The American Dream
An epiphany was had this morning as I perused SA, sipping Code Red and toying with the notion of stepping outside for my third cigarette in an hour: Nine years and 2 months of my life have been devoted towards the goal of personal advancement within a small yet thriving company. I arrived one spring morning at the offices of a local company - just a 15 year old, acne-encrusted, bespectacled face in the crowd - with a dot-matrix printed resume extolling my massive abilities with the 386 computer and willingness to work after school. I was immediately hired at minimum wage and began a series of menial jobs within said company, including authorizing credit cards, and serving as a squeaky-voiced telephone operator.
At 16, I graduated from High School, and moved off to the wonderful world of college. Yet, for the sole reason of tuition re-imbursement, I continued with the same company - continuing to bounce around from department to department, serving as a van driver, a shipping and receiving inspector, an MIS administrator - I never stayed in one place for very long. It was during this time period, the wonderfully blurry undergraduate years, that I unknowingly sowed the seeds of my current employment bliss. The groundwork was laid.
Come graduate school, my contributions to said company began to become clear to some in positions of power. I was transferred for the 11th time in 6 years, this time to a place of some responsibility for the everyday running of the company. By day I struggled to comprehend superstring theory, laboring under the false assumption that a Masters Degree in Physics would bring exciting things for me. By night, I climbed the corporate ladder. Supervisorship, Management, power. I had it all at age 21 - a brand new piece of paper designating me a master in the Physical Sciences, and a Management position in a strong company, a score of people twice my age reporting to me. I worked 70 hours a week, but I believed that I had achieved in a short amount of time what it had taken my father 50 years to attain.
Then came September 11th. As the twin towers fell, the economy fell with it. Faced with massive layoffs, my company was forced to cut my entire department, and leave all responsibilities solely in my hands. I was a Manager with no employees, a General without an Army... yet I still toiled, long and hard. It continued this way for three months - I never slept, I spent every waking minute at the office, yet I convinced myself this was still the greatest thing going - the American Dream. One day, in a morning coffee and donuts meeting, a Vice President suggested the possibility of moving myself and my responsibilities out of the corporate offices, and instead to a satellite facility, some 1,000 miles away. Seeing this as an opportunity for advancement, I jumped.
So I arrived, acquired a large office in a remote corner of said facility, and continued with my march towards greatness. Then, something strange and wonderful happened. In outlook, an EMail appeared with my name in the "Courtesy Copy" field. Apparently, a new Vice President had decided to delegate the responsibilities that once were mine to another department. Immediately frightened for my job and my well being, I was tempted to scream out - yet, thankfully, I remained silent. I continued to come into the office on time every day, picked up the random pieces of my old job that were left scattered in the transition, and waited for the word.
That, my friends, was 4 months ago to the day. After 30 days, I became convinced that I was a forgotten, non digestible entity in the corporate stomach. No man ever comes over to ask me for anything - although I am but a Manager, and Directors roam the hallways like rabid hyenas, I am much too senior to all of them for them to attempt an attack. Every once in a while, the phone will ring, and an old acquantance will ask for help solving a problem - I gladly comply. Sometimes, I let the phone ring... but the voicemail light never comes on. They move on to the next target, under the false assumption that I am much too busy to be bothered.
I started coming in later, wearing blue jeans on Mondays, testing my limits. I take 25 cigarette breaks a day, come back into my air conditioned office, dim the lights, and browse the internet in a half-comatose state until I determine that it is time to pack up for the day. Old copies of Baseball Weekly adorn the mohogany desk, and reams of paper lie in and around the unattended trash bin, each covered with random drawings of stick figures and jet fighters. I often roam the hallways with a piece of paper and a mug of coffee, exchanging pleasantries and talking about the weather and equally mindless topics with my co-workers. I go to meetings, and other managers gaze with reverence at my presence - I am never invited, but to those who know not what I do, I am respected and welcomed.
It hit me this morning that perhaps all of my endless toil and hard work has landed me here. I've transferred so much within the company that all paperwork on me has been long since misplaced. I exist only in a computer program that spits out a 4 digit paycheck to my bank account every other thursday - just another tick on the underbelly of the corporate warthog. Too senior to be fired, too misunderstood to be bothered, I am truly the forgotten employee.
And so, my SA friends, I am quite open to suggestions about how I may truly test the boundaries of my newly discovered freedom. A webcam lays in its box underneath my desk, awaiting my motivation to install it. No suggestion is outside the boundary of reason or consideration - for, I have now found my Holy Grail. I have achieved the American Dream.
All that I have worked for over the past 5 months of not working nearly came to a horrible death this past Friday.
I arrived at the office at 1030 - still dressed in the wrinkled khaki pants from my very lengthy Thursday night at the bar. I sneaked in the side door, and made a B-line for my office. On the way, I was stopped by an electrician, who informed me that they were working on the air conditioning in the office building, and that some sections of the sprawling complex would be without electricity during different parts of the day. He reassured me that if I was, indeed, in an occupied area of the building, that I would be informed in plenty of time. Of course, since nobody knows I exist, I expected to be left in the darkness at some point during the day.
I eased into my office, shut the door, and sat down at my desk. My morning regimine consists of checking baseball scores - a quick once over of SA, then off to randomly scour the network drive for Excel documents. I will pull up at least 5 spreadsheets (ranging from actual important pricesheets to recent Company Softball scores - it doesn't matter, as long as it's an Excel Document.) I print them out, then walk to the other side of the office building to copy them. Somehow, in my mind, this makes it look like I'm working - and looks are the most important thing.
On my way to the copy machine, I was stopped by a fellow manager - one who actually works. He "reminded" me of an 1100 meeting in the conference room, and I played dumb.
"You had to have gotten the EMail, it was sent to all managers..." he replied, not knowing that I was the forgotten Employee of company X. I tried to wiggle my way out of it, but I was stuck. Begrudgingly, I made my way into the brightly lit conference room - thinking that it couldn't be that bad. After all, it was Friday, there would probably be Krispy Kreme donuts, and I could easily just sit there and not say a word. I was very, very wrong.
Bad Sign #1 Nowhere in the room was the distinct aroma of Honey-glazed-goodness. Even the coffee pot was ominously switched off. This is a horribly bad sign in the corporate world - lack of food means that the meeting will be about only business-related issues.
Bad Sign #2 The normal large conference table is nowhere to be found. In its place is a U-shaped formation of folding tables. U-shaped formation = audience participation = horribly, horribly bad.
Bad Sign #3 I reflexively reached over by the door for the inevitable handout - and felt NOTHING. No handout = note taking is mandatory. I begin to have a very sinking feeling about this meeting.
Bad Sign #4 Standing in front of the stained dry erase board, was the nemesis of all forgotten employees - The Director of People Services - AKA, Human Resources Nazi. I was a Warsaw Jew, face to face with Himmler. She glanced at me as I quickly averted my stare, but I thought that I may have caught a glimmer of recognition in her eyes, and that, my friends, scared the hell out of me.
The beer-sweat started rolling off my forehead as I ran through my options. I was about 15 feet inside the doorway, and Himmler had seen me - quick flight was out of the question. I was forced to sit through this meeting, and try to keep my cover. Looking at the U-shaped formation of tables, I decided to sit directly in the middle - contending that if any type of "let's go around the room..." shit went on, she would undoubtedly start from one of the ends. I took my company cell-phone off and set it on the table, then proceeded to sit and wait.
Unfortunately, the meeting turned into my worst nightmare. Buzzwords started keying off alarms in my head as they flowed from the mouth of the hideous HR gargoyle. "Teamwork", "Employee Insight", "Departmental Budgets", etc. The meeting was a quarterly Employee idea meeting, where managers would gather and share what work their "Teams" had accomplished, and what they were looking forward to. Considering my team had been fucking contracted on September 11th, and I was currently a free-agent with no intention of signing with anybody - I was worried. And then it happened...
"Let's go around the room and say what the general view among your reporting employees is as to the future of <Company X>..."
SHIT. I knew I was fucked, and I needed to get out. My heart skipped a beat as the first ass-kisser on the end started babbling away about how great his employees are, and started calling them off by name. I needed a fire alarm, a stroke, or a meteor strike, and I needed it soon - before I was forced to open my mouth and out myself as a non-working leech to the rest of the world. My eyes searched the room for something to help me out - the fire alarm was too far away, as was the window. The light switch was directly behind me, but that was only as a last resort. I had almost given up hope, when my eyes situated on the table in front of me.
My cell phone. I needed a phone call, and I needed it as soon as possible. Telekenesis failed me for a good two minutes as it came closer and closer to being my turn. Then I realized something amazing - I was wearing my bar pants. The beauty of my bar pants is that they have amazingly deep pockets - and nestled down past the crumpled up one dollar bills, the napkins, the receipts, and the Bud Light bottlecaps, was my saving grace - my wife's cell phone. And listed under the letter "A" in her preprogrammed numbers was my work cell phone.
A rush of excitement filled me, and my hand started slowly inching towards my pocket. Because of the angle of my leg, I couldn't reach into my pants without drawing unwanted attention - so I had to make a go at it from the outside. It was only two clicks - one on the down button in the middle to highlight my number, the other on the send button. But timing was crucial, as it came closer to my time to speak. I felt down the outline of the phone... my finger skimming the display screen, and pushed down once on the scroll button, then mashed to it's left to send the call. I believed victory was mine, but unfortunately, the phone on the desk remained silent. 10 seconds passed, 20 seconds, and yet nothing happened - I had obviously highlighted the wrong name to call.
It struck me as mildly humorous that somewhere, one of my wife's friends was answering a call from her cell-phone, blissfully unaware of my epic struggle to free myself from the meeting-from-hell. As soon as it was obvious that I had dialed the wrong number, I moved my thumb back to the right, and punched the end button appoximately ten times, hoping to cancel everything out. The train of talking had reached the person sitting next to me, and the focus of the room was in my general direction. I probably only had one chance to pull it off - and I had to do it discreetly.
With my body turned towards the speaker, my hand creeped down once more. I coughed slightly as a distraction while my fingers made a ninja-flick across the scroll and send keys, then I moved my hands to the table and waited. 5 seconds, 10 seconds went by. The person next to me was finishing up - it was almost my turn... I thought I was completely done for, and then it happened. The cell-phone lit up, and the tell-tale Nokia tone started resonating throughout the room.
All eyes shot to me as I tried my hardest to contain my elation. I grabbed the phone and pushed the answer button. "Ben", I said authoritatively. My voice echoed through the speaker as the cell phone in my pocket picked up the background noise. "Oh, yes sir, Mr. (NAME OF A COMPANY VICE PRESIDENT AT THE CORPORATE OFFICE), I have that information at my desk, can it wait? Oh, I understand..." I then covered up the phone and said to the HR-Nazi "Do you mind?" She was taken aback, but smiled and nodded - it was all the break I needed. I sprung out of my chair, and headed for the door, pretending like I was talking, nodding absent-mindedly to myself, engaged in a pretend conversation with my pants - but I was temporarially free.
I hurried back to my office, closed the door, and waited. The time was 12 noon, and I was sure that soon, the HR-Nazi would show her face and ask to sit down and chat about what I had missed at the meeting. I browsed the SA forums for the next four hours, every set of footsteps by my door sending me on a frenzy of window minimization. Four o'clock rolled by. Cars began to leave the parking lot. My phone had not rung, my Outlook Inbox was still empty. At five o'clock, the lights went out in my office. I sat in the complete darkness for five minutes, ten minutes. A half hour went by as I sat in a semi-daze, alone, in a dark office... then it hit me.
I was safe. I was forgotten. All was right with the world. I took out my cell phone, and played a silent, celebratory game of snake.
I had been dreading this day. In the back of my mind, I knew it was coming. In all my years here, my anniversary date has held as a beacon of hope - the promise of yet another payraise, yet another shining star on the corporate report card that would one day land me a corner office with a view. This year, however, I wished that it would never come. I was sure that my ninth anniversary at this corporate juggernaut would raise sufficient enough flags to bring the Human Resources Ninjas swinging through my office windows, sending the old copies of Baseball Weekly and collected Mountain Dew bottles flying in a maelstrom of broken dreams as they hauled me off to some cubicle to start being a productive member of society.
The EMail was waiting for me as I came in late to work. The return address was a name that I did not recognize - but the all-familiar (HR) printed in bold at the end of it sent a shiver up my spine. I opened it up, and - all at once - a feeling of relief, bewilderment, and hope overcame me.
Moonshine Employee #412 , our records indicate that you are due for an annual performance review on September 10 . Please report to
your designated departmental Director none* on none* for your review.
* As you are a non-supervised / managerial / other employee, please submit a self review, detailing past accomplishments. Self reviews must be submitted no later than September 13 to email@example.com
I re-read the letter twice, trying my hardest to figure out any hidden meanings. The good news was that, from the form letter, it seemed as though they had no idea what I did. The bad news was that neither did I. I had three days to find out, construct some kind of good response, and send it back in a very unthreatening fashion. I actually needed to do work, and the clock was ticking...
So, twenty minutes later, I'm sitting in the bar at Applebee's - downing a cold Bud Light and pondering my situation. Solutions including "prolonged vacation", "botched workplace injury", and "phone call to HR to ask what I do" were summarially dismissed, and I had hit a dead-end. I finished off another beer, and the thought suddenly hit me. Every two weeks, without fail, I had recieved a paycheck at my house. Although I had rarely opened them, I knew there was a section on there that listed a departmental code - a simple four digit number that would hold the answer to what my company thought I did.
I paid my bill and headed home, determined to wake up in the morning and figure out what I was going to do with myself. Unfortunately, when I got home and opened up an old paycheck, I realized that my department code was listed as 0000, which I feared was a default code - I couldn't have been more wrong.
I showed up at 0900 on September 11th, marking my first return to actual working hours in months. My first stop was to the accounting section of the building - where I cornered a temp employee and asked (real managerial-like), "What department does code 0000 refer to?". She typed a few numbers into her computer, and replied with something that blew me away.
I staggered back a bit, but tried to regain my composure quickly.
"How many employee entries are there in the Workplace Safety group?"
She typed two more entries, and came back with "Moonshine, here in Detroit, and James Alexander, in the Fort Worth office." It was obvious she had no idea who I was, which was a bonus. But my heart sank for a minute as I realized there actually was somebody else in this company who was actually doing the non-job that I was somewhat tasked to do. I retreated to my office and tried to plan my next move. "Workplace Safety?" I thought, trying to take in the gist of what was said to me... was it then my job to make sure that nobody walked around on stilts or ran with scissors while on company property? Not that it was a huge epidemic around here, but I was somewhat freaked that the next time Lumpy McBumperfuck in Shipping and Receiving decided to pour lye on his groin, I would be responsible.
The only answer was to find James Alexander. I would pretend that I was actually a working Safety Inspector, and try and pry him about what kind of work he did. I was able to track down the number to the Fort Worth office - and gave him a call...
"James Alexander" was the reply...
"Mr Alexander, this is Moonshine, the Detroit Safety Inspector. I was wondering if you could help me with a couple of items that I've got going on up here..."
There was a pregnant pause, then a quick "hold on...", as I was put on hold. About twenty seconds passed by, then he came back on the line, his voice down at a whisper... "Who do you work for?"
I thought quickly... "Greg McDonnell" I lied. I've never even heard of a Greg McDonnell.
"And he told you to call me?" Alexander asked, sounding somewhat worried.
"No, sir. I did it of my own volition."
Yet another pause, then... "Are you really a workplace safety employee?"
I recognized something in his voice, and decided to take a shot. I knew I was putting everything on the line - but it felt as though I was at that point regardless of whether or not I admitted my status to this stranger on the phone. I took a deep breath, and answered a very confident...
"Are you with HR?" was the stern reply.
"Then what do you do?"
There was yet another pause, and a flash of heat cascaded over my skin. There was a barely intelligible snort, almost laughter, then he replied...
It was like I had asked him if he had stairs in his house, only the answer was one hundred times more exciting. It turns out James Alexander of Fort Worth Texas was an original Workplace Safety Inspector, and had been with the company for 7 years. About three years ago, the department was dissolved and the responsibility for oversight was placed in the hands of our company's Quality Control department back down in Florida. He was furloughed for a period of 5 months, then one day he received a letter asking him to return to work. When he returned, he was given temporary quarters in a recently abandoned office, and was told that he would be given new assignments shortly. Shortly turned into two years...
I was amazed that I was not the only one who was forgotten in this corporation. He told me that all he did all day was browse the internet, and replace the contents of the First Aid kit when they ran low. He had never failed to recieve a raise, and was never once accosted by any higher- ups. He and I postulated that the computer must have defaulted to a 0000 code when none was inputted for my employee file - luckily, here 0000 wasn't just a code meaning "nothing", it was actually still the defunct Workplace Safety group. He told me to count my blessings, and hung up the phone with a sincere "Good luck..."
The next day, I showed up at work with a new purpose in life. What I had come across was even better than having no job - I now have a job with no responsibilities. I walked throughout the office, looking at light sockets, chairs, and microwaves - exactly as I supposed that a "Safety Inspector" would do. Later that day, I would write my personal review, remembering to keep it vague and short, so as not to rouse attention. James had informed me that most reviews would be automatically answered with a standard raise, without ever crossing the desk of anybody except an HR secretary - just so long as you don't admit to doing anything extrordinarially good or bad. So I wrote...
EMPLOYEE: Moonshine #412
-Maintained a zero accident rate in the Detroit corporate and shipping offices for the entire 2002 calendar year.
-Responded to every safety issue in a timely fashion. This internal customer service was accomplished within the allotted budget.
-Heightened awareness for safety related issues among employees.
I hit send, and waited for the possible downfall the next week.
This past Wednesday, I showed up at work with a bottle of UNASPIRIN from 7-11, and a rubber carpet bumper that I picked up at Home Depot. Back where the employees go out to smoke, the carpet at the door was horribly mangled, and many an unhappy soul was sent crashing to the floor by a misplaced step on the hazard. So, the first thing I did was put the bumper down, and glued it into place using some bullshit Billy Mays fabric crap glue that the yay-hoo at Home Depot said worked wonders. It wasn't pretty, but now there is no danger of tripping... I am responding to workplace safety issues, keeping under budget (as the 9 dollars came out of my pocket.) I placed a sign on the wall next to the bumper, seen below.
I placed the UNASPIRIN in the breakroom First Aid kit, and proceded to my office. There was a piece of Company Mail sitting on my desk, right next to the OSHA posters that I had ordered - as I assumed that any Safety Inspector's office needed decoration including "A Guide To Hazardous Material", and "Eye Wash Station Directions". I sat down in my seat, opened the forums, then slowly opened the letter.
Moonshine Employee #412
We are pleased to announce that your annual performance review has been deemed satisfactory As a result, your pay rate has been increased by five percent (.05%) retroactive to September 1, 2002
Now, a week has passed, and nothing else has happened. I was asked to check a battery in a smoke detector by a secretary yesterday - who had unfortunately seen me place the bumper in the back hallway. So, yes, I now have to do some work. But until the Camel Spiders invade Accounting and I've got fatalities on my hands, I will continue to sit here, playing Snake on my Nokia and browsing the Something Awful Forums. I am Moonshine, the protector of Detroit Corporate / Shipping and Receiving - here to make sure NOBODY falls down on my watch.
"They’re ON TO US”
Those four words, ambiguous in meaning, was what greeted me as I opened up Microsoft Outlook one fateful Friday morning. My heart began racing, as I realized that the message had come from none other than James Alexander, my counterpart in Texas. Anybody being "on" to our scheme of hiding under the radar scopes was undoubtedly trouble, trouble that would manifest itself in the very next Email that I opened.
It’s never a good sign when the name in the "From" field is followed by an identifier in brackets... and, as I would learn, it was even worse when that identifier was "RECRUITER". I double clicked on the message, plainly entitled "Question"
FROM: Nosy McInmybidness [Recruiter]
Hi, Moonshine. My name is Nosy and I’m currently doing a budgetary survey of the Detroit operation. Unfortunately, some of the paperwork for you seems to have been misplaced. I can’t seem to place you anywhere on the company organizational chart. Might you stop by when you have a minute so that we can sort everything out?
A flush of heat swept over me, as well as a slight nervous jitter that would only be calmed by the massive ingestion of nicotine into my nervous body. With trembling hands, I lit up a cigarette right at my desk, and sat back to ponder what my move was. A multitude of discovery scenarios had played out in my head in the months leading to this unexpected twist, but they all involved the temporary stream of bullshit that would spray from my mouth should somebody ever, in passing, ask what it was exactly that I did. Nothing had prepared me for a meeting. Therefore I decided on the smartest possible thing to do - ignore it like that lump on my balls.
I quickly deleted the Email, logged onto the SA Forums, and tried to clear my mind. It seemed to work for a few hours, as I was lost in complete bliss... then that goddamn box popped up. The temptation to click "No, I do not want to read this new mail that has been sent to me by somebody that is most likely hell bent on my demise" was overcome by curiosity, and my thumb subconsciously flecked the enter button to display what was surely another Email from Ms. Nosy. My worst nightmares were confirmed by the subject line: "RE: Not Read: Question".
The bitch had read receipts enabled. Those all so sneaky checkmarks that for years have exposed management to the sheer number of "Must Read Notices" that go promptly into employee’s deleted items folder had once again surfaced to bite me in the pale white ass. The body of the message was even more ominous.
"I see that you are in. I will come down to your office to discuss. West side, first floor, correct?"
The irrational side of my brain begged me to supply her with fake directions. I rationalized the thought, believing that it would indeed buy me time - but realizing that it would only dig the hole deeper. I assessed my options for escape. And yes, tactically my mind works as a cross between BF1942 and MSPaint...
I was without sufficient weaponry to meet her head on, and she was coming towards me from one of my only two possible exit routes. The only other escape route was down the hallway, and out to my car. Unfortunately, I was unaware of how much time I had left, or if she was hanging outside my closed door right now. It seemed an awfully big risk, to hightail it down that dark corridor, past the rows of unoccupied, locked offices, and off to freedom.
It was going to be close. I needed to get to my door, down 60 feet of hallway, and out the side entrance before she rounded the corner. I knew that, as a man, I needed to face adversity in my life - it was either do or die. This was a test of courage and manhood, and there was no backing out. I just had to shuffle quietly thirty feet down the hallway, and off to freedom - with the strong possibility of being caught in the act. It was truly a character defining moment as I stood with my hand trembling on the doorknob, not sure if the Recruiter was standing on the other side. This was a defining moment...
So, like a jittery little adolescent squirrel, I scrambled to the other side of my office, and went right out the fucking window. No qualms about it, without even thinking twice, I slid the frosted pane up, and climbed on through. Unfortunately, I neglected my considerable body mass, and fell directly on my ass as I slithered through the cold metal frame.
Shaken, but safe, I crouched low to move away from my window, then glanced around to make sure that I hadn’t been seen. Safe in my secrecy, I walked around to the other end of the building, and got in my truck. Tearing out of that parking lot at the speed of light, my only thought was to get as far away from that place as possible - and deal with what may come on Monday morning.
So, six hours later, I’m at the bar, stirring over a rapidly warming beer (I didn‘t have much taste for alcohol that afternoon), and pondering my problems. I had used the pay phone to call my wife to let her know I would be home late (as I had forgotten my cell phone back in the office, and needed to return for it). I had absolutely nothing in mind of how to counteract this situation - I had figured that perhaps I needed to start making phone calls to Vice Presidents down at the corporate offices, doing damage control, and trying to rebuild what was left of my sidetracked career. I had resolved to do that on Saturday, but first I needed to get back to the office and get my cell phone.
The parking lot was lit dimly by the orange glow of the low powered streetlights as I pulled back into the office building. I casually walked up to the front door, sliding my keycard through, and strolled into the office. I expected that nobody was there, and walked with the calm determination that expectation brought.
"Oh, shit... ummm..." came a voice from my left. My heart leapt into my throat as I turned to look.
Sitting there, in the corner office, was "Paul" our Vice President of Marketing Strategy. Burning the midnight oil, it seemed... with a bottle of Boone’s farm wine, an opened jar of Vaseline, and a box of tissues sitting in plain view on his desk. His left hand worked fervently at the mouse button, in a desperate attempt to close down whatever had previously graced his screen. His bald head grew red as he struggled to keep up with the pop ups - a cascade of hot pink letters proclaiming "HOT TEEN BI-SLUTS" and "ANAL ORIENTAL CUM BITCHES" leaving a virtual blood trail that betrayed his rapid attempts to conceal what he had been looking at.
"Mr Moonshine," he started, his voice cracking. "I didn’t think that anybody was still here..."
"No problem, sir… I was just coming back in to..."
"No, I really didn’t know. Honest. I, um… I don’t get the AOL at home."
I was getting set to walk away, but I stopped, looking over at the slightly overweight man, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "I’m sorry?" I asked.
"I don’t get the web thing at my house. I was just looking at pictures. You know, adult pictures."
I nodded and averted my eyes, but he continued.
" It just sucks since my wife left me..." I looked back up, incredulous that this man, who up until today I had only met in passing, was doing anything but closing his door and trying to forget the incident.
"I’m sorry," I repeated again. And that’s when the blubbering began. "I don’t know what to do, its been six months. I’ve never even dated before… for God’s sake look at me."
"See, you can tell. I was married for eighteen years, I have no idea what to do. I can’t even cook noodles. Aw, hell, I have no idea what to do. I tried to do the whole single scene thing, but I’m a fish out of water if there ever was one..."
"It takes some time..." I tried to console him cautiously. He motioned me into his office, trying to force a smile. Against my better judgement, I walked in and sat down.
"You, you’re a popular guy, right? With the ladies?" he asked. I raised my left hand in response, showing him the wedding ring. He nodded, then looked up to the ceiling, as if searching for what to say.
"But you’re used to the partying scene? You can do the whole hippy-hop music stuff, right?"
I nodded slowly, unsure of where this was going. "Hip hop..." I corrected.
He smiled as if I had just unlocked a great secret for him... "I tried all that stuff, I’ve been to the nightclubs. I’m just doing something wrong." Said the overweight, balding Vice President who I had caught masturbating and drinking what most 14 year-old girls have grown out of, right in his office.
" I want to be able to go out and talk to women. I want to go out and drink beers and dance and have casual relationships, is that an unreasonable request?"
"I guess not..." I squirmed.
"Can you help me?"
My mind raced. I had no idea what he was asking me to do, but then suddenly something clicked in my head. I could turn this thing to my advantage.
"This... stuff tonight," I started, pointing at the computer, "this is all our secret, right?"
He looked shocked, "Of course... why?"
"I’ll help you out. But you have to help me out. Have you ever heard of Nosy McInmybidness?"
"Yes, she’s up from corporate auditing the facilites."
"Well, she’s all over me. You know I’ve been here for a while, you know I’m a good employee. How about you just tell her that I’m on your budget, in your department. That way she’ll get off of my case..."
He raised an eyebrow, smiling with the corner of his mouth, "That may be possible. And if I do?"
"If you do, I’ll help you get ‘back on your feet’, as far as the social life."
He reached his hand across the table, and said "Deal."
I looked down at his hand, then back up at him, grimacing mildly... he quickly withdrew it, replying "Oh, yeah. Right."
I got up to walk out of the room, then looked back at him. I smiled for a second. "MILFhunter dot com, sir. Username is xxx, password is xxx. Knock yourself out." With that, I walked out of his office, and back into the world of feeling secure with my job.
Come Monday morning, and on all the glorious mornings thereafter, I never again heard another word from the "Recruiter".
It was inevitable. I had been saved by a Vice President who played with himself in his rich Corinthian leather chair at work, I had to hold up my end of the bargain. And I did.
About two weeks after the episode that still haunts my dreams, I convinced the wife and a few of her work friends to join me and Vice President "Midlife crisis" at the bar. The night began poorly, and went downhill from there. When we first walked in, I spotted him, sitting at a corner booth, tearing the label off a bottle of beer. We went over and sat down, and he perked right up - he was a talkative little bastard, I ended up learning his entire life story - except when a female walked by - at which point he would clam up like a four year old boy. I knew that it would be a difficult situation - especially after two hours and about 5 more beers when he handed me a napkin and asked me to "give it to that sugar bunny of a waitress." I nodded and stood up, looking down at the wadded up paper.
"You are a very beautiful woman. What time do you get off of work? Wave at me if interested."
I resolved about two words into the note that I couldn’t give it to anybody... so I walked to the waitress, and pretended like I was talking to her at the crowded bar, which seemed to satisfy Paul. As I was doing this, my wife came up to me and gave me the equivalent of "We’ve got to go...", so I had to think quickly.
"Hey, how does Sandy like Paul?" I asked her. Sandy was a co-worker of my wife, moderately attractive, if you like the ’bleached blonde 80’s pop star who got run over by a tractor’ look.
She eyed me curiously... "Why?"
"Have her come over here..." I said. My wife waved her over to the bar, and she stumbled half drunkenly towards us. I explained to her that Paul was really lonely, and was only looking for a friend to pay some attention to him for the night. I also mentioned that he was horribly rich (an assumption), and that he was really a fun guy to be around (a lie). She seemed disinterested at the beginning, but then she took a different approach.
"What’s in it for me?" she asked.
"What, like money?" I replied. Nothing in my life had ever prepared me for pimping, so I was kind of rusty when thrown directly into the situation.
"I want one of your puppies..." she stated matter-of-factly.
I glanced at my wife, who shrugged. A week prior, our hounddog had had a massive litter of pups, and we were having some trouble finding buyers for all of them. Now, Sandy was a nice woman, with kids, but very poor... I didn’t see the harm.
"Um, okay." She smiled, then pointed at me, her finger waving drunkenly in my face.
"No sex.." she stated, then proceeded to turn around and walk towards our booth, sliding into the seat next to Paul. My wife and I ended up paying our tab, then sliding out of there for the evening, all the while wondering what the heck was going to happen. The suspense was with us all weekend, until I returned to work the following Monday morning.
The first message on my Inbox was from Paul. It stated simply "Your wife’s friend has GREAT hands."
I sat back, smiling. A puppy for a hand job, and the preservation of the American Dream.
All in all, a wonderful trade.
"Hey, do you work here?"
What a loaded question, I thought with a pause. Now, technically, I "work" here - as in, I get paid by this company, in exchange for reading the forums and drinking Mountain Dew all day (at least, that's what my brain has rationalized). I understand that it is really a buyers market on people with my specific talents (IE, laziness and/or caffeine addiction) - so I better play it cool when questioned. I nodded yes to the man who had asked the question.
"Cool, dog..." he replied, whipping out a clipboard. I glanced around the dark parking lot, wondering why the fuck I had chosen this time in particular to come out for a quick cigarette. It was about 7:30 at night, I was the last person in the office, and I had thought it might be a good idea to sneak out for one last smoke in the cool night air before heading out. I normally don't stay past 4 or 5, but today I was supposed to meet my wife for dinner at a restaurant near my office, so I figured might as well stay at work and fuck around on the forums until the time came.
"What do you need?" I asked the man, pretending to be in a hurry. I'm not horribly happy dealing with... you know... random people in general. Especially when they want something.
"I got this delivery here for you guys..." he replied, thrusting the clipboard in my face. He gestured back towards his very old panel truck, idiling next to the loading dock.
"Shipping and receiving is open until like 5, man. I think you should come back tomorrow morning..."
"Aw, come on man, I'm already running late..." he whined, pushing the clipboard further into my face. I scanned his clothing and the truck, yet was unable to figure out what company he may work for. There was, of course, the chance that he was a spy. I took one last drag off of my cigarette and was about to reply when he cut me off...
"But it's CHRISTMAS, man."
"It's December third..."
"My KIDS don't know the difference..." the man almost pleaded. At this point, I started to get a little uneasy about the situation. I just nodded slowly and took the clipboard. The man smiled and pointed to the line where I had to sign... and I accepted the delivery as "Alexander G. Bell", because I'm not retarded enough to put my name on anything when it comes to this company.
In short order, I was presented with three boxes, ranging from very large to very small. As the man pulled away, I looked at the address labels, which were hastilly attached post-it notes with masking tape. They were intended for a co-worker who had been released back in October over a theft scandal.
I opened the door and started to kick the boxes inside, weighing my options. There was no return address, no shipping label, and no indication of whom the boxes were delivered by (crazy jittery guy driving a shitty truck). Anthrax or diamonds, I was clueless as to the contents - but curiosity ended up getting me in the end, and I manuevered all the boxes into my empty office. The thought of leaving these boxes outside the door of receiving crossed my mind - but they hardly seemed important, and were intended for somebody who nobody had seen in months. I proceeded to tear into the largest of the three boxes. Nothing could prepare me for what lay within...
Not just one globe, but four globes. And a note. A cryptic note.
"Hope you HAve a GLOBErious HAliday!"
Yes. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over. Four spherical representations of the planet earth, all sitting on my office floor - accompanied by a note of questionable origin. I slowly moved over to the middle sized box, wondering what the hell could possibly be inside.
More globes. Two to be exact, yet this time without a note. Now, I don't work in any industry that involves High School History teachers, cartographers, or maniacal dictators. The purpose of the gigantic, plastic planets was lost on me at the time, but I continued in my opening process. As I tore into the smallest box, I was greeted with yet another note, this one a bit more lengthy.
"Figured you could use this stuff for a party. We haven't talked in a while, make sure to message me. - Candice"
Inside the box were dozens upon dozens of packets. Packets of... seeds. Wildflower seeds.
And, of course, combs. Fourteen Ace combs.
I stood up and backed slowly away from the loot, plopping down in my chair. A cold winter wind shook the plane of glass behind me as I stared blankly down at the assortment of "party" items on the floor. Globes. Seeds. Combs. Party.
I needed a drink.
But first, I needed some kind of kind reassurance that I was still sane. Just the slightest comforting voice that said to me "Hey, you're OK man. It's the WORLD that is fucked up..." I tried my wife on her cell phone - no luck. Without thinking, I dialed the number to my old office down south.
Now, I don't really work anymore, but there was a time that I was a manager of a very large department at this company. For years I hired, trained, molded, and sometimes fired dozens and dozens of people. Relationships were formed, relationships that carried on to this day. I still get EMails and phone calls from some of my old employees - asking for my advice on certain things. I knew that one of my dearest work friends was on the night shift that evening in our corporate office, so I dialed his direct line.
"Hey, I've got a bit of a problem..." I started, " I've come into possession of a goodly number of, um, random items."
"Like what?" My friend asked.
"Oh, like... um, globes."
There was a bit of laughter on the other end of the phone, then a quick reply "Probably for the management types there. Everybody has a globe."
This made me think. I closed my eyes and thought back to as many offices that I could remember in this company - and a startling revelation was had. EVERYBODY had a globe, but I never realized it until the motherload of earthly scale-modeling was dumped into my lap. I mean, really, how often do you notice a globe? When you see one, do you ever stop and wonder why its there? A decoration of sorts, or something more sinister...
"Hey, I've got a question for you..." I was snapped back to reality by the change of subject. My friend went into a long situation about a problem that he was having with a certain aspect of his job (the job that is done by the department that I used to run). I listened intently, then suggested a course of action that, although somewhat against the norm, would alleviate the problem in a timely and orderly fashion. My friend thanked me and hung up - and I walked out the door, leaving the random items sitting on the floor of my office, vowing to deal with it at a later date.
FIVE DAYS LATER
There's only so much that you can do with a globe, I had come to find out. I had taken one of them out and placed it upon my desk, and had been staring at it off and on for a day and a half. So far, the uses for a globe, as discovered by me through intense testing, were:
1. Spin real fast.
2. Use your index and middle finger to "run" across the equator. Try to step only on land (for added difficulty points).
3. Play "President of the United States". Spin globe real fast, close your eyes, point to place on globe. Repeat three times, declare the three indicated locations as your own personal "Axis of Evil" (Mine is Spain, Arizona, and the Indian Ocean).
As I sat, slack jawed, staring at the globe... something truly horrible happened. My door swung open, and standing at the entrance to my office, was a Vice President. I knew the man well, and had worked in close conjunction with him numerous times in my old position. I hadn't seen nor heard from him since my move to the remote satellite location in Detroit. I had no idea he was even in the state, let alone the office this morning (I was unaware there was an all-employee management meeting in town). I nearly froze in fear as my right hand subconsciously scrambled for the mouse, minimizing everything on my computer screen.
"Mr. Moonshine", he began, "how's it going? Long time, no see."
"Very well sir," I managed to form the reply. My eyes darted left and right, searching for anything incriminating in my office. Aside from OSHA posters from wall to wall, and a big pile of seeds, combs, and globes in the corner, everything looked almost professional.
"I've got a problem," he began. I gestured towards a chair across from my desk, snapping back as quickly as possible into whatever management mode I still had encoded in my brain. "Well, its everybody's problem. I think you know who I'm referring to."
I shook my head.
"Mr. Dipshit," he continued, and I nodded. Mr. Dipshit was technically my old boss when I worked at the corporate office - but he was the epitome of everything that you would not want in an executive position. He was clueless as to the specifics of the job, poorly groomed, racist, a liar and a crook - who took personal vendettas to the next level. He also despised me from the start, as I was constantly making him look bad - because of my longevity at the company, I was friends with quite a few people in senior management, and this always frightened him. Instead of coming to him, most would go behind his back and come to me - so he had been gunning for me the entire time that we worked together. However, given my current situation, I figured that he had all but forgotten about me. I was quite wrong though.
"Mr. Dipshit calls me yesterday and says that you're going behind his back and trying to purposely sabotage his operation..."
I blinked slightly and asked "he said what?"
Mr. VP smiled and continued "Oh, yeah - he's up in a roar. He swears that you're sitting here running the company from your desk."
I attempted to stifle a giggle. Mr. VP (who hates Mr. Dipshit as much as the next guy), nodded and said "And I told him that I almost guarantee that you run his department from your desk. I've talked to some of his people down there, and they all insist that you're always there to help them out - whereas most of the time they can never find him."
I sensed that the conversation might be taking a bad turn, so I tried to turn it back, "I never try to run anything. If people need help, I give that assistance - we're all on the same team sir. But, if Mr. Dipshit feels like I'm encroaching, I'll back off and let it be."
Mr. VP raised his hand and shook his head, "No, no. I want to make sure that things run right. I know that you're horribly busy up here, but I want to make sure that you're available for consultation, if need be."
I nodded, pretending that - in addition to my tremendous workload of posting on the SA forums - I would sacrifice and answer a couple of EMails a day, then asked, "But what about Dipshit?"
"Don't worry about Dipshit," VP replied, snickering, " He's got a hardon for you, Moonshine. In more ways than one ."
I tried not to show any emotion as my brain tried to rationalize that statement. He couldn't have meant what I thought that he meant, right? I mean, there's no way that a troll-like human being who's never been introduced to a Q-Tip or nosehair trimmer could be... no. No. No. Cleanse my thoughts.
"Heh" I replied, my worried eyes betraying my true feelings.
"I knew I could count on you, Moonshine." Mr VP said, as he stood up and walked towards the door. He stopped for a second, looking back at me. "What is your title?"
I snapped back to reality as soon as possible, and tried the soft answer "Still a manager..."
VP nodded, then pointed at my desk, "I'll make sure you get the management globe," he promised, then walked out the door.
My globe with the executive wooden stand appeared a few days later, and now occupies a place of honor in my small office. Every once in a while, when I leave my door open, people will walk by and glance in - and, although nearly imperceptable - I can tell that their posture straightens up a bit when their eyes come across that piece of furniture - that simple little object which says to the world "I am a monster of the corporate world. Within twenty seconds I can tell you the capitol of Madagascar. Now, fetch me some coffee."
The six original globes still sit, stacked up, beside my bookcase. What to do with them remains a mystery - I'm absolutely positive that one is earmarked for my SA Secret Santa, but as for the other 5, perhaps I'll just leave them on random people's desks at work. If the secretary in accounting seems to be having a bad day, she may just come in the next day to a bright, shiny, blue ball of plastic sitting on her desk. And maybe, just maybe, that will be all the motivation needed for her to continue striving on in the corporate jungle.
The seeds and combs have all been distributed by random sampling. In the spirit of the season, I went through our Microsoft Outlook address box and picked the random names of employees all across America, and sent them manilla envelopes filled with either seeds or combs, or a combination thereof - no return address, just little notes like "Merry Christmas, here's a comb", and "SEEDSions Greetings!". The poor man's Kris Kringle, I surely am - spreading wildflowers and well groomed hair companywide.
The phone rang bright and early this monday morning. I finished the paragraph that I was reading on ESPN.COM, and went for the phone.
"Mr. Moonshine!" came the voice from a cell phone.
"Mr. Vice President!" I replied.
"Just checking up on you - anything negative from Mr. Dipshit?"
Now, I had received a grand total of one EMail since the last conversation, and had solved that minor problem in a grand total of five minutes. But, he didn't have to know that...
"Well, there's a lot of stuff, but I'm keeping it in line, sir."
"Very good, continue 'Running the company', Moonshine!" he said with a laugh.
"Will do," I replied, and hung up the phone. I thought for a second, looked down at my cellphone, and proceeded to "run the company" in the most productive fashion that I could think of...
I beat my high score in "Snake".