The tin hat parable

ibexWhen I was working for a large American IT company some years back, we got  a new Boss. He was a Texan, newly promoted to come over and “run” Europe. We found out a couple of things very fast:

  1. This guy’s first experience of [or even trip to] Europe was to take this new role on
  2. He wanted to milk the experience, so management meetings were held every month in a different European capital

I write this, not to brag about the “grand tour” [which was epic!] nor to denigrate Texicans, but to discuss the “tin hat” concept. You see the problem with – we shall give him the moniker “Davy” in honour of his state – was culture shock.

This was, to be fair, a bidirectional issue. Davy plainly thought that Europeans were simply Americans with a funny accent. We, on the other hand, were convinced Davy was from an Alien planet. They say the UK & the USA are two countries divided by a common language. Actually the differences go much deeper than how we speak. Attitudes, humour, tact, inter-personal dealings, working with customers and more are massively different. Add the continentals into the mix – who struggle with us Brits – and there was trouble brewing.

After a few months, this was all really getting to me. I did not really mind the boozing my way round Europe. Paris, Prague, Budapest, Munich, Dublin…. and more. We even managed a few global meetings State-side. I got to DC, Baltimore, San Francisco. We even got to Texas – great hospitality there so no complaints on bullet # 2.

I was having a conversation (we’ll call it a whinge) with a good friend who listened to me drone on about my problems with Davy. After a while he offered some sage advice.

He asked me two succinct questions: “Did I want to resign?” Walk away from what was then a 6 digit income. “Could I change Davy?” The answer was an emphatic NO on both counts. We’d had child # 2 at that stage, and Mrs MD was behaving so all was well on the home front. I was absofuckinglutely not rocking this boat – life was mainly very good.

I guess this could be seen as a proto-red pill moment in hindsight. My friend basically told me to put on a metaphorical “tin hat” in reference to WWI trench warfare. To keep in mind my objectives and what I wanted. Let the crap that was raging around me at work bounce off the hat and not get into my head. Some would say I should have walked into Davy’s office and had it out with him, but I judged that too high a risk with somewhat of a low chance of changing the status quo.

Why bring this up? Well, divorce moving forward and play conversation with #1 son. He is versed in the concept of tin hat. He came to talk to me about how unreasonable his mother was being. Making him do this and that, when XBOX was waiting. I guess he was after a miracle cure to his current woes. Our conversation went something like: “Can you change your mother?” No; “Do you want to get into deeper do-do with her?” No. So after a few minutes of whinging he accepted that the best policy remained “tin hat”.

He took it like a man – so hopefully a useful life lesson in making judgements in relationships. Always be clear about what you want (and what you don’t want) and devise a minimum cost strategy of getting it. I thought of a little chart to illustrate the point. What you are prepared to put up with for an easy life:


Basically, with women, I have experienced an increasing amount of bullshit you have to put up with. It’s called “give and take” by some. Life tracks up & down the green line and for each issue at hand, there will be the line across which you will not cross. Some things are small, sometimes larger – the line is drawn for each or for all – whatever you need. The tin hat helps move the line a little more up (from blue to red) , but fundamentally there is a halt called. NO! or DIVORCE!

The tin hat works thus (it is mine with her at the moment). Ignore. The brick wall. Do stuff, but in my own time. Drives her mental. What’s the worst she can do – walk out? Divorce me and take all my money?

Life is about little victories. I savour mine.

[Ed: I figured out how to put images in posts – getting to grips with this wordpress stuff]

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