Transcript of 2nd Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Alan Kurtz, Friday, August 15, 1997 at 3:00 pm.

Mr. Kurtz: I'm extremely busy today, Doctor Balis. I may need to leave early.
Dr. Balis: Hello, Mr. Kurtz. I understand that scheduling problems arise, but we cut our previous session a bit short. I think you'll find our time more productive if you can keep your schedule clear for our hour.
Mr. Kurtz: That's fine, but I'm in the middle of a damn firefight at work. I can't exactly drop everything for a meeting with you. Anyway, I'm here. Let's get to it.
Dr. Balis: Yes, let's get started. I understand that a company like SII can impose some tight deadlines on projects.
Mr. Kurtz: This isn't a project deadline. This is politics. Somebody in the department is screwing with me, and I need to do some damage control.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Mr. Kurtz: SII has just instituted this high-level management retreat. They select someone from each department and send them to the Bahamas for a fast-tracker event with Lloyd and some of the other heads of the company. It's a good opportunity to get yourself out there in front.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Kurtz: So apparently George--this is the usability unit's liaison--was supposed to be on top of this for our people. I heard about this on Monday morning.
Dr. Balis: About the program?
Mr. Kurtz: No, about my not being selected from the usability group. Apparently there was a big presentation on Friday, and the person from my group--for God's sake! George apparently just nominated the guy who's been in the department the longest. I'm screwed.
Dr. Balis: So the person who is going on the retreat is someone who's been in the department longer than you have.
Mr. Kurtz: Exactly. Richard is an idiot--no concept of how to run the tests we do. Statistically unusable stuff. His reports are all anecdote and no facts. But he's been there for six years, so there you go.
Dr. Balis: So you believe that the award was given strictly on the basis of seniority.
Mr. Kurtz: Yeah, well, that or he's Lloyd's new buddy. Maybe George figures if someone in the department is screwing the big guy--well, so much for me in that case.
Dr. Balis: So you're currently regarding this as a fire that you have to fight?
Mr. Kurtz: Doctor Balis, you've clearly never worked in an office before in your life. There's no way George can back out of this without losing face, but I'm going to damn well be on that trip next year. I think I've made that clear. And there may be an angle that will get me on the trip from another department. I'm doing some checking. But this isn't going to happen again. I'm looking into the nomination process and I'm drafting a memo on how George can improve it next year.
Dr. Balis: Those are two ways of handling the situation. Have you talked with George? What did he say?
Mr. Kurtz: I haven't talked to him. I want this all on paper.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Kurtz: Except the other-department angle. My assistant is looking into that.
Dr. Balis: Your assistant is helping on this project?
Mr. Kurtz: She's technically the group assistant, but no one else knows how to manage staff around there. Fairly common amongst engineers--no one wants to be the manager. Even George. Otherwise this wouldn't have happened.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Kurtz: So I was making some notes on the way over. I wanted to run some things by you that I've noticed over the past few relationships. Ideally we can narrow down this business and get to some strategies for weeding out the losers.
Dr. Balis: Ah yes--the maniac magnet.
Mr. Kurtz: Good memory. Or are you keeping notes?
Dr. Balis: I do keep confidential notes of all our sessions in your patient file. It helps me to see our progress and, as you put it, to work out strategies for making our time productive.
Mr. Kurtz: Patient? That's a funny word, Doctor. I'm not here to be treated for something. I explained to you why I'm here. I'm seeking your professional opinion on a situation.
Dr. Balis: And I'm here to help you clarify that situation. The file helps me keep track of where we are in the process.
Mr. Kurtz: Hmm. I may want to see these files one day. Anyway, the maniac magnet. Yes.
Dr. Balis: I'd be interested in hearing your notes thus far, Mr. Kurtz. If you like I can even keep a copy on file. It may help us document the situation and your thoughts.
Mr. Kurtz: The notes are in my organizer. But I could print them out at some point.
Dr. Balis: That would be good. Anyway, I am interested.
Mr. Kurtz: The first thing I noticed is that all the women in question have a problem with accepting advice. They're generally intelligent, but they don't go beyond a certain point.
Dr. Balis: This is advice you're giving them that they aren't accepting?
Mr. Kurtz: Yes. They don't have any problems telling me all about what's wrong. I'm a very good listener. Hell, I end up listening to them after they get new boyfriends. But they don't hear a thing I say. Doesn't matter what--career stuff, friends, money, whatever. They vent and then they do what they damn well please.
Dr. Balis: And they're seeking advice in these conversations?
Mr. Kurtz: I see things more clearly than they do. I'm only telling them how things are and what they can do to make things better. Anyway, that's item one. Item two--something about these women makes them afraid, or something, to better themselves. Or it may be that they just don't know what they want. Even the most career-driven ones get sidetracked, and even the ones who say they want what I want...
Dr. Balis: And what do you want?
Mr. Kurtz: Family, house, money--the usual. But none of them do the things you have to do to get those things.
Dr. Balis: What do you have to do to get those things?
Mr. Kurtz: Get your act together! Grow up! Get a real job! Get a real place to live! I've already ruled out seeing anyone with roommates, by the way. I'm not dating anyone who still lives like they're back in the dorms. I'm not going back to anyone's place and finding their roommate's dirty laundry all over the bathroom. What is it about women living together that makes them so messy?
Dr. Balis: Mr. Kurtz, may I ask something about the women you date? Is there an age range, generally speaking?
Mr. Kurtz: I usually date women my age or younger. I see where you're going, Doctor. It's not like they're just starting out. And it doesn't take that much initiative to afford a decent apartment.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Kurtz: It's funny about the messiness. Most of them do just fine when they're in my apartment. I've had girlfriends that cleaned my apartment and still went back home to complete disasters. I think that most of them just appreciated being in a nice place. But they could try harder to pull themselves together, wouldn't you think?
Dr. Balis: People often have different priorities for different parts of their lives.
Mr. Kurtz: That's part of the problem, isn't it? Set a priority and act accordingly. How hard can that be?
Dr. Balis: Are there any more observations on your list?
Mr. Kurtz: Not yet. Like I said, I've had other things to think about. But this seems like a start. Preliminary thoughts, Doctor?
Dr. Balis: I think it's good for you to continue your list. I'd like to suggest, though, that you add a second set of observations. As you pick out these patterns, I'd like you to note your own reactions to each situation, as it happened.
Mr. Kurtz: Why?
Dr. Balis: If you're seeking patterns, it's good to have the context for each event.
Mr. Kurtz: That's what I'm saying. That's why I'm here. My responses have been very logical in every case.
Dr. Balis: But every case will be different, since every person is different. And your reactions may differ subtly--after all, you'd be responding to different words, from different people, and in different circumstances. The fuller the picture we have of each occurrence, the better we'll be able to tease out a pattern. And as patterns develop, it will be easier to work backward and find what these incidents have in common.
Mr. Kurtz: Oh. Well, that makes sense.
Dr. Balis: I believe in this case you're seeking anecdotal evidence.
Mr. Kurtz: Yeah, well, thank you, Doctor Balis.
Dr. Balis: You're welcome. Speaking of data-gathering, how long have you been dating?
Mr. Kurtz: Since college. On and off since then. After I moved to San Francisco in 1993, I was tightly focused on work for the first year or so, and there wasn't time to meet people. SII was in a mess; they needed me to get them up to speed.
Dr. Balis: So you're not from the area?
Mr. Kurtz: I am. I grew up in Marin County and I did my undergrad at Berkeley. I was talking to Bill and Larry after that, but SII was hot for me after seeing my internships and made the move worthwhile. There just aren't many people who can do what I do.
Dr. Balis: Bill and Larry?
Mr. Kurtz: Gates. Ellison. Microsoft and Oracle. They were offering a bundle, too--great stock options. But my visibility would have been nothing. At a place like SII, I can move fairly fast, and then go into a senior position with all the perks after I have the MBA.
Dr. Balis: Is your family still in the area?
Mr. Kurtz: Yes. I see them a few times a year. There's not much up there that's interesting to me, but they're always glad to have me home. I was on the phone with my father quite a bit a few months ago getting him set up on e-mail. I told him that that was the best way to reach me, generally speaking, so they trotted out and bought a computer.
Dr. Balis: So you were talking him through the process of using his e-mail, I take it?
Mr. Kurtz: Hand-holding. Same as work. I finally called my sister and told her to get up there and put it together. Told her she could earn her keep. I send her an allowance each month at school; I figure this is fair payback.
Dr. Balis: I take it your sister's in school in the area.
Mr. Kurtz: No, she's at Reed, up in Portland. But she has her car and she had two weeks between the end of school and her job up there.
Dr. Balis: Quite a drive.
Mr. Kurtz: Well, I took her out to dinner when she got into the city. We needed to discuss her major. Reed is a liberal-arts college, as you probably know.
Dr. Balis: Yes. An excellent one as I understand it.
Mr. Kurtz: She'll be the best-educated burger-flipper at McDonald's. What do you do with a degree in philosophy?
Dr. Balis: What was your degree in?
Mr. Kurtz: Computer science. One trip to the career center and it's not too hard to figure out the major to have in this economy.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Mr. Kurtz: Anyway, we're sidetracked. And I need to go back to the office.
Dr. Balis: We have a few minutes left, Mr. Kurtz. I'd like to give you another item to consider during the week, as you develop the list and your observations.
Mr. Kurtz: It's a very busy time right now, Doctor, as I said. I really should be out of here.
Dr. Balis: We're almost done. As you work out your list, it will be helpful to have collateral notes on where you met your girlfriends and how the relationships began. Sometimes the seeds of trouble are sown early.
Mr. Kurtz: All right. And now I'm leaving. Goodbye, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: Same time next week, Mr. Kurtz?
Mr. Kurtz: Assuming nothing is happening at work.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Mr. Kurtz. See you next week.
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Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

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Button to Alan Kurtz's Patient File Alan Kurtz's Patient File

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