Orientation to Supervision

Sunday, June 7, 1998

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, the temperature outside my car was 84 degrees Fahrenheit. It would not be that cool again until 11 p.m. that night. It had been that way for two days before and would continue two days after as the thermometer hit 98 degrees or higher each day.

Today, the moisture picked up enough so that storm clouds formed, raising 40,000 feet or higher and forming all-white mountains higher than Mount Everest. There is thunder in the distance, but it hasn’t rained yet. I’m going on the patio for coffee with my wife. Try to relax. I’m on vacation for a week.

Tuesday, June 9, 1998

Well, I am on vacation for most of the week. I went into the office today for a training and development class called Orientation to Supervision. My boss has been trying to get me to sign up for this class for several years, but I always ended up with a conflict. Funny how that happens. I’m taking this class so I can save a single vacation day for later in the month. Work now, play later.

Orientation to Supervision is not as boring as it sounds. And they say they’re trying to come with a better title. But it is mind-numbing. We break into teams and try to solve the problems of an imaginary mid-level supervisor named Terry. He/she has problems with his/her workers. He/she is a nit wit.

Trudging through the day, the first thing I notice is that I am waaaay out of place here. Most of the people in the meetings are supervisors in other divisions in the company. The Orlando Sentinel employees about 1500 people and only about 400 are in the editorial department where the writers, editors and photographers work. The people I am teamed with work in security, operations and circulation. They have real jobs, so to speak.

All of the proper answers to Terry’s pretend problems are intended to deal with trouble-maker employees and to educate us on Fair Labor laws and such. The answers also presume that if you have an ambitious employee, you can train them to be whatever they want to be within the company.

It just doesn’t wash in editorial. Everything from overtime to shouting employees (which I’ve heard at many, many meetings) are problems not seen in other divisions. Plus, no matter how many seminars someone goes to, they will never be a great photographer or writer if they don’t have “it.” They are trying to teach us the rules for the real business world. But I don’t have a real job. Never have. Never want one. We need a different set of rules.

Thursday, June 11, 1998

It still hasn’t rained yet and it is getting dry. We can smell the unique stench of brush fires throughout the county. Several homes have been lost and there is no rain in the forecast.

Summer is a time for volatile weather in Florida and it always effects the photographers. The first of June is the official start of hurricane season and we always have plans. At least three photographers literally have bags packed in the trunks of their cars, ready to leave at the last minute to chase a storm. Running after a hurricane is a thrill, but I have kids and a wife at home so I’ll be part of the second team. Shooting photos from the helicopter the next day makes for an easy assignment and front page photos.

Friday, June 12, 1998

Tonight is the last night of a week of Vacation Bible School at John Knox Presbyterian Church, a small congregation where my wife and I are members. We have worked together as co-directors of the program this year. We’ve helped before, but this is the first time we have been “in charge.”

I take one week of my vacation every year to help with Bible school. It’s important to me to take some time out for my kids and to help with the programs. The kids at the school this year are exceptionally good and I think I’ve gotten as much from them as they have have gotten from the programs. We studied the parables under the title of “The Storytelling Tree.”

June 14, 1998

I will pull apart my Domke camera bag tonight and organize my cameras. I’m going back to work tomorrow and want to be sure I am organized and ready.

I haven’t shot a photo since a week ago Friday when I photographed the owners of Beefy King, a family restaurant in Orlando that celebrated its 30th anniversary. Besides the vacation Bible school, I haven’t done much except sit on the couch and watch World Cup soccer. (Cameroon should have won, South Korea fouls too much, Mexico is jazzy but nobody compares to Brazil.) The vacation came at a good time. I needed a break because the office was getting hectic and it was beginning to resemble a regular job; filling out orders and making quota. I hope Human Resources hasn’t sent too many managers to Orientation to Supervision. I swear that they are trying to suck the life out of this newspaper.

Tom Burton

originally published on June 14, 1998 on digitalstoryteller.com

This post was originally titled “I’m on Vacation …” when it was written. Reading it now, the more obvious meaning seems to be that I was heading into a leadership role whether I saw it or not. And yes, I still swear that “they” are trying to suck the life out of the newspaper.

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