“‘What do you know about this business?’ said the King to Alice.
‘Nothing’ said Alice.
‘Nothing whatever?’ persisted the King.
‘Nothing whatever’ said Alice.
‘That’s very important’ the King said, turning to the jury.”
L. Carroll “Alice’s Evidence”
Alex had arrived at the lab with little relevance. After several years his relevance remained negligible. He had learned a lot and put it all into practice. That was sufficient in his eyes.
Regardless of his lack of fame Alex found himself in the CEO’s office. Pfeffer had called this meeting.
Alex was the first one to enter the office. Pfeffer was sitting behind a simple birch desk. It told Alex that there would be three more people attending; the CFO, the head of Human Resources and the VP of purchasing. She then added, as an afterthought, that the corporate lawyer would also be attending.
Alex remarked “Quite an all-star cast. What am I doing here?”
We will determine that as the meeting progresses” responded Pfeffer.
Alex waited patiently as Pfeffer silently read some documents that were on its desk. Only a minute or two had elapsed before wing-tipped Henry, ponytailed Fred and luscious Lola walked in and took their seats. Fred did not take his seat immediately. He had his pal, the fish, with him and he carefully placed the bowl on Pfeffer’s desk before sitting.
“We are all here” stated Pfeffer “so let’s not waste any more time.”
“We have not wasted ANY time” retorted Henry as he removed an unnoticeable piece of lint from his blue serge suit. “We just arrived.”
Pfeffer stared at Henry with its beady black eyes but said nothing. Henry soon realized that he had violated one of the unspoken (and surely unwritten) protocols of the corporate world; “The CEO is always right, by definition.” The other people in the room wisely chose to remain silent.
Alex was the first person, or fish, in the room to break the silence. “Where is the CFO; I don’t see Myrtle here” he said.
“There have been some changes” Pfeffer replied to Alex’s concern. “Myrtle is no longer CFO. I have replaced him with Fred. Henry has replaced me as head of Human Resources and Lola is now VP of Purchasing.”
Alex immediately realized that he had a questionable future within the company. He inadvertently let out an audible moan and twitched in his chair. “Where is the corporate lawyer that you said would be here?” he quickly asked.
The fish glared at Alex. His fins were on his hips and he was bubbling vociferously.
Pfeffer spoke up. “The fish is our corporate lawyer. Now let us get on with the business at hand. Lola has informed me that you, Alex, signed a contract with a subcontractor from Handastania Minor. Is this true?”
Alex told her it was true. “Yes I did. They are the only software company in the world that is proficient at writing apps in object oriented Handastaneise C++++ Visual Plus.”
“Is it also true that you did not consult the corporate lawyer before signing the contract?” demanded Pfeffer.
Alex looked at the fish, smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He said nothing because nothing logical could be said.
“I’m a professional and you avoided my advice” whined the fish.
“I never asked for your advice, and, in circumspect, I therefore did not avoid it” said Alex calmly.
“It’s the same thing – avoided – never asked. What is the difference?” retorted the fish-lawyer. And then without provocation the fish continued:
“Obfuscate – delay, obfuscate – delay,
This is surely the only way,
That we can professionally work,
We smile in front, behind we smirk.
Obfuscate – delay, obfuscate – delay,
This is the process making up my day,
When you are confused and don’t understand,
I am pleased as punch and give you my hand.
Obfuscate – delay, obfuscate – delay,
That is how, I gather my pay,
Build up high, those billable hours,
Possibly earn a judge-ship, unalienable powers.”
After the fish was silent, for a minute or so, Henry asked Alex if he had consulted his office, Human Resources, about dealing with a foreign sub-contractor.
Alex answered sarcastically “No. What valued advice could you have possibly given me regarding a sub-contractor?”
Henry’s face turned a bright red as he realized that there was absolutely no advice that he could have offered to Alex. After stammering and hurrummphing for a few seconds Henry finally said “Well, it is a good thing you didn’t ask me for advice or I would have had to fire you.” With that, Henry smiled, convinced that he had won the argument and leaned back in a self-satisfied manner.
Fred was too busy to pay much attention to what was being said. He had seen his reflection on a window pane and was flexing his biceps for himself to admire. When he wasn’t admiring his biceps he moved on to flexing his abs and rubbing his hand over his own stomach in full satisfaction with himself.
Pfeffer interrupted Fred’s narcissism with a question. “Did Alex consult your financial organization before signing the Handastanian contract?”
Deeply involved in his own self love Fred was caught off guard. He simply stared at Pfeffer until his brain kicked back in. He then said “Why yes – – – – – I mean no – – – – – do you mean in the last week? Uh – – why – – probably not. What do you consider the definition of ‘consulting’? He may have phoned us. I can check the phone log. On the other hand we may have destroyed the log when we shredded all the other records.”
“Shredded what records?” demanded Pfeffer.
“Well – – – – the ones that the fish-lawyer told us to shred” he replied while trying to share the blame about something that Pfeffer apparently considered a mistake.
Once again the fish interrupted with:
“Delay and shred, Delay and shred,
That is what we demanded of Fred,
He shredded all night, to hide and conspire,
And then his shredder burst into fire.
Burn and shred, Burn and shred,
That is the only advice that was said,
If anyone attempted to obfuscate,
It was not I, corporate lawyer of late.
Kiss and burn, kiss and burn,
Every so often it was Lola’s turn,
To join in destruction of documental,
Information, feloniously monumental.”
“I don’t need any more of this idiocy” stated Pfeffer, quickly adding, “I want to hear nothing more from finance or legal. Is that clear?”
It must have been clear because the fish and Fred both remained in their chairs (or bowls) with downcast eyes. Of course Fred trembled more than the fish.
Pfeffer demanded that Lola explain “what this shredding as all about.”
Still not sure (or discriminating about) Pfeffer’s gender Lola batted those big long eyelashes at it. She rose from her chair, adjusted her overly tight skirt, and sauntered over to Pfeffer’s desk.
“Well dear,” Lola purred, “I really have nothing to say about the shredding. I just happened to be walking past Fred’s office late one evening when I noticed his lights were still on. My intention was to turn them off because I thought that they were accidentally left on. Well – – – Fred was busy in the office; doing what I’ll never know. We talked for a few minutes and spent some time together; doing what I’ll never remember. And that is all I can say.”
“All you can say? All you can remember? Or all you care to divulge?” asked Pfeffer.
“All the above” answered Lola. She was batting her false eyelashes so hard that one of them flew off and landed in the fish bowl.
“How about you Henry? What do you know about this shredding?” queried Pfeffer.
“Oh, dear me” stated Henry. “I don’t get involved in that sort of thing, you know. My main focus is on ordering flowers for the sick and bereaved, doing interviews, signing papers and such as that, do tell.”
Pfeffer jumped up from its chair in a fit of anger at the incompetence of the newly appointed. In doing so its knees caught the edge of the desk tipping it enough so that the fish bowl slid off and crashed to pieces on the floor.
As Fred and Henry scampered in search for some way to save the fish, Lola lovingly took Pfeffer by the arm and walked out the door. Surprisingly, Pfeffer went without a peep of resistance. Pfeffer had placed her hand on Lola’s tush.
Alex was pleased to see the focus of the meeting shift from him to some obscure shredding party. He immediately went to Myrtle’s office and related what had happened at the meeting. Myrtle verified that he had been booted out of the CFO position just that morning.
They both quit the company.