They fired Alice today.
Less than an hour after I stood in her office doorway this morning, chit-chatting about calcium supplements and lambskin bicycle seat covers, the Testosterone Units unceremoniously gave her the old heave-ho.
I knew about it before she did. I think this is the thing that is gnawing at me the most tonight: I knew they were going to fire her twenty minutes before it happened ... and there was nothing I could do about it. Jim called me from his cell phone, saying that he was on his way into the office and that he would need my "special brand of help" once he got in. Usually this means cobbling together a last-minute timesheet, or persuading the one person in Accounting who still likes me to accept an overdue expense report ... but I could tell from the tone of his voice that this was serious.
"We're letting Alice go today," he said. "I'm going to need you to help make some phone calls." And he mentioned something about contacting the labor law attorneys. Apparently they expect things to get ugly this time.
My heart sank.
I should be used to this by now, I guess -- the cold-blooded, cavalier, seemingly random way that people are dispatched from the Totem Pole Company, without rhyme or reason (or a running head start_. But I'm not. I doubt that I'll ever get used to people treating other people abominably.
I love Alice. In recent weeks,she has become my favorite person around the TPC. Every day she made a point of wandering down the hallway to my remote office hideaway, seeking me out for a few minutes' worth of office gossip and girl talk. She took an active, almost maternal interest in everything about my life: my children, my wedding plans, my career ambitions, my wardrobe. ("That is a POWERFUL color on you!" she said last week, when I showed up in turquoise.) Lately we'd been talking about bike riding a lot. She's the one who suggested the Iron Horse Trail this past weekend: this morning, I brought in a copy of the map of our ride, which I was going to show to her at lunchtime. Plus she was turning into something of a professional *mentor* for me. She was strong and focused and capable, unafraid to speak her mind -- even when her opinion wasn't especially popular -- and she tried really hard to change a lot of the bone-headed policies in her department. And she knew how to stand up to the Testosterone Units ... even Franz.
In the end I imagine it was these very qualities that got her fired.
I'm not worried about Alice. If anybody can land on her feet after getting voted off the Totem Pole, she can. I hope that we stay in touch: she would be a great networking resource. But I do have to admit that now that she is gone, it's going to be pretty slim pickings around the place, friendwise.
Jen is long gone. Remember Jen? My wonderful first boss at the TPC ... the one who used to bring me coffee in the mornings? She submitted her resignation letter in January -- the same day *I* did, as a matter of fact -- but unlike me, she wasn't stoopidly swayed by fried bananas and upstairs window offices. She actually emptied her cubicle and left. No one has heard a word from her since. And of course the Accounting Department ladies are out. I made a token effort at patching things up with the constipated little Accounting Manager last week -- we HUGGED each other in the MAIL ROOM, forcryingoutloud -- but within a day or two she and her staff were right back to treating me with the same frosty disdain as before. (Secra's coming! Quick! Close the elevator doors!)
Everybody is crazy about Cathlene, the new receptionist: she's young and adorable and eager to please, like an International House of Pancakes hostess, and she's really, really great at her job -- one of those "Plug & Play" types who gets the hang of stuff immediately, requiring almost no formal training at all -- and everybody loves her to pieces. People are already fighting over which department she'll move into next.
I could never be friends with someone like that.
Joni -- the woman who
replaced me as Franz' assistant (after Sharynn, aka "Size Two," aka
*I'm Just Stepping Out
For A Quick Double
(At least not until after the wedding has been paid for.)
So I guess I go back to my *Loner Chick* ways once again: friendly to everybody, but friends with nobody. At least until the next Alice or Jen or similar kindred spirit comes along. But that's OK. The truth is that I'm not not actively seeking 'friends' around the office anyway. With very few exceptions, my experience with workplace friendships -- like summer camp romances -- has been that they are extremely transient in nature. They're nice while they're happening. They certainly make the workplace more tolerable. But as soon as one of you moves on, there's a couple of years' worth of Christmas cards ... an occasional e-mail or birth announcement ... and then that's it. It's over. You're an eraser smudge in an address book again. So I enjoy these friendships for what they are: pleasant, rare ... and temporary.
Besides: every time I start to like somebody around the Totem Pole, they get fired. My friendship is like the kiss of *employment death* around the office. Be seen chit-chatting with Secra ... and be prepared to clean out your cubicle tomorrow.
(Maybe I ought to start asking the ACCOUNTING MANAGER out to lunch.)