Business experts say sound personnel management is the key to surviving tough times. These are the same business experts whose current advice on “best practices” is “Your business sucks–if you switched to making kids wooden arrows you could get a government handout.”
Managing your personal budget is no different. Every member of your household should be evaluated periodically in order to avoid costly litigation down the road, even though you don’t live down the road, you live at your current mailing address.
If there are cats in your house, you will find that fundamental principles of wildlife management are inappropriate tools to achieve your home economic goals. For example: Leave birds alone and they build a nest; leave beavers alone and they build a dam; leave cats alone and they don’t build a multi-level carpeted condo, they scratch the chintz couch, barf on the rug and take a nap.
In other words, managing cats is much like “herding cats,” a favorite simile of business advice books, although in this case it’s a tautology. To make the job of managing your cats easier, here is a transcript of my mid-year performance review of Okie and Rocco, two mid-level cats at my house.
(Clicking sound as tape recorder is turned on.)
ME: Does this thing work? Test–one, two, three . . .
TAPE RECORDER: Test–one, two, three . . .
OKIE: Sounds like Madonna with a head cold.
ME: Okay, I wanted to tape our little session so that we’d have a record of your performance reviews.
ROCCO: If you’re going to fire me, I want my lawyer here.
ME: No, not at all. Basically, the message I want to send is that you’re both doing a good job, despite . . .
OKIE: Despite what?
ME: Well, I’ve noticed a drop off in your performance.
ME: Here are your numbers for the first five months of the year. No chipmunks, no mice, no squirrels . . .
OKIE: I’m 70 years old in cat years. Sales is for young guys–I should be a manager.
ROCCO: How about me?
ME: Off the charts. Chipmunks–14. Birds–3. One squirrel, and a big one.
ROCCO: All right! I can just taste that sales incentive!
ME: Well, actually, these are tough times we’re going through right now . . .
ROCCO: Oh, puh-lease. You’re a lawyer–you make money off of financial misery!
ME: It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
OKIE: I just want to say in my defense, that if I don’t catch chipmunks, you don’t have to clean up the mess outside.
ME: True, but let’s not confuse effort with results.
OKIE: (. . .) What the hell is that supposed to mean?
ME: I don’t know–it’s a business cliche. Anyway, let’s move on to some of the ancillary aspects of your overall performance. We use a number of metrics to evaluate personnel here, and I wanted to talk to both of you about . . .
ROCCO: Here it comes . . .
ME: Climbing on furniture.
ROCCO: Look, I got up on the bar stool last night because that stunod wanted to fight and I was trying to take a nap.
ME: You guys have got to work on your conflict resolution skills.
OKIE: Fine, if you tell that pervert not to sniff my butt every time he walks by.
ME: Roc–I’ve warned you about our Dignity in the Workplace policy.
ROCCO: I know, but I can’t turn to tab 3 in the Employee Handbook.
ME: I’ll make you a copy of the relevant page.
ROCCO: (aside) You can put it in the bottom of my kitty box.
ME: That’s another thing. I want you to treat all members of the family with respect. Have you sent thank-you notes to Aunt Chris?
OKIE: What for? There was no catnip in the gift box she sent this year.
ME: You know how Mom feels about drugs in the house.
ROCCO: Speaking of the gift box–there was something else in there you neglected to mention.
ME: What, those cat treats?
ROCCO: Yeah. If I’m doing so well, how about we add those to the menu in the company cafeteria, instead of that crap you buy at the organic food store.
ME: It’s not organic, it’s just low-cal, so your bellies don’t start dragging the ground like a dachsund’s.
TOGETHER: (chanting) Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party Mix–Friskies Party . . .
ME: All right, I’ll talk to Mom about it.
OKIE: Which means “no.”
ROCCO: Why don’t you man up for a change. We’re direct-reports to you on the org-chart, but you never do squat for us.
OKIE: Yeah–you’re nothing but a lap dog.
ME: All right, cool it. Anyway, we’re almost halfway through the year, so stay on course and I’ll let you tear up some wrapping paper at Christmas.
ME: And what?
OKIE: Can we bat ornaments off the tree?
ME: Absolutely not!
ROCCO: Can we at least climb up and try to get the star?
ME: This meeting is over!
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”