Down the Exxon Lane -4

When the boss challenged his employee to a duel. Unbelievable but true.

Two unwritten, but universally practiced, office rules are:

Rule №1: The boss is always right

Rule №2: If the boss is wrong, refer to Rule №2.

Hasan Imam Kazmi, then a Senior Sales Officer at Karachi head office, didn’t follow the ‘office rules’. When he disagreed with his boss, instead of referring to Rule №1, he argued with him to prove himself right, often in others' presence. This didn’t go well with the boss who kept a count of Hasan’s transgressions.

Let me briefly explain here the organizational structure of the Marketing Division then.

Tony Ward was Vice President Marketing, a British from Yorkshire, in his late 50s, with grey hair and a mustache — and the proverbial stiff upper lip. Reporting to him were Vick Sheldon (known as Vick) as Marketing Services Manager, and Dick Davis (known as Dick) as Marketing Manager. Both were Americans, in their mid-50s, and both were burly and bald. Vick was bald like a pumpkin — even at the eyebrows, and Dick was partially bald with slight bristles around his head. Other than their similar-sounding first names and their physical similarities, there was nothing common between the two.

Vick was boisterous with a booming voice that could be heard all over the two floors of the office. He was the handshaking, back-slapping kind of American, who would laugh loudly and wouldn’t hesitate to shout at someone when he was unhappy with something. Dick, on the other hand, was a noiseless man with a perpetual cynical smile on his face. When unhappy, he didn’t shout, he hissed. His pursuits of happiness were drinking and hunting.

We don’t know if it was Tony Ward’s British humor or his disapproval of the mannerism and the management style of his two managers, he referred to Vick and Dick as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Dick was Hasan Kazmi’s boss. Their disagreements, I am told, stemmed from the selection of fertilizer dealers in the field. Dick had worked earlier in Pakistan for 3 years, with Esso Eastern, dealing in oil, and took pride in knowing Pakistan better than others. He preferred to appoint fertilizer dealers from amongst the people who were in the Kerosine oil business while Hasan and other salespeople wanted Arhtees, people who dealt in agriculture produce, to be their dealers. Dick Davis looked at the fertilizer business through his “oil filters”. That’s where their disagreements started.

Dick also had a couple of favorite employees, people who shared his pursuits of happiness — especially hunting. Hasan was not into hunting. Hunting of wildlife, that is. Also, Hasan’s ‘transgressions’, of which Dick kept a mental count, were becoming frequent.

One evening, a Marketing employee had a party at his house. Dick and Hasan were there, too. Dick was already boozed up when he arrived and then had a few more. Soon he found Hasan and picked up the thread from an argument they had earlier at the office. The argument soon escalated into a verbal duel.

Charles Darwin was right when he said, “A monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.”

Hasan says he tried to reason with Dick and pacify him as best as he could, but Dick wouldn’t calm down. Instead, he got worked up even more. Pulling Hasan by his hand, he said, “Let’s go out and sort it out there”, and staggered towards the door pulling Hasan behind him. Hasan timidly followed not knowing what to expect or what to do. Other guests, thinking the two just wanted to have a private conversation out in the fresh air, ignored them.

Out on the lawn, Hasan remembers the lawn was wet, Dick kept muttering in anger. Hasan again tried to talk him out of his anger, but Dick seemed like a man possessed. To Hasan’s fright, Dick clenched his fists, assumed a boxer’s stance, and made a wobbly move towards him and tried to punch him in the face. Hasan ducked and avoided the punch, and tried once more to talk Dick out of his rage. He couldn’t afford to get into a boxing fight with Dick, not only because he was Hasan’s boss but also because he was more than twice his size.

Like an angry bull, Dick came at Hasan once again. As a reflex, Hasan tried to push him back, just a slight push to stop him from coming closer. And to Hasan’s surprise, Dick, the Goliath, tumbled to the ground on his back just as a termite-eaten tree falls to the ground with a slight gust of wind.

The fall shook Dick out of his drunken stupor. Hasan helped him get up and even flicked off some of the grass clippings and dry leaves from Dick’s wet shirt. Both walked back quietly into the party, Dick as calm as if he had come out of a yoga session, and Hasan a little shaken. However, no one paid much attention to them, and the party went on.

The next day, Hasan says, he went to the office not knowing what to expect. After a couple of hours, Dick walked into Hasan’s office wearing his cynical smile as always. But, instead of picking up another argument, he was remorseful of what he did the previous night and apologized for it. Hasan readily accepted the apology — he had no choice — and, with his own future career in mind, even sympathized with Dick and enquired if he had hurt himself in the fall.

We don’t know if both lived happily thereafter, but there were no serious arguments between them for as long as Dick stayed in Pakistan, which wasn’t very long.

While Hasan Kazmi went on to become the CEO of Exxon Chemical Pakistan, Dick Davis, the last we heard of him, retired to California and took up panning for gold as a new pursuit.

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