fiction

On Writing: Platitudes Are Best Served With Crackers

I had as much fun writing this story as the protagonist did with his revenge. The truth is, I worked in a place much like this – and when I was downsized I wished for my revenge. Instead of taking a master chocolatier course I took legal measures.

I wrote this story several years after I had lost that job – it was cathartic. It was at this job that the prank monkey in me was born. If you read any of the Prank Monkey posts on the Richtig Haus web site, some of the more minor pranks were honed during this period of employment. Coworkers of mine may remember going out for lunch, only to return and notice that items had been moved on their desk – not enough to mention it to someone, but enough to notice.

I noticed in the course of rereading this story that I have linked chocolates and workplace shenanigans in more than one story. The earlier story in this collection “Chocolates & Unemployment” told the story of a workplace glutton. “Platitudes Are Best Served With Crackers” takes revenge on these workplace gluttons. I will willingly admit that I have spent some time as a workplace glutton myself. When I worked at the office that inspired this story I was known for ransacking the reception candies. They were too good to resist, and my high pressure job ensured that sugar and chocolate felt good as a way to satiate myself. This is one of the reasons I gained sixty pounds while working here (it may have also been the lunches that consisted of garlic bread with cheese and fries on the side).

The reason I took legal measures against this company were several fold. I had worked for the company for about 4.5 years at the time I was “laid off” (October 2003). About two years prior to this, the company brought out a RRSP package for the staff. We could deposit money directly from our cheques, and the company matched the deposits for employees who had been with the company for over two years. In the spring of 2003 I drained my RRSP to purchase my first house. I had just turned 26.

For the next few months I did not check my RRSP account, as I knew it would be some time before it built itself back up. I continued to deposit money along with the company’s contributions. In the fall of 2003 one of the other employees came to me and asked if I had any issues with my RRSP. She indicated that she had not received all of the contributions she was due, and asked me to look into it for her. I was loosely part of the management team – no one reported directly to me; however, I was involved in all of the management meetings and hiring cycles.

I assumed there was a technical issue, so I went to the Office Manager and asked her if she knew what the deal was. She checked with the CEO and he assured her that they had made the deposit, yet there was some sort of technical issue with the company that held our RRSP funds. I accepted this and let the team know – I was the Technology Manager & IT Consultant, so I understood that sometimes technology is not our friend.

About two weeks later I checked my account to see that nothing had changed. I went out for lunch with the Office Manager, (where I had garlic bread with cheese and fries of course!), and she let me know that the company had been using our contributions and deposits to pay the monthly bills. The company had hit a rough patch about six months after September 11th, 2001; and it had continued through to 2003.

At this point I became enraged. I could have dealt with the fact that the company had stopped its contributions due to a lack of funds. It was a perk of our employment, but we were in no way legally entitled to it. It was the fact that they were also spending our money that came directly off of our cheques that made me hit the roof.

My next stop was to the HR Manager. I let her know what was happening, armed with inside information from the Office Manager. I told the HR Manager that if they did not resolve this matter quickly, I would be forced to take it to the next level. I admitted that I was not even really sure what that meant. The fact was they were stealing our money and using it to pay the bills. There were moral, and I assumed legal, issues with this.

The next day I came in and was immediately put onto a technical issue with the Office Manager’s computer. The issue took nearly all day, and she was unable to work. At approximately 3pm I finished the repairs and was called into the CEOs office. At this point I was laid off. I left the office without incident.

I had made plans to hang out with a friend after work, so I made my way to her office – not really sure what else to do. My friend worked in a lawyer’s office and when I explained to them why I was early they decided I should seek damages. We did seek damages and I won the case. I did not see any money from the lawsuit (the lawyers did represent me for free, so I did not end up in the hole fortunately). What no one tells you about a lawsuit, is that you have to collect the money yourself. I could not afford a collection agency, and thus left with nothing more than bad memories.

While I won the lawsuit, it does not feel like a win in the long run. This was my first real job, and because I took a legal route I lost all of the connections I had made. The staff had been ordered not to speak to me because of the lawsuit. By the time the dust settled, I realized that I had made a mistake. All the people around me wanted to make my former employers pay for what they had done to me – which I appreciated. What I failed to realize was that the money (that I never saw) could never replace the career and potential I lost.

@kylerichtig

“Platitudes Are Best Served With Crackers.” Jade Buddha. 2007.

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