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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thank You for Coming. Please be Seated.

‘Tis a sign of the times that the comings and goings of our fellow workers have become murkier with each passing day. The numbers of those laid off and the shaky economy they are released into have made a joke of the Office Farewell: there is no giant “Sorry To Hear You Were Let Go” card for everyone to sign. There is no “Holy-Crap-Not-You-Too” cake.

There is, perhaps, a couple hours at the bar, post-evisceration; but outside of the tears of those closest to you, there is no office-sanctioned recognition of the change in your employment status. As a matter of fact, they’d like you to leave quietly, please.

Take nothing for granted, ladies and gentlemen.

I helped clear the desk of an ex-employee the other day, a sad little task that primarily involved re-introducing the staple puller to the Island of Unclaimed Office Products and stealing the desk calendar (Ireland! The Emerald Isle).

I didn’t know this person, couldn’t even conjure up an image; but I feel something should be said on his behalf.


Please join hands, won’t you?

We’re here today to mourn the passing of Employee X. Had this little duplex of a cubbie been fully occupied, we may have known more about him; but he was here, in this corner, on this floor, alone. We have nothing to remember him by but these paperclips; this soon-to-go-missing calendar; and his “history” on the Internet, which the Help Desk assures me will not be shared.


Double-wide-cubicle-dweller X was a short man, judging from his chair height. Did this affect his job performance? Was he difficult to work with or combative because of it? We’ll never know, since he’s been let go; but I think we’re safe in assuming that he struggled with this shortness, railed against the constant adjusting of the meeting-room chairs until the end, when his height and his presence at said meeting became irrelevant.

In absence of proof to the contrary, X was a punctual man, a man who brought his lunch in when he thought about it, a man with skills, determination, and a strong suspicion that he was the next to go.

His files were neat (and now boxed), his work surface clear of impediments.

He enjoyed the black Bic.

Employee X kept a tidy desk, and he shall be missed.


darsden said...

Wonderful yet funny tribute to your falling co-workers. Now what's with the pointing out that Mr. X was very Short...YOU know Pearl when I sit in a "regular" meeting room chair, my legs swing. Stop Laughing dammit I am NOT done! Oh, No, u didn't just go there- I'm outta here...LOL

Lisa said...

funny but thought provoking......

mbuna53 said...

I have a sudden urge to listen to Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" now.

Michelle said...

Funeral for a friend by Elton John would be a cool song to play as each co-worker goes!!! :O)

Well not really. It just popped into my head.

Actually, I am sorry. It must be stressful to have to deal with that!!!


IB said...


A cool different spin on the current economic situation.

Thought-provoking comedy.

mbuna53 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That Baldy Fella said...

There's a lot of this about. By the time I get back from this week off, half of my department will have gone. We live in interesting times...

Douglas said...

The reason there is no going away party, no tearful good-bye gathering, no well wishing, and such is very simple.. Fear of contagion. Oh, we know full well that the people are not lepers (no insult to lepers intended here) or bad luck to be around, they are just the ones whose number came up. But we, being small and superstitious, nevertheless worry that somehow the eye will fall upon us if we linger too long in their presence. Oddly, I was just reading about the Osu, the "untouchables" in Nigeria.... "living sacrifices to the gods."

Jess said...

LMAO! Enjoyed the black bic...I am a blue bic gal myself.

Sad to see him go.

We have "meetings" with the ex-employees at the bar down the street. We call ourselves "Drunks of the Square Table".

Jodie Kash said...

Yes, the fact we don't have cake is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Very touching.

Stressful isn't the word for what is happening these days.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Pearl,

Last November was the first time our company-mandated RIFs affected a member of my team (he's still out of work). We go through this game of musical chairs at the end of every quarter. Recently, the company started sending out surveys to employees who take time off.

Now although the email subject heading reads "Vacation Survey", its contents indicated that there is a "Quality of Life Initiative" (which no one knew about) to determine what employees are contacted (about work-related problems/issues) when they take time off from the job.

The message here is that, "we know and care about you needing to take time off from zoo-related activities". But since the zoo-keepers care about the bottom line more, you can come back to work feeling quite refreshed and "BAM!", you're told, "Please follow the gentleman to the room labeled Exit Interviews".


Vic said...

Scary times. Poor short man. I raise my stapler to you in staccato salute, like Taps...

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Wait a minute...Ireland calendar...short man working...impeccably neat...fancied the black bic...difficult to catch and when you did, he gave you three wishes and a pot of gold?

Oh, that last part I made up on my own. Okay. For a second I thought you were employing leprechauns.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

they'll never say that about me...
the clean desk bit, I mean!

Kavi said...

The times are tough. and if this is what Empl X gets for keeping his desk tidy, i wonder what comes of other people like me !

Anonymous said...

Employee X...I feel for him. We all could be him. It gives me the urge to clean out my desk drawers a bit though...hopefully warding off my turn on the chopping block.

Very nice of you to tribute him. I'll bet he told really good jokes and never sent spam chain letters to co-workers...
~sniff sniff~ :(

troutay said...

I love everyone I work with. I am the receptionist and I see them go when the lay-offs happen. I always think "it could be me".

These people are like family, and when one is "escorted to the door", I have to hide in the bathroom so no one sees me cry.

And I have cleared my share of desks, etc, and it is haunting to see someone's little treasures left behind.
Good post

Eskimo Bob said...

Can we stop holding hands now?

It's been three hours.

No - I don't have anything I'd like to say. . . ok FINE.

Employee X - you were fired because you smelled like broccoli and would say "Oh - the leprechauns are out!" every time you farted. EVERY. TIME.

I won't miss that.

I won't miss how you would tell me about your World of Warcraft exploits and go into gruesome detail about the battles.

I won't miss how you would tell me how upset you are each week with the dismissal of another contestant on American Idol - because it just means it's a week closer to being over.

Now can we stop holding hands?

Christine Gram said...

Holy-Crap-Not-You-Too Cake... I'll take a slice!

The Retired One said...

Is it possible he kept his desk tidy because he didn't have enough work to do? No employee worth his salt has a neat desk unless they are underworked.
Seriously, you do bring up a poignant part of what offices are dealing with now. It is sad.
And now, stop picking on us short employees. yes.I. was. one.
The Retirement Chronicles

Anonymous said...

Eskimo Bob is freakin' hilarious!


Daisy said...

Is there no way HR can send Employee X your moving tribute to his forwading address? I for one would be touched someone cared!

Mandy's Kidding said...

I was Employee X four months ago.

But then they re-hired me a month later. I keep waiting to get escorted out by security. Again.

Ha ha.

*Looks over shoulder*

Anonymous said...

My husband has been Employee X - twice and he never got a pen or a tribute. Cheap Bastards!

We never want to be Employee X again.

p.s. I'm also short.

Ian Lidster said...

That was actually very touching and sadly apt these days.

Ann's Rants said...

Haunting, really. Was he a medium or a fine Bic user?

I bet it was fine.

Pearl said...

Darsden, awwww! I’m picturing your little legs a’swingin’! I’m 5’4” myself! I’m afraid we’re both standing in front when the parade goes by or we’re seeing nothing but elbows and butts…

Lisa, thank you. It’s all really rather poignant around the work place these days.

Mbuna, that would work very well!

Michelle, it’s not bad when you don’t know them, not really, outside of the realization that someday someone could be cleaning out YOUR drawers…
Which actually sounds somewhere between really interesting and really obscene, now that I think about it.
Funeral for a Friend. Great song.

IB, I’m glad you think so!

Baldy, is that right? Yikes. Isn’t there a Chinese saying (or some such group known for cryptic wisdom): “May you live in interesting times.” Seems vaguely threatening, doesn’t it?

Douglas, that’s a very interesting observation. Fear of contagion. You know, I think you’re on to something.
Human beings always need to be able to look somewhere and say, “well, at least I’m not THAT person.”

Jess, Drunks of the Square Table! Can I use that?!

Jodie, you’d think a SPECIAL cake would offered: lots of the good frosting and a heavy moist cake you can moosh up with your fork.
Mmmmm. Lay-offs.

Mary, gloomy, iddin it? And they say we’re a long way from the worst of it.

U, so feel free to take some time off if you must, but we can’t guarantee your job will still be here when you get back.
Bodes well for the future of the American worker, huh?

Vic, a staccato salute. Perfect. Click-clickety-click-click.

iNDefatgable, no leprechauns, but I suspect we have trolls in IT…

Roshni, but perhaps we’ll find unopened snacks? Maybe?!

Kavi, what will happen to people like you? They’ll be given the work that the departed workers used to do!

Sweet Cheeks, I think he used to bring brownies, too, the kind with the chocolate chips in them.
Poor X. I miss him.

Troutay, that’s sad! I know what you mean – when I was quite a bit younger a number of people were let go at once and I hid in the bathroom and cried, too…

Eskimo Bob, the American Idol comment was perfect!
We can stop holding hands now (especially since it looks like it’s going to hit 60 on Saturday!!!!)

Christine, there’s a nice piece with a flower on it for you. (And it’s the good frosting!)

Retired One, we’re crawling with short employees. It’s the Hmong, you know! They skew the average by pretty short, generally! (And Ma, if you’re reading this? I kid because I care!)

Sweet Cheeks, yes he is.

Daisy, I wonder? That’s a nice thought.

Mandy, I know a guy at Macy’s that that keeps happening to.
I hope you weren’t too freaked out by the lay-off and got to enjoy your time off…

Lisa, it’s hard being Employee X. I was in those shoes in ’94 and was unemployed for three months before I freaked out and accepted a job supporting a total maniac…

Ian, thank you. Honestly, walking by some of these empty offices and cubicles (we no longer need three floors) is pretty sad. We give directions by where people USED to be, “remember where Sue used to sit? Use that printer”.

Ann, oh, it was fine Bic. A fine Bic.

De Campo said...

Excellent in a horrible ‘these are uncertain times we live in” type of way!

Personally, I pleaded with Secretary Gates to cut me loose in order to help him with defense cutbacks. He has yet to return my calls.

Yeah, I'm Still Here... said...

Oh, poor little man, it really does make you stop and think... hey where's the cake?

Adrian's Crazy Life said...

Goodness, I'm starting to get a little paranoid. That's about the 4th time today I've heard about someone getting laid off. Think the universe is trying to tell me something?

Jeanne said...

Awhile back, just after I got canned, I did a post on NOT going quietly into that good night when you're laid off. This creates a nice bookend -- the other side of the story.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I like the way you captured this with a little bit of satire.

Hit 40 said...

So sad. I teach. And, when I call home now with a question, there is usually someone there :-( I am trying my best to keep the kiddos spirits up.

Pearl said...

De Campo, I’ll put in a word for you. He and I are having lunch today at Chipotle’s.

Yeah, I’m Still Here – it’s just one thing after another. First they let people go, then there’s no cake. It ain’t right!

Adrian, the Universe is telling you not to buy that expensive shampoo anymore and to cut down to just one can of smokehouse almonds a month. At least that’s what the Universe has been telling me…

Jeanne, thank you

Pseudonymous, thank you. Love the pic, btw.

Hit 40, in our neighborhood, there are more people home as well. Some of these people are “trying” back doors and garages… Theft is up: bikes, gas grills, tools, copper pipes…

Louise said...

This made me smile. I've been out of corporate life for more than five years now, and I'm glad I'm not swinging my legs on a meeting-room chair wondering if I'm next.