d e t a i l s

i once saw where a guy was working to recollect one moment from each year of his life to see if anything could be discovered by the exercise. not having many original ideas myself i figured i would try it myself. and as per usual i figured what's the point of doing it if i don't share it to the world. so feel free to step into various points in my life, for what it's worth.
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my second job out of college was as a teller at a large midwestern bank (my first post-college job was unloading trucks and working with guys on parole and/or striving for their GED). at the bank job, i began in the lowest non-janitorial position they had. i left the company one week shy of my fourteen year anniversary having the words Vice-President as part of my title.

in my time at the bank, a few different people were responsible for lifting and guiding me along. one of the earliest and most influential was my fourth boss, JoAnn. She was, to my recollection, in our sizable, mid-western, banking organization the highest ranked minority female. when i worked for her she was in her late forties, early fifties. JoAnn was known for her fierce competence and impeccable dress (the rumor among the cubicles was that she wore a matching skirt and blazer to bed).

while i could go on for a great while about all the ways, subtle and overt, she mentored me and polished my many rough and frayed edges, my favorite JoAnn-ism i like to recall happened when someone in her ranks messed up. when this occurred, which was often enough given she oversaw mostly young resources, you'd hear her march out of her office, her bright, leather shoes making gestapo like thuds against the tight-woven carpet-squares, to the offender's cubicle. she'd place the well manicured fingers of one hand on the edge of their desk as if she came to keep it from floating away, and through an effortfully restrained voice, ask if the individual could join her in her office for a moment. the real tell was if before speaking she cocked her head slightly to the left, pausing for a beat, collecting herself, before asking you to join her. if you got the pause and the side-titled head, your were done for, and you knew it, and you knew it wether you were a three-year veteran or a three-month trainee.

given the obvious signs of trouble, the staffer would say of course and pensively rise to follow the taut and fast walking executive back to her office, often defensively grabbing a pen and pad of paper as they left their desk. JoAnn would walk in, stop and stand sentry-like by the door waiting, also effortfully, for the employee to enter and be seated. she'd then swing the door closed and make her way behind her desk and get situated. this is where my favorite part would begin. in an elevated voice that was obviously trying to be held in check but still loud enough to bleed through the corporate-issue door, joann would make the initial cut in a verbal vivisection that would be memorable to all within earshot:

have you lost your mind?


because when i read the email i just received from my superior, the only thing i can think is, oh my god, glenda has lost her mind. fully!


because for what just happened, it is the only possible explanation. the only one. you have completely lost your mind.

yes, well, let me explain.

yes, yes, of course, by all means, please do explain.

in written form, i'm completely incapable of conveying the tenor and strength and personality this voice projected (or the stammer of the cornered staffer). but in my head, in my head, i can still hear the measured precision (and meek retorts) as if it happened moments ago. please note, importantly, i was never on the receiving end of a "have you lost your mind" dress-down. fact is, i revered and loved JoAnn so immensely it may have ended me had i been. that confessed, i did have a few related, less-heated rounds with her.

one that comes to mind dealt with my paycheck. when i was hired at the bank, one of the things they did in orientation was to open a checking account for you if you didn't already have one at their institution. part of this process was deciding if you wanted your paycheck directly deposited into the account or to receive a physical check you would have to manually deposit. probably connected to having spent most of my days quite penniless, i had an almost religious-like ritual around depositing my paycheck and then paying my bills. thus i requested a physical check. (as an aside i still remember when i got my first paycheck when i was a teller. the moment my boss handed me the envelope i started tearing it open to see how much i got paid. the woman training me put a hand on my arm and shook her head no. after the boss had moved on she told me to never open your check in front of your employer as it was considered rude and unseemly. shortly thereafter i learned one should not make loud exclamations about how much their check was for in front of colleagues 1 - like i said, many rough edges).

there was a subtle detail about the checks. when distributed direct deposit checks were green and real, physical checks were blue. one day after handing me my blue check JoAnn asked me why i didn't get direct deposit. i said i liked filling out the deposit slip and taking it to the bank. she said i should change that. i explained that i liked my ritual and thanked her for the suggestion (thinking she thought i didn't know about the direct deposit option). she drummed her fingers on my desk and moved on. a few pay cycles later she again commented on the color of my check. i re-explained my neurosis. she asked if i knew who else, aside from me, got blue checks. i said i did not. she said people whose credit/financial standing was so bad, the bank, their employer, would not issue them a simple checking account. i said, "oh." she said, "get direct deposit." while it wasn't the "have you lost your mind" treatment, her words always had a way of carrying a tenor that resonated.

i was one of those fortunate souls who had not one, not two, but three professional mentors in my early career. one taught me design, one taught me development, and JoAnn, my first, taught me the importance of professionalism. and as a guy who now designs and develops web pages for a living, i can say with full conviction and honesty that it was the now seemingly elementary lessons i learned from JoAnn X. Dye 2, when i was greenest, that are most responsible for the lion share of success i've found in the technology industry, an industry i, on paper, have no real business occupying.

1 the reason behind my exhilaration over a teller's paltry wage was i couldn't believe how much someone was willing to pay for work as clean and exertion-free as handing out money all day. and, get this, when no one was in front of you asking for money, you could read a book. back then i was mostly into russian and latin american authors, nabakov, vargas llosa, dostoevsky, garcia marquez and the like so, given the hefty size of such tomes, needed lots of hours to work through them. additionally, at this point in my life, i simplistically separated good from bad jobs by wether or not i had to take a shower after my shift. if i didn't have to race home to shed clothes and scrub grime from my body after a day's work, the job, in my eyes, was giving their money away.

2 JoAnn has no middle name but the email admins at the bank said she had to so arbitrarily assigned her with an X for her email address. she found this requirement foolish and poorly-architected. i found her response delightfully and reliably JoAnn-ish.

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