in a very jovial mood, and I was angry with Darth. By now, I knew it did no good to discuss anything with him because his word was worthless. The only consolation was that even though things had not worked out at Gamma Supplies, the work I was doing was also a benefit to Tenneland and the people there had treated me well so far. The party did not last very long and most people seemed more interested in leaving and spending time with their families. As I was leaving, Darth yelled across the room, “Russ, would you like to come down to my farm for Christmas dinner. Buzz and John are coming.”

I had already mad a commitment for Christmas with Anita's sister the prior evening on the phone, and I no longer felt any obligation to try to further my career at Gamma Supplies. I couldn't help feel that Darth already knew that I had a prior commitment when he made his belated offer.

I just said “No thank you, I already have other plans.” This type of
“scheduled conflict” would also become a common occurrence. Several years later, I would read an article about "psychological double-binds" or "no win" situations. These conflicts which have "no win" solutions are believed to cause schizophrenic behavior.

Several other changes became became apparent the week following Christmas. John was no longer working in the upper laboratory, but was now located in the lower lab out of my sight. He also now reported to Jay Wells. Buzhoha Yazzi had moved to the upper laboratory and was now working where I could see him. The net effect was the John and Buzz had switched positions. With the movement of Buzz to the upper lab, I was able to converse with him more and find out a little about the work he was doing.

One day while I was trying to make conversation with Buzz, he exclaimed, “Oh, I want to apologize for kidding you about not having any children. I didn't know your wife couldn't have any.”

At first I just accepted his apology and then after a moment of thought I said, “How do you know that?!”

Fuzzy calmly replied, “Darth told me.”

Now I was confused. How did Darth know? The only explanation I could think of was that the evening Anita and I went to dinner with Paul Johnson and his wife, Anita had discovered that Paul's wife had a similar medical problem and Paul had told Darth about Anita's problem. But why and how did that conversation go from Paul's wife to Buzz? It did not make sense, but how else could Buzz have known.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Plot unfolds - divide and conquer

The following week Paul Johnson stopped in my office and invited me to dinner with
him, his wife, and several of his clients from the Chicago area. Since Paul was about my age, a former chemist and a confidant at work, I thought that the dinner was an excellent way to cultivate a friendship with a co-worker. I readily accepted. Of course, I was not to tell Ravi I was having dinner with an area sales manager.

On December 19, Anit and I joined Paul, his wife and two Allis Chalmers managers and their wives for dinner at Paul's house. At dinner I was seated next to Paul with my wife on my immediate right. During the course of the evening, I was talking to an Allis Chalmers representative and was telling him about my background and how I planned to help Gamma Supplies provide the best foundry binders possible. Suddenly, Paul gave me a sharp rap on my leg under the table as if I was saying something wrong. Since they were Paul's clients, I terminated the conversation. After dinner, I asked Paul what was wrong. He ignored my question and said, “well, tomorrow is the big day.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Ravi is going to be fired tomorrow.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Darth told me today that the attorney had given his approval so tomorrow they are going to make the changes.”

I was still skeptical. Darth had not said anything to me. “Are you sure?” I quired.

“Definitely,” Paul replied.

The next day I went to work with great anticipation. With all the events that had happened since my October meeting with Darth, I had almost begun to believe that the promise to fire Ravi was just another one of Darth's hollow promises. The day went by slowly and no announcement was made, and Ravi was his usual happy self. Late in the afternoon I saw Paul and pulled him into my office.

“I thought you said today is suppose to be the day. What happened?”

“I don't know,” he replied. “That is what I was told.”

I went home that evening feeling let down. The next day came and went with no
changes. Finally on the third day, Ravi had a meeting with Darth. When Ravi came out I was the only one in the laboratory, and as he walked by me he was visibly angry. He looked at me and said, “Have you ever been had?”

Ravi's words contained no animosity towards me, and they almost seemed to be a
warning more that anything else.
I wanted to go in and talk with Ravi and to try to find out what was going on, but the rift between us was too great. There was still no official announcement, but rumors were everywhere that Ravi had been fired. I feigned ignorance about the situation.

On December 23rd, the long awaited announcement was made in the form of a memo to all Gamma Supplies personnel from Arnold Clin. The memo contained several startling revelations. First, there was no mention of Ravi. Second, my name was noticeably missing from the memo. Several sales people were promoted or given increased responsibility, and Jay Wells was officially made Manager of Technical Services. Third, Carl Host was given the evasive title of Executive Assistant with the responsibility to “work on various projects, such as our joint venture with Tenneland.” There in black and white was what I had long suspected; Tenneland and Gamma Supplies were carrying out a joint effort. That effort I believed was to develop a phenolic resin and to have it manufactured. I was surprised to see it in writing because all our efforts had been to present Gamma Supplies in the Federal Court as some small fly-by-night outfit who had accidentally infringed on big, bad Better Supplies patents. Here was written evidence that Gamma Supplies was not acting alone, and that a larger corporation was involved in the attack on Better Supplies patents. While the memo stated many things, it did nothing to establish my position in the company.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Women's Role at Gamma Supplies

When I returned back to the lab, my work progressed nicely and with the results John Mason had obtained, I had developed a new process for making the phenolic resin needed for the “Rapid Set” formulation. Actually I had developed two processes, but the first process and the one that gave the best material for our use was a high temperature process which Ravi, Darth and I all agreed come very close to the Better Supplies' process reported in their patents. To be safe, it was decided that an alternate, low temperature process should be used even though it gave a slightly inferior product. I maximized the low temperature process in the laboratory and wrote a detailed procedure for Tenneland, Columbus plant where the new material would be manufactured.

It seemed only natural to me that I should go to Columbus, explain the new process and watch the first production batch being made. Instead, Darth informed me that Ravi would be taking the process to Columbus. I was angry. I should have at least been going with Ravi. It was standard procedure in for the developer of a new process to help transfer that process to manufacturing. Ravi was going to be fired in a month, I was suppose to be taking his place, I had developed the process, and Darth decided to send Ravi to Columbus to oversee the first production batch. It seemed like Darth was doing things just to frustrate me. He never gave me a satisfactory explanation for his actions, and such decisions kept me constantly unsure that Ravi would be fired despite constant reassurances. Darth had more than amply demonstrated that his word was not good. Darth, more and more was becoming my antagonist. Not Ravi.

The material Tenneland made from the new process arrived at Gamma Supplies a few days later, and test showed the material worked very well. In fact, with proper conditions, the material equaled or bettered the Better Supplies product. The only problems remaining were to get Tenneland to make the phenolic resin consistently and to win the legal battle against Better Supplies. Both objectives seemed well within our grasps with a little work.

It was mid-December and Anita and I were busy getting ready for the holidays. Since all of our relatives lived in the east, we planned on spending a quiet Christmas by ourselves. The one exception was Ursula's older sister Anna and her husband who lived in Madison, Wisconsin. A couple of weeks before Christmas, Anna called and asked us to join them for the holiday weekend. We had visited Anna and her husband Dave in the late fall and had an enjoyable weekend which included attending a university football game in Madison. Although we were not the closest of friends, Anita and I decided to spend the holidays with them rather than going it alone.

At work, I received a couple of invitations for the holidays. First, the secretary for the laboratory invited me to a Christmas party at her house. The invitation was for me only and when I asked if I could bring my wife, she was a bit taken back. She emphasized that Jay and Cliff from tech service were the only other people from Gamma Supplies who were going to be there. Jay and Cliff were both single. When I finally told her that I would only attend with my wife, she acquiesced and said that would be fine.

One of the things that had bothered me at Gamma Supplies was that there were no family functions. Wives were entirely invisible, and at all social gatherings, such as the Hatch Cover gatherings, and no one ever mentioned or acted as though they were married. In fact, Darth used the gatherings to boast of his male chauvinist pig attitude and on occasions he wore a tie with small pigs and “MCP” written all over it. However, I remained determined to include my wife in my social life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

No Escape

My hope for a trip to the Plastics Show in Chicago were fading when a week before the show, another strange coincidence occurred. Darth walked into my office and without saying anything else, calmly asked, “How would you like to go to the Plastic Show in Chicago next week? Ravi thought it would be a good idea.” I was stunned. I had been trying for weeks to find some way to rationalize a trip to the show on company expense, and now Darth walks in and offers it to me with no strings attached. I felt he had to know I wanted to go, but why would he offer me an opportunity to go see about another job. And, how did he know? I accepted the offer somewhat reluctantly.

Later in the week I was making arrangements for the trip to the show and a minor problem arose. I was still having a problem in my own mind justifying the trip because it was in no way related to my job in foundry industry products. Surely Darth was aware of that. I discussed the problem with Darth, and he assured I me there was no problem with my going and urged me to complete my plans to make the trip. As I was walking from his office, Darth said, “Oh Russ, Ravi listens to your conversations through your office wall. He suggested the trip.” That explanation, which I didn't ask for, seemed to be another one of those convenient rationalizations. I didn't see how Ravi could have heard me and a more
plausible explanation was my phone was tapped – but why and by whom?

I left Darth's office more confused that ever. If Ravi had overheard my conversation about the plastic show, as Darth had inferred, why would Ravi tell Darth and more puzzling was first, why would Darth want me to go and why would he tell me about Ravi's role? Nothing made any sense.

My trip to the plastic show was uneventful. I did get to talk to a few old friends, but none of them were encouraging when the topic of a new job came up. While I toured the exhibition hall I kept wondering what I was doing there besides looking for another job. And Darth's insistence that I go, bothered me even more. And to make things even more frustrating, I never did get to talk to the man I had gone to see. He was either always busy or our paths just did not cross at the right time. It was almost like he was avoiding me. I left the show feeling I had accomplished very little.

At the show I did meet a couple of fellow scientists that I had worked with at my previous job or I had known at the University of Florida. What was striking was how content and happy those people seemed and how well things were going for them. It sharply contrasted my frustrating, unhappy position at Gamma Supplies. It made me feel more sad and trapped that before I went to the show.