Friday, January 6, 2017

Vice President of Logistics, Paper Division

I opened my email this morning over a groggy cup of tea as my husband rushed to drive a child out to the bus shouting instructions to the other about what to add to his robot control system logging once he got home from school.  And yes, I didn't find that out of the ordinary.  But then I found the following in my email as a uncommented note from said husband, who other than being the Head of Waste Management Receptacles and Lead Driver for Transportation of Second Child, is the Division VP of Blockage Removal.  Not to be confused with his very important job of Large Insect Management.

Consumer Reports ratings on toilet paper efficacy.
Romantic.  A few years ago I must have laughed until I cried driving home listening to a NPR segment on parenting and romance.  The guests were discussing the transition from deep, meaningful conversations as soon-to-be engaged partners to screams down the staircase holding out a naked soiled child on 'where the heck are the baby wipes!!!'  She went on to describe how being married with kids turns you into the CEO and COO of Family, Inc.  Conversations and text messages become terse discussions about logistics, supply chain management and how to make your 'employees' less whiny.  Sexting...PLEASE...just say you will pick up milk and get the kid from tutoring and I will swoon!

Yes, that is my life.  Add to it the robotic teams and we are not only the Executive Team for Family, Inc. but Board Members for a very-young, energetic and slightly disorganized product team at a new 'start-up' in our basement.  My sister-in-law brought people over here on Thanksgiving to watch us like we are the 'Nerd Show' as we inter disperse pleasantries to our guests while cooking with advice to the kids who were running around the Turkey trying chaotically to develop a control system for their robot while taking short breaks for 'street-rules' Twister (don't ask).

So it comes back to his romantic email on toilet paper.  As head of blockage removal, he has been quite frustrated with the physical plant we purchased a few years ago and has been lobbying for the purchasing department to make serious changes.  A change in ceramic throne to a more powerful model still didn't seem to change the issues too much.  A load of golf balls - yea - total fantasy advertisement!

There was a very short lived investment in new Japanese technology to eliminate the need for paper.  But as I pointed out - don't give these kids a device they can hack to play tricks on each other.  I was overruled, but vindicated.  Very quickly the 'What is this?! and What does that button do?" phase resulted in many walls being wet.  So it was moved to a very private bathroom on the third floor in the Executive Suite.  Yes - don't automate too many tasks for the minions, they rebel.

And the professional blockage consulting team we brought in yesterday now warned that we might have to dig up part of the basement if their camera system found a serious problem in the pipes.  Seems that the basement has an added bathroom that might be at the wrong elevation.  Combine that with 20 kids using it several times a week, and well, you have a continual problem now resulting in shower backups as well.

Hense the experiment.  The professionals claim to have been here a dozen times in 2016 and since said professional now politely asks about the progress of our team, I am thinking - yea... I know him too well!  Either that or he is secretly thinking he can retire early if this robot team keeps advancing in competitions - extending their seasons and the number of times he gets to visit us a year.   So, they routed the system again and last night the VP of Blockage Removal officially took over on Paper Procurement to see how many days we could last before professional services were again required.  Hence the email to choose reasonable products to store in each rest room based on use profile.  I mentioned that I didn't study all those years to get my Ph.D to be reduced to cardboard.  So I played my 'key to the Executive Suite' card and chose something a bit more refined to be squirreled away for private use.

The last meaningful email he sent to me was one that I really did appreciate.  It was sharing a Quora essay on picking a spouse.  The writer said that marriages are severely tested when you get into this Family, Inc phase as the stresses either break you or make you stronger (i.e you learn to laugh at all this crazy stuff).  He suggested that no couple be allowed to get engaged until they have gone camping or backpacking somewhere for two weeks.  No resort.  Real backpacking.  Stuff will go wrong, really wrong.  You will get wet, have blisters, be exhausted, and look or be ugly.  The author said how his girlfriend (now wife) and another engaged couple went on said trip in the Rockies and how the other guy was so ugly and disparaging to the woman about not keeping up, wouldn't carry her pack and did nothing to help her cook over the fire.  They are now divorced while he and his now wife managed to get along while deciding not to be friends anymore with the jerk.

My husband and I took a backpacking trip to Europe in grad school with a friend (over the protestations of my father of me traveling with two guys) and yes, it was full of big time stresses.  Especially having the friend along.  The day after I had the car and managed to get it stuck in an intersection on a bridge over a river next to a walled city - totally stopping traffic in this bucolic Welsh town with my limited manual driving skills, we were barreling down a country road as the friend, driving, was desperate to keep on his three towns a day schedule and we were missing all the heather.  My husband screamed STOP THE CAR from the backseat and ran from the car with his camera, needing 30 minutes of peace in the field taking pictures to recompose himself.  Nightly we roamed the restaurant menus trying to find somewhere to eat to keep us on our $15/day budget.  We lost a lot of weight.  I went home after a month as I couldn't afford to stay and he stayed with our friend for another two months...and promptly asked me to marry him when he got back to the USA, saying that it was so much more fun when I was there with them.

So he told me he would take me on the rest of the trip I missed for our honeymoon,  where we promptly had enough misadventures to make any listener pee-their pants laughing and would make an awesome travel disaster book.  Think Amazing Race but a bit more hilarious, no camera crew and worse accommodations (yes, he had stand and plop quarters into my shower to keep the water running at one).  After my father picked himself off the floor laughing once we returned, he got all sober and said if he had known - he wouldn't have let us go.  As a parent, I can concur as the summons I got a few years later to appear in court in Prague to testify against the mob would say that we had a few adventures...  And yes, we survived all the stresses and finally got promoted to CEO and COO of Family, Inc where we repeat said stressful adventures but with whiny kids in the backseat and talk sweet nothings about the qualities of toilet paper.

My oldest just started dating and informed us he has a girlfriend.  I slyly invited her over during robot work while we had guests and were running around crazy to get ready for the little teams competiton so we would be at 'our best' to see if she could handle it.  Already thinking about college girlfriends joining us on trips to see how it goes.  Like an early job interview for CEO of Family, Inc - cause with my son and our family, it won't be all roses and diamonds I can tell you!


P.S.  As I blogged this, I got a call.  Typical.  A simple Uline order of cardboard boxes for the next kit pack has turned into another stressful day of supply chain management at Family, Inc.  Instead of being sent by UPS, the new trucking company asked me what loading dock I wanted my pallet delivered to.  Ugh...the lady on the other end pretty much freaked when I told her they were going to a residential zone and I have no forklift.  Time to call the electrical company to see if their truck is legally allowed down my street as I don't know the answer to the question 'how tall are the electrical lines there'.   One solution as the semi won't be going down my driveway is to leave it all in the street for the Robot Team of strong teens to bring in for me.  So I gotta now think of a clever ploy to get them to carry it - something like seeing who is 'man' enough, that often works.

Ah....if it was just roses and diamonds.  Sigh.


  1. Tricia, when I was in college I was in a group that performed medieval, renaissance and Elizabethan music. We had a full sized harpsichord that lived in our music department. Whenever it had to be moved to another part of the campus for a performance, our professor would open his freshman music theory case with the words "Today we will have a lesson in applied music theory...." Then the class would all head to the choral rehearsal room, pack up the harpsichord (it's case was very heavy) and carry it and it's stand wherever it needed to go.

    Perhaps you could create a lesson in applied robotics?

  2. Ah, the glamour of real life. Eat your heart out Kim Kardashian.


  3. Not my usual line of work, but I am very proud of my skills as an amateur blockage remover. This involved purchase of a "snake" at the local Home Depot. I also use #2(pun intended) on the Consumer Reports list. The judicious use of this product has resulted in less need to employ the snake. This two part plan has also resulted in hundreds of dollars of savings in professional blockage removal fees. This has freed income up to spend on Tricia's courses, tours, and materials, thus resulting in many hours of enjoyment. Although successful blockage removal is gratifying in its own right.
    Of course, there is always a need for professional help and given the stress load parameters of the system described by Tricia, I believe her problems are beyond what even a talented amateur can resolve.