THE KINDERGARTEN FOR CRETINS
All the silly toys and gift incentives and candy being dangled before your nose at M.J.M. leaves precious little time to do the actual work, especially for following up, if you are inclined to be motivated by all this folderol. But productivity oddly was meant to be a by-product of this way of operating. M.J.M.'s employees are in effect treated like amnesiac idiots who stand in the need of constant reinforcement, of attention, of gifts, rewards; and while reflecting on this most surprising of work methods, I hit on the essential description for M.J.M. as being a "Kindergarten for Cretins." If you weren’t when you started there, you'd sure as hell be one shortly. All that M.J.M. lacked was that the troops - three crews worked three different projects - would go on their break bonded together by little hold-on ropes, or rolled out in baby carts. The leader of M.J.M. was Brooks, who hired the infiltrator, and her unisex name could not have been more appropriate. Brooks was your proverbial small tank type, Sherman I suppose, whom I recall arriving in rashes in the late 70s, boundless bounce and energy, harem type pants, a Muzhick's embroidered cap, and, it appeared from the get-go, what with her way of managing and supervising matters, with all kind of particular ways in which she wanted things done. - And what an eye and earful those two weeks would turn into. - Brooks kept bringing up "the team, we’re a team here" which of course the troops weren't and couldn't be in the best of cases. Having played a lot of sports, at all kinds of positions, I recalled that a team's functions are inter-related, inter-dependent, different as the parts may be, and that there exists an overall objective, victory. At M.J.M., the overall objective - maximization of sales - rewarded the owners and supervisors, perhaps they were “a team,” but the crews did not "work together,” if only because each person worked one telephone: you couldn't exactly pass that ball to "assist” each other or "back each other up," if you get my drift. M.J.M. had managed to reduce the notion of team and team spirit to that of a meretricious ideology, for the sake of the production of the upbeat, smiling faces painted onto the marker boards, "spirit," indeed all that stupid smiling, all those contorted facial muscles! The individual incentives of a Virginia Mason whistle or cup and little two on two competitions that M.J.M. introduces into a non-team effort of course contra-interdicts the team spirit; about the only thing which spirit to create would have been to give a general prize to one and all if certain goals are met; then folks would know that each one was working for her or himself and for all the other team members simultaneously. 25 cents an hour across the board wage increase, yes, there it was! The company had extracted it from its charitable heart! So it was not too surprising that each of the crews of 12 copy-catted smiles differed each and every day of my brief attendance; the turnover was immense, the various shift supervisors were endlessly engaged in interviewing replacements, just the cost of running ads for years on end might give telemarketing outfits the idea that there might be a better way of holding on to employees, but that way of looking at this matter disregards the overall intent of creating passive, leadable, interchangeable smiling faces. About the only thing all that team spirit created was resentment, kinder-garten type of resentment amongst the kinder-garten cretins, of any individual advantages that anyone in the "group" had obtained. The experience would make for a vignette somewhere down the line I realized. Institutionalized infantilism. I had come on the actualization of what had been for me, prior to the experience, merely a theoretically posited fact! Surprise, surprise!
At M.J.M. I was on two campaigns. One involved raising 64,000 dollars for the 3 million dollars allegedly needed to finance a new hyper-baric [i.e. super-oxygen] chamber at Virginia Mason Hospital. M.J.M. had been tossed a teensy bone and was calling a list of former supporters around the state. I had a couple of successful days, successful because I first hit those who had given the most once before, say someone by the name of Weyerhauser, expecting them to be the best-heeled and most generous, a pretty obvious conclusion also born out by my results elsewhere. Giving vent to my unhappiness with the nervous distraction that Brooks’s constant interference produced in yours truly, I was transferred to the commercial side of the MJM operation, to a Seahawks project: try selling season tickets for seats behind boulders, stanchions, with the promise of getting better season tickets next year, to those Ticketmaster suckers who once upon a time had bought one game and provided their address with their ticket sale, and to whom you now try to sell an entire season beneath a stack of tiles in the infamous Kingdome that has meanwhile been blown to Kingdome come while still being 200 million dollars in the red. It was yet another sucker deal, another lie, but it helped if you were a girl who was trying to sell these bum seats to a sports bum. M.J.M., for its charitable fundraising, was certified, by the Washington Secretary of State, as actually giving 75 percent of the money it raised to the various authentic charities, such as Virginia Mason, with whom it had contracts. The figures might even be arrived at without the use of too much "creative book-keeping." MJM's profit from their purely commercial activities Seahawk type tickets sales might allow them to be honest in what they transmitted to the charities. Yet the charities were charged around $ 25.00 per hour for EACH telemarketer's time. This meant that after the telemarketer had been paid his slow death wage of appr. $ 8.00 per hour, of the $ 25 an hour that MJM charged approximately $ 17.00 per telemarketing hour was left for MJM to pay the Sherman Tank and General Patton's overhead. I did not find out how the 100 % was really broken out: whether the $ 25.00 per hour per telemarketer fee was deducted from it, or whether another $ 25.00 was deducted from whatever 100 dollars were raised, in which case… 4 times 24 times $ 17.00 per four hour shift comes to what? At any event, it was a win win win situation for MJM, you not only looked good to a not very smart Secretary of State, but also to your customers, those profligate charities for whom you were calling, and you exploited the goodwill of the smiling faces, and the all around incentives energized Brooks Brother and Sister for many years to come. Bloodymindedly yours.