The User Pool - 4. Mulhausen
Updated: Mar 14
I know extraordinarily little about the technical aspects of Technology, which is why they put me in charge of it. The amount of knowledge you possessed regarding your respective field of expertise was irrelevant at my Company. Once you reached a certain level within the corporation, political prowess became the only thing that mattered. You really didn’t need to know anything about your area of expertise because the people who worked for you already did. Your job was to figure out what the organization wanted your department to do, then delay delivery as long as possible. For Technology, the organization wanted us to propose big projects that would support the business strategy, but only plan the projects, never actually start the projects. If someone tried to initiate a big project, they would quickly find themselves out of a job. We could only do smaller, less costly projects as interim fixes until we could deliver the long-term solution, which of course, was never.
And although I didn’t know much about the technical aspects of technology, I did have the ability to sound like I was very technical. Finance thought they understood technology, but since they knew profoundly less than I did, it was very easy to humiliate them in meetings. Finance always exuded an air of arrogance and hostility, so it was always appropriate to demean them in public. This was a department made up of frustrated people who wanted to run the business, but instead were stuck with the tedious job of analyzing the numbers. And although it was their job to analyze the numbers, they did not know what the numbers meant. Accounting knew what the numbers meant, but nobody cared what Accounting had to say. It was their job to balance the numbers but not speak about the numbers. Everyone listened to what Finance had to say about the numbers, but they never actually explained the numbers, since they didn’t know what the numbers really meant. They did understand business but could not speak about running the business since their job was to analyze the numbers. The businesspeople had no real understanding of business, but since the Licensing business ran itself, there was no need for the businesspeople to understand their own business. The businesspeople were experts at throwing parties for licensees and other business partners, which was really all they needed to do to have a successful Licensing business. Our brand was immensely popular. It sold itself.
While the Technology department was supposed to work closely with the business clients, it was always on a very limited basis because they were constantly avoiding technology professionals. The businesspeople understood technology the least and were frightened by it the most, so they asked Finance to handle all the technology issues. Finance would come to me with business unit requests, but I always required business unit involvement. I would schedule meetings with the business unit, but because they feared technology, they always declined and sent Finance instead. Finance tried to have the meetings without the business unit, but I always canceled because there was no business unit involvement.
At the head of the Information Technology department was Division CIO Fessler. He had been in the field of technology for thirty-five years and knew less about it than I did. Mulhausen was two levels above me and became my interim direct boss until they could hire someone to be my direct boss. He was the VP of Application Development and reported directly to Fessler.
Nobody trusted Mulhausen, least of all Fessler. Everyone trusted me, except Mulhausen. This was very frustrating to Mulhausen because everyone circumvented him by coming to me or Fessler instead of him. Mulhausen was a very insecure and feeble man who only felt good about himself when he could make others tremble. However, if the person he was trying to intimidate didn’t tremble, he began to tremble instead. He was completely incapable of making me tremble, so he always trembled around me. He always accused me of usurping his authority, which of course, was exactly what I was always doing. I always denied usurping his authority during the moments in which I was usurping his authority the most.
Mulhausen was short and fit but squared like a picture frame and slightly bow-legged. His legs carried him with confidence while his hands wobbled in fear. His eyes blazed with fiery conviction while his lips quivered with anxiety. His upright iron posture and balanced shoulders conveyed certitude while his chest sunk deep into his body confirming self-disgust. He sported a hair style that resembled a comb-over though he wasn’t bald. He donned a thick and bristly mustache with iniquitous conceit and continued doing so without compunction right through the goatee era of the latter nineties.
There was never a shortage of biblical quotes from Mulhausen, mostly from the Book of Proverbs.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones,” Mulhausen said while vehemently envying Kornfeld and his ability to amass a larger staff than he had and even wield more power at only a director level. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan,” Mulhausen quoted at one of his IT town hall meetings with his entire staff who all groaned in unison profusely as soon as he started quoting the biblical profundity. “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared,” Mulhausen said as I walked into his office, his face ruddy with heat and his eyes blazing with fury and unhinged outrage.
Mulhausen did not understand where technology was going, just where it had been, and he was completely satisfied keeping it there. He had called me into his office to reprimand me for misusing technology.
“Did you just send an email to twenty executives and call it a memo?” he asked with unfettered anger, as if I had just defiled the Virgin Mary with a broom handle. He gripped his desk tightly with trembling hands and fervency, his stolid face as prickly as his woolly mustache.
“Yes,” I said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Mulhausen’s eyes bulged as he staved off a burst of air that had risen from his lungs to his mouth, but without the proper words yet, could not be released. Back then, a memo was a formal document that got printed up with the Company logo on top and a physical signature in ink at the bottom. It then got stuffed into Company interoffice envelopes and put into the outgoing mail basket. A mail person would pick up the interoffice envelopes, take them down to the mail room where they would get sorted, then put into piles for outgoing mail the next day. The next day, the mail person would pick up the heaps of envelopes and packages and start delivering. Once delivered to the recipient’s department incoming mail basket, the recipient’s assistant would pick up the mail and put it into the recipient’s in-basket on the recipient’s desk. The recipient would go through the in-basket when it piled up, weeks, maybe months later.
Mulhausen held up Company letterhead and waved it furiously. “What do you think paper is for?”
At the time, email was an informal form of communication. Its purpose was to ask someone a quick question; pass on a quick instruction to one or two people within your own group; share nude photos of women downloaded from the strange and wonderful world of this new thing called the Internet; talk dirty to co-workers you were fucking. It was not to be used as formal communication.
“Just trying to be efficient,” I said.
“Efficient?” he said, appalled. “You just made us look like idiots.”
Mulhausen never had a problem making himself look like an idiot. He certainly didn’t need me doing it with efficiency, so I could see why he was so angry.
“This was sort of a timely message. People should be reading it today, not in 6 weeks,” I said.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he countered with looming condescension. “Maybe you’ve never heard of a fax machine. It’s a magical little device that allows you to send hard copy memos...” He waved the blank letterhead paper again for continued effect. “With Company logos and signatures to other magical little devices so that people can read time-sensitive memos immediately.”
“You’re right,” I said with steadfast sincerity. “I have grossly misused new technology.”
“Maybe we should give everyone the Internet too,” he said with swelling delight and more crass mockery. “And put all our client/server business apps out on the World Wide Web. And while we’re at it, let’s make our Motorola phones minicomputers and send emails directly from our phones so that we can get rid of our PCs and eliminate the need for paper completely.”
“Hey,” I said with genuine enthusiasm. “Like a… an intelligent phone.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Mulhausen said, scoffing. “Stick to policy. I do not want to see anymore emails posing as memos. Understand?”
Mulhausen’s eyes billowed with seething astonishment at my impudent remark. “Jar!” He barked.
I sighed with heavy irreverence at the implication. I resentfully fished out a dollar, walked over to his desk and stuffed the green into a jar already replete with bills. This was Mulhausen’s Swear Jar. He was as Christian as he was insecure and as self-righteous as he was tenuous. He believed all homosexuals should be deported to some island far away since they were all going to hell anyway, and that the only way to be saved was to accept Christ as your savior, and also, abstain from being a homosexual.
And while the Swear Jar was a pestiferous bowel of aggravating and noxious turd soup, I found a way to resolve this annoyance long before Mulhausen shot the CIO in Weekly Staff.