I assure you that this was not planned. Oh please, believe me when I say that it is impossible to plan such things and worse still, actually find them happening. I was asked to do some work. I think I was clearly asked to “do some work for a change.” Had this been at my previous organisation, I would have realised that we were going bankrupt (yes, I worked at the Street) but this place was notorious for not working and paying employees. So I figured that we were going to have some inspection of sorts.
I ran over to my desk and cleared the pennies on the table and the fannies on my desktop. I had chaste images – of little children playing in the courtyard with a big white ball (suspended in perennial indecision between the girl’s hands and the boy’s) against the sun – pulled up as my wallpaper. I cleared the history cache of all my browsers and then realised I shouldn’t be having all these browsers in the first place. So I uninstalled all and opened a PDF file in Notepad. It looked like I was working really hard and long on some involved computation of the next bubble for the market. Typical inspectors and auditors do not look beyond 4 digits and especially if it is at a location other than the bottom right corner: 2009. Someone came over and told me that having pictures of children would make me a paedophile and that I should mix some adults in there too. The only adults I had on my system would have given every Street CEO a heart-attack. They never believe that the economy could be hit that bad! So I copied pictures of people from my family album (actually, it is Greg’s family album, but Lisa, Greg’s wife, says I had a hand in its current portfolio). It was funny seeing Greg holding a beer glass right under Tommy who watched with confused canine eyes at the ball being tossed between girl and boy (they didn’t have names as they came from Webshots). I was never good with images and people say I caused grandpa’s nervous breakdown when I made this collage of his office and college crowd but mixed them up so badly that we had his boss shaking hands with his college sweetheart and grandmom extending the baby (I think that was mom in her diapers) to Mark the foreman. Grandpa just kept looking at Mark and mom before he realised that the lady he was staring at was not mom at all. He blamed Mark for transforming mom into the brunette event manager. “All the blond’s gone” he muttered before he turned on his right side. He never forgets where he keeps his beer, the old goat!
So my desktop looked like a page out of Gulliver’s Travels with adults smaller than dogs (and Greg’s uplifted glass was actually full and bubbling) or the Webshots shot children or the Webshots tossed ball. I quickly added the line “Children are our biggest assets” though I wished that line didn’t end on Greg’s aunt’s cleavage. As I said, I was never good with MS Paint and the only PhotoShop I knew was two blocks away.
Then Steve walked in.
“Do you see something I do?”
I followed his line of sight. Jesus! How did the Latina pics land in Greg’s family album!?
“Thanks, Steve. You saved my job” and I quickly removed the voluptuous one.
“No, not that. The children are Caucasian.”
“The adults, miniature or otherwise, are Caucasian.”
“Well, you aren’t going to score high if anyone who sees this wallpaper believes in equal representation for all races.”
“In the same family?”
“Oh! So you think that is horrible? So horrible that you can’t even picture it?” he asked pointing to my wallpaper. I think he used that phrase wrong but I wasn’t going to correct him.
“What do I do?”
“Get in some colour, man!”
“The only picture I have is of Obama.”
“Go with that. May he ride on top of the ball.”
Steve walked away stirring his black coffee.
I re-opened the image in Paint. I used bucket fill to make Lisa dark brown in one shot and a rabid red in another. The girl was coloured till she looked like she was a descendant of a family which had taken cross-pollination to new levels. Obama sat on the ball with his fingers forming a “V”.
Now, with my desk looking as neat as it was when … actually, it never looked like this ever, and I realised I was at Greg’s machine.
I ran towards mine when my manager stopped me and said, “Andy, you really need to be more productive. We want results, presentations, plans, posters, tea, bowling and Szechuan sauce.”
I nodded my head and decided to add “Mastering the recipe of green tea” in my career goals. Our company called these goals ABC or Attainable Business Costs. Our goals always had to be something that the company could afford. Mastering recipes was fine but doing work was not because that often meant giving you a functioning desktop machine. So you can state that you wish to develop your knowledge in the derivatives market and create some instruments to drive your competitors bankrupt, but the goal should not include developing that instrument as the Firm didn’t have money to print the flyers. Your contribution to the Firm will be based on presentations about how you would have sent our competitors to the Congress begging for a bailout and how colourful your charts are. Hence, most of us still call it Aesthetic Bullshit Charts.
I decided to act on my manager’s advice and headed to the pantry to taste the new batch of Szechuan sauce. Yes, it was still water in those Szechuan coloured plastic bottles. It would be fair to add that to my goals. We will never attain true Szechuan sauce.
I headed back to my cubicle and trotted past a confused Greg staring at a Greg, coloured pink above his neck and swinging a golf club towards his mother-in-law bent over (actually, I hadn’t selected Greg’s son Mathew from that picture)… nothing. It didn’t look like a picture Lisa should see though Greg was smiling away.
I created a meeting request for all the managers on the floor and managers who were soon to have the floor beneath them removed. It bore the title “PLAN to make $500 million in a single quarter”. I sent it to all and just before I did, I added every employee in bcc. Now everyone got up and walked around eyeing each other with a “I am sure you don’t know but I DO” look. The funniest was when two such looks met and they kept circling each other in the middle of the corridor. That had the ladies whispering to each other “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you!? They look so cute. Never thought that the closet would open on them.” The men, oblivious to all of this, kept looking each other up like Jedi knights hoping that the other would faint and fall from the massive fusion sparks that one’s look radiated. I think they gave up and pumped their fists with their backs to each other. Boys!
I had left out the meeting room and soon people were looking for me. Men went into the restrooms and played Romeo at each closed door.
“Andy, I know you are in there. You better… Sorry Mrs. Larkin. I was just practicing for a charity play.”
I was buying hot-dogs from a very familiar looking guy when Greg phoned and asked, “Andy, where is the meeting?”
“The plan for the 500 mill.”
“Oh! Oh! I sent it out to you too? Oh! Errm. I think there has been a …”
“What? I wasn’t supposed to be on it? Don’t do this, man! We have been friends for now, how long!? 10 years? 20 years?”
“Well, a little before Jane was conceived.”
“Really?”, he paused and I knew that he had known all along about that. He sighed and continued, “That long, man!? Wow! Feels like we have known each other forever. Come on, buddy. You won’t do this to me, would you?”
“To be honest, Mr. D didn’t do dis”, I was tumbling over the Ds.
“To be honest, Mr. D did… not… do… this re-org. It was Mr. W who wanted wa wee-worg.”
“So? But I am still on right?”
“Well, I guess you can join the party, but you have to pay for this hot-dog.”
“Anything man, anything.”
“Oh! And the dryers are due to. My car is still at the mechanics and my wife wants a manicure. They always get re-painted together and my car has more coats then nuts in it, unlike the Firm. Then there is the new Porsche that I had my eye on…”
“Hello, Andy, can’t hear you. Hello… hellooooo… Anyway, the meeting seems to have started.”
“What? Without me?”
I ran upstairs with the hot-dog guy in tow as the mustard was still in my pocket. I rushed into the room and everyone was looking at me. That was when I realised: I only had my white boxers on with the toothpaste snakes that my son, Jeff, had left on them. The mint in them was cooling the delicates and I couldn’t stand still.
“Yes, Andrew. We are waiting to here about the plan”, said Mr. W while whipping wash woff wis woat wleeve. Greg was sitting beside him though I thought he would soon slink beneath the table and kiss Mr. W’s toes or things that I can’t imagine.
“PLAN as a verb and not a noun, Mr. W”
“Yes, I called this meeting so that we can plan new initiatives to create 500 mill in some quarter in the future.”
I suddenly noticed Mr. D dancing around me in circles and waving an axe, crying to the false ceiling. He kept tossing twigs and leaves around my feet.
“PLAN is in uppercase, Mr. W. It stands for Proactive Learning And Nurturing and I think the Firm is in the perfect times and age for a PLAN.”
People started clapping around me and Ms. Crawford mouthed to me that the corporate website was updated with the new buzzword of the Firm. The way she mouthed all of that, I thought she was suggesting something entirely different and I had to show her my wedding band which Jack, sitting near me, pointed out was missing.
“That is a brilliant idea, Andrew. Do you have a presentation to take us through this?”
That is when I realised that my pen drive was not with me. My nightmare was coming true: Standing at the edge of the century’s biggest corporate move and not having my flash drive. I could see them shaking their heads and Greg showing Mr. W my childhood albums and both of them sniggering. I saw the ladies play ping-pong across the table, though I never know why that caused so much distress to me. Mr. D had started lighting the huge pile of wood around me (by now it was waist high and the toothpaste snakes had all started climbing down the pile laughing and saying “Did you see it? As in, really? Gosh!”) The fire burns more brightly and the hot-dog vendor (his face looks so familiar) is nudging me to hand over the mustard. Nudge. Nudge. Nudge.
“Andy, Mr. W is talking to you.”
“Wuh? What? Who? Wister. W?”
They were all looking at me. I hate post-lunch meetings. I wipe the drool off Greg’s trouser leg on which my head was resting. I realise that it was not the right gesture and Greg jumps off his chair.
“So, Andrew. Do you have any thoughts on our strategy? Or should I ask, any clue?”
I shake my head into focusing on Mr. W and see Ms. Crawford mimic me, sleeping with mouth open. It looks suggestive again and I decide to show her my wedding band. Damn! Wrong finger.
“Yes? We are waiting, Andrew.”
“Well, Mr. W… what wye wink. I mean, What I think is that as long as we are proactive in implementing our plans and give it our 110%, 24X7 there is no way we can’t achieve what we have discussed in such detailed terms with clear milestones and a strong vision.”
The silence was worse than mint toothpaste burning on my boxer insides. Everyone looks at me and then at Mr. W and then at Ms. Crawford hoping she would look at them and do the mouth-open-eyes-closed-I-am-in-heaven sleep imitation. Mr. W stands up slowly and pulls the pen-drive out of the machine. It snaps with the entire edge of the laptop now in his hand.
“Well said, Andrew” and he looks around the room before continuing, “As long as we have people focused on our mission like Andrew, there is no way we can fail. I can already smell success.”
Someone points the mustard satchets on which he was sitting. I think it was Tony. Now I know why that hot-dog guy looked so familiar. Actually a week later, I was collecting change from Tony on the sidewalk. He makes much better hot-dogs than pie-charts.