Snakes and Pills

161 - hassle

Sparks from the welders high above rained down on the small group of men clad in business suits and hard hats. Barry and his entourage seemed wholly unconcerned. Barry was in the middle of reaming out his construction manager, Paul. The reflection of sparks in Barry's eyes looked like a window into the raging inferno burning inside the man.

"Come on, Paul! This plant was supposed to be done six weeks ago. You keep telling me that you're doing the best you can, but look at this place. It looks like you just broke ground!" Barry griped.

Paul had been telling the truth. Even if he had an unlimited budget, some delays inevitably would have occurred in Barry's insanely tight schedule. For example, government inspectors moved at a glacial pace, and each phase of the project had to meet their approval before the workers could proceed to the next.

Paul also had yet to meet a man who could control the weather. Barry himself pushed for them to build during the monsoon season, despite numerous subordinates suggesting advice to the contrary. Total accumulated rainfall was just another number on a spreadsheet to Barry. Numbers could be massaged, manipulated, and maneuvered around.

Unfortunately, Paul's workers and suppliers did not seem to agree with his boss' perception of precipitation.

Nor did he live in a fairytale free of budgetary constraints. He occasionally wondered how much productivity Barry had cost him in his twice weekly calls to discuss each item on the expense sheets, line by line. Hours wasted, and Paul felt that Barry should know by now that he was not the kind of man who would cook the books.

Barry shook his head in disbelief as his little party shuffled into another area of the facility, which was even less finished than the last. "If I knew you were this far behind schedule, I would have sent in someone to help you."

To Paul, the implications were clear. Veiled behind the offer of assistance was the threat that if he couldn't get this project done, Barry would find someone who could.

He didn't want to feel threatened by such comments. He had been at the helm of so many previous projects that were extremely successful and profitable for Barry. He should have been assured of always having a role to play in Barry's organization.

But past accomplishments meant nothing to Barry. His assessments always began with, "What have you done for me lately?" Paul's answer to that question right now would only be the skeleton of a building that they were currently walking through.

Paul had been pushing the workers as hard as he could. He was not an ineffectual or incompetent leader, he was certain. Nor were his workers lazy or deficient. They were simply human.

Being pushed to their limits had certainly taken its toll. They made mistakes. They forgot the proper steps, or sometimes outright skirted them in a bid to save time.

For instance, the crane pulley's maintenance records had been falsified so that it could continue operating past its intended lifespan. And several safety cables should have been attached to the girder which the crane was lifting, just in case any component failed. Even if the hunk of steel did manage to break loose from the crane and safety cables, and careen freely to the ground, the area below the hoist should have been cleared beforehand by the safety manager, who was dozing in the break room.

Paul was the first of the group to direct his attention skyward when he heard the sound. Barry soon followed suit, and for once, they finally saw things the same way.


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