Friday, 17 May 2013
The silence that follows seems to hang, until finally broken by a light cough from Ruth. She has produced a plain white envelope from somewhere. Through the cellophane window my name and home address are just visible in 12pt Arial, as per the FUA corporate style manual. Ruth places the letter on the table in front of her and then, carefully and with two hands, slides it across to me.
These are the terms of your redundancy package, she says. Her voice is calm and flat now, wholly professional. I reach forward to pick up the envelope but she holds it in place for a moment longer.
You don't need to read it now. Please, take it away and read it in a more comfortable setting. If you have any questions then just give me a call, you know the number. I hope you'll find the terms fair. I'm sure you will, in fact.
She releases the letter.
So when do I finish?
Today. Right. Christ, I really am losing my job, aren't I?
I try a little laugh at this, but it doesn't come out right. On the plus side, it does generate a modicum of discomfort on the other side of the table, and that can only be a good thing, given the circumstances.
Can I at least finish up? There are a few things I've been working on that need –
Although I was asking Ruth, Josh answers.
We'd prefer that you leave straight away, Peter.
What, in case I'm, what's the word, disgruntled and delete everything on the server, is that it?
He doesn't answer but he does smile, sort of, and then looks at his watch.
It's just policy, I'm sure you understand. Do you have any other questions before we, er, wrap this up?
He's in a hurry. Not only am I getting canned, I'm getting canned in haste.
No, I say. None at all. I'm sure... I'm sure this will cover everything. I mean, I've only been here twelve years, so, you know...
The legs of my chair scrape as I stand up.
Good bye, Ruth.
I reach out to shake her hand. She returns the gesture, even gives a squeeze. Her fingers are cold.
When I get back to my desk, neither Jenny nor Craig are anywhere to be seen. I'm not alone though. A big guy I do not recognise is standing behind my chair, feet planted wide, hands clasped in front of him. At ease. He's wearing a shirt and tie but he wouldn't look out of place on a nightclub door. My PC has already been logged off and powered down. I expect if I tried to log back in I'd find my account had been disabled too.
Yes, I say, the condemned man. Who are you, the hired goon? They’re doing this properly, aren't they?
I'm just here to help you get packed up, he says, gesturing to an empty cardboard box which has appeared on my desk from somewhere.
Hmm. Then you escort me off the premises, am I right?
He doesn't quite shrug but gives me a wry smile that equates to the same thing.
Right, well it won't take long. What about – I've got files, music, that sort of thing, on my PC, what about those?
You're to make a list, he says. You send your manager the list, he'll make sure whatever's on the list gets sent on.
My manager, ha. My ex manager now. Well, I can kiss that all goodbye then. Right, let's get this done.
It's amazing how much flotsam and jetsam accumulates if you work somewhere long enough. A drawer full of pens and pencils, nearly all bearing the corporate logo or mission statement of some company or other; a swathe of notepads, all besloganned with FUA nonsense; two packets of highlighter pens, all dried out and useless; a chipped mug, its stained innards like a concentric sepia chromatogram; a desk calendar for 2005; three copies of the Underwood Associates Year 2000 migration plan; four assorted stress balls; a green security pass lanyard, never worn, with ENTERPRISE AND AMBITION printed on in red; an ice cream tub that once served as a makeshift lunchbox; two mousemats; a Rubik's cube; a drawer full of used Jiffy bags; so much rubbish.
The only things that go into the box (which, during the sorting and packing process, I have started to think of as my court-appointed box) are a couple of training manuals from a course I did last year, the radio I listen to with headphones during Wimbledon and, of course, the photograph of Emma in the leather-look frame. It was in the third drawer down.
She's pretty, the security guard says, as I place the picture in the box.
Yes, she was.
And then, because I have no desire to make this guy uncomfortable:
I'm about ready.
We set off towards, me with my little box of nonsense, him two paces behind. As we near the door, Craig returns, the scent of his protracted cigarette break preceding him. For once, he's pretty quick on the uptake.
Chief? What’s going on?
I'm off, Craig, gone.
Gone? Are you leaving, boss?
I won't miss Craig, but in a way I will miss working with him so, as I turn to back through the double doors, I adopt what I hope is a paternal expression.
Yes, mate. Watch your back, okay? It's all change around here now.
Craig's mouth is still open as the door closes behind me.
Posted by Martin at 06:30