Fire!

It should come as a surprise to no one that my intense, decade-and-a-half-long hatred for my day job has spilled over into my performance and finally been noticed by my supervisors.

I’m approaching 17 years at this job, and have spent just about all of that time trying to subvert everything and everyone, bitching about it on public forums and blogs, and stealing massive amounts of office supplies. So the old joke has always been: What do you have to do to get fired?

I’m not sure I have an answer for that, but I am now part of the laborious process of being fired (it’s, sadly, not as simple as I had hoped), and I’ve been trying to trace it back to the tipping point. Was it when I mocked my boss in the bathroom for unnecessarily using the middle of three urinals? When he testily explained that the first urinal flushed in a funny way and the third urinal, which was the low one, was too low, I did reply that the low urinal was for guys with big dicks.

To be fair, though, I did decide to stop working sometime early in December of 2016. I spent the next three months or so in my cube watching movies on my laptop and drinking beer. So that might be a factor, as well.

Regardless, the process has begun. A few years ago, I might have been a bit upset, but I found myself oddly thrilled the other day when I was called out on the carpet. It almost felt like a sociological experiment as I watched my boss – who only became my boss a few months ago – try to cope with a potentially awkward social interaction.

At our company, you don’t just get fired. There’s a four stage process. The fourth stage is when you’re actually fired so it might be more accurate to say there’s a three stage process. I’ll suggest that during my exit interview.

The first stage involves a private conversation between you and your supervisor where he tells you that you need to get it together…or else. This is followed by a cunty form letter in your email, which I’ve actually helped edit at various points during my tenure so it kind of feels like I’m calling myself an asshole at this point. (Are you the voice in my head, Form Letter?)

Technically, this “verbal” warning (another edit I need to suggest at the exit interview) gives me six months to get my act together and I have to show improvement in my future projects during that time – tedious, politically-driven reviews of even more tedious academic manuscripts written by even more tedious old white men. Three projects were handed in after I hit the first stage with very little complaint from above. One was handed in while my boss was on vacation and his supervisor took the lead, another one for an interesting and unique project outside of the scope of the usual shit we have to read and review, and another that was transmitting a project to the folks who deal with the final steps of turning a manuscript into a book. Each of these were deemed “special cases” and, so, they “did not count either way towards my overall performance.”

So…okay. Not quite fair play, but whatever. I couldn’t really be bothered to put up a fight. It all just seemed so mind numbing to even try and meet these people halfway on anything, you know?

So then I did fuck up, though I’d be willing to argue that my boss has a habit of giving me one set of instructions verbally and then countermanding those instructions in writing. Or – my favorite quirk of his – demanding that I accept and remove all track changes in a document before I send it back to him, at which point he goes insane editing his own edits and leaving me nasty comments asking why I added those edits. I tend not to fight that either because it really feels like a trap. Like if I do engage them on any level, I’ll get sucked into some sort of vortex that leads to a torture dimension like in Phantasm.

So let’s say I fucked up – which, despite the comment above, I did. It’s just easier if I own up to this shit for the sake of vortex avoidance, and, let’s be honest, everyone reading this knows that I’ve been blowing off this job. So: Stage two begins! Stage two is an official reprimand, CC’d: Planet Earth. It features about 400 words expressing passive anger at my most recent fuck-up which, allegedly, is “a lot of work and a real pain in the ass” for my boss. Though, of course, this is again a form letter with sections. But it took three days to do that, I’m told. I knew it was coming because all the higher ups stopped talking to me or making eye contact. I had become a pariah…and it was kind of awesome. People cleared out of the bathroom when I walked in, they fled the break room pantry when I showed up with my water bottle. I should have been getting official reprimands more often.

My reaction was generally calm, perhaps even a bit giggly. This confounded my boss who told me that he expected the worst. Instead, I talked for 90 minutes about publishing, writing, book design, readings, and moving out west. Flummoxed, he told me that he had to report the results of our meeting to all the higher ups. He said “What do I tell them? They’re expecting you to cry, to beg for your job.”

What an interesting glimpse at the inner workings of dark minds, I thought. All the big bosses are on the edges of their ergonomic chairs waiting for word that they broke me? (I have many more exit interview edits for the “healthy workplace” manual.)

So Stage Three is probation. (Yeah, that’s right, none of this has counted yet.) Stage Three, though, begins immediately upon handing in my next assignment, so at least things speed up a bit. If I fuck up again, then probation begins. And…it will last “approximately six months.” And this is where I just post a bunch of “rolleyes” emoticons, I think.

If I do not show improvement during probation, then I’m a dead duck.

I queried about this long, drawn-out process and I was told that I should be proud that my company has my interests at heart and works so hard to protect me, to help me, and “to avoid lawsuits” (that’s actually in their interest, not mine, another edit for the exit interview). That seems odd, because this is also the company that has had a layoff cycle of roughly once every 18 months since 2002 and, one time, two layoffs within six months of each other. The scenario for most of the layoffs has involved calling the unsuspecting employee to their supervisor’s office where they’re promptly ambushed by what I like to imagine are bullet-headed goons in cheap suits and they’re then frog-marched to the curb. In those cases, they weren’t even allowed to go get their personal belongings. Said belongings were mailed to them.

In the rare cases where they were allowed to collect their belongings, they had to do it under guard while their co-workers gawked. Which seems worse than actually being catapulted off the roof.

So I guess there’s always two ways of doing things. I could comment here about the average ethnic background and median age of the people who have been laid off since 2002, but that seems inflammatory.

Anyway. Big post exit-interview party in six months. Update your calendars.

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