|April 11, 2001
Witness to the Execution
I watched someone get fired yesterday.
I didn't want to watch. It wasn't fun: it was a little bit like witnessing an execution, and I've never been the sort of person who gets off on that kind of stuff. I won't even watch David vacuum the ANTS in our apartment.
But I watched anyway. I didn't have any choice: it was happening right in front of me.
The minute the Human Resources Director Person showed up at my doorway yesterday morning, grimly asking me to "cover the front desk for a few minutes," I knew that they were finally going to terminate Ned The Receptionist Guy. It's been a long time coming. Not because he wasn't a competent receptionist -- because he was -- but because Ned The Receptionist Guy had the misfortune to come to work every day equipped with the one thing a Totem Pole Company Receptionist should never, ever have:
I wouldn't be able to prove that this is why he was fired, of course. Neither would he. (And I hope he doesn't try, for his sake.) All I do know is that from the very first day Ned came on board at The Totem Pole Company, the Testosterone Units around the office -- especially the upper-level management Units for whom *I* have worked, both past and present -- had it in for the guy.
They hated the fact that our receptionist was a man. (It probably didn't help that he was also gay AND not Caucasian.) They hated the fact that the person sitting behind the front desk wasn't cute and perky and "equipped" with a set of good old-fashioned ovaries. And they especially hated the fact that Ned was an exceptionally good receptionist ... because that meant they had no legitimate reason to get rid of him.
Until yesterday, anyway.
I watched as The HRDP ushered Ned into the empty office directly adjacent to the reception desk. They closed the door, but I could still see the two of them through the window. The HRDP took a seat behind the executive desk, and Ned sat down in the visitor's chair facing her, with his back turned towards me, and for the next ten or fifteen minutes I watched as this sad, inevitable little pantomime played itself out in front of me. At first the HRDP did all the talking, while Ned sat there motionlessly, listening to her. Then I saw his shoulders begin to heave up and down. At one point the HRDP came out of the office, snatched up the box of Kleenex from the reception desk and went back inside. When the two of them emerged from the office, Ned was clearly a broken man. I got up and swiftly vacated the reception area, in order to give him some time to pack up his personal belongings in private.
"I'm so sorry," I said to him quietly, touching his sleeve. He was still crying, but he nodded in response.
When I came back to the reception desk half an hour later ... he was gone.
The official reason for his dismissal was Misuse of company equipment. Our Accounting Manager reported that she'd walked into the lobby, that morning, and witnessed Ned viewing a pornographic website on the reception area computer. This wasn't the first time he'd been caught doing something like this, apparently: he'd received at least two previous warnings about "inappropriate computer useage," according to reliable sources. This was in direct violation of written corporate policy. So his dismissal -- at least from a legal standpoint -- is probably valid.
But I'm still sick at heart about it.
I'm not saying that what he did wasn't stupid. It was incredibly, unbelievably, cataclysmically stupid, as a matter of fact. (One of the first lessons they teach you at Receptionist School -- along with how to answer the phone with a *smile* in your voice and how to leave pesky telephone salesmen on hold for twenty-four minutes until they finally get discouraged and hang up -- is this: You don't sit at the front desk and look at pornography on the Internet.) I just want to slap him silly. What the hell was he thinking??
And I'm not saying that I'm not a teeny-tiny bit uncomfortable with ... well ... with what I imagine he must have been looking at on that website. There is just some stuff I would rather not think about.
But what I find the most offensive here -- the thing that is still rankling me, twenty-four hours after they booted him off The Totem Pole -- is the way the Testosterone Units are behaving, now that Ned is gone. There has been an extremely vicious, celebratory vibe in the air for two days now. Lots of furtive hallway conversations. Lots of giggling. Lots of jokes at Ned's expense.
Yesterday afternoon, for instance, I was cleaning off the front desk, spraying it with Windex and wiping it off with paper towels. This is something I would probably do regardless of who had been sitting there last: I like a shiny clean desktop. (And if I'm gonna be stuck sitting at the front desk until they hire the new receptionist, it's damn well gonna look the way *I* want it to look.(
Just then The VP of BFD happened to walk by. He leaned over the counter towards me and, with a leer you could practically taste, it was so rank and vile, he said, "Getting rid of the cooties, are you?"
Sometimes I hate working for The Totem Pole Company. This week has been one of those times.