I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when the decision was made to take over the office building through bloody insurrection, but once taken it was hard to go back on it.
The proverbial First Shot Fired on Fort Sumter, as it were, was not an actual gunshot, per se, but its reverberations were just as epochal to us. It happened during the lunch hour. The support staff was gathered at the long table in the break room, as was our wont, when one of the senior staff – I don’t even remember which one it was – came in and imperiously declared that we needed to eat somewhere else because they were expecting guests. Now, we in the support staff understand the importance of impressing visiting dignitaries and potential clients, but the lunch hour is the lunch hour. Disturb that sacred ritual at your peril – and that’s exactly what the senior staff was in for. The only question was how much of it and when would it be provoked.
We reconvened in my office area because it had the most desk space. Normally we would have dispersed to our own departments and eaten separately, but wasn’t a normal situation. There was a proper protocol for handling these kinds of situations and the senior staff had blatantly disregarded them. At first we ate in sullen silence, but eventually the ice was broken and the grousing began in earnest.
(Quick aside: We had stopped having support staff meetings because they almost invariably morphed into gripe sessions. Turned out we the overworked and underpaid administrative assistants, accountants and secretaries had a lot of gripes. We also stopped when the office manager started attending the meetings, purporting to be acting as “the bridge between senior staff and the support staff.” She reported directly to the boss and we were almost certain that she had been sent to spy on us. When the revolution came, she was sure to be the one of first up against the wall. Once the ball started rolling, it quickly became apparent that that would be happening that afternoon.)
“How dare they?” said Steve from Accounting. It was a rhetorical question, but one that resonated with those assembled.
“How dare they, indeed? It’s unconscionable. We shouldn’t have to stand for it,” we muttered.
“Do they not know that the lunch hour to us is sacred?” said Peter from Marketing.
“No, they don’t. They have no clue. No regard for other people’s feeling,” we muttered.
“How long do they expect us to put up with this ill-treatment?” said Kathy from Receiving.
“It’s most distressing. I’m at my wit’s end. I don’t know how long I can stay silent,” we muttered.
“As long as you expect to keep your jobs with this company,” said a voice that rose above the rabble.
“Huh?” came the confused reply.
There, framed in the doorway, was Barbara the Office Manager, Barbara the Spy, Barbara the Soon-to-Be Target.
“I thought I might find you huddled together in some dark corner like rats.”
“Hey, you can’t say that about my office!” I cried.
Barbara fixed her attention on me. I did not enjoy being on the receiving end of it.
“Oh, this is your office, is it? Do you pay the rent on it? Do you pay for the utilities? What about this office equipment, this desk, that chair upon which you’re resting your flabby behind? Did you pay for them out of your own pocket? How exactly is this your office?”
As she spoke, she strode into the room, walking straight up to me. I suppose she intended to put me in my place, but all she really did was leave herself vulnerable with all her exits blocked. She would soon come to regret this power play.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of how we subdued the hated Barbara, ran amok in the building, took out any and all senior staff members we came across (although some managed to escape our wrath) and established a perimeter that even a SWAT team couldn’t breach. For one thing, I wasn’t witness to most of these events since I was the first of our number to sustain an injury in battle and thus was relegated to planning and strategy. For another, I don’t believe in glorifying violence, no matter how personally satisfying it is to mete out or richly deserved it can be. And let me tell you, Barbara deserved everything she got.
I couldn’t say for sure, but as far as the senior staff was concerned, I expect the Shot Heard Round the World came when we launched Barbara – bound and gagged, but I hasten to stress unviolated in any other way – out my second-floor window to the courtyard below. It’s a very lovely courtyard with flowering trees and shrubs that can be seen from the break room window. It always makes a good impression on visitors.