The whole floor got called in for a meeting after lunch. There’s way too many of us working on six to fit in the conference room at the same time, but our manager Jackie didn’t care at all. “Where am I supposed to sit?” I asked her, standing in the entranceway of Conference Room C, pointing inside, shrugging my shoulders like, for real? Really, we all have to shove in there? “Isn’t that against the fire code?”
“I don’t know,” she said, “Do you have a copy of the fire code on you?” Of course I don’t have a copy of the fire code, but I didn’t know what else to say, so I just kind of exaggerated my shrug for thirty seconds or so before saying, “Do you?”
“Just get inside, stand against the wall. Please.”
Which, yeah, when I write it out like this and read it back to myself, it doesn’t seem like she’s in the wrong here, or, what I mean to say is, you can’t really get the sense of the attitude she was passing along to me, like shut up and get inside. But she didn’t say shut up. She said please. Whatever, trust me, it was your classic case of I’m-the-boss-stop-asking-me-questions.
I went inside. Did I mention how crowded it was? And Jackie was standing by the door. Part of me wished that there was a big fire right there, and the only one who’d make it out alive would be Jackie, and she’d have to go before a big investigatory panel, “Why’d you make them all squeeze into Conference Room C?” the fire marshals would grill her, “You’re a manager, aren’t you at all familiar with the fire code?”
I didn’t really want that to happen. I wanted all of the consequences of that to happen, but without any of the actual fire, nobody dying or anything like that. I certainly don’t want to die in a fire in Conference Room C.
But it was getting really hot. Someone said, “Someone open a window,” and I couldn’t even tell who said it, because I don’t know everyone on six, not on a first name basis, and it was so crowded I couldn’t really see where the voice came from. Someone else answered, “Why don’t you open a window?” And then Jackie closed the door behind her and said, “The windows don’t open, we’re on the sixth floor.” Someone else shouted out, “Isn’t that a fire hazard?”
“Yeah!” I said, and looked right at Jackie, hoping she’d look at me, realize that I’m not the only one concerned about the potential that we’d all be trapped in here. But Jackie didn’t look at me, she just pretended not to hear what I said, which, that was probably a smart thing to do, because I would have started asking questions like, “Did anybody bother to make sure the coffee machine is off?” All sorts of crazy fire related questions.
“Everybody,” Jackie spoke up over everybody else talking, “The faster everybody quiets down, the faster we can get through this and get back to work.” And when she said it like that, “get back to work,” I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Get back to work. What is this, communist China? Get back to work? Why don’t you get back to work, Jackie? I didn’t say that out loud, but I could have. It’s like, every time anyone walks in her office, you can always see a game of Scrabble reflected from her computer screen onto her glasses. And whatever, I play Scrabble, everybody plays Scrabble, I’m not trying to judge. But you’re a manager. Don’t tell me to get back to work.
“It’s about that new box of staplers we had shipped in a couple of days ago. They’re gone. I need them back. I don’t want to make this a big thing, OK? If you took them, put them back, it cost like two hundred bucks to get everybody new staplers, OK? Can we do that? Any questions?”
Monica raised her hand, “Look, I think it was Terrance. I mean, he’s the only one who ever complained about the old staplers. That’s all he ever talked about, staplers. And he’s always getting pissed off if you take a pen. Always accusing people of taking his pens. Hey Terrance, they’re not your pens, OK? They’re from the supply room. Just because you put them in that mug on your desk doesn’t make them yours, OK? I’m just saying.”
And Terrance looked pissed, like he was about to say something, but he couldn’t figure out what to say. So I jumped in, “Well, Monica, thanks a lot for that. I’m just saying. I’m just saying that it’s not very professional to start calling out your coworkers in front of everybody else. Just saying.”
Monica looked at me like, what the fuck? Who asked you? But she didn’t have time to say anything, because Jackie interrupted, “All right! That’s it! No further discussion!” which, can you really stop us from talking? That’s like power going straight to her head right there. “Everybody back to work!” Back to work. She’s fucking crazy.
But yeah, why would I get involved, right? I mean, even I know that’s not my place to get involved. But I thought, what if they find out that Terrance didn’t steal those staplers? Look, just between us, I think he totally stole them. Seriously, that guy’s like a total office supplies wacko. But just say that they prove it’s not him. Who are they going to come after? They have to go after somebody. Maybe me? I don’t know, maybe Monica will say it was me, because she’s still pissed off at me for telling her not to accuse Terrance. I feel like by throwing my voice into group, you know, sticking up for Terrance, maybe people will think about that, maybe it won’t make sense to point any fingers my way.
I felt like I was suffocating in there, so when Jackie wrapped things up, I was a little aggressive in getting out of Conference Room C. And on my way out, Jackie said to me, really sarcastically, “Thanks for your help in there.” And I just shot back, “You got it boss, any time.”