Two managers were conferring urgently on a matter of redundancy, not realising that in a universe as large as the one they apparently inhabited, that they were the ones who were, in fact, redundant….as may be imagined, these are the things that worried them, and about which they urgently conferred…..as they were wont to do about even the most trivial of things.
“Who is it anyway? What are the key performance indicators for that position? Where are the outcomes? Why are they not on file?”
This was a matter of serious concern, or maybe it was not, but it was certainly the sort of thing that people of this kind discussed a lot. “We may,” said the other one, a stocky man named Dave, exhaling not because of a need to release breath, but because of a certain ponderousness of style and self-importance, “We may,” he repeated, “Need to let this one go first, then the others.” Saying this, he issued an instruction that the one known as “Shanti” or some such name, was to be summoned immediately.
There was a great deal of tension in the air, even though tension is not normally visible, not even discernible in the air, or any other place besides. A flurry of activity, such as small birds make when disturbed now took place as secretaries made calls, as a message was sent to the one about to be let go. For this one, unlike the other ones, actually merited being let go….or at least that is what was said by way of explanation.
For being “let go” was not something that the vast typing, talking, and screen-loading workforce wanted to occur to them. For a free rider, by contrast, being let go was one of the most wonderful of things, the scent of freshness of air in the updraft, the view of mountains rising in the vision, the rush of joy that happens when doors close behind you….being let go.
Still, this is a tale of a free rider. And it happened that Zed was somewhere or another, and it was true that the free rider knew not where that was……
“Shanta, they want to talk to you!” Zed became vaguely aware of someone tugging and pushing. “I am very sorry, I must have dozed off. Where am I?”
“Why you are here, at Freaky Fruit Software!”
The free rider was certainly confused by this reply, saying, “Freak? Fruit? How odd. But there are no strange fruit here? I remember a song about that. It was a sad song….I mostly do not listen to sad songs, nor even to songs at all, you understand…..” But the free rider was cut off.
“Shanta, for God’s sake, focus! You are in trouble. You have not met your targets. They think you are sleeping on the job….They might even let you go.”
“Job? What job? Let me go? Sleeping? Yes it feels that way. Where am I?”
“Shanta! Please! I love you! Come on! What is wrong with you?”
“Shanta? I am the free rider…..but yes, peace is what I seek. Nothing is wrong. But I am very old, and very tired. I do not know about these things, Freaky Fruit and the targets, Freaky Fruit and outcomes. No I do not.”
“Shanta! I love you! I think I am going to have your child! Please focus. Please try to save yourself!”
Just then the screen beeped….or so it seemed. “Freaky Fruit respond to report that 756 positions to be shed.” A collective gasp went around the vast warehouse.
The free rider rose from the desk. “How did I come to be here? How long have I been dozing here, I wonder?”
“Where are you going?”
The free rider replied, “I thought you said they wanted to talk to me about being free.”
“Free? No, they want to fire people! Shanta!”
“My name is Zed, and I am the free rider. I believe that I have been asleep.”
“Asleep! But you married me!”
“Married you! How unfortunate. I do not remember this. I did not think I married people. But life is long and the world is full of surprises.”
“Shanta Devi, come to the office immediately, your exit interview is overdue.”
“Exit interview! They are letting you go!”
“At last!” sighed the free rider.
“What about the children?”
“The ones we have not had yet….
Zed walked to the forbidding doors….
“Mr Tabernacle will see you now.” Zed looked at yet another set of doors and asked, “Do I have to?” The stern secretary glared at the free rider and did not say a word. With a combination of humility and curiosity, Zed walked forth.
“Ah! Shanta! Please sit down!” Zed sat on the uncomfortable orange chair.
“We have been placed in a regrettable…well, you see, it falls to me to have difficult conversations…about these things.”
Zed replied, “If you are having trouble breathing, you may write your thoughts down, for I am well able to read you know.”
“I did not mean that. The conversation is difficult because we are going to have to let you go. You are not the only one____”
“But I am most happy to be liberated, for liberty is one of the things most prized to a free rider!”
“A free___ Well, I mean, your contract with us here at Freaky Fruit is terminated. You are entitled to certain release conditions and retraining packages…actually you have no rights really, but we want to look after you in your post-employment situation.”
Zed smiled and said, “Post-employment situation? I do not know…..but, I am always happy to be liberated, and as for the rest of it, I have not any idea of what you are talking about.” The man was clearly uncomfortable. “You see, your outcomes are very low….I mean, amazingly low. It reflects badly on your supervisor….” But he was not ready for Zed’s reply.
“I have been asleep for a long time. Maybe for a month or perhaps it was a year.”
“O!” said Mr Tabernacle. And this was really the moment when the termination interview itself was terminated…..
Still, then Zed added, perhaps irrelevantly, “Have you seen a cockatoo?”
But Mr Tabernacle had not seen that bird, not the wandering onager besides, because this was a place of outcomes and of responsibilities and indeed of all manner of sorts of sorrowing talk that Zed did not understand.
As Zed wandered off, a clerk approached and with quick intakes of breath said, “Your things! Your things!”
But Zed did not know what those things were, nor yet was there any reason to take them, even though there were mobile phones, and wallets with cash and cards, and other things besides. All the free rider could say was, “I have been asleep for some time.”
And so it ends, this strange tale of sleep, and of loss, for the rider knew not how these things happened to happen, still less why. But then, do we, as we wander the world, do we know why things befall us, and do we ourselves know why we do the things we do?