Working for a big urban muni in the Deep South with monthly floods and a constantly changing command structure had a negative effect on my health. While the chain of command at a high dollar private course can often be a pressurized environment, the sudden and bizarre reversals of policy on the municipal facility I inhabited regularly produced staff meetings worthy of a Polanski film.
At one point, I was stripped of my authority to issue cart path only edicts, as that power belonged in the hands of the pro, someone who understood “revenue”. It didn’t last long, however, due to lots of photographic documentation of his decisions. There were other blood pressure spikes. Like when I scrimped to save $50k in my budget and it was given to Recreation for referee uniforms. Referees! Or when personnel admin types took over employee selection and sent me potential Manson family members, or when the purchasing department substituted pitchforks for bunker rakes. (Better price.)
My own personal turning point arrived in 1992. I had been summoned to a gathering of non-elected bureaucratic “experts” to help solve a problem with our two munis: Consistently poor greens. (By poor, they meant “dead” for long periods.) This was due to pushup greens on red clay with no drainage--surface or otherwise--heavy play, fairway bermuda coerced into putting surface duty and enough trees to shoot a Tarzan movie.
. . . we shall only rebuild one green per year
As a political imbecile, I stupidly suggested my standard fix: Buy some chainsaws and do a quick greens rebuild, adding that I had performed this miracle on my last three courses. The various and sundry desk pilots and bean counters snorted at me, while chanting magic budget incantations. Then the great and powerful golf pro mounted his throne and said, “Yes, we must rebuild the greens to bentgrass, as the poor simpleton alludes to, but we shall only rebuild one green per year to avoid loss of revenue.” (Bureaucrats enjoy striking fear in one another with that ‘loss of revenue’ phrase.)
I protested, on the grounds that it would take 18 years to convert to modern, competitive putting surfaces. Some of the bureaucrats sided with the golf pro, because, well, “he’s a golf professional, he understands these things”. A few in the meeting—those with actual job experience—sided with me and this triggered an outburst somewhat akin to a bunch of primates in the upper levels of triple canopy jungle engaged in a territorial dispute. There was lots of shrieking and howling and pounding of chests and the flinging of objectionable materials, very much like the last two elections.
I will reluctantly admit to being one of the more enthusiastic participants, going full-on howler monkey. (Never drink a double-shot espresso prior to a meeting.)
That night, I experienced some sort of irregular fibrillation, where my heart would stop for what seemed like several seconds. This event tends to wake you up, kind of like a zombie reaching up out of the grave, with all of the grunts, gasps and wide-eyed facial contortions one would expect. I soon found myself hooked up to an EKG, an ultrasound and some device called a Holter that I had to wear for 24 hours. Then I met with three cardiologists. The first two were more interested in golf than my heart and after another howler monkey outburst, I was handed over to a heart specialist from Belgium.
She was very tuned in to my situation—because she actually listened to my answers—and quickly determined that job stress was my problem. I had triggered this malady by severely cutting back on my formerly neurotic exercise routine, in a failed attempt to be more responsible. I thought I could be more grownup and maybe even a better golf course fixer. She further explained that with our very recent birth of a child and the resultant increase in stress associated with no sleep, an angry wife and worries about the future, I was a borderline raging stress maniac about to burst.
Keep doing what you're doing now and you'll be dead . . .
I was given a prescription that said get my lazy butt back on the bike and ride hard until the stress has been vaporized. I was confused. “But Doc, I gave up Walter Mitty training to be career responsible! What about my fibberlatin’ and my atrials and such? How long will I have to train like this?”
She answered in that superior Euro accent, “Until they find you dead on the side of the road . . . which will be a long time from now, unless you keep stressing at work. Keep doing what you’re doing now and you’ll be dead before your son enters elementary school.”
I reveal this deeply personal story in order to help those of you entangled in job and family stress. Over the next few weeks, I will tell you the secrets of fitness and health I accumulated down through the years. Although I’m not a formally trained expert, I am still here.
A couple of short films on the topic are on the way, so stay tuned to Here At The Rock.