by James Beattie Morison
© 2011 James Beattie Morison
Arthur looked forward to a quiet vacation with his wife, then a rush job landed on his desk. He worried that he might have to cancel his vacation, but more serious threats loomed in his future.
I made a video based on this story. You can watch it at The Barrier
Arthur Macdonald chuckled as Jennifer Smith shook her head.
Arthur smiled and said, “Well, I thought about it.”
Jennifer shook her head. “You’ll get yourself into trouble one of these days.”
Arthur turned when he heard a knock from the door to his office. Ling Po came into Arthur’s office. “Good morning.” She smiled at Jennifer and then looked at Arthur. “Sorry to interrupt you, but we have a rush job. Do you have a moment?”
Jennifer moved toward the door, but Ling put her hand up to indicate she could stay.
“Campbell came in with an application for a development in Glencoe. It needs to be approved by city council before their summer break.”
“That only gives us a couple of weeks, and I go on vacation Friday.”
Ling adjusted her glasses. “I’m really sorry Arthur, but if we can’t get it through all the hoops by then we can’t let you go.”
“But I have the tickets booked . . .” Arthur paused. “On the other hand, maybe we can get it done this week.”
Ling managed a smile. “I hope so. We set up the pre-meeting for two. Is that OK?”
“Good luck.” Ling started out the door. “Take care.”
Arthur turned back to Jennifer. “It shouldn’t be too bad.”
“Have you ever dealt with Campbell before?”
“No. There’re no different than any other developer, aren’t they?”
Jennifer was quiet for a moment. “I don’t want to poison the well.” She paused. “It is just that I had a run in with them shortly after I started. It almost cost me my job. I wouldn’t trust them.”
Arthur said, “I hope you are wrong about that.”
Arthur swept his eyes around the cafeteria. He spotted Dennis Kennedy and walked over. “Mind if I join you?”
“Yes . . . I mean no . . . have a seat.”
“Thanks.” Arthur paused. “What are you up to?”
Dennis shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “OK, I guess. This macro has been one struggle after another.”
“Is that the same one as last week?”
“I got that one done. That was a kind of experiment. It is a simplified version of the model. Lets you run several tests in a matter of minutes.”
“That could be just what we need.”
“I’ve got a rush job. Can you do a few runs for me today? I’ve got a 2 o’clock.”
“Gee, I’m not so sure. I have that macro to do.”
“Don’t worry. Ling said this is top priority. The macro can wait.”
Dennis looked disappointed. “I guess so. What do you need?”
Arthur opened up the folder he brought with him and showed Dennis the map. “It’s a mixed use development in Glencoe.” Arthur pointed to the map. “There, on the south west corner of North Point Road and Oakenwald Parkway.”
Dennis studied the map. “What have you got on the development?”
Arthur gave Dennis some more papers from the folder. “Not much, but I only need a preliminary analysis.” As Dennis flipped through the pages, Arthur continued. “I’d like some idea how big the study area needs to be. We want to keep it small, but we need to address all the issues.” Arthur leaned forward. “If you can get me volume change plots, I would be happy.”
“What else would you suggest?”
“There are some new roads planned nearby. Are they in or out?”
“Can you try it both ways?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Dennis’ desk was piled high with papers and old pizza boxes. His head was bent over his computer.
“What have you got?”
Dennis jumped a foot in the air.
Arthur said, “Sorry.”
“That’s OK.” Dennis opened some plots on his computer screen. “I should warn you that these results are based on a lot of assumptions. If any of them is wrong, the whole analysis is wrong.”
“We’ll get more information before we’re through. What does it say?”
“The Urquhart Highway Bridge made the biggest difference.” Dennis pointed to the screen. “You can see that here. If the bridge isn’t there, traffic is a real mess. See all the red?”
“Then, when I put the bridge in, all of the problems go away.”
“That surprises me; I wouldn’t have thought it would make such a big difference. Are you sure?”
“People don’t always do what the model says they will.” When he noticed the sceptical look on Arthur’s face, Dennis continued his explanation. “Even if half the people go elsewhere, that would still mean the bridge is key if we want the development to work.”
Arthur nodded. “It isn’t quite what I envisaged.” He paused. “I’ll ask them to assume the bridge is out.” Arthur smiled at Dennis. “Thanks, you’ve been a big help.”
Dennis turned back to his computer.
“We better get on our way; the meeting starts in 7 minutes.” When Dennis didn’t move from his computer Arthur asked, “Aren’t you coming?”
“You want me there?”
“Oh, um, I’m not so sure.
“You could be a big help.” Arthur smiled and said, “Don’t worry; your computer will still be here when you get back.”
Dennis sat in his chair for a moment, got up and took a couple of steps. He stopped, returned to his desk, grabbed his laptop and followed Arthur out the door
Vince Campbell was huge. He sneered as he looked around the meeting room. “Come on, let’s get on with it.”
Arthur glanced at Dennis, turned to Bruce Nelson, Campbell’s consultant, and said, “Well, we’ve had a –“.
“I don’t have all day you know,” Campbell looked at his watch. “The mayor’s reception starts in a half hour.”
Arthur started again, “Yes, we can move on – .”
Campbell laughed. “I remember what I said to Emily the night she became mayor.” He smiled. “I said, ‘I hope that you wouldn’t let petty bureaucrats waste my time.’ ” Campbell paused. “She said ‘call me anytime’.”
Arthur said, “Dennis found that with the Urquhart Highway Bridge in, there isn’t much trouble.”
“Good, then it’s all settled then.” Campbell smiled.
“That isn’t what I meant. It’s unlikely that the bridge will be built until after your development goes in. It might never be built.” Arthur paused as he watched Campbell’s face turn red. “We want you to do the traffic impact study with the bridge out.”
Bruce said, “Howard Avenue isn’t in your model. That would change the result.”
Dennis replied, “I can do a quick run and see what difference it makes.”
While Dennis worked on his laptop, Campbell turned to Arthur. “Don’t waste my time. I demand you approve the development as is.”
Arthur said, “We don’t want city taxpayers stuck with the bill.”
Campbell jumped forward. “That isn’t my problem is it? I’m sure when I talk to Emily she’ll agree that the City doesn’t need to worry about taxpayers.”
“Here it is.” Dennis turned the computer screen around.
Bruce looked at the plots. “Yeah I see. We’ll do the study.”
Campbell glared at Bruce.
Over My Head
Dennis had a big grin on his face as he walked into Arthur’s office. “Bruce has the background volumes.”
“That was quick. Good thing; we only have three more days.”
“I found some tricks to save time. Normally we need to do a lot of manual adjustment, but I came up with a macro that automated most of that.”
“Is it as reliable?”
“I double checked it over before I passed it along.”
Arthur chuckled. “You can go back to your macros now.”
Dennis started to leave, hesitated and turned back to Arthur. “After the meeting yesterday, I talked to some people about Campbell. I heard some pretty wild stuff.”
“People always talk. He’s no worse than a lot of other developers. They’re not evil people. They just want to make money, that’s all. As long as society benefits, that isn’t a problem. Our job is to see to it that society benefits.”
“But, I hear he can play some dirty tricks to get his way.”
“That’s just negotiation. You know, the back and forth.”
“Okay.” Dennis still looked unconvinced as he left.
Arthur turned back to his desk. The phone rang and he picked it up. “Arthur Macdonald, can I help you?”
Over the phone he heard the distinct voice of Vince Campbell. “It’s me that can help you.”
“I talked to your boss, Ms. Po, and we agreed that that study really wasn’t needed. All you need to do now is sign off and I can go ahead.
Arthur was surprised and he said, “That doesn’t sound right to me.”
“Are you calling me a liar,” said Campbell. Arthur held the phone away from his ear. Campbell continued, “Just get that form signed by the end of the day.” Arthur heard a loud click and the line was dead.
The Boss’s Office
Arthur knocked on Ling Po’s office door. She said, “What can I help you with?”
“Campbell called me just now. He said you agreed to forgo the impact study.”
“That isn’t what I said.”
“So, the study still goes?”
“Do you think we need it?”
“Of course. I want this over with as much as he does, but this could be a real problem.”
“OK then, tell him he has to do it.”
Arthur smiled. “You had better do it. I don’t think he’ll accept it from me.”
Ling nodded. “Now, how do we phrase it? He won’t be happy.”
“Is he ever happy?”
“With a guy like him it is best to come right to the point and don’t take any back talk. What do you think?”
“I think a gentler approach is needed with Campbell. He does know the mayor.”
“Not as well as he would have you think.” Ling thought for a moment. “Thanks for your suggestion; however, I think the direct approach is the way to go.”
Ling switched on the speaker phone and keyed in Campbell’s number.
“Good afternoon Mr. Campbell, I hope you are well.” Campbell grunted. Ling continued, “I talked to Arthur about our conversation this morning. We agreed that we do need that study.”
“That isn’t what you promised this morning! Macdonald told me that he didn’t need the study.”
Ling raised her eyebrow at Arthur, who shook his head. “I’m sorry Mr. Campbell, but I make the decisions here. Do that study, or drop the project.”
“You’re not the boss down there. I’ll talk to Emily and she’ll put you in your place.” Campbell slammed the phone down.
“Do you think he will talk to the mayor?”
“Maybe. Sometimes we say no just so the politicians can say yes. I doubt the mayor will back him on this one though.”
The Study is Back On
As the phone rang on the other end, Arthur tidied up his desk and got a pad of paper ready. He heard the other end picked up. “Bruce, Arthur, got a couple minutes?”
“Sure, what’s up? I hear we don’t have to do a study for the Glencoe project.”
“That’s what I wanted to tell you. The study is back on.”
“Ling told Campbell it is needed. I was there when she did.”
‘What about the mayor?”
“She hasn’t said a word yet. I just want to make sure you get to work on it.”
“I wouldn’t crow too soon, Campbell has real clout.”
Arthur frowned. “If the mayor decides otherwise, I’ll let you know.”
Bruce was quiet for a short time then said, “I can’t really go ahead with any work if the client hasn’t authorised it.”
“I want this project out of the way as fast as we can get it done. Can’t you at least get set to go quickly if Campbell can’t pull strings?”
“I need to be careful here Arthur. I have to do what my client wants.”
“Be reasonable Bruce. Don’t play games with me.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t just go and ‘do it’, like that. I’ll do what I can, but my client comes first.”
Arthur flopped back in his seat and looked at the ceiling.
“Wait a second,” Bruce said. A few seconds later he was back. “Just got an e-mail from Campbell. He isn’t very happy. I’m not too sure what he wants me to do.”
“If he isn’t happy, then it’s likely the mayor told him where to get off.”
Bruce said, “Down at the bottom he says to go ahead. Hm. He wants it yesterday.”
“Good, I’ll expect it then.”
T. I. A.
Arthur glanced up from Bruce’s report at Dennis. Arthur looked back at the traffic impact analysis report and the notes he made in the margins.
“I don’t see any problems with this report. He’s identified several improvements. I expect they’ll argue that the City should pay. What did you find?”
Dennis didn’t look up as he continued to work away on his laptop. “I’m almost done. Just give me a minute.”
Arthur took the time to stand up and walk around. He stopped by the window and looked off in the distance. He let out a sigh and let his shoulders relax.
“Done!” Dennis sounded unusually forceful.
Arthur sat down. “Any problems?”
“I guess so. They’ve made some pretty extreme assumptions on generation and modal split.”
“Is it that bad?”
“This is fraud. They need to be reported.”
“Before we do talk to them we had better be sure we got it right.”
Dennis brought up a table on the laptop and turned it around to show Arthur. “This table compares their assumptions with the results of the last travel survey.”
“That looks solid” Arthur looked at Dennis. “We can’t accuse them of fraud though. We want to get a quick agreement on this.”
“So you can go on vacation?”
Dennis continued, “They need to be put in their place.”
“I don’t disagree with you; on the other hand, we still want to avoid an out right confrontation. Just give it a shot.”
Dennis still looked angry, but he nodded agreement.
“Good. We’ll set up a meeting, show them the table and ask for changes. They don’t have that information.”
“They should. We put it all on our website.”
“That makes it a little harder.” Arthur thought for a moment. “We’ll just pretend they didn’t have access.”
Maybe You Should Ask People
Bruce Nelson looked down at the table top. He did a little doodle on his pad. Vince Campbell worked on his Smartphone. He did not look happy.
Arthur came into the room, followed closely by Dennis. Arthur said, “You guys are early.” Dennis found a seat as far away from Campbell as he could.
Campbell raised his head to glare at Arthur. “Let’s get on with it.” His eyes returned to his Smartphone.
Arthur said, “We need you to make some changes to your study.” Campbell raised his head and his face began to redden. Arthur continued, “Some of your assumptions for generation and modal split are a little optimistic. The results from our travel survey will help you.”
Dennis passed out some tables. Bruce quickly read over the tables and said, “This would have been more useful if we got it earlier.”
Campbell grabbed the sheets from Bruce and shook them at Arthur. “How do you know that this is what people actually do?”
Dennis said, “We did a travel survey.”
Campbell glared at Dennis. “Well maybe you should ask people what they do.”
“Uh, we did, that’s what you do in a survey.”
Campbell turned back to Arthur and continued, “I can go over your head you know.”
“That is your prerogative. I’m still obliged to ask you to redo the study.”
Campbell stood up and stomped out of the room. He kicked the door as he left. Arthur looked at Bruce, who said, “I’ll have the new study for you by tomorrow morning.” Then he followed Campbell out the door.
Dennis sounded shaky when he said, “Will this get us in trouble?”
“No,” Arthur paused before he continued, ‘At least I hope not.”
Arthur sat in his chair and stared at the computer screen. He had no idea what was on the screen. He hadn’t really looked at it yet. Finally, he roused him self and cast his eyes around the room. He stopped at the degrees on his wall. He heard a knock and turned to see Ling Po walk in. She didn’t look happy.
“Good afternoon.” Ling stopped to take off her glasses. She carefully cleaned them and put them back on before she continued. “I just had a chat with the director. He had a long call from Campbell.” Arthur nodded and looked down. “He backed you up on it.” Arthur gave a brief smile. Ling continued, “I think we were pretty lucky this time.”
Ling took a breath. “Please be careful when you admit guilt. It was their fault, not yours, but now the director can’t be sure.”
“I thought it would make it easier for them to back down.”
“You needn’t be so nice to them.” As she walked out of the office Ling said, “Take care.”
The phone rang.
“Bruce, what’s up?”
Bruce coughed. “We have some major questions about your model, the parameters, land use assumptions and the assignment algorithm. We want it checked nine ways to Sunday.”
“We’ll never make our schedule if we get into that.”
“You can always accept our original report.”
“I see.” Arthur shifted in his chair. “Well, don’t spend too much on that option, we won’t back down.”
Bruce sighed, “It’s your decision. I’ll have an e-mail with our questions off to you in a few minutes.” Bruce hung up.
Arthur slumped in his chair and yawned. He looked at the time, got up and left the office.
The Weakest Link
“We have a problem.”
Dennis jumped as Arthur walked in. He turned to Arthur and asked, “What kind of problem?”
“Campbell wants to question the model now.”
The computer beeped. Arthur pointed to it and said, “That could be their e-mail now.”
Dennis spun around and opened up the e-mail from Bruce. He read it slowly. “This is nonsense. He hasn’t got any real questions here, just a list of parameters.” Dennis seethed with anger as he pointed to one line in the e-mail. “Take this for example. He just says alpha. What alpha? We don’t have any alpha in the model.”
“We can’t -.”
Dennis interrupted him. “Why pick on us? We don’t deserve this, this . . .” Dennis stopped to catch his breath.
Arthur tried to keep his voice calm. “Don’t take it personally. It’s just business. A negotiation tactic.”
“But why the model?”
“It’s the weakest link. You know that.”
Dennis nodded and started to calm down. “It’s still not fair.”
“No it’s not, but we have to deal with it now.”
Dennis sighed. “I know.”
“Come on, we need to reply to them. Put the ball back in their court as quick as we can.”
“OK.” Dennis turned back to the e-mail. “Aren’t they the one’s who are all fired up to get this done quickly?”
“Me too. I have my own dead line. Actually we both have a deadline. They want to put pressure on us. If this goes badly, we’ll be in trouble.”
Dennis groaned. “I want to get back to my macros.”
“You will, but this comes first. We need a tactic that puts the pressure on them.” Arthur thought for a moment. “Can you do some sensitivity analysis?”
“If we can show that the problems they raised don’t change the outcome, they haven’t got a leg to stand on.” Arthur paused. “We’ll need some charts so we can explain it to the politicians.”
“I find it hard enough to explain it to other transportation planners.”
“We just need to make them realize it isn’t the easy out they hoped for. The more confident we look, the more likely they’ll back off.”
“I hope you’ll take care of the confidence part.”
Arthur pointed to the e-mail. “Can you put together some runs to address their questions?”
Dennis ran his finger down the screen. “These first two are pretty easy. The last two aren’t bad either. It’s this one in the middle that could take some time. Maybe not even this week.”
“That could be a problem.” Arthur drew a deep breath as he gazed at the e-mail. “OK then. Do the four easy ones and send them off to Bruce. Leave the hard one until after. If they back down, we may not need it.”
Arthur didn’t like the look of the frown on Dennis’ face as he came into his office. “You don’t look very happy. A problem with the model runs?”
“Let’s start with the good news.” Dennis smiled a little as he placed his lap top on Arthur’s desk and turned the screen so Arthur could see it. “I got all of the easy ones done.” He pointed to some charts. “As you can see, there is some variation, but I don’t think any of the problems are big enough to worry about.
“Good. Did you send them to Bruce yet?”
“They’re ready to go, but I wanted to talk it over with you first.
“It looks good to me.” Arthur allowed himself a smile. Dennis remained silent and Arthur’s smile faded. “You said good news. Does that mean there is some bad news?”
Dennis nodded. “Well partly good, and partly bad.” Dennis stopped until Arthur motioned for him to continue. “I found a way to do the hard test much faster. I got it done.”
“That’s good, and . . .”
Dennis sighed and said, “That’s the bad part. When we vary the distribution parameter, it makes a huge difference. All the traffic flow in the area changes.” Dennis brought up a new file on the screen and pointed at a table. “If we move it up performance improves quite a lot. If we move it down, then it gets much worse.”
Arthur leaned over and looked at the screen carefully. He shook his head. “They’ll really go after us on this.” Arthur leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. “We need a good response to this.”
“I’m not so sure there is a way out.”
Arthur checked the time on his Smartphone. “It’s almost time to go home. Let’s sleep on it.”
A New Dawn
Arthur burst into Dennis’ office with a big smile on his face. “I’ve got it, I’ve got it.” Arthur plopped into a chair and said, “I was in my shower this morning and it all became clear to me.” Arthur grabbed a sheet of paper and started to sketch on it. “Our problem is that we want to allow them to push the assumptions as far as they want, without any real change in the out come.” Arthur looked up at Dennis and said, “Right?”
“I guess so.”
Arthur sketched a few more lines on the paper and showed it to Dennis. “Here, if we remove this facility, then it would put us back where we want to be. I didn’t think it mattered until now.
Dennis took the paper and studied it closely. He turned to his computer, entered some changes to the model and started a run. “Let’s see if it works.” A few seconds later the computer beeped and he opened up the results screen. “It helps, but it doesn’t solve our problem.”
Arthur looked like a lost cat in a rainstorm. Dennis stared at the screen as he thought. “Maybe . . . no that won’t work.
“Don’t be too quick to dismiss your ideas. It could spark a better idea.”
Dennis’ eyes sparkled. “After we talked yesterday I realized that it would help if we accepted their suggestion on the truck generation rate, but not enough to get where we want to be.” Dennis opened up the model on the computer again. “I was about to suggest that, but since it wouldn’t solve the problem, I decided not to bother.” He turned to Arthur. “But, what if we do them both?
Dennis made the changes and reran the model. His face fell when he saw the results. “Not quite.”
Arthur looked at the screen. “It’s almost there. If we can find another adjustment we’ll be home free.” He pulled on his lips and rocked back and forth. “Can we change that by-pass parameter a little?”
Dennis set up another model run. “It may be hard to justify. Let’s see if it helps first.” They watched anxiously until the results popped up on the screen. Dennis smiled broadly. Arthur gave him the thumbs up sign.
“I’ll set up another meeting. I have some ideas to justify what we did.”
Fine with Me
Dennis resisted the urge to drum his fingers on the table. Beside him sat Arthur, who looked down at his Smartphone as he scrolled through his e-mail. Across the table Bruce reviewed the papers Dennis gave him.
Bruce looked up after he’d read the papers, and then turned to look out the door. Campbell was nowhere to be seen. After he turned back to Arthur and Dennis, he said, “I’m not sure when he’ll be here.” He fiddled with the papers. “I can’t really make an agreement until he gets here.”
“Of course, I understand. On the other hand, we might save time if we review the technical details.”
Bruce took a deep breath and then started. “This won’t change the results of the second study, so that isn’t an issue. Campbell won’t be very happy.” Bruce paused before he continued. “Some of your new assumptions seem a bit extreme.”
Arthur smiled. “People who live in glass houses . . .”
Bruce smiled ruefully. He was about to speak again when Campbell came in the door. Campbell nodded curtly at everyone in the room.
“This is totally unacceptable. You better stop playing games with me. I don’t get mad, I get even.” Campbell laughed at his own witticism.
Arthur said, “There is no change in our position, plus I think the roadway improvements we’ve identified are reasonable, given the size of your project.”
“You do, do you?” Campbell looked as if he might dive across the table at Arthur. “Well, it doesn’t really matter what you think. You don’t make the final decision.”
“No, I don’t –”.
Campbell leaned back and puffed up his chest. “I’ll go directly to council, and that’ll put you in your place.”
Arthur aimed a cold stare at Campbell, and then said, “Fine with me.”
Reprimand and Warning
With the door closed, Ling’s office was very quiet. Ling’s face was grim. Arthur waited for her to start. Ling hesitated momentarily. “Council doesn’t like it when projects land on their desks full of loose ends. They won’t be very happy with this mess.” Ling watched Arthur, but he kept his mouth shut. She continued, “I’m not very happy.”
“Sorry won’t cut it.”
Arthur cleared his throat before he answered. “If it helps any, Bruce called to say that Campbell seems ready to agree to our requests.”
“Good, that will help. But if he doesn’t come through, you could be in real trouble,” she paused, “and I can’t protect you.”
Ling added, “I’ve had to pull Dennis onto another project.”
“Can he come to the council session? I might need his help.”
Ling shook her head.
Chance Encounter in the Corridor
Arthur waited in the door way of an empty office and watched down the corridor. He checked the time on his Smartphone. Dennis came out of his office and started to walk away down the corridor.
Dennis turned back to see Arthur. Arthur looked very happy as he walked up to him.
“I’m glad I happened to run into you like this. How’s the macro?”
“Um, OK, I guess. Not much of a challenge, but has an interesting twist.” Dennis watched Arthur for a second before he went on. “How’s that Glencoe project?”
“Good, good. It goes up in front of council in a half hour. At least that’s what the schedule says.”
“That’s good to hear. Glad I could help.”
Arthur glanced down the corridor. “Actually, I may need your help. Could you be down in the council chamber? You know, just in case.”
“I’m not so sure I can.” Dennis frowned. “I’ve got a dead line.”
“Couldn’t you work on it with your laptop?”
“I guess so. I would like to watch.”
The council meeting was already an hour behind schedule. It would be a while before the Glencoe project came up. Arthur looked around the audience, but couldn’t see Dennis.
Arthur began to flip through the council agenda. It never failed to amaze him how many different areas the city got involved with. He came to the transportation section and read the agenda more carefully. His was the third project on the list.
He’d read the submission enough times that he didn’t need to read it again. He started to flip through the pages. A thought began to nag at him, so he went back a couple of pages. A drawing of the Glencoe project just didn’t look right. It took him a second before he realized why. There was an extra tower in the plan.
Arthur looked around the room again and spotted Bruce. He got up, walked over and sat down.
Arthur pointed to the plan and said, “What’s this all about?”
Bruce was surprised at Arthur’s vehemence. “What?”
“The plan has been changed. You’ve added another tower.”
Bruce studied the plan, and then shrugged his shoulders. “This is the first I’ve seen of this.”
Arthur looked at Bruce sceptically. “I thought I could trust you. Why’d you go and pull a trick like this.”
“I’m not jerking you around. We never even looked at this option in our analysis.”
Arthur closed his eyes for a moment. “Sorry, I was thrown for a loop.” Bruce still looked defensive. Arthur carefully considered what to do next. “So you don’t even know what impact this has?”
“No.” Bruce looked at his Smartphone for the time. “Too late to do any more work.”
Isn’t there another way?
Arthur‘s eyes wandered around the room. He spotted Dennis in the back row deeply engrossed in his laptop. Arthur got up and went over to him.
Dennis jumped when Arthur sat down. “Oh, I didn’t see you. This macro is real tricky.”
Arthur said, “We have a problem.” He showed Dennis the plan. “They snuck in an extra tower. None of what we’ve done takes that into consideration.”
Dennis studied the plan. “That changes the whole analysis. Our plan won’t work.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Can’t we just get up and say that? That would stop them.”
“We don’t normally get to talk. The report says we’ve approved it, so why ask.”
“Isn’t there another way we can try?”
Arthur looked up at the councillors. Councillor York grilled another developer about traffic. He some times thought that she was the only councillor that understood traffic issues. Arthur turned to Dennis. “There is a slight possibility we’ll get a chance to talk.” He indicated Councillor York with a nod of his head. “The project is in her ward, and she always makes a stink about traffic. She might just ask us for more input.”
Arthur furrowed his brow as he thought it over. “We need to come up with a compromise solution.” Arthur continued to watch Councillor York. “We could ask for a staged development. Say we develop only these parts of the project now and the rest waits until the bridge goes in.”
“We don’t say no, just not yet.”
“Can you do some model runs to see what the limit would have to be?”
Dennis frowned. “I’m not so sure.”
“Give it a shot.”
Dennis thought for a moment. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Campbell waxed enthusiastic about his project. He called the mayor and councillors by their first names. Arthur felt discouraged. He turned to look at Dennis. He was still engrossed in his laptop. They were almost out of time.
Campbell finished his presentation and started to answer questions. Council seemed to be quite happy with the project. It didn’t look good. Arthur wondered if he should even bother to come to work the next day. He looked at Dennis again, but he was still hard at work.
Council finished their questions and began to debate the merits of the project.
Arthur felt someone beside him. It was Dennis. He had a smile and Arthur felt some of the tension in his body go away.
“Here it is.” Dennis handed him some scribbles on a paper.
Arthur looked it over and nodded. “I think this will work, if we get a chance to talk.”
Arthur heard his name called and he sat up. All the members of council had their eyes on him. He realized they had a question for him, so he trotted over to the podium.
Councillor York spoke, “Mr. Macdonald, I’m very concerned about the traffic problems this project will cause.” She paused to look at the agenda. “It says here that you have no problems with the traffic.”
Arthur spoke slowly. “We do appreciate your concerns, so we have an alternative plan that you may prefer.”
Councillor York smiled. “I’m glad to hear that. I hope the other members of council will consider it.”
Arthur said, “There are no problems once the Urquhart Highway Bridge opens.” He looked at Dennis’ note. “We think that about a third of the project would have to be delayed until it opens.”
Councillor York nodded. “Thank you.”
Arthur returned to his seat. He saw Campbell. He didn’t look happy.
Councillor York turned to the mayor and said, “I move that we place a restriction on the last third of the project until the bridge opens.”
Mayor Taylor looked at the council and asked, “Do we have agreement?” Each of the councillors indicated their support. She said, “Good, I think we can move onto the next item.”
Ling Po looked angry. “You crossed the line.” She paused and looked at Arthur and Dennis. She smiled. “But, it’s much easier to forgive when you succeed. Good work.”
Arthur was relieved, but not nearly as much as Dennis was. “All that schmoozing with the mayor didn’t help Campbell much in the end.”
“Don’t be so sure. You, or rather we, were very lucky.” Ling paused and then said, “It could have very easily gone the other way.”
Arthur shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t think we could have done what we did with out Dennis’ magic touch with the model.” Dennis looked very uncomfortable.
Ling replied, “I have to admit I was impressed. Back when I started we had punch cards and tape drives. My first model run took a week.”
Dennis was surprised. “I didn’t know you worked on the model.”
“I’ve done quite a lot, but no body ever seems to know.” Ling’s Smartphone rang and she checked the message. “I’ll have to take this” she said, as she got up to leave. “Enjoy your vacation.”
Arthur looked at the piles of papers on his desk. “That can wait til I get back.” He looked at Dennis. “Did you enjoy all the excitement?”
Dennis thought for a moment. “I guess so. Very different from what I usually do.” Dennis stood up. “I guess I can go back to my macros now.”