Remember when I said that Drs. Cranor and Li didn’t fight? Well, I heard them doing just that today.
I got in a little early and slipped into my old storage closet to check on my ad hoc lightbulb devices, and I heard voices coming through a register I’d always ignored as being too small to crawl through.
I’d always known the closet was close to Dr. Cranor’s office, but I’d never realized it was possible to eavesdrop on her through it because she was almost always alone in there, and not the sort of person to talk to herself.
Today, Dr. Li was in there with her, and it sounded like they were really getting into it with each other. This is about how the conversation went, as far as I remember:
Dr. Li: Now is not the time to get cold feet. We are farther along than any other team in the company.
Dr. Cranor: We’re further along than any surviving team. We can keep our lead without compromising safety.
Dr. Li: Is compromise such a dirty word? All life is compromise. For instance, you compromise the spirit of scientific inquiry with your meek surrender to the god of safety. I don’t propose we abandon all caution. I simply suggest we come to a more balanced understanding of profit and risk.
Dr. Cranor: Nothing is balanced about your understanding.
Dr. Li: More caution would suit you now, Josefina. Remember that your latest breakthrough is a direct result of my breakthrough on your little headcount problem.
Dr. Cranor: So now you’re taking credit for Foley’s work? I had no idea you were so petty.
I kind of jumped at the mention of my name.
Dr. Li: I would hope Harper would give me some credit, if asked, as it was my tutelage that led to it.
Dr. Cranor: Don’t think I haven’t noticed you grooming your little progeny. You’re madder than I thought if you think Foley won’t see right through you.
Dr. Li: My dear, I count on it. What’s the point of taking on an apprentice with a mind as dull as the rest of the sheep you’ve gathered in your flock? Harper was my hire, my acolyte. When the time comes for us to part ways, I expect Harper to stand at my righthand side.
Dr. Cranor: What’s stopping you?
Dr. Li: You know as well as I do that finding the budget for a new project is not the same as finding it for an outside hire. I can perform miracles, but there are limits. For now, being seconded to you is the only way I can perform the work I need to. Harper Foley was the price of my admission into your circle. When I leave, I intend to have my admission refunded.
This isn’t all the exact words, obviously, but I think it’s pretty close. Knowing how Dr. Li talks makes it easier to reconstruct what he said.
I felt awkward standing there listening to the whole thing, but once they started talking about me I couldn’t tear myself away. Arguably the fact that they were discussing my career gave me more right to listen in, but it made it feel like more of an intrusion.
At least now I have more of a clear idea of why Dr. Li thinks I owe him my career here, though not why he’s so interested in me in the first place.
Amazingly, it seems like Dr. Cranor is almost as invested in having me around, even if she’s less creepy about it. In her case, I imagine it has to do with the budget problems that make hiring new personnel so hard. They still haven’t replaced Buddy, for instance, which means that whatever deal Li made to bring me in, they actually broke even on.
At least in terms of headcount. I have to think I’m at least one step up from an even trade with that jerk.