A snippet of something I’ve worked on over a year ago. It may or may not be turned into a complete work at a later stage. Any comments are welcome.
And just like that, after eight years with the company, I am fired. Without too much hassle either. No big “we-appreciate-all-your-work-but” routine. No wishing me luck in the future, as phony as that would have sounded under the circumstances. He doesn’t even seem to acknowledge there is a live person in front of him as Graham Fowler, our CEO, gives me the boot. He shoots off the “times are changing” speech and reads out the details of my severance package so quickly and with so little emotion that one would think he is giving me a quick update on the weather forecast.
(“Partly cloudy, with a chance of rain…”)
“…three months’ full wage and twenty vacation days.”
(“South-eastern wind at 4 m/s…”)
“…bonus for July will be paid out at the start of August.”
(“Low pressure front is moving in from the North…”)
“…don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out”.
Fowler doesn’t quite say that last part, but he may as well have. I am in and out of his office in less than two minutes – quite a speed record. I guess it beats being fired via a text message, although I’m sure the amount of words Tom used wouldn’t exceed the standard 160 characters. That is it. Goodbye and fuck you very much.
As I walk past reception to clean out my office, Linda Harp, the receptionist, jumps from her desk and as quickly as her oversized heels allow scampers towards me. With the intensity worthy of any Hollywood actress she flings herself forward and locks her arms around me in an awkward hug.
“Oh Carter, I’ve just heard! That’s so unfair, especially after they’ve just promoted you last year! Are you going to be OK?”
This dramatic display of deep concern would be touching, if only Linda wasn’t a scheming bitch who hated me from the day I started here. Her boyfriend at the time had been fired two days before I joined. Even though his departure had nothing to do with me (and everything to do with his imbibing every known drug during work hours), Linda has had a personal vendetta against me ever since.
This in no way manifested itself in her outward behaviour toward me. On the contrary, she was never anything but exceedingly friendly to my face. At the same time she somehow forgot to inform me of urgent FedEx packages arriving in my name. She failed to mail important documents upon my request and I suspect that only a tiny portion of personal messages left for me had actually ever been delivered.
For some inexplicable reason I easily picture her drawing blood from chickens in secret rituals aimed solely at bringing about my eventual downfall. Looks like her efforts finally bore fruit. Only Linda knows how many innocent birds were harmed in the process.
I conclude that walking to the office with Linda hanging from my neck may prove a challenge. Her make-up alone must weigh five kilos, not to mention the spray-on tan that she wears all through the year. I stop and gently put my hands on her elbows to fight my way out of the chokehold she has me in.
“I’ll be fine. Gotta pack up some stuff and get the hell outta here.” I try to keep it brief and slip away. I should have expected that Linda would not let go so easily, now that she has the chance to savour what I can only imagine is the highlight of her week, if not year.
“So what are you going to do now?”, she persists.
“I dunno. Maybe apply for your job?”
That instantly puts a dent in Linda’s fake smile and she finally ceases the hug. Her eyes skim nervously across my face to gauge whether I’m being at least partially serious. She actually finds it believable that I would apply for a job I am so insanely overqualified for just to spite her. Poor crazy Linda.
“Easy now”, I assure her, “I have no intention of staying here in any capacity after this”
“Well, good luck then…”, her friendly act is promptly melting away. I silently nod and Linda makes a sharp one-eighty. She is done with me. I press on to the office as Linda click-clacks back to her seat.
My office is the last one down the corridor, to the left of the “Athens Conference Room”. Athens is where we hold our weekly briefings. “We” being the software team, consisting of four developers, two testers, and yours truly – Director of Software Development. Former Director, I remind myself.
The door to my office stands open and a man in blue overalls is busy scraping my name off the glass pane. My first name is already gone and he is working on the capital “T” of my last name. Yet another speed record of the day – my name is out of the office before I am. I squeeze past him and he jumps, startled:
“Hiya, Mr. Tenney. Sorry about that, orders from the top. Have to get this cleaned up before noon.”
“Don’t worry about it…Bill?”, I struggle to read his partly covered name tag.
“Phill”, he says and offers his hand for a shake.
Bill, Phill, cleanup drill. I absentmindedly shake his hand as my eyes scan the interior of the office. Two bookshelves filled with assorted literature on the stock market and software development: magazines, journals, textbooks. By the window stands a large desk, upon which rests a lamp, a few paperweights and a collection of office supplies. Recently orphaned internet and power cables are scattered on the floor.
Thanks to my new buddy Phill my personal stuff is already packed in a box by the desk: my trusty laptop, a few photographs of Nikki and myself, various personal books and notes, the stress ball painted as Homer Simpson’s face and my diplomas. Eight years fit neatly into one cardboard box. Quite a footprint I’m leaving behind.
I grab the bag and head out without further, throwing a quick last glance at the office. I was king of this here little world a mere ten minutes ago. Good-bye now, may your new master be kind to you and may Linda have mercy on the poor schmuck. I walk past Linda on my way out. This time she does not even bother looking up from her computer screen. Bridge is burnt. Love is gone.
My software team is away at an off-site workshop. This morning I had difficulty understanding why I was not attending the workshop with them. My brief heart-to-heart with our charismatic CEO cleared that up. I don’t even get to say a proper bye to the guys. The man above must have carefully crafted this shit of a day for maximum impact, including Linda’s Oscar-nominated song and dance. By “man above” I mean Graham Fowler himself, obviously.
I take the small flight of stairs – seven steps – down to the front door and push it open with my hip, still balancing the “box of shame” in my hands. I edge my way outside and the heavy door swings shut behind me. Clang. A loud, career-shattering noise. What a full stop in Carter Tenney’s saga.