"You know Kelly French?"
"Always on the phone?"
Kelly French is a young woman who works in my office. White, blonde hair, on the heavy side. She has a nasal Long Island accent. I'm not sure what she does. Well, that's somewhat inaccurate. I'm not sure exactly what she's been hired to do. What she does is spend all day on the phone talking with her extensive Long Island-centric family. She's a loud talker, so her cube neighbors get to hear half of all sorts of fascinating conversations about alternate side parking issues, sibling career inaction, domestic labor efficiency schemes, and dinner plans. Occasionally her family will get riled up about baseball – this family must form the Long Island Cubs Fan Club in its entirety – and we get half a argument about the significance of Opening Day double-play combo the Cubs used from '85 to '92 or the privatization of the Tribune and its impact on Zambrano's contract negotiations.
As far as I can tell, these eight-hour, round-robin family phone conversations constitute her work day. I've never seen her at a meeting. I've never seen her talk to a manager. I have this vague notion that she was the assistant of some muckety-muck who was canned in some now-forgotten shake up. Given her low profile, I reckon she was simply invisible when viewed from as far away at the uptown office.
Sometimes, when I'm feeling creative, I pretend that I believe she's some sort of super-genius consultant, astoundingly knowledgeable about some unbelievably esoteric aspect of our work that we rarely need her; but, if we did, we would need her vast and laser-like know-how immediately. So, she's kept around, a sort of intellectual last resort, biding her time, waiting patiently to save us all.
The idea that Kelly French is some secret super-genius is, admittedly, far fetched. As far as I can tell from her phone conversations, she has yet to master the intricacies of alternate side parking laws, is unable to remember what any of her siblings do for a living, is regularly foiled by the bewildering array of color-coded containers (blue and green) demanded by New York's Byzantine waste disposal laws, struggles mightily with standard kitchen measurements, and is a Cubs fan.
Still, in my more creative moments, I like to imagine.
"Who does she work for anyway?"
"Read your own annotations, man. I'm a composite voice built out of half-remembered conversational fragments. I can't very well give you new information.
"Is she," my co-worker made a knife-across-throat gesture with his finger.
"Dead woman walking? I think so."
"She'd have to be."
"Unless she's some kind of secret super-genius."
I pointed to my previous annotation.
Things have been going rather poorly for Company Y.
We lost our NYC account.
"But CRwM," astute readers ask. "You were hired to exclusively work on the NYC account. What does this mean for you?"
We'll get there.
So, we lost our NYC account. Dan (formerly of the mad divorce) and I came in around November and did our damnedest to clean up the account. We got everything back on schedule, cut QC issues down from an embarrassing double-digits per release to nil the last two releases, we rationalized the workflow so we all worked less to produce more and better stuff, and we brought it all in under budget.
Unfortunately, it was all too late and we were given the old heave-ho.
With one decision down at the Manhattan Building, something like 30% of the revenue for our little office evaporated.
On Monday, the CEO "quit."
For Joe and Jane Cube-Dweller, this means that lay-offs are a "when" thing rather than an "if" thing.
Despite my proximity to the disaster, I'm beginning to think my chances of surviving this thing are fairly good. From what I've been told by the AVP of Delivering Hopeful but Incomplete and Therefore Possibly Suspect Information, the numbers on the NYC account were far better than the numbers on live accounts. The lay-offs, it is felt, will be an opportunity to "cut off some dead wood."
(NB: That is, however, just the sort of thing an AVPDHITPSI would say to a demanding chunk of ex-tree, so I have to admit I'm not all that confident about my position.)
Now the new sensation that's sweeping the cube-nation is a little game called "Guess who is dead wood?"
Suddenly, that woman in marketing with the lazy eye and the really tight blouses is a "dead woman walking" or the slightly balding guy in tech who mentions his motorcycle is "so DW." The most elaborate phrasing was "Taj is already online, ordering the Dole pills."
As of yet, it seems the only way to play GWDW Game is to select another player. No player has yet been bold enough to self-select for kindling.
Strangely, despite the widespread popularity of predicting the immanent career-demise of your fellow co-workers, the coming shuffle hasn't seemed to register with everybody. Kelly is one of these who, through either her principled refusal to wallow in pre-emptive vocational-themed schadenfreude or a SOP of bovine ignorance that prevents her from registering the impending doom, does not seem concerned or curious about the inevitable lay-offs.
It is this very trait, kindness or obliviousness that it is, which convinces everybody she's fodder for HRs chipper.
"When I was walking by her cube, she shouted into the phone, 'Peeps are marshmallows, so don't get them on me!'"
"Hunh. Apparently her family puts Peeps on people."
"Well, I was more thinking: Are Peeps marshmallows? Or are they marshmallows the in same way that Twinkies are cake?"
"I see your point. I'm not sure. What's so real about marshmallows that you could make a fake one?"
"I don't know."
"So they may be fake, but we wouldn't even know because we don't have a working definition of what the real would be."
"This is going to hurt my head."
"And I don't even like marshmallows."
"You think Bil is going to get cut?"
"Bill in sales."
"Bil in AMO. One 'L' Bil."
"Definitely. They're all going to get cut but you and me."
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