bunt sign

Monday, May 21, 2001

Once upon a time, until about a year ago, I lived in a cramped duplex in downtown Santa Rosa, working with a desk and other office furniture and equipment that took up over half of the space in my living room. I spent over half of my time, including weekends and holidays, working. I had no porch, no yard, no loft. Nowhere to go, in other words, to get away from my job.

Now I live in the country, in a big house on a big lot. The living space is huge, and the office stuff takes up a couple of out-of-the-way corners. The house and yard make more demands on my time than I expected when I moved here. Now that spring is here, I have even more distractions. I sit at my desk next to an open door that looks out over my garden.

I almost never work on the weekends any more. I wonder if the Boss realizes this? I never claimed overtime pay for the extra hours I used to work. In fact, that's why he gave me such a generous raise about a year and a half ago. Well, it was either to reward me for my hard work or to shame me into continuing at that pace. I hope it was the former, because the latter hasn't happened.

This occurs to me today in particular because I suddenly have so much to do that I'll have to put in some extra time. As the state of California closes in on the end of its fiscal year on June 30, some of its agencies find they have money to spend before its availability lapses. That means we have a lot of new jobs to bid, all at once, after a long dry spell.

My part is not the estimating. The Boss is an engineer, and he does all of the figuring when it comes to turning in a bid. But someone has to do all the paperwork and make sure all the requirements are met. The most obtrusive of these obligations is that state work requires a "good faith" effort to reach out to disabled veterans to participate in the job.

It used to be that the "good faith" effort meant trying to bring women and minority contractors into the project. That was ruled to be discriminatory (against white males, apparently), so all they were left with was disabled veterans. And they enforce that requirement vigorously, disqualifying a bid if the "good faith" effort isn't documented.

A cottage industry has grown up to satisfy the state's requirements. Some publications are certified as acceptable to advertise in. The state also certifies contractors as qualified "disabled veteran business enterprises," and you can bet that there are behind-the-scenes shenanigans involved in that lucrative scenario.

What I have to do is contact the agencies to identify qualified contractors, then contact those contractors and invite them to bid to us. This is all done by fax, so that it's fully documented. It does no good to make a "good faith" effort if you can't prove it (unless you actually do get the targeted three percent disabled veteran participation, which never happens).

So that's how I'm spending my days and nights now, in this futile pursuit of a questionable goal. But that's pretty much what makes the world turn, isn't it? I mean, the whole economy is based on causing people to want things they don't need and buy things they don't want. There's no room for the poor soul just trying to get by in the best way possible. That person doesn't add any wasted motion to the carousel and is summarily dismissed as a nonproductive nonentity.

Politics? Same thing. Sell the show, give the appearance of substance, and you don't have to produce anything of value. Try to inject some reality and perspective, and you might as well be invisible. It's the difference between doing something that really helps disabled veterans and setting up a layer of bureaucracy that invites scoundrels and charlatans to prey on them.

a little lizard on my porch

Actually, as job-related paraphernalia is wont to do, it is creeping out of the corners and taking over every flat surface not otherwise covered. So I have piles of files and papers all over the living room, including the dining room table, which I have to clear off every morning before I can sit down with a bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch, which doesn't get nearly as soggy as the regular kind. That's in case the phone rings before I can scarf down the whole bowlful.

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