Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Rough Weekend

FRIDAY

I'll start on Friday morning. I got pulled aside by my boss and was given a thorough talking-to. He said my work was going down hill recently. He said my roommates and I were basically making a fool out of him and giving a bad impression of our team to the rest of the company. (He said it nicer than that, but that's the just of it.) He said I'm too distracted with the internet and my side business. I gave him all my reasons for my work going down hill: I've been given two levels made by two other people and I'm supposed to make them better. Here's the problem: they are all over the limits in every area. Too many lights, too many props, too many polygons, too low a frame rate. In order to make a level look good you need to add stuff, not take it away. So I'm in a catch 22 where I'm supposed to make these boring areas look amazing, but doing so makes the level even more over budget. Taking stuff away to reduce the technical problems make the areas look even more boring. I pointed out that the levels I started from the beginning are full of creative, cool areas. After discussing this with him I'm left with nothing but the advice to "make it my own."

The other big issue was my part in the … um…unique… culture of our room. Our team is split into two rooms and the boss sits in the other one. He put the people that he knows can meet their deadlines without his constant supervision in my room. I still sit next to Little-Miss-Takes-It-Too-Far, and we usually have a pretty easy-going atmosphere and far too many crude jokes flying around. We recently got a white board and it has been the recipient of a menagerie of bizarre characters that would probably shock and offend most average people. We just like gross/weird stuff. I think I'm pretty innocent about it. I'm not one of those people who savor deformities or loves leering at horrible things. But I find fictional characters that have… issues to be funny. Little-Miss-Takes-It-Too-Far really lives up to her name when she contributes to our juxtaposed characters and I end up heavily editing away or reinterpreting the overtly sexual or bodily-function aspects to try to keep a little sanity. Anyway, I was accused of putting more creative energy into the whiteboard than I put into my levels. (ouch) Of course when I'm banging my head against the previously described catch-22, yeah, I don't feel very creative when every time I do something that looks good I just have to delete it because it pushes the tech boundary too far.

Another thing that is apparently making us all look bad is our wacky theme days we have on occasion. We had one day where we wore our pants inside out, a day where we wore heavy make-up, and day were we put underwear on our heads… and even a day where we all wore ties. Why? Maybe it's just because we can. Anyway, I guess there is a price to pay. At least when the art director tells your boss that we spend more time thinking up stupid things to do than making our levels look good. So I guess that will have to stop.

Besides the whiteboard and wacky theme days, there is the discussion style that occurs in here. And this is where I discovered the true purpose of our meeting. We have been having ridiculous conversations since our team was assembled over 3 ½ years ago. We used to all fit in one room and my boss joined in as much as anyone else. Usually with Little-Miss-Takes-It-Too-Far at the helm, steering the conversation into the gutter. I remember back in the day when we were playing a stupid game of "Who at the company is…" Who's the prettiest? Who's got the worst hair? Who's is the most annoying? Who is gay? Who is strongest? Etc. Well, we rehash that game every now and then. (Our company grows so fast there are always more candidates added to the pool of speculation.) I certainly don't intend cruelty. I always vote for myself as ugliest or worst dressed or whatever. I'm not a gossip, and this sort of thing doesn't really appeal to me, but talking makes the day go by quicker and no one wants to talk about subject that I like, such as theology or philosophy. So I found myself in this stupid game again. When it was my turn to ask a question I just said one that hadn't been asked in a while: "Who do you think is gay?" (If this was a movie preview for a romantic comedy the upbeat music would suddenly halt with that annoying record scratching sound.) That's right. I committed the new unpardonable sin. I took the name of homosexuality in vain. Apparently someone was walking past the room when I did it, and naturally, like the good employee that they were, reported me immediately.

Of course, had I thought for even a second about it, I wouldn't have asked the question. But the culture of the room is so mind-numbing that I didn't think for a second. And so, I, along with my other roommates, one by one, were given the scrub-down for our wicked ways. All except the one new guy who is free from wrath because he holds the power of the one greatest virtue…. That's right… he's gay! Dun-dun-duuuuuuun. Why my boss felt he should tell me this is beyond my comprehension. I guess to drive home the point that when you tell a "your mom" joke you better be sure the recipient of said joke isn't fresh from his momma's funeral; and when you ask who people think is gay, you better be sure no one in the room is. Anyway, my newly outed coworker emailed me and told me he wasn't offended and heard that my boss told me about him, and didn't want me to think that he had told on me. I told him I was foolish for speaking before thinking and thanked him for not being the uptight type.

It's amazing seeing righteous indignation on a person's face when you have never seen it on them before. I suppose this is the only thing worth getting indignant over in our culture anymore. I spent years in the same room with my boss and heard him hurl around plenty things that would get you fired in any normal job. Heck, he still does. Less than an hour after our little meeting I heard that one of our female co-workers in his room had brought in cookies. I went in and said to her, "I hear you've got the goods." And my boss says, "Yeah, and she brought cookies too." in that obviously insinuating voice. To which she replied, "Excuse me?" with a raised eyebrow. Amazing.

Anyway, we ended our chat with me reviewing exactly what I can do to make him and everyone else happy. I'm (again) not going to have the internet on during working hours, I'm not going to make any gay comments, I'm not going to be wacky, and I'm not going to draw on the white board. Oh, and I'm going to take these impossible levels and Make Them Mine!

Just to be clear here, I really like my boss. He's great and does an excellent job of trying to balance the demands of schedule and quality with an easy-going company culture. And I like my gay co-worker. He's a great guy who is fun and hard-working. I just don't want to it seem like I'm complaining about this situation because I dislike anyone.

SATURDAY

I drove down to Longview with my brother to attend a memorial service for my Uncle who just died last week. Paul was an amazing guy. He was in his early 50s, and had just gotten married for the first time several months ago. This is definitely one of those "What was God thinking?!" sort of things. Not that I personally question God. But if I was the type, this would be the time. My dad gave a elegy that was very moving and appropriate. He talked about how Paul was the quintessential gentleman… in the most literal sense. He talked about how gentle he was with everyone who knew him. He spoke of his manly hobbies like mountain biking, hiking, electronics, etc.

After the elegy people were invited to come up and share their memories. I hadn't planned on doing so, but I was moved by my dad's words and wanted to add to them. I was pretty emotional so I don't remember much of what I said, but I think it was something like this: "The Rose family has an amazing legacy. That legacy has flowed into the Bake and Forman families. And Paul encapsulated so many of those attributes that I admire in our families. He showed generosity to me when he let me and my new wife stay at his house and borrow his car on our honeymoon. Then he showed patience with me when I crashed his car. (My parents ended up paying for the damages when we failed to.) The same steadfastness was evident when we were coming home from a caving expedition in his brand new car and a deer jumped out in front of us, smashing into the car and destroying the front end. I never saw him mad, never heard him yell. He just took life in stride.

Another trait that I love about our family and one that Paul had in spades was the love of exploration and adventure. He knew where all the secret caves were, where all the best trails were, and was always out and about. He had a taste for the fantastic. I think fantasy is a great spiritual gift. It trains you to look beyond the ordinary world to something beyond. And seeing beyond is what gets us through times like this. It brings us hope for another world where we will all be together again."

A couple people said that Paul was the nicest, kindest man they knew. It seems like that is said about almost anyone at their funeral. But for Paul, it was actually completely believable.

SUNDAY

There is a very specific physical feeling I get when I'm taking a math test, or am required to attempt to hold more than one variable in my head at the same time. Sort of a twisting, sickening stomach-knot. Well, I also get that feeling every time I hear from my ex-wife. The pain and drama she brings with her and the way it affects my family is so disheartening. We had been enjoying a several month reprieve from the madness, but that was broken recently and we had to meet with her so she could have her time with the kids. She was insisting on taking them to another city where she claims to have an apartment. Her parents had gotten her a cell phone where you have to buy minutes, and I had told her last week that if she was going to take the kids she needed to have a way for me to contact her. Well, naturally she had used all her minutes on stuff that was apparently more important than her kids, and her cell was out of service by Sunday. She called (from someone else's phone) during church and I told her I wasn't going to release the kids to her if she was leaving the city with no way to contact her. There have been too many times where she took the kids and later insisted that I come and pick them up or she would keep them over night. (Which is not in our parenting plan) And whenever I have seen the places she lives and the people she is with, it's clear that keeping the kids safe is not her primary concern. I told her the kids really don't care about seeing her apartment, they just want to spend time with her. And here in Bellevue there are a thousand things to do within a 3 block radius. (Giant mall, two theaters, super nice and huge park, restaurants, etc.) Well, she still thought it was more important that she show the kids her apartment. So she said she would get more minutes put on the phone by the time we met.

Not surprisingly I got a call from her mother next, saying that her dad was running to the store so he could buy more minutes for her. Her mom asked me to please, not let something as trivial as a phone keep her from seeing her kids. I explained I wasn't trying to keep them apart, only doing what any parent would do to keep their children safe. I'm not trying to limit the time she spends with them, only the places she takes them since she doesn't show good judgment. (I guess her mom forgot about the times she took them to a crack dealer's house where they played with bullets and were taught occult games. Later my ex told me that this guy was a child porn distributor and druid high priest.)

Later her dad called me, very upset. He told me he had bought the minutes for her, and made it clear that I'm a horrible person for putting his daughter through this. "You're pushing this too far." He said. He recommended that if I'm going to get hung up over a little cell phone, that next time I could buy her the minutes she needed. For a hardcore conservative republican, he sure can overlook personal responsibility when it comes to his daughter.

Since I knew there was going to be a disagreement when we got together I called the police for a civil standby as I have in the past. It got to the point where her yelling and name-calling got so bad I didn't know what to do. A friend who works for the police told us about civil standbys, which is where an officer just stands there while potentially delicate issues are resolved. I tried it out and it did keep her from screaming as much.

Well, this time it didn't seem to help. As usual she saw this as a chance to make her case to an authority figure about how horrible we are and how we don't let her have her rights, etc. She kept trying to convince the kids that they wanted to go on the (what would be a 1 ½ to 2 hour, each way) bus trip with her to see her apartment. The younger one folded pretty easily, but my older son really, really didn't want to go. He came to me in tears, telling me that he didn't feel good about going, but he didn't want to hurt her feelings either. I told him that he shouldn't worry about that. That a parent should be worrying about the kid's feelings, not the other way around.

Finally she relented and agreed to spend her day with the kids in Bellevue. She assured me that it was our fault, and that we coached the kids. She said she'd keep them until 10, like the parenting plan says. I reminded her that the parenting plan says 7, not 10.

And, as usual, she ended up calling us to pick up the kids early. They are starting to realize that their mom has some real deficiencies, and are asking more questions about it. I'm determined not to paint her in a bad light, but explaining her behavior is pretty difficult. I mostly explain it by telling them that God has a reason for every person who is in your life. He uses them to shape you in some way or another. And in this case, my boys are learning hard lessons early on about how grownups can be weak. But I believe they are learning how to love a person despite their flaws. And if they can learn that, it will be a beautiful thing.

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