The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
Patricia said, “I never really understood why Peter was so content with running an online storefront.”
Charles said, “That always puzzled me. It’s not like it was a challenge.”
“Dad always said that he enjoyed the challenge of finding just the right product at just the right time. He told me that he’d find some product, purchase thousands of it, and sell out of it in a month’s time at a huge profit.”
“I could see him doing that. He was always ahead of the curve,” Patricia said.
Charles said, “That’s just greed at work.”
Rebecca said, “Peter wasn’t greedy. He never worried about money. It didn’t matter to him at all. His concerns were ... higher than that.”
“That’s a nice boat.”
“Thanks. It’s my pride and joy.”
“It looks like it can really move.”
“The quicker you get to the fish, the longer you can fish.”
“I take it you’re going fishing.”
“That’s right,” the man said while getting the bass boat ready to be put in the water.
He put the drain plug in. He tested it to make sure that it was fitted snugly. He moved around to the side and fiddled with something inside the boat.
“You’re going to put that in the water all by yourself?”
“Would you care for a bit of help?”
“A little help would be nice, but I think I have everything under control.”
“I’d like to go fishing. I went fishing for the first time six months ago and had a great time. I even caught a fish. I was in a smaller boat than yours.”
The man looked over at his unwanted visitor before turning back to take care of his boat. He carried a cooler from the back of his truck and put it into the boat.
“Yes. I’d really like to go fishing.”
“There’s a whole lake to fish in. Grab a pole and take a seat on the end of the dock.”
“No. I’d rather go with you.”
The man stopped what he was doing and turned to face the intruder to his Saturday morning fishing expedition. It was late enough in the year that this was going to be one of the last times he could go out. The last thing he wanted was to have to deal with some crazy guy.
“I don’t take passengers.”
“I think you’ll take me, Mr. Timothy Andrews Carroll.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“I’m not threatening you. I have a deal for you that I’m sure you’ll like.”
Tim went over to his truck and opened the tool box. He pulled out a large wrench before turning to face the man bothering him. He swung it back and forth as if getting used to the heft and weight of it.
“In two months, a snot-nosed kid pretending to be an experienced manager is going to come here and lay off everyone working in the factory located near here. I’d think you’d want to know about that, considering that you are the union representative for three-quarters of the people employed at the factory. So put away that wrench, let me help you get that boat in the water, and take me fishing where we can talk without anyone overhearing us.”
Tim was frozen in place. There had been rumors they were going to close the factory, but no one had any evidence that it was actually going to happen. He had assumed that it was just wild talk resulting from news stories about jobs being sent overseas. This kid was talking about it like it was a fact.
“That’s right. This place is getting shut down and the work sent off to China. It’s going to turn this region into a ghost town. There aren’t enough jobs to support 1800 families.”
“How do you know this?” Tim asked.
“I’m the snot-nosed kid they’re going to send.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. They’re sending a kid who doesn’t need to shave yet to lay off factory workers. Some of those guys are ... let’s just say they’re mean. You’re going to get killed.”
“I can take care of myself. Besides, I’ve been shaving for eight years now.”
Tim looked at him like he was crazy. That little runt thought he could take care of himself. Man, did he have a world of hurt coming his way to educate him otherwise. “You can’t be more than 20 years old.”
“Maybe I ought to put you out of your misery now and be done with it.”
“We’re wasting good fishing time. Let’s get the boat in the water and go fishing.”
“You’re absolutely incredible. Don’t you get it? I don’t want you around me.”
“The futures of about 1800 families are riding on what you decide to do here. Now, I think before you charge off making any decisions that you’ll come to regret, it would be in your best interest to talk to me.”
“Are they really sending you here to fire us?”
“It’s what they want to call a staffing adjustment, which is just a polite way of saying to folks get your ass out the door. They are sending me out here to hold the door open. If I encounter resistance, it is expected that I’ll hire muscle to toss people through the door without much consideration of whether the door is open or closed at the time. I hate to say this, but they are hoping that I can’t manage here without having to bring in a bunch of hired muscle.”
“I’m not going out into the middle of a lake with you.”
“I probably appreciate paranoia better than anyone you can name. I don’t view it as a liability, but as a survival mechanism. However, you have to take some risks if you are to have a long and fruitful life. For example, I’m risking mine by coming here to talk to you. If the idiots back at corporate learn of this I’m a dead man. They are not very nice people. Yet, if I’m successful today, I’ll become a very rich man and they will be the ones looking at long unpleasant futures.”
The two of them stared at each other for a minute. Tim knew he would be making a big mistake by going out alone with this guy. He didn’t look like he was old enough to be given a job of such importance. If he wasn’t the one doing the firing, he had to be a hit man here to clear out some of the opposition leaders. The problem with that line of reasoning was that he couldn’t see any kind of weapon on the guy.
“Now put up the wrench, let’s get the boat in the water and go fishing.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Peter Moore.”
Tim stood there beside his truck thinking about his choices. If the guy was telling the truth, he would want to know as much as possible about what was going to happen. Once a factory closing was announced, the union was going to bring in its heavy weights and any decisions would be taken out of his hands. He’d end up being a pawn relegated to shuttling messages from one side to the other.
“Do you have any ID?”
“Yes.” Peter dug his wallet out of his back pocket. It took him a couple of seconds to extract his driver’s license from the wallet. Making sure that his finger covered half of his license number, he held it up for Tim to examine.
“Excuse me while I call my wife,” he said while tapping a speed dial number on his cell phone.
“I’ll accept that as a prudent action of a paranoid man. It’s a nice balance between risk and potential reward.”
“What’s the reward?”
“There’s nothing more valuable than knowledge.”
Tim told his wife he’d see her in a couple of hours as he tossed the wrench back into the tool box, and slammed it shut. Out of habit, he locked it. There was no sense letting someone walk off with his tools. He looked over at the young man and shook his head thinking he had to be crazy.
“Get your fishing gear. You do have a fishing pole, right?”
“Yes, I do. I bought one last night.”
Peter went over to his car and opened the trunk. He pulled out a package with the rod, reel, and small lure box still wrapped in the original packaging. He carried it back to the boat.
“What in the hell is that?”
“It’s a Zebco 404 Spincast Combo.”
“God! I haven’t seen one of those since I bought one for my son when he was six years old. How much did that cost you?”
“Seventeen dollars, including tax.”
“My line costs more that,” Tim said in disgust.
“You’re saying that I was ripped off.”
“I’m saying that I’m embarrassed to have it on my boat.”
The ride out to the fishing spot was taken at high speed, with the boat planing atop the water and bouncing when it hit a wave. It was a rough trip, but it was a short one. Peter had never been on a boat with the power of this one and had found the experience exhilarating.
While Tim took care of getting the boat ready for fishing by putting out the trolling motor, Peter was busy unwrapping his fishing set. He looked over at the carbon composite rod, open faced reel, and monster tackle box of Tim’s, thinking that his little set was pathetic in comparison. It didn’t matter to him that much. He could put a hook at one end of the line and it had a reel at the other with a rod to control the line. As far as he could tell, all of the appropriate functions were present.
He waited until Tim was getting his fishing gear together to say, “Could you show me how to rig this up? There’s no hook on it.”
“Only superficially so. I can take care of myself.”
“The guys here are going to eat you alive.”
“No they won’t.”
“You don’t know some of these folks like I do.”
“You mean guys like Jasper Wilcox?”
That surprised Tim. “Exactly.”
“His wife is ill. There’s a specialist who can help her. I’m making arrangements for her to see him.”
“He can’t afford to take his wife to a specialist. He lives in a trailer, for Christ’s sake.”
“He can’t, but a charity that I control can. Then there’s Chuck Sims. He’s about to lose the land that’s been in his family for three generations. I’m making arrangements for a low-interest loan that should improve his situation significantly. There’s Chuck Arnold. He’s got a kid about to enter college which is a pretty good accomplishment as a parent for a guy who dropped out of high school. You may not have heard that she just received a scholarship. I delivered the news to them yesterday evening.”
Tim slowly reached out for Peter’s fishing pole. Of the four people who were likely to jump Peter, the guy had just named three of them. It was the fourth one who was a real issue. The guy was flat out crazy.
“Then there’s crazy AJ Carr. His problem is drug use. He was busted the other night for possession of meth. I’m not sure what to do about him, yet. I’ve got a couple of good ideas.”
“You’re very well informed.”
“There’s nothing more valuable than knowledge. In that respect, I’m a very wealthy man.”
“I don’t have any major problems you can use to buy me off.”
“I’m not buying anyone off. I’m providing a reason for a couple of the hot heads in the area to be a bit more rational than usual in their decision-making process. In other words, they’ll think twice before jumping me in a dark alley.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Newton is outsourcing the factory work to China. What the management there doesn’t realize is that people are getting fed up with China’s dominance in the manufacturing arena. People want things Made in America. Some of Newton’s competitors have discovered that. The Chinese know it. They’re coming to a realization that they do need the ‘Made in America’ stamp.
“That’s where you come in. You see, Newton is going to close your factory down and sell off the buildings and land. In fact, they’re going to sell off the buildings and land before they shutdown the factory, thinking it will get them a better price for it. It will.
“A small investment firm will be providing capital to purchase the land. You and Mr. Meyers, the current Operations Manager, will be the point men in making that purchase. The two of you need to be in a position to offer everyone who is laid off a chance to buy into the company you’ll be opening to perform the assembly of products that would allow them to have the ‘Made in America’ stamp on them. The goal is, to have an entirely employee-owned business do the assembly.
“You’ll need to lay the groundwork to get people prepared for such a move. I would like the transition from Newton-owned to employee-owned to go flawlessly.”
Working on automatic while rigging Peter’s fishing line, Tim was thinking about what Peter had just told him. He couldn’t believe that Newton would make those kinds of arrangements.
“That’s rather enlightened of Newton.”
“Newton has nothing to do with it. I’m doing this on my own initiative. Newton wants to move in here and swat you down like flies to make a statement for the people who work at other factories. They want you to resist the factory closing. They want to hurt this community as much as they can. They would have accomplished that except for one small error on their part.”
“What error is that?”
“They put me in charge of it,” Peter said with a smile. “This factory closing is going to present an entirely different model for the others.”
“I don’t think your plans are going to work out. You don’t know those people.”
Peter laughed while accepting his rod back from Tim. “I know them better than they know themselves. They only see their strengths. I see their strengths and their weaknesses. I’ll play to their strengths and undermine them with their weaknesses.”
“What’s their weakness?”
“Inflated egos, rampant greed, and unconstrained sexual deviancy. That’s the true nature of the management of Newton and the leadership in the Union.”
“Why are you including the Union?”
“Both sides know that any negotiations that are going to take place will be about getting as much money for the Union leadership as possible. No one cares about what is going to happen to you folks. You’re history as far as they are concerned. The factory is closing, there’s no chance of preventing that. Once you’re laid off, you stop paying dues, the company will stop giving them benefit money to manage on your behalf, and your value to the Union drops to zero. They’ll be here to grab as much as they can while they can.”
Tim recognized the truth of the last two statements. Once the factory was shut, all of the people who had been working at it would be worthless to the Union. The Union dues were nothing. It was in managing the benefits where the Union made its money.
“You sure talk like you’re older than 23.”
“I’m continually surprised by the lows to which people stoop as well as the highs which others strive to reach. You’d think that the former would turn me into a cynic, but it is the later which gives me hope for the future.”
“I need to think about this,” Tim said.
“Let’s fish. My one experience with fishing taught me that it was a perfect time to think about life’s problems.”
With a naturalness that came from lots of practice, Tim guided the boat along the shoreline using the trolling motor. At the same time, he made repeated casts to likely spots where fish were likely to lie. The fish didn’t seem all that interested in biting at the current time, but Tim wasn’t really thinking about that. His thoughts were nowhere near the boat.
On other hand, Peter was barely managing to cast his lure more than ten feet from the boat. It didn’t matter to him that he was not doing very well. He had cast a lure that was intended to catch a much bigger fish than anything that lived in the lake. He was pretty confident that he had hooked a big one.
“What will I need to do?”
“Next weekend, you’ll need to take a quick trip to Odessa, Texas with Mr. Meyers to meet with some people who will set up things for buying the factory and arranging the contracts with the Chinese companies. I have them on retainer.”
“Neither Newton or the Union have any business interests there. For now, you are going to have to fly under everyone’s radar. If you don’t, you will get hurt.”
“You’ve given a lot of thought to this, haven’t you?”
“Okay. I’m in.”
“Good. Now let’s get serious about fishing,” Peter said with a broad grin.
Chuck Arnold, one of the meanest and hardest men in the county, was seated in front of his trailer drinking a beer. He was watching the couple who lived in the trailer across from his argue about something. It didn’t matter what they were arguing about — yelling at each other was their normal behavior. That was life in a trailer park, or at least the one in which he lived.
The woman was barely dressed despite the chill in the air. With any kind of exertion at all, she’d have a breast flop out of her tube top. She was overweight, missing a couple of teeth, her hair was a mess, and she talked in a loud shrill voice that sent daggers through his ears. She was rude and crude. She’d become a mother at 16, hoping that the idiot boy who impregnated her would marry her. He didn’t and she was still paying for her stupidity.
Her husband wasn’t any kind of winner. His beer belly hung down so low he had to hold it out of the way to take a piss. He couldn’t hold a job for more than a couple of weeks. If he was working, the odds were good that it was as day labor to fill in for an absent member of a work crew. So long as he had money for beer, he didn’t care what he was doing.
Chuck looked down at his gut in disgust. It was about three sizes too big. He knew that if he took an honest look in the mirror that he’d see the neighbor staring back at him. At least he’d been working in the factory for seventeen years now. The money was good, but he spent it as fast as he made. A new pickup truck every other year tended to eat into the finances a considerable amount. His trailer was fifteen years old and looked thirty.
His son was following in his footsteps. For a long time he’d been proud of that. Now that he thought about it, that wasn’t such a good thing. He didn’t want to see his son spending the rest of his life living in a trailer park. That wasn’t the kind of thing to which a young man should aspire. He figured that it was too late for him to do much to shape his son to become a better person. He hoped his son would join the military. Where he had failed as a father, there was a chance that the army might straighten him out.
The light of his life was his daughter. She was smart as a whip and disciplined. She was focused on leaving the trailer park and the trashy people living in it. It wasn’t until the fellow visited the previous evening that he’d given much thought to her future. College? Trailer park people didn’t go to college. Yet, his daughter had been given a scholarship to attend the state school. The guy said it was a full ride, meaning tuition, books, dorm, and a meal plan. When he asked how much that would have cost him, the answer of twenty-two thousand a semester had left him gasping for air. She’d been so happy about the news that she had cried for fifteen minutes solid.
He looked up when a truck pulling a beautiful bass boat came to a stop blocking his view of the action across the way. It took him a moment to recognize Tim Carroll, the labor union representative for the factory. He wondered what he’d be doing here.
“Hello, Tim. What’cha doing here?”
“I heard your daughter got a scholarship.”
“Yeah, she did. It’s worth $180,000. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the amount.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“She’s a smart kid.”
“It’s good she’s getting a chance to go to college.”
Chuck nodded his head. “I’d invite you to pull up a chair, but I don’t have one. There’s room for you on the step here beside me if you want to take a load off your feet.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
“So how did you hear about the scholarship?”
Chuck rocked back
“I see by your reaction that you know who I’m talking about.”
“When he came knocking on my door, I was half tempted to kick his ass. I figured he was one of those Bible thumpers trying to get me to take Jesus into my heart. I’m sure you know how much I hate them.”
“You’ve made your opinion known on that subject a time or two.”
“After talking to him for ten minutes, I realized I was having a come to Jesus epiphany.” Seeing the expression on Tim’s face, he added, “I guess you didn’t know I knew words like epiphany.”
“Never thought about it. I’m just surprised that you had that reaction to him. You eat people like him for lunch.”
“I like him. He showed me real respect; not for being a tough hard ass, but because I had raised Becky right. No one has ever said I was good parent before. That kind of took me aback and made me take stock of my life.”
“He did mention that you did well to raise a girl like her.”
“He told me that I should keep my truck rather than trade it in this year. He said every dollar that I could save over the next year would come back tenfold to me. I asked him what he meant by that, but he answered that I’d have to wait to learn the answer to that question. You wouldn’t know what he meant, would you?”
“I have a very good idea. I’m seriously considering selling my bass boat so that I’ll have some cash in hand about that time.”
“You’d really sell that boat?”
“How much do you want for it?”
“You don’t want to buy it. You need to save your money.”
Chuck looked over at the boat and then over at Tim. “I’ve never been one to worry too much about the future.”
“I guess I’m not too old to change.” He took a long drink from his beer, crushed the can, and tossed it into a large trash can filled with crushed beer cans. “That’s my very last beer. I’m done drinking.”
“It’s still early in the evening.”
“I mean, that’s my last beer. I’m done drinking my money away.”