Friday, December 28, 2012

The Five Stages of Writing the "Take It or Leave It" Labor Agreement

Comedian Larry Miller once came up with a brilliant bit that described the "five stages of drinking."  Turns out there are five stages to a lot of things, not the least of which is writing the "take it or leave it" proposal for a labor agreement.  Sort of like the "take it or leave it" agreements (note: plural) the NHL has offered up during this God-forsaken lockout. 

Here then, with apologies to Larry Miller, is how those stages unfold...

It's 11:00 on a September weeknight, you've got crumpled paper from labor proposals littering the floor of your office. You get up to leave because you’re sick of this stuff and besides, one of your friends wants to buy you a round. Here at level one you think to yourself, "Oh come on, this is silly, as long as I just pass this off as a ‘take it or leave it’ deal (snap fingers), I'm cool."

It's midnight on a weeknight in October. The other side rejected your deal, and you've just spent 20 minutes putting in a clause proposing realignment. You get up to leave again to meet your friend at the bar, but at level two, a little devil appears on your shoulder. And now you're thinking, "Hey! I'm out with my friends! What am I working for anyway? These are the good times! Besides, as long as I can pass THIS off as a ‘take it or leave it’ deal (snaps fingers), I'm cool."

One in the morning Hallowe’en night…uh, next morning. You've had your friend bring over a case of beer and a gallon of tequila. You've just spent 20 minutes writing a clause AGAINST realignment. And now you're thinking, "Don Fehr is the smartest guy I’ve ever gone up against." At level three, you respect the world. On the way to the bathroom you say hello to the custodian working the night shift because you like his face. You get fantasies. (Like, "Hey fellas, if we do this right, we could crush the union and have labor peace forever. We could do it.") But at level three, that devil is a little bit bigger....and he's not buying your schtick. And you're thinking, "Oh, come on, come on now.  As long as I can convince everyone that THIS is a ‘take it or leave it’ deal… and get more than ten minutes of sleep before we announce it (snaps fingers), I'm cool."

Two o’clock on Thanksgiving morning. And the devil is at the podium.  You hijacked a Budweiser delivery truck. You ARE realigned. This time on your way to the bathroom, you punch the custodian on the night shift ...just because you don't like his face. And now you're thinking, "Don Fehr is the dumbest $@#% I’ve ever sat down with." Your friend won’t come within a city block of you, but you don’t care… you can scare up another Budweiser delivery truck. And here, at level four, you actually think to yourself, "Well ... as long as I can pass this off as a ‘take it or leave it’ deal, I may as well ... STAY UP ALL NIGHT AND REALLY GET SH*T-FACED!!!! Yeah! That'd be good for me. I don't mind going to that press conference looking like Keith Richards. Yeah, I'll turn that around, make it work for me. And besides, as long as I get 31 hours sleep tomorrow"

Five in the morning the day after Christmas. After unsuccessfully trying to get your money back at the tattoo parlor ("But I don't even know anybody named Sidney!!!"), you wind up across the state line in a bar with guys who have been in prison as recently as ... that morning, trying to convince them that the Phoenix Coyotes really CAN make a go of it. It's the kind of place where even the devil is going, "Uh, I gotta turn in. I gotta be in Hell at nine. I've got that brunch with Hitler, I can't miss that." At this point, you're drinking some kind of thick blue liquor, like something from a Klingon wedding. A waitress with fresh stitches comes over, and you think to yourself, "Someday I'm gonna make that girl Commissioner!!" Bill Daly stands up and screams, "WE'RE DRIVIN' TO FLORIDA!!!!!" and passes out. You crawl outside for air, and then you hit the worst part of level five ~~ the sun. You weren't expecting that were you? You never do. You walk out of a bar in daylight, and you see people on their way to work, or jogging. And they look at you, and they know. And they say, "Who's Sidney?"

Let's be honest, if you're new at this job and you stay up all night, it's like a victory, like you've beat the night, but if you've done this lockout thing a few times, then that sun after you’ve spent the night trying to come up with a “take it or leave it” proposal is like God's flashlight. We all say the same prayer then, "I swear, I will never do this again… how long?... as long as I live!" And some of us have that little addition, "......and this time, I mean it!"