Happy New Year 1993 - Out with the old, and in with the new.
Let me see a show of hands. Honestly now, how many people out there have had their fill of the movie "It's A Wonderful Life"? In all fairness to the minuscule group of people that have never seen this "great American film classic", let's state for the record that the movie is something special, and well worth seeing at least once. I'll even go out on a limb and suggest seeing it twice, but that's about as much "mush" as the average human brain has the capacity to handle. As I glanced through this week's TV Guide, I couldn't help but notice that the brain-trust at the networks must have gotten into the eggnog a little early this year. There are practically back-to-back, round the clock showings of this film, with the greatest concentration on Thursday December 24th, with an unprecedented seven showings on six different channels.
For those readers who have either never owned a television set, or for religious reasons have never turned it on, let me explain the premise behind this celluloid goliath. In a nutshell, the central character in the story (one George Bailey) finds himself facing what appear to be overwhelming odds, and opts for suicide. Thwarted by the intervention of a guardian angel (the ones with feathers, not berets), our hero comes to realize that the world would indeed be a less fortunate place without him, and that he has made a positive difference in the grand scheme of things. Cut to happy ending: lots of smiling people, a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne", friends, family, and tears. So much for the movies. Now let's take a look at our story as I believe it would play, if it was made in the 1990's instead of 1946.
Our man George stands precariously close to the edge of the subway platform deep under Manhattan island. Staring into the blackness of the tunnel, George's only thought is that unless the train shows up soon, he's going to lose his nerve, and forget about throwing himself under the wheels of the mother of all Lionel trains. From out of nowhere, a shadow moves up behind George, and grabs onto his arm. George spins around, surprised and shocked at the same time. It's a guardian angel (the ones with the berets, not the feathers).
"Man, divin' a train is no way out." George listened to the words, but didn't hear what the angel said. "Say, just who are you anyway?" asked George. "You can call me Clarence," replied the angel. "Why not tell me what the problem is, and maybe we can avoid your one small step for mankind." George looked Clarence in the eye, and proceded to tell his story.
"I've been working in ACP/TPF for over 20 years, and if you can believe it, I just lost my job. I mean it was bad enough that I had to take that pay cut last year. Can you imagine that? Almost 20 years as a manager, and they have the nerve to ask me to take a 5% cut in pay. I just don't understand it Clarence. Sure, I've been kind of coasting for the last few years, but so have most of the management people. What's that? Have I contributed anything to the company? Why sure I have. I averaged almost 30 hours a week in meetings designed to find ways to increase overall productivity, I attended several out-of-town conferences and seminars on the importance of on-site involvement and participation, and terminated two of my senior technicians when they suggested a way to reduce the headcount in my department. Look Clarence, I'm all for doing my bit for the company, but not at my personal expense.
So what if I made a few mistakes? I'm no worse than any of the other old-timers running the show at most TPF shops. Just a few more years, and I could have gone out with a full pension. Do you hear what I'm saying Clarence? It doesn't matter that I served no useful purpose with the company. Neither did any of my peers. So what if I played some political games and stepped on a few people. That's what managers do, isn't it? Besides, most of those smart-alec programmers were making more money than me anyway. You have to look out for number one, and don't let anyone or anything get in your way!"
As George rambled on, the screech of steel wheels on steel rails grew out of the blackness at the end of the platform. The glow from the headlights played against the mosiac tiles lining the station walls, and the train broke into the station at a good 45 miles per hour.
At that moment, George realized that all was not lost. "It's the same in almost every shop, he thought. Old world thinking and pallid management. I'll just get another job!"
And so ladies and gentlemen, our story comes to a close with all things right in the world. For you see, in spite of the overwhelming odds facing our boy, George didn't jump that evening. Clarence pushed him.