February 16, 2001
A Tough Act To Follow


They fired Size 2 today.

Jim called me into his office, first thing this morning, to let me know it was coming. "She's just not cutting it," he said grimly. "They're giving her the ax at the end of the day."

I nodded. Frankly ... the news wasn't exactly coming as a huge surprise. Questions about her competence had begun to crop up almost from the first day she took over Reception Area Hell downstairs. The signals were clear: unopened mail piling up in Franz' box. Unreturned phone calls. Unanswered e-mail. A critical business report Franz and Jim gave her to type, returned with more misspellings and word processing boo-boos than a grade school newsletter.

She never did learn to pronounce Franz' name correctly.

(And then there was this whole stoopid Kournikova Virus thing, earlier this week. In spite of repeated requests, warnings, official corporate memos, hands-on demonstrations -- I personally showed her how to flush an infected e-mail from the system without opening it -- she persisted in opening up one germy e-mail attachment after another, effectively shutting down e-mail for the entire company for two days.)

I wasn't very sympathetic, I'm embarrassed to say. I'd spent a full week training her. I'd bequeathed to her the world's most incredibly organized, incredibly user-friendly office space. Once the training period was over, I was still available to her at any time to answer questions ... to show her how to fill out an electronic timesheet ... to unlock her bottom desk drawer and rescue her purse again.

What more was I expected to do?

"Considering how much they're paying this woman," I said to David -- I accidentally saw her salary information last week, when I was faxing a financial report for my new boss -- "she ought to have basic skills enough to pick it up as she goes along."

(Actually, I was FURIOUS when I saw how much she was being paid: almost ten bucks more an hour than I am. "She's probably got a degree," David said. "Or else maybe she has more years of experience on her résumé." And he pointed out that the good news here is that this means I've still got plenty of wiggle-room at the TPC, salarywise. That seemed like small consolation, frankly ... but it did let me off the hook a little bit. Why should I waste valuable *conscience molecules* worrying about whether or not she was 'getting it?' She was making more money than me and God put together.)

But in the end, it wasn't her job performance that got her fired. It wasn't the fact that she didn't catch on as quickly as she might have, either. Everyone in that company was ready to give her plenty of slack, knowing she would be working for Franz. Including Franz.

What got her fired was her breath.

The rumors first started to circulate last week. "She sounded like she was stoned when I called her," complained the Main Graphics Guy. I didn't pay attention -- I've been too busy trying to figure out my own new job -- until the Human Resources Director Person appeared in my doorway on Tuesday afternoon. "Would you mind coming downstairs and sitting with Sharyn for a few minutes?" she said, looking uncharacteristically haggard and unhappy. "Just chat with her for a few minutes, about whatever ... and then tell me if it smells like she's been drinking."


It took me all of about four seconds -- sitting with Sharyn under the pretext of 'going over the corporate credit card bill' -- to confirm the HDRP's suspicions.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here. Speaking as a person with plenty of *experience* in this department -- I used to stash a bottle of champagne in my bottom desk drawer on Fridays, when I worked at the telephone company -- I take no pleasure in reporting the particulars of another person's self-destructive behavior. Even a person I wasn't all that fond of to begin with. Suffice it to say that after sitting next to her for a few minutes, it was clear that she had been drinking. A lot. Even so,  I couldn't bring myself to be the one to indict her. ("I'm really not sure," I lied to The HRDP.)  As it turns out, there were at least four other people in the office who independently reported smelling booze on her breath ... and not just on that particular Tuesday. This doesn't appear to have been a one-time thing, in other words. It's not like she's being canned for having an innocent glass of chardonnay at a lunchtime birthday celebration.

I feel bad for her. I honestly do. I wonder if they told her the real reason she's being fired? It almost seems to me a greater kindness to be honest with her about it ... but somehow I doubt that they did. I'm sure they simply gave her some generic corporate blather about "incompatibility" and "differing expectations," handed her the severance check and quietly sent her on her way.

I'm also -- (I don't mind admitting to you, although this is a considerably less noble emotion than feeling bad for someone who has just been fired) -- UNBELIEVABLY PISSED OFF that I'm going to have to go through the whole Training-A-Replacement crapola, all over again. (And yes, I can hear the *I told you so* people, up there in the bleachers. You were right, OK?)

Another week downstairs in Reception Area Hell. Another week of mold and claustrophobia. Another week of ... of ...

"Just shoot me now," I said mournfully to Jim.

He shrugged. "Hey," he said. "You might have to train three or four people before they find somebody half as good as you are. You're a tough act to follow." And he smiled at me with what I can only describe as genuine admiration. Like a boss who actually likes -- and appreciates -- his SecraTerri.


Maybe this is small consolation again. But in this case, small consolation is better than none at all.

*this* is a riot!
[kelli, i don't know whether to kiss you ... or to kick your butt]

one year ago: naked! naked! naked!

before i have to kill somebody ...
help bring back Fast Lane Tea!
[tell 'em SECRA sent you]

throw a rock