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They’re Stealing My Stuff!

April 7, 2014

George Cheeseman rushed out to his driveway just in time to see a bunch of guys grabbing stuff off his moving van. He punches the first one he can reach, at which point everyone stops and looks on in horrified surprise.

The FBI agent who was responsible for relocating the Cheesemans from New Jersey to rural Utah rushes up to stop any more violence.

George, what are you doing?

They were stealing my stuff!

We’re your new neighbors. We were just trying to help!

At that point George throws a couple of bucks to the guy he just decked.

Try not to break nuthin.

This is one of the pivotal scenes in the movie “Mobsters and Mormons” written and directed by my friend John Moyer, (who also plays the FBI agent.)

John, who is originally from New Jersey, but now lives in Utah, wanted to show just what a different culture exists in Utah. Culture shock is an issue in business as well as communities. Failure to properly prepare for it can lead to uncomfortable situations and worst case, having to replace new people who don’t “fit in.”

I also grew up outside of Utah. But, I’ve lived here for the better part of 20 years. I thought I understood the culture. I was wrong.

Two years ago we moved from one part of our little town of Pleasant Grove, UT to a different part. We’d rented a couple of places over the previous years and were finally buying a house. Having lived in Pleasant Grove for years, we really got to pick our spot, and we picked a gorgeous one. Just under the “G” on the mountain.

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We have a beautiful view of the lake.
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And most importantly we have a house with nine bedrooms: every kid still at home has their own room.

Because our lease overlapped slightly with our closing date, we had the luxury of moving in over the course of about 10 days. We packed up most of our house and moved little bits at a time. The first day I pulled a UHaul up to our new house I had to deal with someone showing up to steal my stuff!

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Microsoft has a very unique corporate culture. I’ve talked before about some of the attitudes of people who worked for the biggest and baddest software company during the 1990’s. We found ourselves needing to hire a new manager for my team of courseware writers. We each had our own area of focus. Several of us were focused on Microsoft Exchange. Others on Windows NT. We felt we were among the very best at what we did. But, none of us were particularly interested in being the manager.

So, we interviewed a bunch of people. The one that seemed to stand out the most was a woman who was working for Boeing at the time. We all sat in on the interview, but in hindsight we didn’t really think too much about culture. We naturally assumed that Kelli would adopt our culture, and not the other way around.

In case you weren’t aware, Boeing was very much a “by the book” type of buttoned-up corporate culture. Not at all like Microsoft’s wild side.

One of the first exercises that Kelli wanted to go through was writing a team mission statement. We thought she was joking. Our first suggestion was “We’ll learn ya.” Kelli tried for 15 minutes to emphasize the importance of a well rounded, all inclusive mission statement. After a very frustrating quarter hour she abandoned the effort.

It was a minor event quickly forgotten by most of us. But, later as more “corporate” policies were put in place it became obvious that we hadn’t really done a good enough job trying to hire someone who matched our corporate culture.

Back to my moving experience. I had loaded up most of the electronics for the first trip, things like TV’s, XBox, stereo and computers. I backed the truck up to the garage, opened the back and grabbed the first box and headed inside.

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As I came back for the next armload, I saw a teenage kid standing next to my truck and looking over my stuff. It occurred to me that our house was going to sit empty for the next several days, with all this stuff just piled inside. I was immediately suspicious of this teenager eyeing my electronics.

Are you guys moving in?

Yeah. . .

Do you want some help?

Ah. . . sure. . .I guess.

My name’s Steve. I live two houses down. Clint is also coming over too. I called him when I saw the truck.

It sounded reasonable, right? Well, except for the part about two teenage boys taking part of their Saturday to wander the neighborhood helping random move-ins.

That was just the first of several “stealing my stuff” experiences.

Nothing went missing over the coming days. And on the following Saturday we were going to move the heavy stuff: washer, dryer, beds, couches, dressers. I pulled up to find about 20 people waiting in our driveway. Later another 10-15 showed up. There were women helping my wife put the kitchen together. Men with power socket wrenches putting my kids’ beds together, and lots of people hauling stuff from the truck into the house.

Yes, I had moved into a neighborhood where the neighbors took an active interest in helping each other. Later that evening after everyone was gone and we were collapsed on our couch dreading the hundreds of boxes, my cell phone rang.

Hi, this is Rodney.

Hi Rodney. My name is Joe. I wanted to come help you guys move in today, but I had to watch my grandkids all day. My daughter just picked them up and I was wondering if there’s anything left that you need help with tonight?

I was speechless.

I mumbled something. But, I was shocked by the number of people who had showed up to “steal my stuff.” Trust me, those type of neighborhoods still exist in this country.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com
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