Party Animal

  • At 9:00 A.M. Friday morning I entered the Mecca of Discontent (employee kitchen) to clock in and saw this existential wall hanging staring back at me. It scared me.

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  • At 1:00 P.M. Staff received the following email sent by Human Resources:

palooka“Hi All! Joe Palooka Sand Bag is turning 50 on November 8th!!! She will be out of the office on this day, but I would like to celebrate this special occasion on Monday, November 7th with cupcakes and good wishes. Birthday cards will circulate the office. If you would like to contribute towards a gift, please stop by my office or email me no later than Friday, November 4th. Thank you and have a great weekend!”

 

 

 

Firstly, nobody on staff likes the Sandbag — Middle Manager, infantilizer and control freak. She once patted me on the head during a meeting and I went for her ankle.

Secondly, never ask underpaid staff for money. Last year, when an employee’s mother died in a galaxy far, far away, The Dark Force — Middle Manager, BBB (bossy beyond belief) — sent out a guilt-tripping email asking staff to contribute money to bury the woman’s mother, who happened to have passed away in BBB’s homeland. Coincidence?

Thirdly, cards — plural — will circulate the office. One birthday card is not enough? And how will the cards be circulated? On the wings of a snow white dove?

Fourthly, and undoubtedly on everyone’s mind, why on earth would she think November 8th is a “special occasion” to anyone other than the Sandbag?

  • Lastly and leastly, at 3:00 P.M., the entire office received this weird and wearied email from Managing Partner and Party Animal Mr. Ed.
  • “As you all know Monday is Halloween…from time to time people have worn costumes and others have thought too [sic] but may have been too shy. This year we think it would be fun to invite you to wear a costume ( office appropriate please ) and we will award 3 prizes for the best ones…not sure who will be on the Judges Committee ! Enjoy the weekend.”

What kind of half-baked B.S. email is that? Is he on drugs? As if anyone is going to ruin their Saturday and go shopping for a death mask at the 99-cent store because they were so moved by this vagary: “from time to time, people have worn costumes” 

Come Monday, if Mr. Ed balks about my not being in costume…

I will simply reply, “Introvert.”

What exactly is an office-appropriate costume?

FLY THE COOP

estranged

The Divorce of Fiery and Cool Magpie

It’s not as if we didn’t know it was coming. Fiery Magpie finally flew the coop last week for $$-er pastures and the sight of her vacant desk chair was too much for Dreadful Dreadlocks to process. Galvanized by a pressing need to know every single detail that might have foretold the end of Team Magpie’s 19-year tenure at the Firm, she could barely contain her angst.

As she darted around the firm looking for answers, her wire-thin dreads levitated, spinning out in a whirly-birding frenzy. The rapid rotation of frizzies in the airspace above her scalp precipitated an updraft so intense, so furious, that its unprecedented velocity registered on The Weather Channel’s Doppler radar as a category 1 vortex tornado.

She was pissed. Rumors were confirmed (so they like to think) that Night Staff had instigated the split between the Magpie sisters.

NIGHT STAFF…zzzzz…Don’t their sloth fool you….They’re Lazy Like a Fox…

unknown    and     unknown

Cool Magpie was flitting nervously around the Firm, too, pointing her beak into everybody’s cubicle like a compass needle aiming for true north. Afraid her own job might also be in jeopardy — no one was hired yet to replace Fiery Magpie — she wasn’t privy to her estranged sister’s new place of employment. In desperation, she went into drone mode and dive-bombed the desk of Dreadful Dreadlocks hoping for a few crumbs of information.

But Dreadful was not in the mood. She didn’t know where Fiery Magpie was working and yelled at Cool Magpie to leave her alone. Docketing overheard the altercation and dialed my extension.

They wanted to know, at that very moment in time, if Dreadful Dreadlocks was inside The Dark Force’s office spilling the beans. That, I told them, was a negative.

Joe Palooka Sand Bag palooka had beaten Dreadful to the punch and was sitting with The Dark Force in her office. The office door was closed, but I could still hear the muffled sing-song-y cadence J. P. Sand Bag employs when ragging on people.

She is of the species Eyelash Batter with Two Faces and One Big Mouth, a type of subhuman bottom heavy creature that, back in Junior High, roamed the schoolyard among her pack of similar miscreants with the sole purpose of picking on the most vulnerable kids.

Dreadful expectedly appeared in our cubicle neighborhood after encountering The Dark Force’s closed door. She moseyed over to commiserate  with Carvel Soft Serve. 

softserve

They slipped into sotto voce gossipy mode. The extremely faint decibel level of their obsessive whispering is nothing short of amazing. From their mouths to dogs’ ears.

Seconds later, when Cool Magpie showed up in the ‘hood, Dreadful split for the employee kitchen.

Carvel Soft Serve was now as valuable to Cool Magpie as Deep Throat was to Watergate. However, Carvel Soft Serve does not indulge in mud slinging.

When she senses a verbal exchange might be turning dark, she will assume her standard passive-aggressive defense. Feigning a loss of hearing in the ear closest to your mouth, she will reply to whatever was said with: “Hah?…Hah?...Hah?

My phone intercom buzzed. It was The Dark Force summoning me into her office.

At the sound of The Dark Force’s bossy voice, Cool Magpie also took off for the employee kitchen — the Firm’s Mecca of Discontent. I felt Carvel Soft Serve’s eyes burning a hole in my back as I walked into The Dark Force’s office and closed the door.

“You may not know this about me,” said The Dark Force, in her creepy way. “But I am an entity descended from a large mass that is missing from the universe.”

dark-matter

(Okay, she didn’t really say that, but I felt it could be true.)

A murmur of staticky voices streaming out of her computer from a third-world radio station filled in the silence that hung between us. She made no move to lower the volume. I felt like i was in the backseat of a taxi in Montego Bay.

“I would like you to take over Fiery Magpie’s job,” she said, making direct eye contact.

“What?”

“Who else can I give it to? Carvel Soft Serve? I can’t stand her,” she growled. “I hate that woman. ”

I didn’t need to hear that. “What about The Church Lady?” I said.

churchlady2The Church Lady is known for smiling perpetually, laughing boisterously, invoking The Lord every second, and agreeing to everything congenially — and then throwing any work she doesn’t care to do in the trash.

An audible exhale, purple in color, came out of The Dark Force. “No, no, no,” she muttered.

Fiery Magpie’s former job wasbasically, dunning clients for money, keeping track of all the monthly annuities for every lawyer in the Firm, checking myriad databases for each and every entry — all of which required the use of a computer program called Excel.

Excel, in case you don’t know, is a dreary grid of a bazillion cells, crammed with numbers and formulas and whatever, row after row after row. The font inside these cells is a minuscule 8-point or smaller. The-Lord’s-Prayer-on-the-head-of-a-pin. It is a monotonous, wearying grille of statistical misery that you navigate through using the “tab” key.

No, no, A thousand times NO.

Excel spreadsheets are so depressing they deserve to be thrown in the trash. Which is why The Church Lady would be perfect for the job!

I was to assume this new job while continuing to work for The Gecko. The Dark Force actually believed The Gecko when he told her he “felt so bad that they gave this job to me.”

“I will assist you,”  The Dark Force said. “I will learn this job, too.”

Nightmare number 2. Did I mention that before being “promoted” to this Middle Management position, The Dark Force was supervisor of Night Staff.  Two people. At night. When no one is around. Need I say more?

“And will I be getting a raise?”

“Raises come at the end of the year,” she said. “Last year, when I got you your raise, I had to first propose an amount to The Gecko. And his response was, ‘Okay, but cut it in half,’ 

Cut it in half. Did I need to know that? Because as much as I dislike that peanut-munching, nose-picking, cockroach-killer, my dislike of The Gecko boiled into hatred when I heard those four words.

Cut it in half.

eviltwin

When the meeting with The Dark Force was over, I felt as miserable as Griffin Dunne did in this scene from Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours”:

But there is always a bright side. I know what my New Year’s Resolution for 2017 will be:

WOE IS ME, LLP

It has been an eventful week at Woe Is Me, LLP, where all the woman are underpaid, all the men are Alpha, and all the disfunction is above average.

News Flash 1:

$100 in cash and a Metro Card were stolen from the wallet of I See London I See France, the youngest of the Firm’s receptionists.

Human Resource’s first response was to cite I See London’s hemline:

shortskirt

before firing off an infantilizing Mother Hen Life Lesson to staff via email:

While we may know and trust our co-workers, we need to be mindful that many strangers pass through our offices daily and nightly. The Firm is not liable for stolen property. Please adhere to the basic principles of security inside the office.

Word spread fast as to who did the robbery. The Firm’s most recent hire, The Skulking New Temp in IT. After this revelation, a paralegal admitted once seeing The Skulk rummaging through his desk. Other Metro Cards, it seemed, also had gone missing from women’s purses.

Shirt half in-half out, face a rictus of mid-yawn, wobbly-legged inside his untied Nikes, The Skulk was never, ever on time for work — I be late because of my Baby MamaI once overheard him say, serendipitously, via speaker phone.

Each time you passed The Skulk in the corridor, he would extend his hand, deliver a limp-wristed-finger-graze, and mumble, “Hi. I’m the new tech,” even though he had passed by you five minutes earlier and said the same thing.

Keeping it under the radar, H.R. told The Skulk there was no more work for him. He left on his own and a richer man for it. The temp agency was not notified of the theft. Less messy that way.

News Flash 2:

Goodbyes being the order of the week, Fiery Magpie (of the estranged sibling duo, Fiery and Cool Magpie) abruptly gave two weeks notice. Because she and sister Cool are still not speaking, Cool was forced to join an assembly of staff-whisperers milling about the cubicle of Carvel Soft Serve to learn the details of what happened.

softserveReveling in all the attention, Carvel exploited her moment in the harsh glare of fluorescent light by audibly counting her blessings before the assembly, grateful that her mega bag of chips and noxious smelling hand lotion with the crusty spout had been overlooked by The Skulking Temp in IT.

But there was new business of the day to dish on, that of the impending departure of Fiery Magpie. Voices were lowered. Intense whispering abounded.

Dreadful Dreadlocks, however, weighed in vociferously, calling Fiery Magpie “mean.” Her formidable tone of voice, easily heard by me in the adjacent cubicle, conjured this image:

magpie-mad

All fired up, Dreadful’s locks took on on a life of their own. Bad thoughts seeped through the parietal bone of her cranium, pierced the pores her scalp, and sent crackling electrodes of ire through the follicles and down into her dreads. She was lit like a telephone pole struck by lightning:

livewiresThe staff-whispering that ensued after Dreadful’s voltaic outburst was of an exceedingly faint volume, rendering all further utterances audible only to staff-whisperers and canines, but not to me. Any further insults after “mean,” even though I was right next door, regrettably, did not reach my ears.

New Flash 3:

The Dark Force, our immediate supervisor, who had just opened the door to her office, thus releasing from her mental grip a fellow lateral supervisor/distributor of useless documents, namely:

palooka

Miss Joe Palooka Sand Bag  (always ready to accuse; check up on people not at their desk like a prison warden; and, most important, reformat a Microsoft Word document at the drop of a hat, because that’s how much work she has to do)

 

 

 

 

The Dark force thundered over to our cubicle neighborhood like the 50-foot woman. The staff-whispers scattered, frightened as mice. The Dark Force summoned Carvel Soft Serve into her office. Once inside, door closed, she reamed her sugar cone. But good.

I learned this after the fact when Carvel Soft Service emerged from the office, a sloppy melting mess of goo, and staff-whispered the details to me.

The real “meanie” in the firm is The Dark Force. When not waxing pitch-black; or ducking behind the potted philodendron in her office, which she has positioned in front of her face; or fanning out Born Again pamphlets displayed on her desk, as if the Firm were a church (or subway station), she is nit-picking Carvel Soft Serve to death.

Maybe she should try reading her own pamphlets!

Her hunting down and hatred of Carvel Soft Serve reminds me of the scary shadows chasing Willy around the Bronx in The 1990s movie “Ghost”:

You can run but you cannot hide

 

The John Doe Problem

The Magpie sisters, a pair of paralegals with polarized personalities, are feuding. This is not the first time they have stopped speaking. In 2013, their reciprocal enactment of the silent-treatment lasted a full two years.

In standard office mode, the banter of the Magpies is low impact bickering with the occasional flare-up:magpieisland

But in fight mode, they are explosive: magpies2

Like a Legal Opera with No Second Act:

  • Fiery Magpie decides to take a week off for vacation. While she is gone,

images, a lawyer, a.k.a. Guess Whose Wife Left Him Last Year, approaches Cool Magpie with billable-by-the-hour work he would have given to Fiery Magpie had she not been swinging in a hammock somewhere in Baja.

Cool Magpie “forgets” to mention to Fiery Magpie, upon her return to the office, that this coveted billable transaction has taken place. But an unknown someone clues her in.

“I would never do that to you,” Fiery Magpie growls, spitting mad.

And they haven’t spoken since.

  • Fiery Magpie proceeds to spread the drama of her sister’s financial betrayal all around the firm, from its uppermost regions to its lowest: NIGHT STAFF.
  • Not long after Fiery Magpie’s eruption, Cool Magpie prepares a series of documents on behalf of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, an “Of Counsel” lawyer — which means semi-retired and working offsite in an undisclosed location.recliner-two3
  • The documents Cool Magpie has prepared require electronic filing with the government. She delivers the documents for filing to NIGHT STAFF, following the suggestion of the global email that circulates throughout the Firm every day at 4:00 P.M., launched by an unseen Supervisor of Document Distribution hitting the SEND button:

“If you require assistance this evening, please e-mail NIGHT STAFF directly. Thank you.”

(You can almost hear a sigh of relief behind it: Thank you for not interrupting my Sudoku!)

This is how Cool Magpie’s request is received by the dynamic duo of NIGHT STAFF:

unknown    and   unknown

               Go away…                                                              It’s not my job…

 Cool Magpie complains to the Firm’s Hall Monitor, who cracks the whip.

hallmonitorAnd NIGHT STAFF gets right on it.

  • While filing the documents, NIGHT STAFF discovers that Cool Magpie did not insert Foggy Mountain Breakdown’s electronic signature on any of the documents!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For the record, an electronic signature looks like this:  /name of person/

Anyone can type it.

But in lieu of typing /Foggy Mountain Breakdown/, NIGHT STAFF types /John Doe/

computer

For “Contact e-mail address,” NIGHT STAFF types johndoe@democompany.com

When he learns of this perversity, the Gecko, a Firm honcho, gets an instant migraine.

geckohead.jpeg  How can this happen????????????????

Enter: Older Guy Partner With The Too-Young-For-Him-Wife, who recently became an older guy dad, and knows from personal experience as a lawyer (and previous marriages) that his wife will leave him and sue for child support, the house, and a bucket-load of alimony as soon as the fruit of their loins turns two years old, citing abandonment —

because he’s never home  — frank-n-bride

Nevertheless, Older Guy Partner steps in and pens to Docketing this ineffectual missive:

Please remove John Doe from the docket

johndoe

When Cool Magpie is asked by the Hall Monitor to fix the John Doe problem, she delivers a withering surely you jest expression that sends Hall Mother packing.

Fixing the John Doe problem falls into the open lap of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, who is more than willing to comply, not having anything of consequence on his docket — if you don’t count catching up on back issues of the What on Earth catalog from his La-Z-Boy.

In a show of appreciation, the Gecko re-gifts Foggy Mountain Breakdown a saddlebag cup holder he indirectly received from the QVC network years ago via his now departed mother because he is too paranoid to throw it out. cuppholder

 

 

 

  • The John Doe problem might be fixed, but the Magpie sisters are still not speaking.

 

 

Power Play Confidential

  • Male photographer and his female assistant arrive at 10:00 A.M. They’ve come to shoot head shots of the new hires. The most boring website in the world is getting an update. The firm, once again, is reinventing itself.

fingers

The assistant sets up in the lobby. The Photog acts as if he’s the adopted brother of Annie Leibovitz. Hello. This is a law firm. He chats up the receptionist, a former model who still looks good from the neck up. They commiserate.

On the sidelines, the Photog’s first victim seems a bit nervous. She’s a female J.D., fresh out of law school. Standing alone in a dark business suit on a white marble floor.

Abruptly, he spins on his heels. He fashions an L-shaped viewfinder with his right hand and scans her from head to toe.

Photog: “Um, do you ever wear a necklace?”

J.D.: “Yes…”

P: “Do you have a necklace?”

J:  “I have a necklace. But I don’t have it with me.”

Audible sigh from the photographer.

 *  *  *  * *

perky

  • Perky 20-something H.R. assistant is saddled with the chore of setting up interviews between male partners on the power grid and potential new hires. The most supercilious of them all, the partner with the ironic first name, as in: 1) a person hired to carry baggage; or 2) a dark bitter beerfloats into our section, buoyed up by his own wonderfulness.

Perky-20: “Where are you tomorrow?”

DBB: “I don’t know that you are on a need-to-know basis. I don’t know if you have been elevated to that status.”

 *  *  *  *  *

  •  A partner with severe corner office envy (imagine singer Paul Simon in an out of style serge suit) broaches the topic of hotel arrangements with the most powerful of the powerless female middle-managers. They are discussing the upcoming pre-trial preparatory weekend in Palm Beach:

simon

He: “Is the room its own structure or is it separate? Is it a separate bungalow or part of a separate structure?”

She: “No.”

He: “Is there an upstairs or is everyone on the same floor?”

She: “Same floor.”

He: “I remember it. It’s like a little town. You have to walk everywhere. [Sigh] I don’t really care. It’s fine.”

She: “The work area is real small. They only have one extra room. I’ll try to get it. Only problem is, there’s a demand.”

He: “For one person it’s a good space. For 10 people…?”

She: “I made a video. It will show you how the rooms are arranged.”

He: [Sigh] “It is what it is.”

 *  *  *  *  *

toilet

  • Potential hire in the next stall:

“I’m actually in the bathroom right now. Can I call you in 3 hours?”

 

 

Mailroom Noir

Arriving early to work on Friday, I walked in on a conversation between Housekeeping staffer, Sad Eyes:

sadeyes     and,  return, a Mailroom lifer.

They were huddled over a printed Firm newsletter, circa 2008, a relic unearthed by Sad Eyes in a bottom drawer of the employee kitchen.

“Oh…look who it is..,” lamented Sad Eyes, pointing at a photo of a youngish man.

“Who?” I asked. I didn’t work there in 2008.

“Benny,” said Return to Sender. “Look. There’s NG, too. Me, Benny and NG. We were friends. We’d hang out and play cards.”

With that,  return related the story of Benny’s descent into oblivion:

Back then, Benny worked the day shift in litigation support services. One Friday, at the end of the day, Benny left a huge stack of papers for Lazy George to be scanned for one of the attorneys. Lazy George “worked” as the “night staff.”

unknown Z-Z-Z-Z…

The following Monday morning, the huge stack of papers remained untouched. Benny was steamed but took the rap. Because that’s the kind of guy Benny was, explained Return to Sender.

In his heart and mind, it seems Benny was nursing a mad crush on

candymouth2   Candy, a secretary in the Firm. So much so, he wrote a song for her.

Which he shared with returnin the privacy of the Mailroom. This being the mailroom, news of the existence of such a song spread throughout the Firm like a virus.

Of course, candymouth2 got wind of it. She approached Benny and sweetly asked if she could see the song. Hopes high, Benny handed it over.

Unbeknownst to Benny, NG, and return, Candy secretly xeroxed the song and then shared it with Judy —

judy — drama queen and assistant to the Firm’s coke head in residence (“I have sinus trouble” sniff sniff) and future embezzler, a.k.a the Administrator.

At Judy’s bossy insistence, Candy told the head of Human Resources about the song, tossing in a charge of sexual harassment — a law firm’s worst nightmare — for good measure.

(Sidebar:  judy would, months later, herself, be relocated to an office in the Firm’s nether region to avert a catfight between her and a former best friend, Carlotta, as they both competed for the affections of the hot new stud in IT).

But let’s get back to the story of Benny. Benny was outraged over the sexual harassment accusation. He drafted a pages-long letter of resignation, in which he described the injustice in minute detail. He hand-delivered his manifesto to a powerless middle manager, a virtual non-committal human conduit of disaster.

She assured him, “Don’t worry, Benny. It will be okay. I will take care of it.”

She did. And the next thing he knew, Managing Partner Mr. Ed had dispatched two guards who summarily escorted Benny out of  the building.

“First he’s accused of sexual harassment and now he has no job!” adds return.

Weeks go by. Benny sinks into a deep depression.

Then one night, NG receives a phone call. “This is the police. We need you to come down to the morgue and identify a body. A suicide.”

They called NG because they found his phone number in Benny’s wallet.

NG called return .  Together, they headed down to the morgue.

“Only four people went to the funeral,” says Return to Sender, wrapping up his story. He shakes his head. “Do me a favor,” he says to me and Sad Eyes. “If I ever collapse while I’m at work, tell them I have a DNR. Tell them I don’t want to be resuscitated because I don’t want to come back this place.”

Translation: returndeeply regrets spreading the news about Benny’s song and knows there is nothing he can do to fix it.

As for candymouth2, I’d wager she is sipping mojitos in the Cayman Islands right now, living a life of leisure on the hush money paid to her by the Firm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizza Party

This being a law firm, the holiday pizza party email arrived in our inboxes with caveats. You must work 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You must take a 1/2 hour lunch. No more than 2 slices per person.

Irksome, yes, but not a deal breaker for those skilled in reconnaissance — namely, adept staff members who can discern the opportune time to knick and tuck extra slices of pizza between sandwiched paper plates —  which they will later call “dinner.”

On the contrary, nothing irks the alpha males. They ignore email edicts with impunity and eat as many slices as they want. Me Male Lawyer. Me Hungry. After all, being hungry got them where they are (cue the chest pounding).

The inhabitant of the cubicle adjacent to mine is also a food hoarder. She can fold and re-fold a slice of pizza like an origamist; fold it until it sprouts wings — or, optimally, fits inside a styrofoam coffee cup.

Let’s call her “Carvel Soft Serve”:

softserveMonday to Friday, she arrives at her cubicle and pours herself into her desk chair like Carvel Soft Serve into a sugar cone.

She doesn’t get up unless absolutely necessary, choosing instead to roll herself around the 3′ x 3′ cubicle area like a person in a wheelchair. Whenever I get up from my chair, she will grab a file from her desktop and ask, “Can you bring this to [the Gecko]?”

How can this happen“Get me this file,” commands the Gecko’s email, even if the file is sitting on his desk, even if it is right in front of him. He will not waste valuable time shifting his eyeballs from left to right.

Every morning, Soft Serve eats breakfast in the cubicle. Instant oatmeal in a styrofoam coffee cup. Which she has microwaved beforehand in the employee kitchen. Spoonfuls of mush travel from cup to mouth at breakneck speed. Did I mention she chews with her mouth open?

Everything going in and out of her mouth has its own soundtrack.

Post-prandial stray oats are washed down with a beverage (I’m guessing cola), that is siphoned through a straw inserted in the lid of a plastic cup. Every swallow is followed by a resounding ahhhhh! 

When the beverage bottoms out, short of turning the cup upside down and tapping the last drops down her throat, she initiates a probe of the cup’s interior by employing more vigorous sucks on the straw. The dissonant sound produced by such prodigious vacuuming brings to mind honking seals at Laguna Beach.

At 10:00 a.m., a satisfied smack of the lips and robust ahhhhh announces breakfast is over.

At 11:30 a.m., a half hour until the pizza party, Soft Serve rips open a bag of potato chips scored from the vending machine in the employee kitchen.

What ensues is a haphazard rustling of chips; fistfuls of salt and starch moving from bag to face; loud crunching sounds due to open-mouth chewing; and that nerve-grating, irriating lip-smacking.

At 11:55 a.m., Soft Serve’s partner in food, Dreadful Dreadlocks — dreadfully long and thin with dreadful amounts of scalp exposure — wanders into the cubicle. Unlike Soft Serve, who has no shame, Dreadful prefers not to hover like a vulture over the housekeeping staff setting up the pizza party. She tells Soft Serve they should wait until the scent of tomato sauce filters down the hall before they make their move.

In addition to hardly doing any work at all, texting non-stop and conducting marathon sotto voce phone calls (which she defines as multi-tasking), Soft Serve believes life would be an endless Pizza Party, if only she could be transported around the firm on a suspended hammock like the Queen of Hawaii: