The Firing Protocol

(A short story)

By Adnan Lermontov

Dedicated to my paternal grandfather, Sheikh Afsaruddin

1.

“Please have a seat.”

“Why? What’s happening?”

“I am eliminating you. It’s 4:30, so you have 30 minutes to pack and leave. Take whatever you can, and the rest will be shipped to your address.”

“30 minutes?”

“Look, you had the verbal, then also the signed written warning from me. I hope this is not a complete surprise.”

“I don’t understand. Are you sure?”

“Not only I, but others complained about your attitude. This is a work place. You and I both know that. And we have to follow certain rules. You must agree. No one liked the way you talked to, or approached her. She never complained, but many others did. I agreed with them all. In the end, it was my decision. I want you to know that.”

“It is a misunderstanding, as I have said before on multiple occasions. We are just good friends. That’s all.”

“I hope you understand that only you are being eliminated, not her. Please understand the significance of it. I am sure you are capable. You are a smart man.”

“Can we still talk about it? I think I can make things clear, and move forward.”

“It’s the best. You will understand it later. You are a married man. Your daughter just got married last week. As your boss, I will have to remind you of these things. You should think about your social status. She is not worth it.”

“It’s just a misunderstanding. Nothing but that.”

“If you want to fight it, then take it to the court. We are done here. Do you understand? You have less than 25 minutes now.”

“This is wrong. It’s just wrong.”

“Do you want to say anything else?”

Silence.

2.

“I guess you know it too then? I don’t see you in my office very often, Mr. Vice President.”

“It “was” your office. Please pay attention to your words. Every word means something. Doesn’t it?”

“It does, but if you reach enough depth, you always hit an unclear world. Therefore, it is not necessarily so.”

“Cut it off. No time to get philosophic here. Take whatever you can, and the rest will be shipped to your address.”

“I have too much stuff to take with me. This is my fifteenth year. You know that!”

“Too much stuff? What do you mean?”

“I have a lot of personal stuff in this room. It will take at least half a day.”

“This is your office. This is not the place to store personal stuff.”

“Why are you talking to me that way? We just laughed like old buddies during the three O’clock meeting.”

“Yes we did. Didn’t we? But you no longer work here, and we have certain protocols to follow. I am sure you understand that. Come to think of it, you fired more people than anyone of us. You should know these protocols.”

“Please talk to me like a friend that we are.”

“We have a business to run. Friendship has no place here. We can re-capture that outside of work, but not here. You are not part of this organization any longer. Please hurry, you don’t have much time.”

“Let me answer a couple of emails before I leave. You can arrange to ship everything else to me later.”

“You have no email access. Remember? That’s what happens. How could you forget that?”

“Right. Thanks for reminding me. Please let me be here, alone, for a few minutes.”

“I have to be here. We know you have nothing harmful in this room, yet I have to be here. That’s the policy.”

“Please wait outside the door; I will have to make a phone call.”

“That can be done. Please make it quick. We are losing valuable company time here. I will be right outside the door. Just call me when you are done.”

3.

“Yes, you are correct. I have some photos and a few of my essays in that folder. How do you know that it is called 2010?”

“I have no right to pull that folder for you. I am sorry. And it is the company property, and we keep track of our properties.”

“What do you mean by you are sorry? We are fishing buddies for God’s sake. You are my neighbor for crying out loud.”

“Calm down. That’s how it is. You know that! This is not the first time it’s happening.”

“I know that. But this is different. My son tutors yours.”

“My hands are tied here. I am much older than you. I hope you know what I mean.”

“No I do not. Rather, I hope not to. That folder is my life. It’s my life. My entire collection of essays, from the last two decades, is in that folder. Do you fucking know what that means?”

“Talk to the VP. I can’t help here. I am still your friend outside these walls, but in here I have things to follow.”

“I do not have a second email. This is the only email address I used for everything.”

“This was never for personal use. You should have been careful.”

“Careful? What the fuck for? What have I done?”

“Please talk to the VP. They might find a way.”

“Go to hell you asshole.”

“I am done here. Come in.”

“Why do you look so red? Do you want a glass of water?”

“No. I don’t need to drink your piss. I need to get a folder from the shared-drive, and this was my only email address. This was my life. I will need that folder, and some of the emails need to be forwarded to me. Can that be arranged?”

“Certainly. It will take some time though.”

“How long?”

“Depending on how you take it over the next few months.”

“Are you serious? You know I am not that kind.”

“But the protocol is not aware of that. I am a servant of the protocol. I hope you understand.”

“Yes. And what a great servant you are! Get the fuck out of here.”

“Can’t do that. Sorry. By the way, it’s time to go and see the HR. You have a few papers to sign. Don’t forget.”

4.

“Before you leave this part of the building, would you like to see anyone or shake some hands?”

“Don’t be a fucking joker.”

“As your boss, I had to ask you, otherwise I wouldn’t feel good.”

“Do you feel good now?”

“You are taking it too personally. Please act mature. Things like this happen.”

“I am sure it does, you mature bitch.”

“Be polite, please. We have nothing, if we do not have our character. Where are you going? You are not taking anything with you?”

“No.”

“Take that painting. It might be damaged if we ship it.”

“Ship it.”

“I always hated that picture. What the hell does it mean?”

“You balls wouldn’t understand it.”

“Ok. Fare enough.”

“Yes, I would like to go to the service department.”

“I am sorry, they can’t talk now. It’s the closing time. They have certain closing protocols to follow.”

“Yes…protocols. Even dignity is buried in that word. Isn’t it?”

“I don’t work in a mortuary or a graveyard. I wouldn’t know that. ”

Silence.

5.

“Don’t rush. Please read before you sign. Know what you are signing?”

“Does it matter?”

“I would have to say that it does.”

“Are we being recorded? This conversation? This treaty signing?”
“Don’t be silly. If that was the case, then I would have to tell you that too. Wouldn’t I?”

“What else would you have to tell you?”

“Don’t be angry. Think positive. You will be surprised what that can do to us. Think positive, stay positive, dream positive.”

“Thanks for the philosophy, dear Buddha.”

“You are being ridicules.”

“What are my other options? Do you have a list? Where is it? What the hell is that?”

“Oh yes, it’s a book on how to eliminate an employee peacefully and safely.”

“You read a book about it?”

“Where do you think I pull my shit from?”

“Is there a photo of the person who wrote that book, in the back-flap? Can I see it?”

“Just remember the title, and check it on-line at home. We are done here. I am sure you will soon find another position, which will be as promising as this one was.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome”.

“I think I would have to take a few items from my office. Can I go to my car to get a plastic bag?”

“Yes. Let’s ask the security guard to bring it for you.”

“No. I want to do it myself.”

“We have certain rules to follow. We cannot discriminate anyone, or show favor. Why don’t you understand that?”

“I can go with him. Is that ok?”

“Ok.”

“I will be back in a minute. Thank you for allowing this, which I am sure, violates the protocol.”

“Yes, it does, but we also want to do this as painlessly as we can.”

“Like the injection?”

Silence.

6.

“Wait. You need a visitor’s pass to enter the building.”

“What?”

“You no longer work here. I am being very generous here. You must admit.”

“I need a visitor’s pass?”

“Yes. Absolutely. We can’t allow randos to enter the building. Do you have your I.D. with you?”

“Do you need a moment?”

“Yes.”

“I am so sorry. I had nothing to do with this.”

“I know. It’s ok. Please…it’s ok.”

“What are you going to do?”

“They told you too? I thought this was taken care of as quietly as they possibly could.”

“No one told me. It’s written all over your face.”

“I don’t have much time. I will talk to you later sometimes. I have to go now. Okay?”

“I am really sorry for everything.”

Silence.

7.

“What’s happening? Why is everyone rushing toward the conference room?”

“We have a meeting coming up.”

“What meeting?”

“Well, we want to discuss what happened here this afternoon, and how we can move forward with as little headaches as we can.”

“Is it about me?”

“Yes.”

“So they all know?”

“No. They just received an email a few minutes ago, which just asked them to be in the meeting room at 5.”

“Who sent the email out?”

“You know that!”

“What else is on the agenda besides me?”

“Nothing really.”

“Please hurry. You have to be out of here by 5.”

“Just give me a few minutes more.”

“That can’t be done. It’s just not safe.”

“What is not safe? Me?”

“It’s the protocol. I didn’t make it. You didn’t make it either. Yet, we both will have to follow it.”

“I am not safe anymore?”

“No. Not for us, not for yourselves either. That is why we are eliminating you on a Monday, so you can immediately get busy looking for a job. The more time one has, one thinks too much negative stuff. Don’t waste time thinking about this day. It’s just…nothing really. Believe me.”

“I believe you my lord.”

8.

“What is he doing in my office?”

“Again, it “was” your office. I told you to pay attention to what you say. This is another thing I hated about you. You were never a team player. I really don’t know how you came this far with that kind of attitude.”

“What is he doing here?”

“What does it look like? He is taking over your position?”

“When did he find out?”

“You know how it is?”

“We had lunch together today! We laughed and joked about things. He enjoyed the sushi as much as I did. But he knew all about it? How can one make it possible?”

“It is what it is.”

“Why does it have to be that way?”

“Please, don’t ask those questions? I never understood philosophy, and I don’t understand it now. I always lived a straight-forward life.”

“This is straight-forward?”

“Yes.”

Silence.

9.

“I forgot to bring my car key. I believe it is on my desk. Can I go in for a second?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“No one is at the front desk to issue the visitor’s pass.”

“Why there are four of you today?”

“Well, they were expecting a fight I guess.”

“Can you go and ask someone to bring the key?”

“Wait here please. Hey guys, keep an eye.”

“They will bring it out after the meeting. They said the office is closed now.”

“What office?”

“It’s officially closed now. The building.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Hey man, I don’t know you, you don’t know me. There is no point arguing here. I am sorry. I am just doing my job.”
“When will the meeting end?”

“I don’t know. We can just wait and see. Please have patience.”

“You know what? I am going to walk home. They can ship the car too. Tell them that.”

“That’s not going to fly. Please wait. I am telling you, it will not fly.”

“You know, this is the first time in my life, I am realizing that my grandfather was a man without any pride. He was an asshole. I admit, but he had no pride, given the fact that he was the richest man in town. It was because of him, I pushed myself to make something out of me. It was because of him I always made my own money to support myself, since I was in high school. It was because of him I am what I am today. I am realizing that he was much bigger of a man than what I could ever be. He had no pride. Man without pride? Can you comprehend that? On the other hand, I am buried in it, up to my gills. Isn’t it just shit?”

“What are you talking about? What does that have anything to do with this?”

Silence.