by J. Jules Vitali

...I'll betcha anything that Dilbert has already dispelled the truth about the nature of ''Teams'', but more has to be said. I am only a full time sculptor. And only in the sense that I say I am. I am not independently wealthy. I don't profess to have a great deal of income. I am at the point where I am looking for a job that will feed and house my family until such time as my art will make me millions. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I am feeling the pangs of hunger as I type. I would say I am in a place that has got to be the perfect balance between artist and entrepreneur (however you spell it). I have to come up with something.

A few weeks back I am invited on an interview for a modest position in an establishment where perhaps slightly less than a dozen people were employed. The owner is so kind as to invite me for coffee and pastry at a quaint off-the-wall semi-upscale place next to his own establishment. ''This is nice'', I think to myself, ''maybe this is my first perk''. I'm not hard to please. We chat a tad about the job in question. Things seem to be going well between us. I could do the tasks he is inquiring about with my hands tied behind my back. I like to work alone know, no breaks at set times, pass on lunch most of the my job without stopping for ridiculous, meaningless meetings that wouldn't involve me anyhow, so I half jokingly ask him if he is going to pull this ''Team-member'' crap on me or which he replies, ''enjoy your coffee and pastry'' and leaves the establishment. Yikes, who would have ever known, I mean, he looked normal. He probably didn't even know about the Team concept till a few years ago...because it didn't exist in todays form. Was I crestfallen and hurt? Not likely. I thanked the Gods for sparing me from his oppressive form of control guised under the Team concept.

For most of my worklife at Polaroid (another great success story!) I was part of a Team, only it wasn't called a Team. It was just a small ''group''. Just a bunch of regular normal people who helped each other and tried to make each endeavor a success. No daily pep talks. No putting of the hands into the invisible circle of bondhood and yelling something like, ''Gazpacho!'' No back pats. No high fives. No tee-shirts with forgettable slogans. We shared the glories and the failures equally. Nobody ever said to one of the others in the group that they should do something for the good of the group. It was different somehow. We just did our jobs.

By the time I left that corporation, things had changed greatly. One major change is that they had started to strongly embrace this Team concept. It was about this time that they also commenced to change their long recognized humanitarian type employee benefits and layoff procedures. I think it was probably some sort of a Team that help make these new policy decisions...a Team that has also long since been individually discharged from the companies employ. I also noticed that as more and more of the worker bees were being discharged and sales were dropping through the floor there seemed to be some greater need for for more annual bonus collecting directors and vice-presidents as determined by the Team consisting solely of the CEO. The little people were getting very sad, and the senior level people were getting very fat, but the Team concept did survive and stay in place as near as I can see. There doesn't seem to be a lot of sincere spirit behind it...but, if they say the team spirit exists, I guess it does.

I lost my belief in the concept of ''Team'' a number of years ago upon a visit to Disneyworld. After my third daily trek to the Magic Kingdom I was getting numbed by the relentless drivel being pumped out of the monorail PA system about the wonderful future world Walt Disney had was depressing was sounding more and more like an Orwellian nightmare. One of the employees had confided to me that the staff was nowhere as rosy as they was all an act...they were part of a cast (spelled caste???). It was a show. We were being drugged by their faux ''happy go lucky have a great time and don't ever cry, at least here at Disneyworld'', attitudes. Wooed into a false sense of security. After a while I had a hard time feigning happiness which was my part in this big ''Team'' joie de vie we were all supposed to be wrapped up in. I had to get out. I went to Busch Gardens where there is nothing but wild rides that make you puke and employees that pretty much stay out of sight. My kind of place.

Another strange karma provoking irony that has taken place in my life that seems to tie alot of these incidents together was perpetuated by a Team led by Roy Disney(Walt's nephew) who spearheaded a brutal, but unsuccessful hostile takeover attempt on Polaroid back about a dozen years or so. Polaroid saved itself by forcing the employees to buy stock in the corporation as a Team effort...stock they were allowed to technically own but not to sell. That's nice. By the time I had retired, mine was worth almost a buck fifty per share. I paid about $32 or $36 a share. In hindsight, I can see I would have been much better off with the hostile Team Roy offer. I see on the Yahoo website this morning that the stock is at eight and a half cents...well almost eight and a half cents. I can't get the stock quote out of the paper because my corporation, she has been booted out of the New York Stock Exchange listings for lack of performance.

So...I guess I'll have to pull things together and get on the stick. I have to go to the unemployment office today and look for honest work...(oops, the Team down there calls it the ''Professional Service Center'', not the unemployment office). What I don't want is to get involved with a company anything like the awful balck arts, wool over the eyes kind of places mentioned herein. I don't want to become part of Team that will aid and abet in tearing down the basic structure of the humanity forged by our forefathers. This is what Teams do...they become harbingers...they are warning signs. If your employed in a place that uses this word, well, you know. If you currently not a member of one and are invited to join...resist! Think for yourself. Strive to maintain your uniqueness.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online February 13, 2002

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