I’m going to write down this story. It’s a strange story, a story that sounds like one of those weird dreams. Maybe it’s more like a lie or a sketch of what actually happened or maybe it’s made up of blindingly hilarious facts mashed up together. But it’s a true story. A new story to you, an old one for me since the story happened to me.
It all started at my work, my job, my role, my title, my livelihood. Along with recently returning to university to further my educational ambitions, I had been and continued to work twenty hours a week at a job I assume most people wouldn’t mind so much. My official role was called Communication Coordinator Assistant, unofficially it is Cockmutation Pussynator Shitssistant a startlingly clever play on words by my best friend Pan.
I could always depend on Pan, which is his nick name by the way, with his knowledge of curse words to skillfully morph them into everyday uses. As children he convinced me that the actual names for earrings were nipples resulting in a week worth of detentions when I told our then sixty something year old teacher, Mrs. Lindsay, that her nipples were big and sparkly. Anyway I’ll talk about Pan a bit later. Back to my job - I assist to coordinate communications for the biggest cookie company in the southern hemisphere. Scrumptious Cookies whose tag line is ‘Mmm Scrumptious … any crumbs left?’ is a cultural icon, a symbol for generations of children over the past eighty-nine years. They have six brands of different cookies that they produce and distribute to over thirty-two countries and have a staff of seven hundred all working in one site.
At the time it felt too good to be true. I got a cubical right by the window with the view of the city, my own desk phone, my name on a piece of laminated paper stuck on my wall and all the free cookies I wanted any time during the day. I was warned by my family when I first got the job that I’d probably end up a giant blob of my former self, but a year into my first cooperate role I was still the same weight though my dentist bills had shot right up. Still, that didn’t stop me from having a hand full of Brownie Bites or Coconut Clumps while I worked on very important communication assistant duties. I got to dress smartly, got a free lunch once a week, medical insurance (though dentist bills aren’t covered which I found highly ironic at a cookie company), Monday was ‘crazy’ tie day and Friday causal dress day. I made my own hours as long as I was there for assigned meetings and met publishing deadlines.
So what does a Communication Coordinator Assistant actually do? It was pretty exciting. I designed, from scratch, wrote articles, doing the interviews myself, a weekly and quarterly publication for the whole company. It was all about cookies. The magazine that came in print and web edition was called ‘The Big Bite’. I was like the Anna Wintour of the cookie world. I had total creative freedom, as long as my boss and then her boss and then the managing director of the company all approved. I got to choose what went on the cover and what we wrote about as long as it was all cookie related of course. Well, it has to be Scrumptious Cookie related … We never wrote about other cookies or other cookie companies. For example I wasn’t allowed to even mention Big Old Mamma’s Home Baked Goodies, or Teddy Tuffs or Kookie Kisses and definitely never could I ever mention Oreos. They hated Oreos. I just shuddered when I wrote that.
Early on I found that working in a big company was kind of like going to school except I was getting paid. At school there were teachers, councilors, deans and principles, in the cooperate world those would be called managers, general managers, managing directors and share holders (oh scary). School had rules, work had policies and procedures. If at school one wasn’t a model student he or she would get a detention, suspension or at the worst expulsion. At work if one failed to meet the requirements of his or her role, they were ‘under review’, given a warning or at the worst escorted by security off site with a box of their possessions. Schools had a lunchroom, Scrumptious Cookies had an on site café. School had a school field or play ground where a selective athletically skilled few often staged a show for the rest of the students to watch. Scrumptious Cookies had a car park where a similar form of alpha male battle managed to play itself out, mainly by how new, shiny or fast ones car was. Let me just kill the suspense right now and say that unfortunately my 1990 Starlet never excelled in this arena.
School had proms or balls Scrumptious Cookies threw one of the biggest Christmas parties in the city where my assistance in organizing would be imperative. Finally at school there were cliques, groups, an organized food chain but at Scrumptious Cookies those are called departments. Marketing, Sales, Research & Development, Finance, Operations, Engineering, Human Resources and service staff. Ah yes, all the colors of the rainbow shining together from beyond grey clouds and on to the oncoming sunshine. Please follow the previous sentence with the sound of loud wet farting. Finding myself placed as a part of the Human Resources team I quickly got the impression that some kind of hierarchy existed at Scrumptious Cookies. A way of doing things, an order that was never questioned but one we had to pretend didn’t exist. But, I repeat, I really shouldn’t complain. It didn’t bother me so much at first … during my first week the senior management team did throw a free barbeque to celebrate no onsite injuries in a hundred days. And for dessert they served cookies. Yay.
Like any normal job, there is the good, the bad, the ugly, the hilarious and the plain weird. It was mostly good at first. Problems didn’t rear their gelled back, caffeine breath, botox faced heads until after the honeymoon period. Those problems I told myself I would face with a smile, a positive attitude and gentleman like humbleness my parents instilled in me to use when tackling the stupidly awkward situations I often found myself in. Funny how reality never plays out as one imagines. After a year of those magnificently awkward situations and snowballing problems that never really seemed to be my fault I came to an enlightening anti epiphany. People can be full of shit. Literally.
So why stay in an institution I grew bored of, semi despised, though was mildly entertaining, but eventually hated? The answer was simple. Cash, coinage, self worth, the root of all evil call it whatever. Money is good and always needed and I hate it but I also love it. Whether we choose to pretend that we don’t need it, or are lucky enough to have parents who swim in it or work gruesome hours at degrading jobs to get it, it’s pretty obvious that money not only makes the world go round but is just fun to have around. This isn’t really about money though. Money became the sole reason I stayed at a job where one of the General Managers (GM) of a department walked up to me, pointed at the sign of my name and said, ‘I can’t bloody say that, but I need your help.’
That’s enough background information about my job I suppose, I should get into an incident that happened, well the incident that sparked of a series of other incidents that made me realize that people and cookies really shouldn’t mix or be separated. Well not in this instance anyway. Enter Jacqueline Harris also known as Jay Jay, General Manager of Human Resources.
After my first month as Cockmutation Pussaynator Ass- Ah! Stupid Pan! I mean, after my first month as Communications Coordinator Assistant at Scrumptious Cookies I rewarded myself by buying a very slick fountain pen. I’ve always liked fountain pens; this one had a decorative silver nib and made that satisfyingly smooth crunchy scratch when I wrote with it. But what made this particular fountain pen special to me was that it had a funky modern edge. If I were to twist the end clock wise a small slot appeared and from with in it the end of a post it flag. I would then pull out the thin red tab and stick to whatever important page or note that needs referencing. Or more realistically just use them to decorate the edge of my computer screen. I don’t know what was lamer, the pen itself or my reaction when I discovered the post it feature in the shop. The lady behind the desk jumped up when she heard my man scream.
Anyway, I was at my desk going through an article I wrote about staff opinions on healthy more expensive food versus cheaper deep fried food, wasn’t taking me long to see where popular opinion was heading, when my boss Stephanie Lurve walked down the isle between all the cubicles followed by the head of our department, Jay Jay. Stephanie, also known as Steph, talked to some other person who was walking past at the same time and Jay Jay kept walking, pointing at people, waving into offices and saying things like,
‘You better be whipping them into shape Roger! Let’s see those numbers Grant, Yes, yes the Jay Jay is out of her cage!’
I can’t think of a better term to describe Jay Jay other than delusionally enthusiastic. She was definitely heard around the office before she was seen. On my first day she sat me down in front of her computer and ran through a PowerPoint presentation, not about my role or the company, but about her life. She was just a country girl deep down she told me with an eerie smile that transformed he long face to one that was very mousey. She was just a country girl underneath this business building, motivational speaking, vision and mission achieving people lover! A country lass looking for her next muddy hog to tackle. Yes, she said that exact line, muddy hog and all. The presentation, or the ‘preso’ as was the correct term I found out, included photos of her childhood home, her wedding to her ‘partner in crime’ or her ‘Aragon’ to which she is his ‘Arwin’, her husband Bertie – Bertie Blue Jay. The presentation went chronologically through to her honeymoon, first home and of course photos of her and Bertie Blue Jay in the delivery room for each of their children. It looked as though someone had photoshopped her and Bertie Blue Jay’s faces on the bodies of naked crying babies.
‘Baby Caroline’s placenta was huge! And see, there’s Blue Jay cutting the cord, he’s pretending that he’s going to bite it off – personal joke!’
‘Huge placenta?’ I managed to mumble while suppressing the urge to spew.
The preso than radically transformed to a number of slides about business plans structures and future statistics. Jay Jay’s voice had a sudden hardness to it and her face tensed up, her eyes filled with an alert passion of all things Cookie related.
‘We want to be the most Scrumptious cookie company in the world, one mouthful at a time, and you and I, and all of us will achieve this goal and double our revenue in one years time – are you on board?’
‘Er Yes!’ I said with a nod.
‘That’s what I like to hear – shoot that one eyed gold fish!’
After that delightful first introduction and seeing her now walking up to my cubical it was hard not to imagine her with giant mouse ears poking out of her over grown pixie hair do, running around the halls of the building barefoot, muddy and laughing with a Swiss army knife in her hand. And of course Blue Jay would be behind her holding a placenta in his mouth and growling happily.
‘Hello you!’ she said, ‘how are you finding your first week? Good? Yeah we knew you’d fit in. Right I have an interesting job for you!’
‘Mm, yup, great what job?’ I said erratically blinking as torrents of her spit washed over my face.
‘We’ve got an interesting meeting – the it meeting, three days from today. Big stuff is going to happen in the tiny nuts boardroom. The team from central are coming in with a preso on the new roll out plan for the next Fiano year. We get first peak. Then we can strategize how were gonna use our coms to let the people hear about it and understand. We need you on this, great way to get in the thick of it. Are you on board?’
‘Yeah, cool sounds exciting,’ I said, not registering anything after the words tiny nuts room.
‘That’s it! That’s what I want to hear!’ she said and patted me on the back, ‘No ground but the fore ground! Oh! What kind of pen is that?’
‘Er- hey yeah this is my fountain pen, I just bought it,’ I said with hard to disguise pride, ‘see it has post its in it.’
I showed off the feature like I was one of those ladies on a late night television show selling jewelry that was the color of cheddar cheese. Jay Jay let out an amazed kind of sound that went like this ‘Dahhhhhh!’
Yes I was pleased.
‘Can I use your pen for a second? So I can explain the details of the meeting.’
I handed her the pen and she crouched down beside me, writing on a piece of paper, explaining to me the details of the meeting coming up and the importance of the big role out called the ‘Big Hush Hush!’
‘No one can know about it yet. We have one sponsor form each department except operations and engineering. They can’t be involved in this stage of development, we have to plan, delegate, implement now what kinda monster we are going to make. We can’t walk before we run can we? Right! I’ll send you an online meeting request, thanks! Good, good!’
And she walked away. It took me around six seconds of staring down at the scribbles she wrote to realize she had walked off with my pen. I turned and saw her walking with my direct boss back to their offices and holding the pen up for Steph to see.
‘And look, if you twist it, a post it comes out – now that’s innovative!’
Did that just happen? Did it? No …well it did. But it was a mistake. She didn’t knowingly take, steal, my fountain pen. People accidentally take other peoples pens all the time, I’m sure I’ve done it before. But one begs to question, if she saw the pen in her hand, spoke about the pen to some one else appraisingly, wouldn’t that then trigger the fact that it was not her pen, but my pen?
OK it was just a mistake I chuckled to myself … I had a meeting now, and then some kind of health and safety tour of the site then I was done for the day. I would pass by her office, knock and laugh it all off.
A long beep not different to the one heard on hospital dramas when resuscitation with freak accident victim was futile interrupted my thoughts. Oh my first official office phone call.
‘Hello Omar speaking,’
‘Hello Omar speaking, it’s Pan speaking. I can’t believe your not using your real name, you should be answering that phone and saying ‘hello Moon speaking!’
‘Pan?’ I whisper yelled into the phone speaker. I looked around quickly to see if anyone was listening, ‘how did you get this number?’
‘It’s called reception dumbass, why areyou whispering like that? Is your office open plan? Am I on speaker? Oi the receptionists sounds hot – she hot?’ he said chewing something at the same time.
‘Yes open plan, no not on speaker, and yeah she’s alright – what do you want?’ I said leaning in lower to the surface of my desk as someone walked past my cubical. I didn’t know yet the acceptable rules on personal phone calls during work hours. Although no one could probably hear me talking, I was sure they could hear Pan. Everything he did was loud.
‘Wow what’s up with the attitude Moon? Have you already turned into a cookie monster? Oi why aren’t you getting everyone to call you Moon? No ones called you Omar since … no ones called you Omar ever!’ he added a burp after that, ‘man I need another coke.’
‘Of course I’m not going to get them to call me Moon – are you crazy? This is not that kind of job, we aren’t making burgers any more. These people here are so serious, and I dunno kinda weird …’
‘I was just calling to see if you wanna catch a movie after work and we can eat out but what’s wrong you sound stressed out Moon,’
‘I’m not stressed! But-‘ I covered my hand over me mouth and the phone speaker, looked around me again then leaned forward to hide behind my cubicles partition, ‘the head of my department came over here and was telling me about some new project she wants me to help with and I didn’t understand what the fuck she was talking about. She basically just spat all over my desk then left-‘
‘Don’t worry, just go with it, you’ll figure it out as you go along-‘
‘No! You don’t get it, she- she stole my pen!’
‘Pan she stole my pen. I showed it to her, then she used it to write all this shit down then she went off with it and was showing it off and stuff!’
‘Moon … that’s fucked up.’
‘I know right? What am I going to do?’
‘Get it back!’ Pan said and burped again, ‘Oi do Cokes expire?’
‘Yeah that’s what I wanted to do … yeah I’ll just ask for it back nicely and she’ll be all embarrassed – OK yup cool, I have to go, laters.’
‘Oi hang on! What about tonight? Text me Oi,’ he said as I hung up.
Two hours later I was all set. I stood at the end of the hall where to my right was a number of frosted glass offices, the one in the very center was Jay Jays. I was going to walk past, all casual like I was in the middle of a task then I would stop, step back as I pass her office, smack my head and nod, maybe I’ll mouth out ‘oh yeah!’ Then I’ll knock on her door and walk in. OK, now, do it. I walked quicker than I wanted, hesitated, stopped, head smacked, turned to her door – she’s not there. What? She was supposed to be in all afternoon; I checked her calendar in the system. I looked through the patterned frosted glass and there, on her desk my pen. With out its lid on! If it was unlocked, I could just go in, grab it, find the lid and get out of there. That way I’d just avoid the whole awkward conversation. I turned the knob – unlocked. I raced to her desk, picked up the pen and tried to write with it on my hand, the ink was blotchy. I scoured the desk for the lid, nothing. Then, there, I spotted it on the floor. I bent down to pick it up and the nightmare began.
‘Right Timmy what’s this about?’
Jay Jay walked in. I could see her lime green flats followed by a pair of shiny black shoes. If I stood up now it would look bad. I would look really, really bad. They weren’t walking past the door that Jay Jay closed now, maybe they would talk and leave. I knew Timmy, who was Tim Bellhook the GM of the finance department upstairs, was always too busy to just hang around. Maybe they would have a quick word and leave. Maybe?
‘Jay, I couldn’t talk about it in my office, cause Ruth and Sandeep are on the other side and the walls are very thin upstairs they might hear and you know your pretty loud-‘
‘Yes, yes Timmy I know I’ve got a voice that cracks walls but what’s this all about? Why are you against a clue hunting exercise for the Big Hush Hush? We have to get the idea flowing get some substance in there!’
Despite my extreme sweating at this point, trembling breath and shaky elbows, I could tell that Jay Jay was extremely irritated. I didn’t get why they were still whispering if they were now in the office with the door closed.
‘Jay, there’s talk, there’s talk going around the senior leaders, straight from the stake holders mouths-‘
‘What talk? Who is talking? What are they saying?’ Jay Jay snapped.
‘Now I could get in shit for giving you the heads up but we’ve known each other a long time, me and Bertie have played cricket together for-‘
‘I know Timmy get on with it, what talk?’
Timmy was silent and I hoped my breathing wasn’t as loud as I thought it was.
‘There’s talk about a restructure Jay Jay. Restructure every where and they are watching. The Big Hush Hush has to be big. It has to be huge, it has to be full proof and you have to be the brains behind it if you wanna stay on board –‘
‘Am I under watch? I gave good numbers, good stats last quarter!’
‘They weren’t happy with staff turnover-‘
‘Damn it Damn it Timmy!’ Jay Jay yelled then her voice dropped down back to a whisper, ‘We had three maternity leavers get knocked up again, two internal promotions and five external promotions – if they don’t give me anything to offer these people how can I make them stay? They aren’t giving me cards to deal with Timmy!’
‘Yes I know, I know, but they are asking why were these people are looking out of Scrumptious to begin with. You have to cement up those windows, pull the trees from the roots, not chop the branches off, you know this Jay Jay, this is 101 shit.’
Jay Jay was quiet, they both were. Their feet were facing each other, his feet were more inward at the toes, hers out ward and then she stomped one foot on the floor hard.
‘They cant squeeze me out! They cant Timmy! Whose going to give them as much gold as me – who?’
‘It’s early days, its just talk Jay, I’ve given you the heads up. You just have to make sure the Big Hush Hush goes well, you have to wow them! And you’re all about the wow –
‘Damn it Timmy! I am all about the wow!’ She yelled and stomped her foot again and this time like an idiot I got such a fright that I knocked my head on the table and let out a groan. Silence.
‘Whose there?’ Jay Jay yelled and I saw her feet spin around, spread apart, knees bend ready to pounce. Timmy’s feet on the other hand looked pressed up against the glass.
‘Er- hi…’ I said getting out from behind the table and rubbing my head, ‘it’s just me, hello.’
‘Dahhhhhh! W-what? What are you doing in here?’
Jay Jay had gone pale and her blue eyes were spinning. Timmy who was still standing against the wall looked like a five year old who was in the middle of wetting himself and hoping no one else would notice.
‘I’m sorry I-‘
‘Did you hear what we were talking about?’
‘You were talking?’ I said quickly, ‘I heard whispering so I stood up and smacked my head on the table, ouch.’
‘What are you doing in my office? On the floor?’ Jay Jay said her hands slowly and reaching up to her waist.
‘I er – you took my pen – by accident, you know my pen?’ I held the pen up in front of me, ‘and I needed it back you know, for writing, cause I have to write stuff down before I type it all up, so I needed my pen back and it was on your desk – with out the lid so got the lid,’ I placed the lid back on the pen and closed it, ‘the lid was on the floor-‘
‘I did not take your pen!’ She said her chin jerking into her neck.
Did she just say that? She looked completely surprised by my story and then looked at the pen with slight sneer of revolution.
‘Um, You did take it,’ I said gulping down my voice getting higher in pitch with every word, ‘by accident right?’
‘Dahhhhhh!’ Jay Jay said shaking her head from side to side and looking back at Timmy then back at me, ‘I did not! Let me look at this pen of yours that I supposedly took, it’s just a pen after all, who cares if I took it, let me see it.’
‘Oh I OK-‘ I said handing her the pen with a sweaty hand.
‘What’s so special about this pen that you had to come in here and take it anyway,’ she said looking at the pen and then trying to pull the lid off.
‘It’s a fountain pen remember I showed you? With the post its that come out?’
‘Fountain pen? I don’t-‘
Splat. Actually a better onomatopoeic sound effect might be, splat pissssss drip, drip drenccchhhh … Jay Jay’s face and white collard shit was dripping black ink and my poor fountain pen looked mutilated.
‘Jay Jay ! By god are you alright! What kind of pen is that? You’re going to have to file a near miss incident report with Earl! Health and Safety risk that is!’
Jay Jay let out an inky spluttering sigh and twitched open one eye.
‘Shit! I mean oh no! I’m sorry!’ I blurted out taking a hesitant step forward
‘It’s fine,’ She said putting her hands together and screwing the pen on as best as she could, ‘it was my fault Timmy, these hands don’t know their power, changing tractor wheels from the age of ten will do that to you. Right take your pen. Me and Timmy have a meeting to go to but I should wash this off me or they might think I was drilling for oil on site!’ She then let out a half laugh and looked at Timmy and he followed suit with a hollow nervous chuckle, ‘so there’s nothing to see here, me and Timmy were just going to talk about plans for the Big Hush Hush and then we are off, will send you and online meeting request!’
‘Yeah sure, OK cool, sorry, so sorry, yup,’ I said, backing out of the office, closing the door behind me and walking away not daring to look through the glass. Back at my desk, I saw that the pen was fine it just needed new ink that I could pick up on the way home. My computer made a funny noise, like a high-pitched electronic fart and I saw a notification on my screen.
Jacqueline Harris (Jay Jay) has invited you to ‘The Big Hush Hush’ Plan & Conquer meeting. Accept or Decline?
‘Did you get your pen back Moonie?’ Pan texted me, as I shut my computer down, packed my stuff up and headed down to the car park.
‘Yeah I did,’ I texted, ‘but shit went down, and I think this is only the beginning. I’ll tell you details tonight.’