May 24, 2000



I am sitting in one of the empty Totem Pole Company offices, on an overcast and stuffy-warm Wednesday afternoon, looking out the window and counting to ten.

V  e  r  y     s  l  o  w  l  y.

Below me, I can see muted sunlight glinting off the waters of Lake Merritt, as local businesspeople stroll the perimeter of the lake during their lunch hour. From across the building I can hear the microwave humming, and water running, and snatches of conversation coming from the lunchroom.

Down the hall, Franz is admonishing someone to "Check with Secra! Check with Secra!"

I close the door.

To clarify: I'm not talking about the little window office around the corner from mine. That's not where I'm hiding out today. I still covet that office. I'm still actively lobbying for that office. But frankly, my chances are starting to look a bit iffy. The Human Resources Director took my request last week to Franz, who said "Tell her the answer is a tentative maybe" ... and then he promptly installed the temporary accounting consultant in *my* new office. ("Make sure Debby's got an up-to-date phone list," he told me this morning. Grrrrr.)

No ... my hideout today is a larger, more luxurious office, located all the way down the hallway from mine. It used to be Camille's office -- the former Marketing Assistant -- until they phased her out last spring. Then it briefly belonged to Leon, the twitchy Accounts Payable guy who quit after two days. Most recently it was headquarters for Dan the Contracts Manager, until they transplanted him to a crappy little cubicle downstairs with the rest of the hapless Accounting Department.

Now this big lovely office is empty again. It's located next to the copier and the printer and the fax machine, so nobody comes down this way but me (and the janitor, occasionally). Once or twice a day, I sneak in here and just sit quietly for a few minutes.  

Look out the window. Take big deep breaths. Decompress.

And wait for the urge to kill Franz totally dead to pass, once again.

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I idly open the middle desk drawer.  Who knows? Maybe Camille/Leon/Dan left behind a TicTac.  (Or a Valium.) There is an old Totem Company phone list taped to the bottom of the drawer, circa May 1999. I remember that phone list: I'm the one who typed and distributed it last year, back when I was still the Lobby Goddess ... right before I was drop-kicked to the top of the Totem Pole.

Curiously, I glance at the names on the list. Out of approximately forty people,  seventeen are no longer with the company.

Count 'em. Seventeen.

Remember The DRIP? The cranky old fart who reminded me of my eighth grade algebra teacher? The guy who used to dump an armload of phonebook-sized faxes on me every afternoon at 4:59 p.m. ...  each and every one of them marked with little sticky notes that said "FAX"? He's gone.

Or The SCROD? I used to sneak into his office and eat my lunch and snoop through his desk drawers? He's gone, too.

And what about my first boss here at the TPC -- the good-natured guy who brought me coffee at the front desk every morning? The guy who warned me not to take the job as Franz' assistant because he "wasn't sure I could handle it?" Gone.

José from the San Ramon office? He was the guy who wanted me to learn Power Point in one weekend so I could help put together the marketing stuff? Gone.

The Nice [Yet Ever-So-Slightly-Annoying] Accounting Lady who always invited me to walk around the lake with her at lunchtime? Gone.

Andrea, my cranky back-up at the front desk? Gone.

Catherine, my immediate predecessor? Looooong gone ... and probably thanking the good Lord above, each and every day, that she is no longer hand-polishing the fudking leaves on a wormy dwarf schefflera.

Some of these people quit. Some of them were fired. Some of them "retired" -- whether they liked it or not.

One of them went out for lunch and never came back.

I dunno, Dear Reader. It just seems to me that seventeen people  --  out of an office of forty  --  is an inordinately high number. It's not my imagination, is it?  I mean, this is a totally out-of-whack percentage, right?  Interestingly, our other offices -- we've got six of them total, in three states -- have also suffered employee losses over the past year.  But nothing like this. 

Not in these absurd proportions.

(Then again, none of the people in our branch offices have to share an actual Zip Code -- or actual *oxygen molecules* -- with FRANZ on a day-to-day basis. Which may explain the discrepancy.)

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

All too soon, my *Serenity Moment* is over.

Down the hall, Franz' tone is becoming increasingly strident. "Check with Secra!" has become "Has anyone seen Secra?"  I know that it's only a matter of minutes before he unlocks the door to my office and begins rifling through the stuff on my desk and in my drawers, looking for his sunglasses.  I wait until I am absolutely certain there is nobody in the hallway   ...   I need my secret hideout to remain secret a while longer, after all  ... 

... and then I scoot out the door and down the hallway and back to my own claustrophobic little Isolation Booth.

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
And yes, I realize that I lose valuable *sympathy points* with you, every time I gripe about how horrible things are here at The Totem Pole Company, but then continue to show up here for work every morning.  I don't care.  I'm mostly just thinking out loud here ... documenting the horror for my own future *reading enjoyment,* maybe.
Emptying my head onto the website.
Vomiting onto a tolerant audience.
Or maybe this is all rough draft for the screenplay!  (The part of Franz, of course, will be played by Jennifer Love Hewitt.)

Stay tuned.

throw a rock