Thursday, November 17, 2005

I never posted about my experience working for FEMA (actually, I worked for Fluor, on a FEMA project) because I realized that what I had to say was trivial compared to the staggeringly idiotic behavior FEMA exhibited every day. My brief contract labor gig with Fluor revealed a company overcommitted and unsure of what to do, with people running the work who had never done that kind of work before. My boss, a proposals manager, had never done a daily publication before and contributed to endless delays by vanishing for hours and re-editing edited material and getting in juvenile arguments with her staff ("Okay, you're the boss then. T'm just doing what the client wants, but you're the boss. Have it your way. No, no, you're in charge. You do it your way," etc), but that's typical corporate behavior. Poor behavior, but not sizzling-hot-expose material. The FEMA employees I encountered just seemed bewildered. I worked for the HAC, or housing area command, the group arranging temporary housing and travel trailers, cruise ships, mobile homes, etc., and produced a daily progress summary. The HAC consists of FEMA and the big four no-bid contractors: Fuor, Bechtel, CH2M, and Shaw. Dewberry was involved too, but Dewberry was treated like Dewberry always gets treated, like the retarded cousin your mom would insist accompany you when you went out with friends: give him a coloring book and a soda and try to pretend he isn't there. I have to say that Shaw went about its work with passion and drive, setting internal goals and, in general, acting like a group of people who could find their dicks in the dark. They consistently made the most progress. CH2M didn't have much left to do by the time I got there, but they seemed smart. Bechtel whined. ("Are we supposed to be doing that? We didn't know if we were so we didn't start. We were? Well, then we'll start, but gees, there isn't enough time left now!") Fluor started every meeting progress summary with "Well, the numbers don't look very good today ..." (Nobody from Fluor could ever tell me where FEMA headquarters were. "Oh," they'd say, you'll see a big sign. Renaissance something. It's on Florida, at the end of a dead-end street." Couldn't get a street address. Begged for one. Was given one that turned out to be wrong (Nope, not on the 15000 block of Florida). Finally found it one day, in a panic when I was supposed to drop something off and they STILL couldn't give me a street address: It wasn't on Florida, like they had been screaming at me. It was at Sixteenth and Laurel. They couldn't even get the cross streets right. This is a forty-billion dollar a year company.) Incompetence aside -- and there was plenty, along with great heaping side orders of confusion -- my in-house story is no worse than any other story of working for a fucked-up company, and anything I could tell you about finessing numbers (so their progress in preparing temporary housing, such as it was, would look better) was done with such naiveté and dunderheaded artlessness that it almost seems cruel to bring up. They never managed to finesse the numbers significantly anyway; if they ever did manage to make something look suddenly better, persons whose stake would be adversely effected by the improvement would hoot and bellow until the numbers were rejigged the next day (all of this stuff was internal, I must add, except for a very brief daily one-page summary doled out to the press). So, while my experience was bad, I was outgunned by reality, and I didn't want to appear to be one of those LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THOSE FUCKERS I USED TO WORK FOR guys. Anyway, back to work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naw, I wasn't making "fun" of you, just thinking of another way they might have described their location if they didn't know the address. Never make fun of a cartoonist.

--Sometimes Don't!

11/20/2005 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Suspect Device said...

No worries. Like I said, I'm still ya-ya about it.

11/21/2005 03:45:00 AM  

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