“Understood Sir, if they don’t cooperate I will take the necessary measures. Thank you sir, I am sure everything will go smoothly. I will call you with my report. Goodbye.” Laurie Baker hung up the phone. She stood outside a small windowed white office with the words ‘Ivy Press’ on the door in dark green. A large white table sat in the centre. On it were a bunch of mac books and a couple of desktops. There was an assortment of chairs and large exercise balls around the table with men and women perching on them. The two shorter walls housed giant glass whiteboards and the longer wall at the back contained decals with different book covers pictured on them. Laurie pushed the door open and a cool breeze entered the office ruffling some papers and the clothing of the staff. Laurie paused in the doorway. Most of the staff were engaged with their computer screens, but a few openly stared at her. She took a deep breath and walked in the room. The door closing behind her.
“Good morning. I’m Your new manager Laurie Becker.” Nobody feigned interests in their computers anymore. They were staring at her. A slim red head in her mid 20s hopped up from her chair and extended a hand to Laurie.
“Welcome Boss! We’re thrilled to have you! I’m Becky Jones, office manager and administrator extraordinaire! Let me help you get settled in and meet the team. They’re a bit of a shy bunch sometimes, but don’t worry, they’ll learn to love you… as long as you arrange hot lunch once a week and don’t ask them to come in on weekends that is, hehe.” She smiled up at me gleefully.
“Ah thanks Becky. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You bet you will! Now this here beside me is Aaron Lam. He’s our art man. In charge of all the book cover designs, working with artists, obtaining copyrights, producing content. That sort of stuff.”
“Hullo Laurie. Lovely to meet you. I hope you like the space. I helped secure it. My brother is the building manager.”
“It’s very open and bright.”
“Ah yes, they say getting enough vitamin D is really important for office workers these days so we were trying to keep that in mind. It’s also wonderful having natural lighting for content creation. And it’s in a pretty good neighbourhood too, we’re pretty lucky to be here.”
“Great.” Outside the window Laurie could see a homeless man sleeping in a doorway, blankets pilled around him and a sad, skinny looking dog staring longingly at the hot dog cart on the corner. She had also witnessed several junkies hanging out on the corner where she got off the bus and a market with empty shelves which just had to be a front for something on her walk up to the office.
“Ah and this is Lenny Hawker. She’s in charge of the editorial team which is her and Marice Garcia.” Becky was already moving away from Aaron towards a large woman with greying hair and snapping brown eyes and a small latino man with cropped green hair and thick glasses. The woman stood up and offered her hand immediately.
“Lenny Hawker. Good to meet you. I hear you might bring back the hot lunches, huh? There’s an excellent little Indian place across the street, just there, best tikka in town I say. We’ll definitely have to get that sometime. Oh and this is my college Marice. He’s a little preoccupied with a deadline right now, don’t worry you’ll get the chance to chat with him later, I’m sure.”
“Nice to meet you Lenny, Marice. I don’t eat Indian food though. And who said there would be hot lunches?”
“Oh…. I thought you and Becky were talking about it, sounded like a done deal. Sorry about that.” Lenny flopped back down on her chair.
Becky headed around to the head of the table where an empty chair stood in front of one of the desk tops.
“This I’ll be your desk. The computer is a little out of date, but I recon we can upgrade it once we get a handle on the finances. You have a drawer to keep any personal belongings here” She indicated to a narrow drawer along the desks length. A chair sat in front of it. Laurie sat down and opened the drawer.
“Oh! Someone’s things are in here…”
“Ooops sorryyy! That must be the previous managers. I’ll get rid of it.” Becky scooped up a bunch of notebooks and documents as well as a pack of gum and a few stubby pencils.
“Thank you Becky.” The two of them had only made it down one side of the table. On the other side three other people continued to work, glancing in Laurie’s direction once or twice.
“Well then, let’s continue the introductions.” Laurie got up and joined Becky at the next desk. A wheezy older man sat hunched over the computer and glasses balanced at the end of a long nose. “This is Gerald Thompson. He’s in charge of finances”
“Excellent. We will talk first Gerald. Nice to meet you.”
“Hmmph. Yes, yes, come back later then Laurie. The mangers always want to talk to me first but what good does that ever do…none! None at all!”
“Ooohkayyyy. Moving on then! This is Taylor Weatherby and Cassidy Linden they are our marketing and development team.”
“Hello!” Two young women looked up from the desktop they were sharing and smiled.
“Welcome! We’re glad to have you.” Taylor looked me right in the eye as they spoke. “Just so there is no awkwardness later I’ll let you know now that I use they/them not her/him or she/he.”
“Okay I will try to remember that, Taylor.”
“Oh and nobody calls me Taylor either, it’s Weatherby.” They saluted at Laurie with a lopsided grin.
“Oh yes, we do nicknames around here. I’m usually Becks.”
“I prefer to use people’s real names or sir or ma’am, not nicknames. We will discuss this later.” Cassidy did not look up from facebook as the interaction played out behind her.
“So is social media use permitted during work hours in this office.” Laurie crossed her arms, her top fingers gently tapping the opposite elbow.
“Oh Cass is our social media content developer. She’s writing a new post to welcome you!” Becky grinned at me. “oooh and that means we’ll need your photo! Is it time for a new team photo everyone?!” her voice raised at the end of the sentence. There was a mix of groans from and squeals from the team.
“Oh that won’t be necessary. I prefer to remain behind the scenes.” Cassidy turned around with a gentle smile
“Oh it’d be so helpful… you see we it’s part of our marketing strategy. We connect with our audience by sharing stories about the office, sharing our staff’s info, and regular updates about what we’re working on.” She indicated to the computer.
“Well we will have a meeting about this. In the meantime, I don’t want to see my staff using social media unnecessarily. Please stick to work related tasks only. Thank you.” Laurie brushed past the marketing team and went to her own desk. She glanced around the office. Everyone was staring at her now. “Well It’s nice to meet the team. I will be interviewing you all individually this afternoon in the café across the street, just there” she squinted at the sign “the Daily Grind Café” and waved with her hand. “and we will discuss your individual contributions to the team as well as what each department is focused on and then we will have a company meeting to go over the future goals Harper Collins has for Ivy Press. I trust it will be fruitful and set us up for success. Gerald I will meet with you first at 1:30pm on the dot. Until then I have some work to do so please keep the noise level to a minimum, thank you.” The staff of Ivy Press glanced at each other and shifted in their seats. A low hum filled the room as Laurie sat down at her desk. Becky continued to hover behind her.
“Becky I don’t need anything, I brought my own laptop I will be using. Please go back to whatever it is you usually do.”
“Oh okayyy. It’s just, well…” She leaned over behind the screen so her face was inches from Laurie’s “We’re all just wondering, are you planning to lay off anyone…? I know I shouldn’t ask you that but it’s just I know Gerald didn’t give a good impression, but he really is a dear once you get to know him, he just doesn’t like strangers… or change really.”
“Becky you know I can’t speak to you about that sort of thing. Please return to your desk.”
“Oh okay. Well I’ll just be by the door if you need anything.” Becky moved off, pausing to speak with Lenny, Marice, and Aaron as she went by. Everyone went back to there own work and were nearly silent until 11:45 when a young man came into the office, he was tall and lanky with shaggy brown hair and bright blue eyes. He was dressed in a tee and cargo shorts and carrying an ipad.
“Good morning Lars.” Becky jumped up from her desk and moved to greet him.
“Hi Becks. How’s the new boss Lady?”
“Here now Lars.” Becky indicated to Laurie who was still at her desk typing loudly on her thinkpad.
“Hi there!” Lars called over the din of the keys waving at Laurie. He moved down the table to her end smiling.
“Hello? No personal visitors in the office, please Becky.” Laurie’s smiled with her mouth closed and it never reached her eyes. She returned to typing at the computer.
“Oh no. no no, Lars isn’t a visitor. He’s just come by to take office lunch orders. He comes every Tuesday. You don’t have to order from him of course…” Laurie paused, hands hovering over the keyboard and looked at Lars again.
“What kind of food are you offering Lars?”
“Ahh well we have tacos, salads, drinks, cookies, burritos, soup… Here I can show you the menu. You just select what you want and put your name in at the end and someone will bring it around in about 30 minutes. Or if you’re heading out of the office then you can come by and pick it up. We’re just a block down the street. The Taco Shell. Big taco as the sign, can’t miss it.”
“Thank you, but I don’t eat Mexican food. Besides, there’s so little space in here how are you supposed to eat without making a mess on the desk.” Laurie glanced around the office, one eyebrow raised.
“Oh well we usually all go eat outside. There’s a community garden across the street next to the Indian place. Lots of benches and fresh air, it’s good for the brain.” Becky indicated behind the building with her hands. Laurie glanced out that window. A smallish park was indeed in the distance with some benches.
“Well I’m going to the café and Gerald I expect you there at 1:30 sharp. Thank you.”
“Su-sure Laurie.” Gerald shifted in his seat glancing around the room at the other employees.
“Good. Now if anyone wants to order food go ahead, but Lars, I will have to ask you to refrain from dropping by in the future. If my employees want to eat take out on their lunch break they should be ordering it on their lunch break.” Laurie snapped her laptop closed. Gerald jumped in his seat and returned to his computer. Laurie stuffed the laptop into her bag and slung it over her should then headed to the door. She paused there “just as a refresher. I will be in that café over there. The daily Grind Café” She pointed out the back window to a small dingy looking café with a worn sign. “I will be expecting Gerald first for his review of his department and I will ask him to send the next person when we are finished. I emailed out a list so you will all be prepared. Please check your email. Also, I will request that you refrain from ordering food or drinks during our meetings this afternoon. Please make sure you have an adequately filling lunch.”
She headed outside and across the street into the small café. The strong scent of old coffee met her nose as she walked in. The lighting was dim and the walls black. Laurie looked around for an empty table with decent lighting. Most of the tables hadn’t been cleared. A frazzled young woman stood behind the counter making coffee and a man in a shirt and tie stood watching over her. He glanced over when the bell jiggled. Laurie made a beeline for the only clean table in the place and put down her bag, pulled out her laptop and started to plug it in.
“Hey you! Outlets are for paying customers only!” The man in the tie stood glowering down at her.
“Oh hello, can I have a latte with almond milk, and a salad without tomatoes or peppers? Thank you.”
Laurie turned back to the computer and began typing.
“Hmphr. Customers are supposed to order at the counter.”
“Oh I’m sorry. I must’ve misunderstood. But you know what it is now, so could you place the order? Thanks.” Laurie returned to her email.
Fifteen minutes and lots of yelling later the nervous employee brought the latte and salad over. The time on Laurie’s computer read 1pm. Time to eat before her first appointment.
She took a sip of the latte: Cold. A bite of salad: warm. She sighed. Laurie forced down the terrible food and occupied herself surfing through the Ivy Press website and social media. Now something would definitely need to be done about that…
An alarm on her phone went off at 1:25. She got up to use the bathroom. She was greeted by a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling, a wet flour, and stained sink. At least the toilet looked clean. She barely took the whole five minutes and dashed back to her chair. Opening a new doc window to take notes. The door of the café swung open, bright afternoon light spilling in for a brief moment making it impossible to see the person entering, Laurie sat up straighter in her chair and adjusted her suit. A young woman with a baby strapped to her front entered the café. She went to the counter to order. The clock read 1:29. Laurie added ‘Gerald Thompson, Accounting’ to the top of the document. then she added August 5, 2018 underneath Gerald’s name. The time was now 1:31. She pulled her phone from her bag and pulled up the number for Ivy Press. The door opened again, but it was just the manager returning. 1:33 PM. Laurie added the time to her document. Her hand rested on the phone. She got up from the table and went to the window at the front of the shop where she could see the office. She squinted, trying to see if anyone was moving around inside. The lights and computers were off, nobody sat in the chairs or balanced on the balls. It was completely unoccupied. She went back to her table and picked up the phone. 1:35pm. There was a notification for a new message in her inbox. It was from Becky.
I hope you had a lovely lunch break. The staff and I thought it’d be best for everyone if we do the updates on our departments tomorrow as nobody is prepared today. I hope you understand. Anyway everyone has headed home to work, we have a very flexible work from home policy. I’m sure you will take full advantage!
“Of course you do.” Laurie glowered at the phone.
I also will let you know that Gerald has taken the rest of the afternoon off as a sick day (he doesn’t want me to tell you, but he had a panic attack at lunch).
Anyway, we’ll all be in tomorrow bright and early with our reports, looking forward to seeing you then. Oh, and feel free to work in the office if you like. The key is on the door frame and the alarm code is 1212.
All the best,
Laurie forwarded the email to head office. A few moments later her phone rang.
“Hello? Yes. Yes my recommendation is to acquire new personal immediately. As you know I do not tolerate lateness or a disregard for basic office protocols. Also we will need a new office space. This one is not functional at all. Yes, I will contact them and set up an appointment to see some properties. No, I can do that, please forward me your message and I will add it to mine and send it out, yes, yes all the best. Thank you for your time.” Laurie hung up the phone and opened a new email addressed to Becky Jones.