Cover Story


Desperately Seeking Plan B

By T. M. Shine
Sunday, May 25, 2008; Page W10

The exodus began with the word "Bob."

"Bob, can I see you for a minute?" the boss had asked.

Within minutes, Bob was exiting the office with a wave and a "Nice working with everybody."

What the . . . ?

Instinctively, several employees followed Bob out to the parking lot.

"They told me not to say anything, but I'm not going to work with people for 13 years and not wave goodbye," Bob said as co-workers surrounded him before he could reach his car. Bearded, disheveled and wearing shirts that should have been retired in 1984, Bob is one of those beloved characters. When my teenage niece and a friend had visited the office, they'd simply said: "We like Bob. He reminds us of Jack Black."

More of a "why not me?" than a "why me?" guy, Bob graciously accepted his fate along with some very erotic parking-lot-in-broad-daylight hugs, and as I waited my turn (just to shake his hand), I thought of how he is made of the good stuff. Whatever they use to puff up those unbelievably comfortable Natuzzi couches or cram into the extraordinarily delicious grande burritos at the Mexican place down the road, that is what Bob is made of. His interior is high-grade.

But before I could blurt out, "Bob, you are one high-grade SOB," the boss was yelling out the front door of our office complex. "You all need to get back inside," he barked. "You shouldn't even be talking to him."

Shouldn't be talking to Bob?

What an absurd thought. That's all we do most of the time.

And now, another co-worker, Jana, is in that tiny room, plucked straight out of the line as we filed back into the office on command. If they can dispose of Jana, who would have been last on everybody's hit list, no one is safe.

They don't let you come back to your desk. They don't let you come back to your desk. The word spreads throughout the office.

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