Monday, July 7, 2008
Two and a half hours
You may be wondering at the title of today's post. It's called two and a half hours not because that's how long it took me to do a training ride or something else bike-related, as one might expect. Rather, that's how long I spent this morning reading blogs. You see, I've been on vacation without Internet access for the last 10 days (which is why I haven't posted in that time), so the blogs I regularly read just stacked up, and I had to catch up.
Some may find it shocking that I read that many blogs. But in reality, that works out to less than 30 minutes a day if I'm reading daily, which I usually do. Considering that this is primarily done while I eat breakfast or lunch (yeah, I'm that geeky that I take meals in front of the computer as often as not) or during short breaks between meetings at work, it's really not that time consuming to stay on top of what my fellow bloggers are writing.
Of course, there's always the question of how, on the first Monday after a 10 day vacation, I had time to spend two and a half hours of my morning sitting at the computer and reading blogs. I'm glad you asked, because it's an interesting story that still surprises even me when I think about it.
Two weeks ago today, I left my office, never to return.
It was a pretty typical Monday, really. For the first hour, at least. I had a conference call at 8:00 a.m., which fortunately ended early. That gave me a few minutes to check email and catch up from the weekend before my 9:00 a.m. one-on-one meeting with my boss.
A little before 9:00, my boss, let's call him Andy Bernard, sent me an IM asking if I was in the office. This may seem weird, but Andy works in Palo Alto, and I telecommute a couple days a week, so he has no way of knowing where I am. Anyway, I responded that I was in the office, so he said he'd call me for our meeting in a couple of minutes. When the phone rang, Andy said that he needed to discuss some confidential organizational matters with me, so he had reserved a conference room downstairs from which he wanted me to phone him back.
Now I recognize that cubes are not the best place to hold confidential conversations, but in five years with the company, I had never once been asked to move to a conference room for reasons of confidentiality. Performance reviews, organizational changes, even discussions regarding yet-to-be-announced financial results have all taken place within the not-so-secure bounds of one of the multitude of massive cube farms.
On my way down the stairs, I got thinking about how otherworldly this was, thinking it was all pretty cloak and dagger. I imagined myself sitting down at a park bench next to a man in an overcoat and dark glasses with a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other, to whom I would say "the daffodils bloom in the spring," whereupon he would hand me the rolled-up newspaper containing a secret message or escort me to an auspicious-looking black vehicle.
Imagine my surprise when I got to the conference room only to find a mysterious-looking man already there, sipping coffee. "Great," I thought, "now I've got to kick someone out of the conference room before I can make my call." As I approached the conference room, the man looked up and asked "are you Mark?" This was getting too weird.
The coffee-drinking man, let's call him Toby Flenderson, introduced himself and indicated that he was from the human resources department. I immediately suspected what was coming. Toby indicated that he already had Andy on the phone and invited me to sit down. Andy then informed me that it would be my last day with the company, that I had until noon to exercise all my stock options because they would be expiring after that, and that Toby would take my PC and badge.
With options exercised and a few personal belongings in my bag, Toby walked me to the lobby. He tried to make friendly small talk, to which I gave mostly one-word answers. He said something that was supposed to be reassuring about how given my level in the company, I must be talented and should have no problem finding other work. I just agreed with him and kept walking. When we reached the door, he said something friendly and extended his hand. I just walked away, got on my bike, and pedaled home.
Of course this meant that Barcelona was off the table. Aside from the loss of income in the immediate future, that's about the only reason I can think of to be bothered. There's a not-very-compelling-to-anyone-but-me back story that involves envy, fear, greed, and malice, but since I don't even publish my last name on this blog, I won't go into that here. Let's just say I was pleased about the fate of a superior, let's call him Ryan Howard, only to become collateral damage.
At about 11:30, I got a call from one of my coworkers. I had a meeting scheduled with him and two other people at 11:00. When I didn't show up, they wondered why. When they got a not-particularly-satisfying answer from my boss, they wanted to know more. So I told them. I've since had calls and emails from former colleagues whose reactions are typically of shock, in some cases coupled with fear that they could be next. To those who have offered kind words and support, thank you.
And that's it. I'm not particularly angry. I think I'm just relieved to have it over.