by Rachel Yecco
To my right, I have a pile of written complaints and to my left, a computer containing e-mailed complaints from the last 9 hours. And they need to get filed!
My life is a cell. even tough, ironically, everyone is made of them, only a select few are them . Cells are those who come in at 9 and sit down in their assigned 10 foot by 10 foot space, which is a nice size or a cubicle according to Nancy who sits diagonally from my cell two rows ahead.
We sit in the center of the building on the 4th floor. All the other floors above can look down on us. I sometimes go up to the top where Jeff, my boss, his office is and look down. It’s like we have our own culture growing in some sort of petry dish. Like, we’re in the Twilight Zone or something, Big Brother, ya know.
I know there is a name for this job, besides certain expletives, but after 4 years working for GCR Corp, I have forgotten what that is. All I know is, we make this new plastic. I dunno, some people don’t like it. They say turns yellow in the dishwasher. Or sparks up in the microwave like 4th of July, so I file their complaints.
I was a writing major a NYU. How I found myself behind a desk in this rather uncomfortable suit is beyond me. All my professors said, “You got it kid, a real something with words”. I held onto those sorts of things to keep me going. I was an intern for the New Yorker for 2 years in college, and now I’m in the business of plastics.
‘Tom, I always forget which cell you’re in.”
I’ve been in the same cell for 4 years, and Bob has said this same thing since my second day on the job.”
“Bob, I uhh…” I try to get out a few words.
“ We have a situation! A REAAAL big emergency!”
Bob is my boss’s secretary. The worlds worst Secretary, I may add. Everyday he comes in, confused as to my whereabouts, and from his powdered sugar donut lips, he says, “We have an EEEmergenCY! A real swear-to-God crisis on our hands!” We never do. I’ve learned that EEEmergenCY means we need for toner for the printer and crisis is code for Matt is getting hot and heavy with that pretty little brunette from advertising in the copy room again.
Bob is also very un-secretary-like. Since the dawn of time, it has only been understood by men that secretary’s are hot forbidden territory, giving off the vibe that they want to be kept alone to their library-like good looks, but will give in to the right man and on the right desk.
Bob is particularly pale and large, as well as suffering from male pattern baldness. He is married to an oversized gem named Maggie and has two darling kids, Precious Pearl and Super Steve. I know this because when Maggie calls, he always asks if she can, “put my Precious Pearl and Super Steve on the phone, will yah?” Did I mention he has the voice of a mating humpback whale?
Alternatively, I wouldn’t know, or believe, that Maggie, Precious Pearl, or Super Steve even existed if it were for the shiny gold wedding band cutting the circulation from his sausage ring finger or the watch Maggie gave him for Christmas. It’s not your average silver chain link watch that poor boys like us get off Canal Street, oh no. It’s got pictures of Bob, Maggie, and their kids little heads on it all evenly spaced in the watch. When the clock strikes twelve, Maggie gets whacked in the noggin. Then at three Precious Pearl gets a good hit, followed by Super Steve at six And it’s all rounded off by a good smack to Bob’s cranium at nine.
“Tom, We got a crisis on our hands. Now I don’t particularly know what’s going on, but I think this is it.”
“Do you need me to tell Matt and Lauren to knock it off, again?”
“No, we’re going under, GCR Corp is going under!”
“Jesus Christ Bob, this is the last time I’m telling you, your staying put, now get outta here, I got complaints to file.”
“No you don’t understand!”
Two months ago, a creative little spider, spun a web of rumors. There were three that got the attention of the company.
The First was that Lauren was preggo, but not with Matt’s baby. That one turned out to be a negative. Though I’m sure if it was true, the copy room drama would be better than any HBO series.
The second was that the Gyro cart right outside the building was moving to 53rd and Lexington, which turned out positive. They replaced it with some falafel guy and I can’t taste the big difference, but some folks were pretty pissed ‘bout that. And the last was that GCR Corp. was filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. After months of no lay offs or nothing, everyone down here in complaints figured it wasn’t true and moved on
“GCR Corp is the Titanic, and Jeff is Edward Smith!”
“Who’s Edward Smith?”
“The captain, but that doesn’t matter, the point it…”
“Jeff is no captain of any ship, didn’t you see him at the company picnic on the yacht last year.”
“Tom, Tom listen…”
“Haven’t seen that much puke from a person since my 21st birthday.”
“There were these guys in the office”
“Will you get out of here! I got stuff to do.”
“Jeff filed for Chapter 11!”
Once these words left his lips there was no looking back. People began popping out of their cells like groundhogs, cocking their heads to the side as small whispers rose into the air. Chapter 11.
I pulled Bob into my cell, down onto the floor so no one could see us. I hoped our voices wouldn’t rise above my cell.
I stared at Bob dead in the eyes. “Tell me what you heard.”
Bob’s eyes got all beady with panic. The world’s worst secretary had heard or seen something to confirm our biggest fears.
“Bob!” I yelled.
“Now whisper, I don’t want you to make everyone worry.”
“Alright, alright,” he began.
“So there were these two men, I don’t know who, but they’ve been coming around a lot in the last year, but a lot more in the last two weeks. They were talking about 1.2 billion dollars in bankruptcy, so to fix it, they filed for Chapter 11. But I didn’t know this until right now.”
“So it was true, that’s why we were still operating.”
“But listen, that 1.2 was kept off the books the entire time because he hid it in separate partnerships.”
“Oh my god.”
“Those small partnerships had debt and losses that he never reported too.”
“But you don’t have to report it unless he owns more than 50 percent.” I said.
Bob’s breathing got heavy and small beads of sweat began to bubble by his receded hairline.
“I just, I don’t,” Bob stuttered. “I got kids, and Maggie. What’s gonna happen?”
The truth was that I didn’t know. The only thing I knew after four years here, was that after five I was quitting. This never crossed my mind as the way I would go.
I always pictured it as a big scene. I’d wake up at 7:30 AM. No shower, no shave, no suit, just a few shots of Old Jack and then off the work by 8 AM. I’d call some of the people who filed complaints and yell, “Yeah? Well maybe plastic doesn’t belong in the microwave?!” I would charge into Jeff’s office with my briefcase, contents two shot glasses, and introduce him to Jack. Then I’d say something like, “ I am an NYU Grad. I spent years around accomplished important writers. And after four years all I have accomplished is two filing cabinets of complaints from people who don’t have anything else better to do than search for the perfect plastic. Something, which you haven’t accomplished, and that’s your job. I didn’t go to school for plastic!” And then leave. I feel like the traditional I quit is so, Tom Cruise via Jerry Maguire, and I have never been a Tom Cruise fan.
I looked at Bob and he was fidgeting with his stupid watch. And he looked at me to try and fix this as a friend. Everyone else in complaints started packing up their things and leaving the office on their cell phones. Cubicles aren’t as quiet as I’d like to think.
At this moment, I chose to leave with Bob.
“Come on Bob, we’re going out.”
“I gotta get home, I gotta tell my wife.”
“No” I paused, “ No yah don’t, let’s go”
I grabbed my stuff and started heading out. “Where are we going?” Bob questioned. I replied, “ o the nearest bar, we gotta figure things out, and the greats never did it without a blood alcohol level of .2.”
“Now, I don’t drink Tom.”
“I know, you’re buying.”
We left the office along with a crowd of people. Jeff’s face was something to see. Normally, he didn’t have to try to make himself appear bigger and better than you. He wore Armani and Gucci suits every day and drove a shade of black Jaguar that doesn’t even exist to anyone else beside himself. It was subtleties like that, which made him better than everyone, all the time, every day. But today, he wasn’t. He hid in his office. He is a coward.
Bob and I headed to the pub two blocks down. It’s the kinda pub that’s been passed down from mom and pop, with pictures of old family on the walls and cheesy Christmas decorations up even though it’s March. But they serve decent beer and fine conversation, so it’s the place to be, especially with Bob.
When we walk in, Martha, the owners daughter, questions the date and time. I’m a Thursday at 8 PM regular and It’s Tuesday morning. After having a glance at Bob she gives us a round ‘on the house’ of their signature brew.
“Oh no, I don’t drink” Bob tells Martha, “Tom, I really gotta go.”
“No you don’t, tell him Martha.”
“Comm’an hand have a beer” she demands as she tops off my glass.
“All right, but just this” Bob bargains.
About half way into his first glass he takes off his suit jacket and loosens his tie. After he finishes his glass, the top buttons on his shirts are undone as he orders me and him another glass.
As the glasses keep coming, on Bob’s demand, articles of his clothes start to find itself undone or misplaced, example his neck tie around his head, which he then started as a bar trend. It did have quite as popular a following as Bob and I had hoped for. It was shocking to me because a) Bob was being the trendsetter, and b) it was eleven in the morning. How could there possibly be that many people in a bar and hammered?
Regardless of actual analog time, this was the first cognitive time I could think of Bob being this much fun. Not to completely diss the pig roast he has in ’96 for Labor Day. Now that was a good time, until Frank Kilmer from accounting tried to put Precious Pearl on the pig roast stick. Things turned sour after that.
By this point, Bob has had six beers and two shots of Jack and I’m sure I’m in the same area, though I’ve lost count. We’ve managed to make nice with a bunch of nice-headed kids from NYU, ironically. They say, this bar keeps them from being one of the 3 percent. Annually, at NYU, 3 percent of the incoming freshman jump off the deep end. Literally, they jump off the library balcony after hours of reading medical journals. Typically, they’re ethnically some sort of Asian, or Italian from guilt providing families. But these kids say this bar keeps them far from the NYU library balcony or Brooklyn Bridge- another hot spot for the 3 percent.
“Now listen, guys, this is reaaally, just, this is really, important!” Bobs words fall from his mouth like drunk man getting out of a car. “Never get married. Ever.” The kids start to cackle loudly. A red-head high fives Bob and says, “ Yes, hell yes! I love you man! Seriously.”
“No, Serious! I mean, I’m serious! I love you, but that’s not serious. About the marriage part.”
“Awe Bob” I say, “ But Maggie got you that special watch with your faces on it.”
“I hate this watch! Sometimes in the middle of the night, I check to see what time it is because the numbers glow in the dark and stuff.”
“What are you eleven?” asks the kid that goes by the name Short Bus
“Man, I wish, but I wake up in the middle of the night and see Pearl and Steve glowing at me and I get scared and think, ‘Bob, Bob is this it’. I got a miserable wife and two fat kids. I mean, I know Pearl’s only thirteen, but you know, I didn’t think she’d look like this. That. I don’t know.”
The kids stopped laughing now. “ Another round Martha” says Short Bus as he waves at the bar. “ No, man, you can’t think like that. Do you think I was this good looking’ when I was thirteen” he says.
“Yeah” The red head agrees. “I mean look at me! Look at my head. I got- has it three time as bad. Everyone is ugly at thirteen, but I was thirteen and a ginger!”
“He has a valid point Bob” I point out.
“But what do I do, I mean- I’m unhappy. The only thing that makes me happy is you guys.” Bob says
“ I’m feeling this right now,” Short Bus declares while the red head nods. “I’m getting good vibes.”
“You know what Bob?” The red head begins. “You need to open up a bar. You said it yourself, you only like beer.”
“Yeah, but that wasn’t until today” Bob said.
“So, you like it, love it, it makes you happy”
“Yeah, me and Short Bus can work for you! We’re only in NYU because our parents bought the courtyard a bench or something.”
“Yeah” short bus agreed, “ I mean who we kiddin’, majoring in pre law, that’s a bunch of bull- I’ll tell you.”
“You’re right,” Bob declared.
He stood up from his seat, “I’m going into the beer business.”
“Yeah” everyone in the bar agreed as they cheered. “And everyone here, gets free beer, all the time, because I’m boss.” “Your boss!” Short Bus said.
“I’m the boss!”
By the next month, I was one of four people to show up to work in complaints. The cubicles were small little abandoned caves.
“Cheryl, where did everyone go?”
“According to Lisa, a bunch of guys went to work for Bob at his new bar. It’s opening next week.”
“You got to be kidding me.”
“Seriously. Everyone’s been either drinking there for free or working there. He’s got his thirteen year old serving beer! Bob’s a funny guy, you know. Who’d have thunk it”
“He is, Bob is a pretty funny guy.”