HP-WAY(laid) Boss Search at bulb-challenged Shopville

I’m here in Zürich – with the cat. Nazy remains in Washington, planning to return next Sunday. (Provided, of course, that the impending war doesn’t disrupt travel between the States and Europe.)

The exciting events of the week without Nazy has made it clear that
I am certainly not the person who finds the exciting things to do here in Switzerland. Yesterday, for example, I took picked up the dry cleaning, fed the cat, sorted the socks, fed the cat, took the glass, cans and plastic to recycle, fed the cat, collected and bundled the newspapers, fed the cat, mailed the bills, fed the cat, finished my book(s) and fed the cat. (The cat, as you might have guessed, has a lot in common with my Dad.)


Today, however, it is a completely different story. Today, I embarked on an expedition to find replacement light bulbs.

Light bulbs?” You think to yourself.

light bulbs. Kastle Kapfsteig was dim and dreary – and it wasn’t only because Nazy was in Washington, D.C. Major nooks and crannies, indeed entire rooms, were covered in shadow as a result of illumination shortfall. In the United States, getting replacement light bulbs would entail a quick trip to the mall. Here, it is necessary to plan and organize an appropriate expedition.

In America, light bulbs are a simple commodity. Acquisition decisions revolve around wattage: 60 watt, 75 watt, and 100 watt. Occasionally, complexity in the form of a three-way bulb makes an appearance. In Switzerland, however, every bulb has a different and unique shape. In addition to wattage choices, a (wide) variety of socket sizes exist.

lightbulb 1

The basic bulb is about the size of a decorative Christmas Tree light in the shape of a cone, a sphere, an ellipsoid, a sphere with a ‘point’ at the (virtual) North Pole, a spotlight (with or without an aluminised reflector on the ‘top’ and on (and on (and on (and on)))). So, before departing on my shopping excursion, I had to collect a sample of each of the four different bulbs that had failed. (I also assembled a booklet carefully noting the original location of each bulb.)

Then I took the tram to the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). Actually, I tried to take the tram but the customary weekend demonstration had closed Bahnhofstrasse. Mystified, I watched the parade of peace activists led by traditional Swiss (?) bagpipers chant anti-war slogans. Although they love demonstrating here, I have never seen any anti-Saddam demonstration.

Dodging the placards, I walked Shopville, the vast underground mall that is the only retail area open on Sunday. Striding confidently into Migros, I quickly discovered that the store is not
completely open on Sunday; several aisles, including those with the light bulbs were blocked. It took a while before I was able to find an alternative. (Light bulb stores might be in short supply, but had I wanted magazines or pastry, I would have had a great selection.)

Surveying the selection, I quickly realized that I faced complex decisions. I could get anything from a fragile bulblet made of brittle and artificial glass to an industrial-strength device constructed so thick that photons couldn’t to escape the interior. I could get low wattage performers that purportedly generated light equivalent to that of a ‘real’ American light bulb. I could get long-lasting bulbs that could only be recycled in St. Gallens on the third Wednesday of a month containing the letter ‘r’ (in German). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find replacements for my defunct devices.

cubicle light

On the job front, the disadvantages of having a boss in California – especially one steeped in the (fabled) ‘hp way’ have become more and more apparent. The ‘way’ purportedly encourages exceedingly polite contribution and comment from employees. And, in fact, formal meetings are excessively polite, incredibly frequent and, as a result, generally useless. Because people are so polite, no one is able to convey any information (i.e Where are we going?) This situation causes a follow-up meeting to be scheduled. In short, they like meetings. They like long meetings They like documents. They like minutes – judging the success of gatherings by the weight of the minutes. (It’s really more like the hp-weigh) They don’t like decisions.

At one time, I thought about solving my ‘boss’ problem by transferring to California. However, as I’ve sat through meetings and con-calls, I realize that I simply wouldn’t be at home Cupertino, California. While I’m flexible about how to get something done, I strongly favour a clear, precise, unambiguous objective. I like to define a clear path, but I think they’ve lost their (hp)-way. Worse, in California, I might get infected with the hp-way(ward) virus and then I’d be (hp)-waylaid and unable to accomplish anything. For the time being viewed as (hp)-wayward.

Because I don’t want to be left by the
(hp)-wayside, I’m looking around for a new position (and a new boss) here in Europe. Historical evidence makes me reasonably optimistic that I’ll be able to find a new boss. After all, I’ve had 7 bosses in the past 23 months. [I’ve come to believe that HR has created a special job code for the position of “Dan’s Boss”.]

Getting a ‘good’ boss, however, will much more problematic; there, the odds are far less favourable.

Nazy is working with a far more difficult situation in Washington where a ‘solution’ is proving to be illusive. Naturally, when I call her, I talk about – ‘me’.

“Nazy, my dear, there is nothing to do here. When will you come home?”

“You could do finish the jigsaw puzzle. I’d love to get if off the dinning room table.”


“The jigsaw puzzle? The Christmas jigsaw puzzle? The jigsaw puzzle that Mitra, Darius, Melika and you have been unable to finish? The jigsaw puzzle with a million pieces?

“4000 pieces, Dan. And you bought it, remember? But, there are only a few pieces left.”

“Yes, but all of those pieces are

“What’s the difference to you? You’re color-blind.”

“Nazy, I’m not a jigsaw puzzler. Can’t you think of something else?
Anything else?”

“What about setting up the Persian New Year table?”

“You want
me to set up the Persian New Year Table?”

“Yes. Get an apple, garlic, vinegar, vegatibles, hyacinth…”

“.. and a few goldfish…”

“You’ll have a great time.”

“I’ll see what I can do, Nazy.”

Fortunately Nazy is scheduled to return next weekend. In the interim, I will… think of something. Right now, for example, I’m going to refluff the pillows and dust the thimble collection. I’m even considering accepting a meeting invitation generated by colleagues in California who, unaware of the fact that the planet is a sphere, have scheduled the event for 2:30 – 5:30 California time. (That’s 11:30 PM until 2:30 AM in Central Europe.)