Friday, May 23, 2014

where you go when rowing with one oar

A few months ago my office recreational committee decided to participate in one of the many dragon boat races that have been going on for the past few months. The man in charge of such office endeavors sent out a notice and there were several dozen interested parties, including myself. I was on site at the time of the inaugural meeting so I did not attend, but plans were finalized to create our office's first dragon boat team.

A few days later I was approached by a friend/colleague and asked to speak with the team captain because apparently everyone in the team aside from myself had never done any dragon boat paddling. No worries, I said, a lot of newcomers join every year. I met with the captain and gave him my advice on the basics of paddling as well as administrative considerations. He emailed the man in charge, let's call him Mr. Plan, and copied me on the conversation. Mr. Plan emailed back and explained that he had considered what I said and then....basically, he did almost the opposite of my advice. I suggested that because of how busy architects tend to be he might consider booking one hour practice sessions so Mr. Plan booked for two hour blocks. Since our team had limited funding I suggested not getting certain race packages that included extraneous items so he booked the package that came with t-shirts and bags.

Only five people showed up for the first session. By session four, we had a regular crowd of ten. Once we arranged for our boat to go for an hour and then return to shore to pick up latecomers or drop off people who couldn't stay for the entire two hour session, the number of participants grew to 20 on average. I have yet to see anyone wear the special t-shirts.

Having blown most of the budget on the fancy race package that I recommended against, Mr. Plan was faced with having only HK$5000 left for required, matching race tops. I gave him a list of suppliers and pricing as well as suggested a deadline for ordering the tops. Mr. Plan responded that he had already taken care of the ordering. Five weeks before race day we received an email giving us four choices of some extremely hideous looking, two toned shirts. The only customization option was to add text to the shirts. Whatever. We voted for the white top with pink sleeves and weird striping down the side.

Two weeks before the race, Mr. Plan sent us an email stating that the shirts could not be made in such short notice (it was our fault, apparently, for taking two days to vote on the color and text) so he was sending his assistant out to purchase fabric paint, which we would use to paint the dragon boat team lettering onto some extra company t-shirts. This was not an acceptable option and I quickly phoned my list of suppliers and found two who would rush our order for under $5000. The team rejoiced and we told Mr. Plan of our plan. But Mr. Plan had already committed to buying the paint, or something like that, and therefore we were locked in to his plan. Because cotton t-shirts are the way to go when you are planning to get soaked competing in a boat race. And nothing says world class design firm like hand painted lettering on the back of your droopy, soaking t-shirt.

And being the aforementioned very busy designers, none of us had any damn time to paint the shirts during office hours so Mr. Plan and his minion assistant had to do all twenty of them, which they complained about mightily.

So the moral of the story is why bother with advice and suggestions from those with experience when you can re-invent the wheel all by yourself.

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