Surprise party

The lovely and talented Miss Margaret called me at work again today, replaying most of yesterday’s panicked conversation. For my reactions and my half of the conversation, kindly reference yesterday’s entry.

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We had a little hypocrisy festival at work this afternoon. It was a company vice president’s birthday — some smiley suit we never see around the office unless there’s a catastrophe or another round of layoffs is imminent — so he’s, as you might expect, not a popular fellow amongst us workers. This particular suit, though, is my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, so my boss’ boss’s boss planned a surprise party. Oh, joy.

Before the party came the card, circulated throughout the area and eventually to me. I looked at all the other “best wishes” and “happy birthday” comments, signed by everyone who works within a dozen cubicles in any direction, and added something intentionally illegible.

Then came the party, though that ain’t at all the right word for what it was. Like workers on a chain gang, we all filed into my boss’s boss’s boss’s office, and waited for this immaculate super-suit to arrive. “Surprise!,” we were instructed to shout when he came in, and so we did, and then came a round of applause, spontaneously, I guess. There are however, limits to how low I’ll stoop, so I did not applaud the High Lord of Layoffs.

(Just wondering … At surprise parties motivated by friendship instead of fear, do people applaud? I wouldn’t know. I’m never invited and wouldn’t attend if I was.)

Then we all stood around (a lucky few sat, but there weren’t nearly as many chairs as butts in the room), as the guest of honor made excruciating 'executive small talk', which was actually kind of funny, though clearly we weren’t supposed to laugh. He told us about his recent vacation, to Greece and Turkey. “Turkey is very affordable,” he advised us. “Their economy is so poor, the prices are very low. You can eat a good dinner very inexpensively.” He didn’t say “a good dinner," though; he said something in French, I think.

Mr Vice President: My idea of an affordable vacation is a week with pay but without work, something this company is stingy about. And on these wages I'll never be able to afford a trip to Greece or Turkey, or Canada, or Ohio.

When Big Bossman finished his travelogue memoirs, he made a few other inane comments, like comparing this surprise party to the one another company office had given him this morning. Then the other executives made nervous chit-chat, one at a time getting artificial laughter in response to unclever remarks.

This fake party lasted more than an hour, with all of us required to be there. I had nothing to do or say, and didn’t even take a sliver of the strange-looking chocolate mousse cake they passed around. (Imagine me, not eating cake.) The birthday boy did not make eye contact with me during the entire event, which I half-hope means I’m getting laid off on Friday. Then again, I doubt he knows who I am, so it probably means nothing.

To entertain myself, I tried to calculate how much of the company’s time and money was being wasted, as 23 people loitered uncomfortably in an assistant vice president’s office for an hour. Since I briefly temped in the payroll department before being hired, I know that junior execs make about 2-3 times my wage. Senior execs and VPs are paid by a separate payroll department, and I can only guess how huge their paychecks might be, but conservatively, I’d say it cost the company about $550 — not counting the cake and cider, and not counting the morning surprise party the schmuck mentioned. Seems like a lot of time and money down the toilet, for a company that’s in bankruptcy proceedings.

And maybe workers are made, not born, for certainly mere workers do not have birthdays. I’ve never seen a cake or even a card for any of us who just work there. Not that I’m itching to have that crowd sing “Happy Birthday” at me, but the difference is like an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs. Executives and corporate officers get parties, while the employees' best hope for a surprise is not being laid off.

From Pathetic Life #3
Wednesday, August 24, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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