The redundancies started a couple of months after they implemented the clear desk policy. You had to hand it to them. They were nothing if not efficient and at least we were spared the sight of another job lottery loser trudging through the office carrying a box filled with their personal effects. There were a few odd exceptions:
- The people that actually used their locker (I swear I caught a glimpse of the inside door of one decorated with stickers and a picture of Kit Harrington like we were all back in High School or something. We’re not even an American firm. Winter was coming though: they had that right). They usually had a fair bit to carry away.
- The people that made a land grab from the stationery cupboard to round out their statutory settlement. This was usually people with only a couple of years service who presumably figured they didn’t have much to lose. One guy made it out with four packets of A4 copier paper, five highlighter pens (three pink, two yellow), and the large staple gun that sat by the printers. Said it was what he was owed as he wasn’t offered an outplacement scheme, apparently it was going to help him pull his CV together. I hope he went easy on the pink highlighter. And the staple gun – he seemed pretty upset…
- Finally there were the people who kept bringing in a picture of their family every day to prop up on whichever work station they could find. ‘Work station’ was one of those phrases we’d absorbed during one of the office refurbishments but I can’t remember if it was the one where we downsized from offices to cubicles, or from cubicles to curved desks with drawers, or from curved desks with drawers to the current set up: lines and lines of regimented tables demarcated at 120 centimetres into work stations. As corporate buzz words go it was one of the better phrases in my book as it bore some relation to the thing it was describing: a place where people waited for the arrival and departure of work. Just like a station. Only at this station the departures tended to be waved off somewhat more enthusiastically than the arrivals were greeted. You again? But you just left? Anyway this last little contingent of the lost, the family men and women, they didn’t have much to carry but they usually made sure their prized picture was overtly on display as they departed, often pausing pointedly by the desks where the HR Director usually perched. I couldn’t tell if they genuinely didn’t realise that he didn’t care or if they just wanted one final attempted moment of triumph; a small perceived victory to balance off, all things considered, a pretty shitty overall defeat.
I was primed and ready to depart with nothing. All I kept in my locker was a pair of unwashed socks that I’d used in the brief period we’d been offered free, trial membership of the local gym as a way to soften the blow of last year’s below inflation pay review. Boss had put a brave face on it during the team cascade but even his veneer of professionalism had started to crack as he tried to upsell the benefits of the twenty five state-of-the-art cardio machines, dedicated weights room, and tailored fitness programs to a room full of people mentally calculating the calorific loss they could attribute to their reduced opportunities to buy food given their cost of living. I admit, we were a little melodramatic. It’s not like anyone was going to starve and some of us could probably stand to take one less visit to Nando’s a month. But chicken or gym and chicken’s going to win out every time. Come to think of it I may have left an old box of unfinished KFC in my locker as well as those socks. Probably best, when the time comes, that I just leave that for someone else to discover.
Primed and ready but stuck in departure lounge limbo with the rest of my uncertain associates. Waiting for them to call our name to the gate. Waiting, our destinations unknown.