Monday, February 20, 2012

A Great Whatever (blog story) 10

     When you’re the new guy the two most important attributes to have are eagerness and humility. These people already have something going on and they neither need nor want you hanging around. It’s a pack thing. You need to tuck your tail between your legs and beg them to let you join. Heap praise on your new co-workers and downplay any accomplishments of your own. Do this and you’ll be welcomed. Ignore it and you’ll soon be the guy where everyone stops talking as you walk into a room. You have often wished that wisdom did not require hindsight.
     It’s probably because you’ve never had a job before that you are much too relaxed and casual for your first day. Everyone is dour and attentive. You walk around like you are the starring in an antiperspirant commercial. It’s no sweat.
     Barry, Beacham, and Brothers is a well respected firm or so you’ve been told. You should be a lot more excited, but you’re really only doing this so your father doesn’t cut you off and Heather doesn’t break up with you. When you meet Mr. Barry you shake his hand like he’s an old chum. He shakes your hand like he is being polite to someone who just asked to borrow money.
     “I hope you appreciate what an opportunity it is to work here.” He begins in a firm and serious manner. He will end the same way.
     “Oh, I do.”
     “We do not have a need for any more staff at the present time, but your father is a valuable client so we created a position for you. You will need to make yourself available to everyone that works here. You will be extra help for anyone who needs it so you’ll need to get in good with your peers. There is no one who reports to you. You report to everyone. If they need coffee you’ll get it. If they need you for a project you’ll do it. If after six months you’ve found a way to become a valuable member of our team you will be offered a contract for permanent employment. Does this sound like something you can do?”
     He looks you over to see if you can handle it. He wants to know if you’re going to crack. You are completely cool.
     “You bet.”
     It’s the right response, but the casualness is all wrong. He has no expectation that you are going to stick around. Even so, he puts the ball in your court.
     “Whether you succeed or fail is up to you, Mark. Your father is a good man. I hope you have been cast in his shadow.”
     You have known your father all your life and you have met all his friends, but you have never once met Mr. Barry so you wonder how he thinks he knows your father so well. This guy must owe your father a lot of favors.
     “We have the same chin.” You think a little levity might ease the tension. It doesn’t.
     “My secretary, Ms. Chase, will put you together with Bob Thermin. He will show you around and get you started.”
     You sit there for a moment not sure if the meet and greet is over. It was faster than you expected and it is definitely over.
     “Okay.” You get up and head for the door. Before you leave you make sure to turn to him smile and say, “Thanks a lot.”
     He does not respond. Not a good luck or anything.
     While you wait by Ms. Chase’s desk you try to make a little small talk.
     “Mr. Barry is one serious guy. I hope Mr. Beacham is funnier.”
     “Mr. Beacham is semi-retired.” This is all you're going to get from her.
     It would be three months before you realize that Brothers is Herb Brothers. Somehow you thought the Brothers meant Mr. Barry and Mr. Beacham’s brothers worked there as well. You didn’t ask and no one offered clarification.
     The five minutes it took for Bob Thermin to walk to Ms. Chase’s desk were long and excruciating.

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