Monday, March 2, 2009

Devil's Avocado

My days of whine and metrics are soon drawing to a close. In fact, I have more or less been fired two times already -- the first time culminating in an unauthorized temp farewell party on the rooftop terrace, which goes sadly underused except by Smokey, a gravel-voiced, middle-aged second underling of Abigail's, a man who spent three days last week sorting four or five boxes of documents that we had already reviewed and more or less dismissed in their entirety. Fyi, Smokey smokes. On the roof. Yeah, sometimes, when nick-naming, clever gives way to expediency. And sometimes clever triumphs, if I don't say so myself, as I have taken to calling (and gotten Adam to call) the IT guy who matches business slacks and loafers with track jackets and a San Francisco Giants baseball cap the Human Mullet. Party on top, business down below. I'm too clever for my shirt. Too clever for my shirt. So clever it hurts.

Anyway, we've been fired twice, told not to come in the next day, only to be told shortly thereafter that in fact more work has been uncovered, a box of documents has been discovered, a privilege log now needs some assembling. We are managed by geniuses. Obama should ask them to solve the energy crisis. So, on the precipice of doom, we retreat; we return to the morbid spectacle of a wholly superfluous corporate enterprise. California has a 10.1% unemployment rate as of today, and yet in a well-appointed steel and glass edifice in the downtown skyline a team of "consultants" gathers almost universally irrelevant documents from a distracted client and hands them over to a disaffected group of attorneys whose careers have fallen engine over wheels off the rails. When these consultants -- Abigail and her totally absent supervisor Augusta -- mismanage the batching of the documents or fail to give us proper instructions, we are made to re-review old batches of documents, but still they call us out in meetings for our poor metrics. It's a rather elegant con they have going. When the client complains about the slowness of the project, they can lay full blame on us, the incompetent attorneys who appreciate not their munificence. Sadly, for them, though my fellow temp attorneys conduct themselves with some decorum, I'm a mouthy sort, and tend to document heavily each and every one of the obstacles they place in the way of our efficiency and recount them with great gusto in team meetings. Abigail is never pleased with me.

But things are not all lost in the job: True, Abigail maintains her icy ways, refusing to fraternize with us, the help, but Ira has begun to show qualities that resemble that of the species homo sapiens. A few weeks ago in his nervous formal style he asked if he could interrrupt our diligent web-surfing to have a talk. He pulled up a chair and in his stumbling way invited us to the firm's happy hour that Friday. We felt we had been accepted and cried tears of joy. At least on the inside. Then Friday rolled around, and the whole office cleared out for pre-happy-hour birthday cake in the breakroom, and guess who wasn't invited? What to make of this affront? All ten people in the office walked by us on their way to the breakroom for delicious cake, and not a single one thought to ask us if we too eat cake. Perhaps they thought us a cabal of diabetic lawyers. A few minutes later -- resisting the dark ways of his colleagues -- Ira returned and invited us to the celebration. We accepted. Little of note happened. Mostly we were looked upon with confusion; some regarded us with all the warmth a newly sober tri-delt might offer the townie she finds in her bed the morning after the big party. Then the idle talk (not by us) about the greatness of Wicked was interrupted by the ringing telephone. Why is anyone calling the breakroom?, someone asked. Maybe it's a bomb threat, Smokey offered, rather helpfully.

The party broke up, and we returned to our stations. Before the birthday cake, I had resolved to skip the happy hour, preferring as I do, strangely, the company of friends to the company of robots, but Adam persuaded me into going. What alcohol might do to T-1000 Abigail's nervous system was a point of some curiosity, I did admit to him.

The whole group showed up at the happy hour: Abigail, Ira, Smokey, Human Mullet, H.R. guy who greets people exclusively with "Hellloooooooooooooo", Lindsay Poohands (sales guy who I once saw emerge from a bathroom stall after dropping a deuce and walk right out the door without stopping at the sink), and many more, including mysterious bossman. Bossman threw back a few glasses of Syrah, and opened up to Adam and me. I asked about the history of the company, which has a vaguely pharmaceutical sounding name. As the tanins set into his drunk face, he said to me, Do you know when we opened the company? Do you know? September 10th. September 10th, 2001. And then let that knowledge sink in. I pretended to understand why that meant anything, since we were in, you know, San Francisco. Adam asked why he chose the unusual name for the company. He said it was a term his wife learned in medical school before dropping out to produce their brood. Adam offered, At least the med school tuition was worth something. Bossman parried, That's not all it was good for. She learned some important things about the human body too, if you know what I mean.

We did not. We left, immediately ruing the day we stopped being treated like the help.

No comments: