Saturday, March 29, 2008

Don't fire!

One of the companies that I freelance for announced some layoffs earlier this week: quite a few, apparently. So far, so normal. I've worked in publishing long enough to know that there are few businesses in the industry that don't spend large amounts of time and effort think up new reasons to get rid of their loyal employees.

What surprised me was the arrival of a new member of staff, who turned up at the same time the "workforce realignment" was announced. I only noticed him because of the odd way he stared at me just a little too intently when I arrived in the building the next morning. And the morning after that. He stares at everyone, quite a lot.

Loitering just behind the guy who normally mans the front desk, he looks like he's in his fifties, with lightly tinted glasses, neatly trimmed greying hair and a goatee beard. He fills his casual sports jacket with a casually held amount of muscle, and he has a small but noticeable bulge under his coat on his left hip. He looks a little like his last job may have been a freelance gig for a South African diamond mine.

I'm now desperate to find out if it is normal practice here in the United States for companies to hire an armed guard every time they make their staff walk Spanish. I'm also intrigued to know how long this new guy is going to be needed for. I mean, I'm guessing that the kind of person who reacts to unemployment violently can hold a grudge for quite a while - at least for the duration of California's 10-day waiting period.

For the time being, I'm making sure I have my hall pass on clear display at all times.

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