This is something I had written a while back, and then shelved, similar to plenty of other works I have started
I was channeling Chuck Palahniuk when writing, stream-of-consciousness. Please excuse grammatical or punctuation errors, very little edits have been made. Enjoy!
Live in the moment. Reside within the confines of your mind where you suggest, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Greatness is instilled in you, and you will be surrounded by glory as long as you persevere. There will be plenty of times it appears the path is dark with no plausible light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t let your darkness consume you. Understand, and by all means, have faith (not necessarily in the religious aspect, but if it helps, so be it), great things will come. There used to be a time where I only saw the negative. The terrified little boy surrounded by all specters of demeaning and pitfalls of attempting anything remotely out of my comfort zone. Once you muster the courage, you will know that enough has become enough, and you need to take the leap.
This began a few years ago. I wasn’t always the best person. I have experienced my fair share of wrong-doing on others. Sometimes for my own personal gain. This writing isn’t a purge of sin, merely a recantation to demonstrate where I have been, and where I never want to go again. Those vast drowning caverns of self-doubt, and self-depreciation. When suggesting this started a few years ago, it was the turning point of where I had finally looked in the proverbial mirror and vehemently asked myself, “What the fuck are you doing?”
I was a corporate drone for a large conglomerate entertainment company. Day in, day out, emails, conference calls, instant messengers. Workflow diagrams, budget analysis, content production for online channels, user engagement…I bore myself talking about this. My direct division in my cogged area of this massive machine was to provide the best digital presence for the company. Further setting the stage for this modern day drama (or comedy if you feel you are in the same scenario and can find humor in others’ pain), there were several executives and senior officials above me who for the most part probably still owned VCR’s, and didn’t know how to program them. A constant blinking 12:00. Probably still had head cleaners too.
For those who are born post-VCR era, head cleaners were VHS tapes that had small cotton pads under the tape lip (if that’s the accurate term), and there was a cleaning solution you would put on them to assist in cleaning the “heads,” or tape readers. Anyway, if you were born after this technological revolution, disregard what you read. The TL;DR (too long didn’t read, for older readers), is that these people controlling my everyday life were ancient. Not quite the level of needing sarcophagi, but should have retired long ago, and let the young bucks steer the ship. Again, this is probably the thought of any mid-level, pre-C level manager. Always getting instruction from an older generation that is so out-of-touch with reality, but blindly being required to follow their direction.
It was a Tuesday. I know this because the lull of Monday had finally washed away, and now people were “inspired” to do things. Work should be something easily tasked, do this to get X result for monetary compensation. Easy transaction. Leave it to the human mind to fuck things up.
“Well, I like this picture, but does it have to be so big?” Asked Sheila, the non-descriptive blob of a Marketing Director. This was in the boardroom directly adjacent to one of the SVP of Advertising’s office. So he has a direct view through his windows to the screen mirroring the images from my laptop.
“We can always resize, but once we begin to make the image smaller, we lose resolution on the different platforms.” I expressed. I think she saw that I had rolled my eyes while speaking. Her expression changed quickly as I finished my statement.
“What do you mean by that?” I could tell she felt offended like I was talking down to her. Which I was. She’s an ignorant fat idiot who only has her position and pay grade because she’s been with the company for, I don’t know, a millenia.
“Meaning, if we resize the image smaller, it will look pixelated on the screen or device the user is viewing through. Consider seeing this image on your tablet, and it looks like your WiFi is struggling.” I tried to play nice.
“I don’t know what any of that means. Can’t we just make the image smaller?” I am biting my tongue. I think I feel it start to bleed. I can feel blood filling up my ears.
“Maybe we should ask Randy what he thinks? He focuses on brand, yeah? He may have a little more insight to this.” She smirked and nodded sheepishly. I assumed she felt victorious in this matter.
We leave the boardroom, with the rest of the coordinators sitting there, after just bearing witness to this playground debacle. Who has the bigger ball, who can fill up the sandbox with the most pee. Randy’s office was down the hall, we could hear from the threshold he was on the phone. Sounded really important, like an old college buddy or something. Yes, that was sarcasm.
“What the fuck you talking about man? There is no way (insert relevant quarterback name here) is better than (another relevant quarterback name here)! Yeah, yeah, I guess we’ll see after Sunday. Good luck, you’re going to need it.” He must have noticed us after he was finishing his important phone call. He slammed the receiver down, and looked up at us like he just got caught stealing a candy bar.
“Hey guys! What can I do you for?” He’s trying to play it nice. Like, I know you caught me, but do me this solid. He glances over at Sheila, smirks, and looks back at me as his expression fades to nearly a scowl.
“Ryan doesn’t want to make the image for the new ad campaign smaller.” Sheila is such a tattletail.
“Randy, it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just, if we make it smaller it will appear pixelated on the user’s device, regardless of the size of the device. These are the dimensions that are minimums by the platforms. If we make it smaller, in conjunction with pixelation, they won’t be approved, and our ads will not run.” I almost feel out of breath as I have now explained this several times for these neanderthals.
Randy takes my laptop and looks at the image for a few seconds and hands it back.
“Looks fine to me.” He looks both of us over and shrugs. Sheila looks genuinely hurt he didn’t side with her. I am unphased as I knew I was right all along. Then I started to wonder why I was getting such push-back on such a small item. Maybe I should have followed through with my secret santa gift. But no one knew who I had drawn. Then again, Sheila is a little chatty Cathy, I can only further assume, she talked to the whole office to narrow down who had whom.
“But Randy…” Sheila begs for attention.
“Sheila, if the nerd says this has to be this way, so be it. Drop it.” Randy confidently turns back to his dual monitors. I peer over and see he has his fantasy football roster on full screen. I mean, no big deal, but when you are running a branch or division of a massive company, surely you have to have more pressing matters to deal with. I guess this is better than having porn on the screen. That would have been an interesting conversation with Human Resources.
“Is there anything else I can assist with from my vast knowledge?” Randy says, smugly.
“I’m good.” I say, dryly.
“No, that’s fine.” Sheila pouts
We head back to the boardroom. All the other coordinators are still in the room, looking around blankly. Can’t imagine what they would be staring at. The walls are pasty white, some trim halfway up the wall, fluorescent lighting showering down like a mental institution. Just enough lighting to make one go insane. Drab twenty foot table seating twelve people comfortably. Chairs on the verge of falling apart, probably haven’t been replaced in ten years. Fifty inch television mounted on the wall, black screen with the bouncing square saying “no source” since I took my laptop with me. How the young generation doesn’t want to rock the boat as they think they are replaceable. Little do they know, this company holds onto people like the plague. Pretty sure people die at their desks from boredom and the news reports as “natural causes.”
I get my laptop reconnected to the HDMI input, my screen duplicates on the TV, the new ad campaign, now approved, emblazoned across the screen. Sheila’s face is beet red. Not from embarrassment, but pure hatred. And we used to be so chummy. That too was sarcasm.
“Ok everybody, sorry about the delay, we spoke to Randy, he approved the new ad campaign. We can start to build and deliver immediately.” I said, confidently. The boardroom doors open like an action hero bursting in to shoot up the place. Almost in slow motion, the SVP enters the room, whips his Flock of Seagulls bleach blonde hair from side to side, flowing like a milky tidal wave. Clears his throat, and his voice emerges. A high pitched squeal of a voice, like his balls are in a vice, squeezing.
“Hold up bud!” He exclaimed. “You talked to Randy, but I don’t believe I pitched my hat into the ring!” Sheila was grinning ear-to-ear.
“Mr. Thompson, by all means, take a look at what my team and I devised for the new year ad campaign.” I gestured to the onscreen creative. He scrunched up his nose, and looked like he was going to vomit.
“I don’t like it. The colors on the logo are red, but we are branded as blue. The logo is too small, and what’s with those people’s faces? They’re hideous.” He’s waving his hands around like a priest condemning a poltergeist.
“Sir, we can change the logo color, that’s no problem, but if we make it any bigger…”
“I don’t care! Make it bigger! Consumers need to know what we are about! Bigger, bolder, and more reliable than anyone else in this industry!” He’s now almost screaming like a toddler who hasn’t gotten their way. Sheila is nearly in puddles in her chair. Thinking she may explode from the berading I am getting.
“Yes sir, we will make the changes. As for the people in the image, that is Tabitha and Mark, right here in this room. Would you like us to outsource other models?” I motion to the two of them. Both appear shocked they were just called hideous. Jaws nearly on the floor, this sentiment coming from one of the highest ranking executives in our department.
“Uhhh, no, Mike and Tisha are just fine. They can stay in the ad.” He winks at Tabitha. She actively frowns and turns back to the TV. “But yes, update the other things we discussed, and I’d like to take a look at the updated creative.” His demeanor changes, similar to signing on the dotted line to approve a massive deal.
“We can get those updates later today, sir. Do you want me to swing by with the final product, or do you want me to call another meeting?” At this point, I don’t even care what comes out of his mouth as long as it is tangible direction.
“Final product? Oh little one, this is faaaarrr from final. We will have numerous iterations before we can remotely agree on this being final.” Mr. Thompson walks out of the room with just as much pep as he entered. Again, nothing resolved, but change the font color, and size. A literal four minute adjustment.
“Alright team, that settles that. Anyone want to volunteer for these updates?” A sea of blank stares.
“People! This is for Mr. Thompson! He deserves results!” You guessed it…Sheila, licking the non-present boots of the SVP. At which point, Mark, the hideous model that he is, piped up.
“Sure, I’ll take a swing at it.” He had almost a grinch-like grin, curling up from his mouth. I was curious what he was up to, and made a mental note to check back in after we adjourned our meeting.
“Well then, at least not everyone in this room is mute!” Sheila exclaimed as she packed her belongings and blobbed out the boardroom. I think in the animal kingdom, she would have been a dung beetle. But that’s just my opinion.
The rest of the room began to pack up and dredge back to their cubicles. I was one of the “lucky” ones, I had my own office. It was a meager hand-me-down as another department had been upgraded to a new area of the building. Somehow they had been approved for new construction, with windows that looked outside. I think if I had any method to peer outside I might actually enjoy my job more. Regardless, I am constantly at my desk fantasizing about a more fulfilling life. All I have is my job. There are some sporadic family members peppered throughout the states. Phone calls around the holidays and the occasional birthday. We were never close, maybe that is why I am so reclusive. My human interaction consists of text on screen and conference calls. This could be considered unhealthy, probably should seek professional help, or at least someone who is educated in mental barriers about remotely wanting to interact with other humans. I don’t see it as a means to an end, merely this is where I am at in my life. But there I go again, zoning out, at my desk, daydreaming. I snap out of it and realize my phone is ringing.
“Hello?” Genuinely curious who is calling me.
“Dude. You NEED to see this.” It was Mark. Mental note checked off. This has to be about the ad campaign updates. Why else would Mark call me? I leave my office and head into the pit of cubicles. There is a group surrounded around Mark’s desk. Snickers and stifled laughter can be heard from a distance. Hands over people’s mouths, trying not to burst at the seams. That’s when I get close enough to see MArk’s screen. The logo was in fact bigger, and now blue. Upon closer look, it became readily apparent why people were laughing. Mark had removed himself and Tabitha as the models, and replaced with Mr. Thompson’s LinkedIn profile picture, and a rudimentary cock and balls spewing sperm on his face.
“That is fucking hilarious!” I exclaimed. The other people around his desk must not have noticed me saunter up as they gasped as they saw me and scurried away like mice in the dark when you turn on a light. I didn’t think I had that kind of reputation as being a hard-ass. Pretty lenient when it came to management, so long as my employees got their shit done. Maybe time to reassess my reclusiveness. Potentially sending the wrong message. It’s always the quiet ones that are feared the most.
“Hey Ryan!” Mark gleamed with a sense of pride I haven’t seen in any of my employees for quite some time. “How perfect is this?”
“I am literally in awe. Just wow. Make sure and back this up on a flash drive, and delete it from your local machine. No telling who is watching in IT.” Precaution is always best.
“Don’t worry. Zeke in IT is a buddy of mine. He has my back. Removed me from any red flags or lists for monitoring.” Mark was so proud. Almost like he was untouchable.
“What’s all this laughter?” Mr. Thompson turned the corner as we were so caught up in Mark’s glory. Mark quickly tried to close the window but it was too late. Mr. Thompson had seen the image just as the window closed out. “What the fuck was that?” Face reddening between a mixture of anger and embarrassment.
“Come on Gayle, it was funny, and you were such a prick to call me hideous in the meeting. You deserved it.” It’s this kind of pride and courage I have never seen in Mark, but I couldn’t help but feel pride myself for taking this asshat executive down a peg.
“Get the fuck out. You’re fired. I’ll have security escort you and your shitty belongings out of my building. Nobody calls me ‘Gayle!’”
“Mr. Thompson, in all due respect, that is your first name, and quite frankly, Mark was just blowing off steam. No need to fire him.”
“You too. Pack up your shit. You’re done too!” His face looks like what radishes would look like if they blushed.
“That’s absurd, I’ve done nothing wrong but defend my employee.”
“Exactly. You defended this little shit-stain, meaning you encourage this behavior in our offices. Get the fuck out.” I was stunned, I couldn’t speak, but seemingly there was no consoling this madman. Turning to return to my office, security was already on the floor ready to remove Mark and I from the building. I grabbed a few things from my desk and walked out. The rest of the floor was standing, in shock. I suppose this is what you have to do to get fired around here. Put a dick in your bosses mouth, digitally, they don’t tolerate that in corporate America. As we were walking to the elevator, Gayle didn’t have his final word.
“Hey security guy, make sure they are 86’d from our building. I don’t want trash humans like that here.” Clearly I couldn’t let that fly, and I suppose Mark was in the same boat. As if we were programmed by the same developer, simultaneously throwing up a single middle finger from each of us. Silently, we gave our salute, and entered the elevator as heroes. Although I don’t remember hearing any cheers. Others didn’t want to get fired because Gayle was heated.
The elevator ride down to the ground floor was quiet. The car screeched to a halt, all exit, and started walking toward the front doors.
“Guys, I’m going to need your badges.” There was some high-pitched voices that came over the security guards radio.
“Dan, this is Roxanne with HR, please let the individuals know that their final check will be mailed.” Dan the security man, looked up at us, we all heard what was just said.
“Got it.” I smiled as I handed my badge, Mark nodded in agreement as he handed in his. To anyone else, this should seem like a life-threatening ailment. I have no job, and a black mark on my record for being fired. How do I explain that in job interviews? I was let go for defending my employee for creating a hilarious “meme?” I suppose that could work.
“Now what?” I looked at Mark, curious if had any back up plans.
“Let’s go get fucked up.” Considering I had no social life, this was possibly the best idea ever. We agreed to meet up at a local bar. By local, I literally mean around the block. It was where everyone would meet up after work. It was supposed to be a “Friday thing,” but essentially turned into an “everyday thing.” So we knew if we waited it out long enough the rest of the team would show up. This would also grant me the opportunity to learn more about Mark. He had only been with the company for about a year. When I hired him, he was fresh out of college with little to no experience. He had made some additional scratch by free-lancing graphic design, but he was looking for something more steady.
I was in the car long enough for my thermostat to increase slightly. Parked and found Mark was already there and about half deep in a beer.
“So, what’s your gameplan? Any back ups?” Trying to stay friendly. I was never good at small talk. Or socializing.
“Thanks for standing up for me. It meant a lot. I know I only worked for you for a short time, but I haven’t had that kind of support, like, ever in my life.”
“All good, I could say the same for me, but it was the old story of when you were old enough to fly, you got kicked out of the nest. I’ve been working full time since I was fifteen.” Great, we’ve already headed down the road of nostalgia and how times were.
“Same here. I had two full time jobs, and a side hustle while going to college. Ritalin is a hell of a drug.” Mark chuckled uneasily. The server came over to grab my drink order, and another for Mark as he was nearly on his last chug. She was a younger blonde, probably about twenty two or three. Might still be in college. The bar wasn’t anything spectacular, just your average run-of-the-mill local bar. Dress code for patrons and employees matched. As long as you don’t come in your pyjamas, you should be good. The server’s name tag said “Stacey.” I felt the urge to clue her in what she was about to experience.
“Stacey?” Pointing at her name tag. “Just to forewarn you, we were just fired from the same company within minutes of each other. We may be here a while.” She smiled shyly but acknowledged what I had said.
“So you probably need food too.” Way to upsell Stacey.
“You guessed it. Fried would be best.” It wasn’t our usual lunch time yet, but I could feel my stomach gurgling.