Water Memories and Wishful Thinking

Wave upon wave of moisture-laden air sweeps across the mountain-top, if that’s what this is—this peak upon which my house was built. The level of humidity in the air is most obvious when I look out to the screened porch on the rear of the house. Moisture drenches almost every square inch of the tightly-woven fiberglass screen, filling in the weave almost completely, with only a few patches where water does not fill in the spaces between intersecting threads of screen. I’m not quite sure why, but as I gazed out to the sheets of wet screen, I thought about the age of this house. It was built just a year before the board of directors of my former employer opted not to renew my contract after more than seven years. Changing boards makes job longevity a rarity among association chief executive officers; seven years, I’m told, represents the median tenure of association CEOs. The demise of my job with that organizations seems so long ago. And it was.

My God, how could twenty-one years have passed since I was effectively fired? At the time, the board emphasized that I wasn’t being fired; they simply decided not to renew my contract so the organization could “move in a different direction.” Uh huh. “You’re not being fired, we just want you out of the building and, by the way, give us your keys.”

In the intervening years, I got another executive job, quit after a year, and then started my own business managing associations on contract, which I operated for thirteen years before deciding to retire at age fifty-eight. As I’ve written before, I didn’t decided to retire then, not really. No, I decided I hated coming to work each day and loathed most of my clients, so I needed to take a one-year sabbatical. I moved from working for a single board of directors to working to satisfy as many as eight at a time; madness!

So, I sent my clients packing, sold the assets of the business, and took a break. After a year, I decided to extend it for another year. And then a third. And, finally, I decided to call it quits.  I liked not working far more than I liked working. But I still miss certain aspects of working. I suppose that’s why I remain engaged in a few organizations that hold my interest. At least for a while.

Today, my wife and I are joining a fellow writer and his wife for lunch, at his insistence. For reasons unbeknownst to me, this die-hard conservative, considerably-older-than-me, football-loving man whose interests do not coincide with mine in the least, took a liking to me from shortly after we met. One of the first interactions I had with him was over a holiday lunch with the writers’ group to which I belong, during which we engaged in arguments over the relative value of the life of Ted Cruz. My argument was, and is, something along the lines that Ted Cruz is as close to the anti-Christ as anyone is likely to come. My friend defended him and said he represented American values and the American way. I’m afraid my friend may have been right, but that’s another story. After a short conversation that caused my blood pressure to increase into the stratosphere, I told him neither of us were apt to change our positions and we’d both be better off if we just leave political discussions off that table. Occasionally, since then, he’ll try to bait me, but I ignore his efforts and attempt to keep my blood pressure under control.  At any rate, we’re going to lunch today in Benton. I’ll drive. My friend and his wife recommended we go to an Italian restaurant they like very much, so we agreed.

What does this retrospective about association employment and political tension have to do with high humidity and water on my screens?  I suppose there’s really no direct tie, but for some reason when I saw the water-soaked screens, I thought to myself, “it looks like the porch is drowning.” And the idea of drowning triggered my memories of feeling like I was drowning in stupidity as I worked with self-important dim-wits who used their election to boards of directors to enable them to exercise power they did not have in other aspects of their lives.  That uninformed use of “power” required me to attempt to gently guide them toward reasoned decision-making, rather than taking spur-of-the-moment actions with far-reaching negative consequences that might far outlive their board tenure. It just got old. Drowning in stupidity, that is. I had to get out.

My difficulties with boards seem so petty now, now that a drunken aardvark armed with nuclear weapons and unchecked by even a modicum of intelligence runs the country. I read with interest an article on Facebook recently that asked readers to answer the question: “What one place do you want to visit more than any other before the end of 2018?” My immediate thought, which I kept to myself instead of responding, was, “Donald Trump’s grave.” “What a terrible thought to have,” I said to myself. So I changed it, in my head, to “Washington, DC, at the conclusion of the successful impeachment hearings.” I can imagine the voices in DC saying to Trump after the impeachment hearings lead to his removal: ” “You’re not being fired, we just want to go in a different direction. By the way, we want you out of the city and, oh yeah, give us the keys to the White House.”

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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