Billy Becomes Bill

by Lee Smith

Tags: True Story,

Desc: : Billy goes to his father claiming he's old enough to choose how he wants to be called. His father helps him on his road to adulthood.

Billy was concerned and very self-conscious. He had entered what he felt was the beginning of becoming a man. His body was developing, his voice was cracking and, down below, he was growing an erection whether he wanted to or not. He was also a little confused. His emotions were in turmoil. One minute he was happy and cheerful and the next he was suddenly angry and sullen. The problem was he had no idea why the wild emotional swings. Frankly, he was confused. Thoroughly and completely confused. Therefore, he did what he had always done when he didn't understand something. He went to see his dad.

"Dad, got a question."

"Sure. What can I do for you? His father asked.

"Well..." Suddenly, Billy was worried and uncertain. He began to stutter.

"Um, well, I ... I ... I, well, um..."

Billy's Dad was slightly taken aback. His son had never been this nervous before.

"Son, Son. Relax, take a deep breath and start slow. I can't think of anything we can't deal with. Take a deep breath and try again."

"God, this is embarrassing. Look dad, I know I'm growing up and am probably in puberty but I can't figure out why I'm going from happy to sad to angry all in about 10 seconds. What the heck is going on?"

"Son, you got it right the first time. Puberty has struck you big time. You are growing up. One of the things that happen to us when we grow is puberty. I know you know that."

"Yeah. We went through that before plus I got it in health class too."

"Good. One part of growing up, as you know, is the onslaught of hormones. Unfortunately, not many teachers are willing to talk about the emotional strain of those hormones."

Billy had a confused look on his face. "Emotional strain? What does that mean?"

"Well," his dad continued, "your hormones are not only causing changes in your body, they're also affecting the way your mind works. That is causing your brain to become confused at times and your emotions start to jump around out of control."

"Is there anything I can do about it? It's driving me nuts," Billy asked.

"Frankly son, there's not much I know of you can do except realize it and try to slow down a little."

Billy suddenly jumped in and said, "Slow down? What does slowing down have to do with it?"

"Just like right there. Instead of forcing your brain and mouth to slow down so you would have a chance to think a bit before responding you started to get a bit angry. Slowing your reactions a little will help."

"Oh. Sorry. I think I can see what you're saying." Billy thought for a second or two. "I'll try."

"Can't ask for much more," his father said. "Keep it in mind and be willing to say you're sorry when it sneaks up and attacks you. Generally all anyone can do is try his best."

"Thanks Dad. I think I'll go to my room and play on the computer a bit."

"You're welcome son."

Life, as always, moves on. Billy's life was no exception.

A few weeks passed before Billy approached his father once again.

"Hi Dad."

"Hi Billy. What can I do for you this fine day?"

"I have a favor to ask," Billy said.


"Yeah. I was hoping, since I'm growing up we could change from Billy to Bill. Billy seems awfully juvenile I think."

"So, you are of the opinion you are becoming a man, huh?" Billy's dad asked.

"Well, I know I'm not there yet, but, yes I do. At least, I think I'm old enough to be able to decide what I want to be called."

"Hmmmmmmmm. Actually, I agree. It'll be hard as your mother and I have been in the habit of referring to you as Billy but we'll eventually get used to it."

"Thanks Dad. I really appreciate it."

"No problem Bill."

A few days later Bill and his parents were watching the evening news. One story in particular caught Bill's attention. According to the newscaster a departing CEO of a failing company was receiving a departing bonus in excess of 5 million dollars. Bill watched and listened with a growing sense in incredulity.

"Dad, why does that guy get that kind of money when he almost took the company into bankruptcy? That doesn't make any sense at all."

His dad looked at him, nodded his head and said, "You are exactly correct Billy, er, Bill. It doesn't make any sense at all. Unfortunately, it is a sign of the way things are."

"Huh? What does that mean?"

"Ok. Look. These characters that get hired as CEO's and other top officer positions actually go through the same process professional athletes and entertainers go through. They have 'agents' to represent them and bargain for the best deal possible. A departing bonus, or, as they are sometimes known, a separation bonus, is, many times, part of the deal."

"Do you mean they get this bonus no matter how they perform?'

"Unless the company is smart enough to put in performance standards that's pretty much how it works," his father answered.

"Man," Bill softly responded, "what a deal. Doesn't matter how bad a job you do you still get paid money like that. Whew!!"

"Well, that's not always the case," his dad said. "Many times companies put in clauses that cut the separation bonus if the individual's performance doesn't meet a certain set of objectives. Some of the smarter companies refuse to set these ridiculous bonuses. But, some, on the other hand, seem to get suckered into committing to really stupid things like guaranteeing pay for five years at a set rate whether the person is there or not. Other companies agree to things even more stupid than that."

"Like what?" Bill asked.

"Oh, let's see. One I heard about guaranteed lifetime medical care for the CEO and his immediate family. The big problem came when the CEO left and claimed the medical care for his wife, sons, daughters, their wives, husbands and their children. The company was totally screwed because they didn't define what they meant when they said 'immediate family'. It took a year or two and a court ruling to finally get that straightened out. Another company I heard about promised the CEO a Villa in Italy as part of his bonus but didn't define how big the Villa would be. That took another court case and another couple of years. In both cases the company was out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees let alone the outlandish salaries they were paying. Stupid things like that."

"Wow. You would think these companies would be smarter than that," Bill said.

"Yep, you would, wouldn't you?"

"I don't understand. Why would companies do something like that and be so stupid?"

"Frankly, Bill, I don't know. I have a couple of theories but I certainly can't prove them."

"Well, now you've got me curious. What are some of your theories?"

"OK, just remember, you asked for it.

"The first thing I blame is the move from something I have heard called enlightened self-interest. Basically, that's where people operate in ways that try to insure everyone comes out ahead."

"Uh, dad. A little more explanation please."

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