Saturday, August 29, 2009

Terminated

I spent the first part of the week making my way through a borrowed copy of Joshua Ferris' And Then We Came To The End, a novel that was in my opinion over-hyped and under-hilarious. My reasons for disliking the book are less important than the reason it was recommended to me in the first place. Basically the plot revolves around working at an ad agency or--more accurately--being fired from an ad agency, an item which was crossed off my life's To-Do list several summers ago.

The agency was the second of three office jobs that ended with me beings escorted out of the building, my belongings hastily stacked in cardboard boxes or bins borrowed from the mail room. Twice I was given the chance to lovingly pack my own Starting Lineup figurines and Happy Meal toys, carefully wrapping them in pages torn from the Employee Handbook. The third and final time everything was packed for me, arriving in a dented box UPS left on my doorstep, my Kurt Warner poster creased beneath the weight of an engraved nameplate I'd never need again.

Everything I've ever had to fill out a W-2 form for has ended with my termination, along with an increasingly long list of people I can't use as references. Monday, in fact, marked the one year anniversary of my sacking from The Foot Bucket, the last 'real' job I had.

This time last year, I walked into work wearing a freshly Febreezed Mizuno running tee tucked into a pair of high waisted khakis, the door jingling behind me, tattling that I was three minutes late. I clocked in on the computer and finished shoving hangers through the necks of the morning's shipment of reflective windbreakers. After ten minutes of hanging jackets on the wall and revisiting every bad decision I'd ever made, I headed toward the dressing room to empty them of the wadded pile of Tempo Track shorts in a range of sizes that suggested that the person who tried them on was contemplating an eating disorder. In either direction.

One of the managers knocked on the white wooden doors causing them to swing inward, saloon style, and clip me on the shoulder. "We need to talk," she said, with a pained expression that made her look like she'd inserted her Super Absorbent in the wrong orifice. She took the shorts out of my arms and placed them on the bench attached to the wall. "Leave these. We're going out back."

As she led the way to the Emergency Exit, I quickly learned that "out back" didn't mean Bloomin' Onions and Unyielding Diarrhea. It also didn't mean the Manager's Office, a tiny windowless room that always smelled like a nauseating combo of Gatorade powder and damp socks.

Instead she held the door open, teaching me that the "ALARM WILL SOUND" sign was just for show, much like the fake cameras in the corner or the unneeded underwire loitering around the bottom of her bra. Her cup? Half empty. Anyway, she led me outside--behind the dumpsters--where I immediately assumed I was going to be killed.

I hoped she'd make it quick, mainly because the store shared a massive trash bin with a hair salon. The smell of chemical treatments and perm solution mingled with that of leftover pepperoni currently baking in a stack of empty Papa John's boxes from the previous night's high school Kross Kountry Kickoff or whatever dreadful name was assigned to an evening of sullen kids picking at their facial eruptions as they sighed deeply and shoved last year's mud-encrusted spikes in your face. Lather, rinse, repeat until you stomp off to the stockroom and seriously consider making a noose out of a pair of shoelaces that were rejected for being a rival school's color.

A fly jumped from a slab of grease-stained cardboard to my left forearm. I brushed it away, stealing a glance at my watch and realizing if this went quickly, I'd be home in time for a solid hour of Mama's Family.

"This isn't working," she said, crossing her arms and staring at the fluorescent 50% OFF sticker I'd managed to affix to my sternum. "As of right now, you're considered to be terminated."

"Does that make you the Terminator," I asked because it's not like things could possibly get worse.

"Yes," she said, unsmiling. "I am the Terminator."

"COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE" I replied in my best Schwarzennaccent.

"See? You repeatedly made this decision easy for us. Perhaps you'll take your next endeavor more seriously."

Seriously?

I had to seriously swallow an ill-advised snicker, considering I was standing outside in the unseasonable September heat wearing an oversized foot-shaped button that said "I ♥ Sole Music" and being reprimanded by a grown woman who wears a visor to work.

"Well. That's it. Give me your nametag. And your Sole Music button."

"Aw, my nametag?"

"That's what I said. Give me the nametag."

And that became my favorite moment of perhaps the entire plantar wart-encrusted summer. There weren't any belongings for me to box up. I didn't have a locker or any personal items, other than a can of Lysol I contributed to the employee bathroom and three single-serving packages of Cheez-Its. The nametag, my Sole Music and the sweat-wicking t-shirt I was wearing were all I had to show for six months of misery.

She snapped her fingers and pointed at my boob. "NAMETAG." I fumbled with the pinback, wondering what would happen if I just made a break for the car, keeping their logo pinned to my chest in an effort to go rogue. I'd work as a Street Fitter, crouched on the corner of Seventh and Trade streets hissing at pedestrians. "Hey! HEY, OVERPRONATOR," I'd shout to the man who needed a gait analysis and a pair of custom orthotics. "Do you know about plantar fasciitis? BECAUSE YOU WILL."

I removied both buttons from my tee and placed them in her outstretched palm.

"Can I keep the shirt?" I asked, wide-eyed, innocent, and overwhelmed by the bottles of 40 Volume Bleach offgassing two feet to my right.

"Yes. Consider that our gift to you"

I walked to the car, confident that I'd never shove an oversized foot into an undersized shoe, never stare at another set of split toenails, never have the manager tell me how stupid I was for mismatching a pair of socks for the try-on bins. "The real gift," I thought to myself as I rolled down the window "The real gift was letting me go."

1 comment:

Arnetta Green said...

I love this post! I actually came back to re-read it because it's one of my favorites. It reminds me of jobs I've had in the past. Hilarious!