A man who had once threatened to fire me for not singing whilst running desired a final meeting with me.
In the Army, officers and non commissioned officers get evaluations, usually yearly. Each ratee has a rater, usually their immediate supervisor, and then a senior rater, generally their supervisor’s supervisor. As a staff officer in a somewhat weird position, my rater was the battalion executive officer. My senior rater, unfortunately, was the battalion commander, a strange and deviant man about whom much has been written at this blog. I dreaded any meeting I had with the man, however he was insistent that we sit down and talk about the results of my evaluation. The battalion commander also happened to be leaving that week, so it was somewhat urgent that we find a time to meet. Personally, I would have been fine just signing my digital evaluation and moving on with my life, but the man wanted to speak. So be it.
Early on the day that the man was to switch of out of command, I went to his office to figure out when he had time to give me my senior rater counseling.
An aside: counseling sounds like such a nice thing, something that could possibly be therapeutic. The first time I was late for a formation as a freshman in military school, my supervisor told me he would counsel me. I though “hey that doesn’t sound so bad”. Turns out counseling covers anything from mentoring to ass-chewing.
I didn’t expect to have my ass chewed, but I did expect something weird to happen. This particular man was so awkward and bad with people that he was almost removed from position, but he had come back from that experience much calmer.
I made sure to use the right hallway to get to his office and not the door that led directly to the outside. Using the correct doors was very important to this man. Once, I had arrived to his office for a meeting at the same time that the battalion XO had come through the forbidden door. The strange man had rushed to his office door and, seeing me, urgently asked how I had gotten there and which way had I come from. I responded that I had used the hallway, but then he was confused as to who had used the door. I explained that it was the XO and he seemed satisfied although I’m not sure he believed me.
There was a flurry of activity in his office. The man appeared to be agitated to see me but after his brush with getting fired he had learned to contain his emotions. The battalion commander was performing the complex dance of someone who is trying to print something but is unable. He asked what I needed and I told him that I had come to find out if we could do the senior rater counseling. He responded that he was actually late for his own change of command rehearsal and he was unable to print out his speech and that I needed to print the speech out for him ASAP. I said “roger sir” and moved out to complete a task that I had only received because I had gone to see him. This fell pretty closely in line with all of my experiences with the man. I was able to get the man’s speech printed for him and I also convinced my coworker to not alter the man’s speech as a punishment for the injustices he had visited upon us. I don’t know what he would have done had I not shown up at that moment.
The battalion commander had promised to conduct my counseling at some point and a few days later, I received an email asking if I could meet him at the post library. Technically, the man was no longer part of my chain of command and held no authority over me, but he did outrank me and I had no choice but to oblige.
I got to the library early, successfully getting there before he did so as to avoid having to meet him outside. Once inside, I posted by the door like a sentry, so I could see him as soon as he arrived. I didn’t want to introduce any confusion into the equation for him, as that would result in strangeness. As soon as he entered, he would see me, I would receive my counseling, and we could both be go our separate ways forever. The plan worked, however, I had failed in one calculation, there were many places to sit and talk. I had allowed for confusion. We paced around the library as the man looked for a suitable place to conduct my counseling. We weren’t going to be discussing state secrets, so I had thought any corner in the library would do. This was not so. Our counseling needed to be secret, safe. At long last, the (former) battalion commander found a suitable place. We would have our meeting in one of the individual study rooms.
Now when you read the word “individual” you probably think “one person”. This is a correct reading of that word. The people who built the library had intended for only one person to use the study room and thus it was not designed for a two person meeting. This became immediately apparent as soon as the man and I were inside the little room. However, the man wanted to conduct the counseling in isolation from other people, so we struggled to make it work. In the end, we had to sit facing each other with our seats nearly touching, my knee between his knees like some kind of human zipper.
A note to any aspiring business-people out there: This is not how to conduct a meeting. Dear God.
The results of the meeting were pretty unimportant. The man’s suggestions for my professional development weren’t actually that bad, but the heat of the room and my close proximity to a man who made me uncomfortable under normal situations made me long for the end of the meeting. Sweat dripped down my body under my uniform as I listened to the man talk. I don’t know how long we were in the room, but at long last it ended. We moved back out into the library and the cool air relieved my discomfort for a moment. I’m sure we shook hands, and he probably told me to reach out to him if I ever needed anything, and then his awkward, goofy-looking self strolled out of my life forever.
It was the perfect ending to our relationship.