Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
The Resentments Dream
The disjointed catalogue of resentments came back in a dream. They were not invited but the snippets and the stories just showed up, one at a time. Such is the capability of the human brain to record, store, and retrieve memories, including bad ones.
The Footloose Forester was never an extraverted campaigner for his views about policy formulation, coordination, or implementation of projects, partly because he always had to present his lone wolf observations and recorded findings as a solitary individual and to defend what he knew personally as the basis of his stances. Opponents sometimes just nodded in agreement and later ignored those views, or accepted a hand-delivered report and later put it—unread into a drawer, or even suppressed it. Yes, official reports were sometimes shoved into an official’s desk, never to see the light of day in official circles. Some stuff you just can’t make up.
This chronicle is as much about consolidating the field notes of stinging rejections as it is perhaps a cathartic exercise that was prompted by a festering dream. Yes, a dream! But one of those not based on fantasy but based on the mental snippets of how things went down. Yet it points a damning finger not on named individuals but on their stereotypes and coping mechanisms to assuage their own ignorance and sense of self-satisfaction.
The first resentment in the dream was about being told, post-facto, that the Footloose Forester needed to go back to the work site in another state and spend more money and thus enhance his chapter in a report on the presumed costing of construction of a planned major sewerage system. He was advised by his boss to toss in quasi-scientific stuff like plot sampling techniques to arrive at a description of the proposed lines. The resentful answer that the Footloose Forester gave was…the presumed clearing of trees in the path of the planned sewage lines could be costed or estimated by merely adding up the number and size of the trees along the several routes. No sampling was required because every single stem was counted and recorded by size and species. And it was not necessary to go back because the data were complete.
The Footloose Forester was offended when an official from Washington D. C. chose to ignore his official report about the number of afforestation plantings in a project area in Cape Verde. The Footloose Forester had traversed every single planting site and had spoken with every individual involved with the actual planting. The actual number of seedlings planted was about 1/3 of the total reported in the Cape Verdean report, which was accepted as the official version. Why was the report by the only person who traversed all of the sites rejected? It was to appease the bureaucrats and to avoid explaining the discrepancies.
When the Footloose Forester guided a visiting scientist to a forest tree nursery in Haiti, he noted that the visitor declined to accept a copy of the nursery production records that might be useful in his pending report. Where that scientist/consultant report mentioned which species were the most important ones being grown and later outplanted, the Footloose Forester contradicted the findings. Since he had the nursery records in hand, it should have been a matter of merely correcting the rankings. The visiting scientist was resentful that someone had challenged his report, which was not submitted until after he had left Haiti. Thus, the copies in circulation are inaccurate with respect to some important findings.
On the occasion of being one of the first being terminated by a consulting firm, his boss found it hard to believe that the Footloose Forester had been engaged in 24 different projects. To which the Footloose Forester replied, “well, as the Manager of the Division, I would have thought you knew that.” The Manager resented being unaware of the facts. Then the Manager said, “well, people say that you blow the budgets.” Some things you just can’t make up, thus it transpired that Footloose Forester replied, “Of the 24 projects I worked on, as lead or principal investigator, only one was over budget…and that one was assigned to me with a pre-existing budget deficit on the very first day the assignment was handed over.” No bonus points for setting the record straight. That same Division Manager designated the Footloose Forester as “in charge of the office” on only two occasions. The first was when he was already booked to be out the state on an assignment, and was actually about to head for the airport. The second time was when he was booked to fly to Venezuela on another assignment. You just can’t make this stuff up.
A third resentment surfaced in his dream. Some 20 months after he has submitted his assigned chapter on The Terrestrial and Aquatic Resources of the Senegal River Basin, he was mailed his copy of the report, replete with comments of the reviewers in Washington. Only then did the Footloose Forester find out that one of the reviewers criticized him for not including mention of a thorn forest vegetation type on the banks of the Senegal River. Strangely, the first forest parcel inventoried was a thorn forest and its description was identified first among all other parcels described in the report. Needless to say, the Footloose Forester was never offered the opportunity to rebut the criticism. Resentment!
Finally, the last resentment of the dream was about never being evaluated as a staff member and Natural Resources and Policy Advisor at the Regional Economic Development and Services Office in Nairobi, Kenya. As a Personal Services Contractor, that category of government (non-career track) employee normally was not included in annual job-performance reviews. Indeed, there was a reporting document in which Footloose Forester was invited to mention three projects in which he was involved. And dutifully, the Footloose Forester chose three projects to include in that report; but he was not allowed to mention the other 19 projects that he worked on. In case anyone doubts the veracity of that claim, the Footloose Forester maintains his work history as personal files on a compact disc.