The Festival of Fluff…

Port Douglas, Queensland

I knew that the modern corporation got its pound of flesh, and that the successful corporate high flyer could effectively build at least two weeks additional annual leave in per year through a variety of acceptable workplace activities. The approved list of goofing off included such noble pursuits as conference attendance and ‘best practice’ study tours.  It really is amazing how little we know of business practices given the amount of time invested in pubs and restaurants under the mantle of fact-finding.

I was all over it, and following the stress of the restructure, I organized attendance at a conference incomprehensibly titled SAG-Trends for your Business. SAG or Safety and Governance, was to be held at the prestigious Sands Casino at Port Douglas. Planning ahead I had taken the time to convince my boss that I would like to expand my role with greater accountability in Safety and Governance.  In a piece of perfect timing, I ensured the conference brochure appeared near the top of my boss’s In-tray.  When the sticky note appeared with conference brochure in my in box it read, ‘Max could be a good investment with recent accountabilities’. I was already buying the 30 Plus sunscreen!

I knew it had been a tough year on Elisa and as a way of saying thanks I had planned to fly her up for the conference the weekend after.  I could pick out a couple of conference sessions of interest and otherwise spend some quality time with my adorable wife.  What a plan, and it only got better, as the week after, I was attending KLAW.  Yes that’s right, the global program for Klink Leaders and Winners, which was unfortunately being held at the International Conference Centre, Port Douglas!  An amazing coincidence I must say.

Airport bound, bags packed and the beautiful Elisa smiling away in the passenger seat. A Buzz on the mobile and I was taking a call from the National Risk and Safety Leader, the eager Grant Eaver.  Grant was the archetypal functional nerd.  Grant loved his work, he was passionate about risk management and safety, and for that reason people at Klink knew they had a good security blanket.  The truth was that Grant was a complete pain in the ass.  A narrow thinking functionary who struggled to read the play. Grant was a political blunderer of the highest order.  Grant was only ever going to be a good soldier, one that I thought would one day end up as organizational cannon fodder. As I took the call he chuckled to himself thinking of Grant’s nick name of Beaver.  In an unfortunate error of printing, Grant’s name appeared in the Annual Report as B. Eaver.  The name stuck….

‘Hi Max…its Grant.’

‘G’day Grant, how can I help’?

‘Just checking what flight you are on.’

‘Why?’

‘I decided at the last-minute to join you at the SAG conference, I think we can really spend some time learning from best practice and work on our Operations SAG plan while we have the time together’

‘Great.’

‘What flight again?’

‘Two o’clock.’

‘OK, see you in the lounge.’

In an instant, I looked at Elisa and noted her concern and loving disdain. ‘Max, what was that about?’

‘Minor problem, nothing we can’t work around.’

As I received some sharp words followed by some sharper silence, my mind was racing.  What I had set up for months as some corporate work-life relationship balance time, now looked like a disaster.  Grant was a stickler for the rules; he would not stand for me flunking off at the conference with my wife, particularly when he wanted to spend spare time with me working up SAG plans! I went into negotiation mode with Elisa, thinking this could still work.  I knew how to handle Grant, so long as Elisa did not blow her cover. By the time we arrived at the airport, and at the cost of having to do the grocery shopping for two months, I struck a deal with Elisa. It was simple really; Elisa and I would (by amazing coincidence) bump in to each other at the airport, and as long-lost cousins, would have dinner tonight to catch up on old family news.  After a mandatory morning at the conference, I would come down with a 48 hour gastro bug giving good reason to be AWOL.  Brilliant and a bit of fun as well!

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