It is the truth universally acknowledged that the opening line of a story must capture the reader’s interest. “But, well, uh, there’s no easy way to say this…”
As I stare at the grey flecks in my boss’s beard, I already know what’s coming. No-one has ever finished that sentence with, “… but you are getting a promotion.”
Well, one man has. But I don’t know him yet.
I sit up a little straighter, focus, steeple my hands.
“As you know, the orders have recently dropped off and what with the...”
I really don’t care. There’s no need for a prologue.
“Because of our last in, first out, policy…”
Ah, policy. Where would a business be without it? For those unfamiliar with this so called policy, it goes something like this: a new recruit starts with the company, and tag, you are no longer it. Effort, work ethic and punctuality become unnecessary. I mean, really, what’s the point? The new start could be the next Alan Sugar for all you care. He or she is the first in line to get the shaft.
“… so as you see, we are going to have to make cutbacks and…”
The plethora of colours in his beard mesmerise me. Is there such a thing as beard dye? There must be. Why don’t people use it?
“…as you were the last one in, I’m afraid we are going to have to let you go.”
And there it is.
The phrase that every person dreads.
“Okay, I understand.”
The words of every hard-working shmuck.
Because you see—I really do understand. I understand that your inability to run a company has cost me my job. I understand that your inflexible policy leaves a worker who barely turns up employed, and the one that’s called in sick just once this year out of a job. Most of all, I understand that this is how the world works for people like me—the cogs of a broken machine.
“So what happens now?” I query. I am a redundancy virgin at twenty six. Is that a good or bad thing? These days the dreaded R word on your resume is nothing other than an indication of the other dreaded R word: recession. But here, back in 2005, well, I’ll confess that the last thing that I am thinking about is stats; because the only R that I am feeling is rejection.
My boss reassures me that I’ll be given the proper time off to look for another job, a good reference, and help with my CV. His text-speak littered emails flash through my mind.
Oh, well, two out of three ain’t bad. (And not just because Meatloaf said so).
“I’ve really enjoyed working with you…”
(Just not enough to keep you)
“…and uh, I just want to let you know that, honestly, this is the single most difficult thing that I’ve ever had to do.”
Hand up if you’ve never used a variation of that statement?
That’s what I thought.
You are right. It is bloody difficult. In fact, at times, it’s downright heart-breaking. Except, where you are sitting, is someone that’s still got a job. Across from you is someone who’s lost theirs.
That’s right, focus a little -- today is not about you.
“I wish you the best of luck.”
“Thank you for employing me.”
And with a jumbled mess of feelings, I am free. Oh no, not free to leave. There’s still almost eight hours to go. And every time that phone rings, I pick it up, and instead of telling the caller to go to hell, I tell that we’ll get their package to its destination within the allotted time. Because above all else (yeah, cheers Mum and Dad), I’ve been brought up to be professional.
The next five years teach me corporations really don’t give a crap.