Overly Casual Fridays
WE RAN a tight ship around here. All business, no party. Everything was done the professional way. We dressed conservatively to meet the expectations of our well-heeled clientele. I towed the line during the long years. I worked myself up within the organization. That’s what you do: show respect when you’re wet behind the ears, then learn in the trenches of the workplace and execute your responsibilities. Then the organization rewards you.
Now I’m the man in charge, and our office building is burning to the ground.
And I’m calling an end to Casual Fridays.
Last Spring everything was fine. Then Trudy from Accounts Receivable and Nyquist from HR came to see me about morale problems. Nyquist said turnover was rising. Trudy said, “I think it would be fun to dress down once a week.” When she said that she was perched on the edge of my desk, leaning on her hip, and Nyquist was nodding her along from the doorway.
All I could think of was my one unforgivable lapse after the Christmas party, and whether Nyquist knew. Or the entire executive staff. Did they know? I would try to read their eyes one at a time. There was probably talk between them.
Trudy was making me anxious, so I skipped the decision tree process of contemplation and internal deliberation. I surprised them, said, “Make it happen, people.”
Yes, they ran with that.
The first Casual Friday the men went without neckties. Some wore blazers rather than suit-coats, penny loafers instead of wing tips. The women wore tasteful blouses and separates of different colors. I myself chose not to dress down, but the initiative seemed to improve dispositions around the office.
But sure enough, Management 101 fundamental: lighten up at all on your team and some individuals will take liberties. Week two Nyquist clocked in wearing a disco shirt opened to a V halfway down his stomach. His chest hair spilled out for our valued customers and colleagues to see. The thatch was so thick you could’ve hidden a chipmunk in among it. He said he blow-dried his chest, even though no one asked him. Eddy from Purchasing rolled in late, wearing a wife-beater shirt and Daisy Duke shorts that didn’t fit him properly. His hat held two beers and had a long straw for convenience.
Trudy wore a naughty nurse outfit and I could see her underpants. Everyone could see them. It was unbearable.
I left at lunch-time headed for Applebee’s, and I didn’t go back to work again until Monday.
I was scared walking in after a weekend incommunicado, admitted. But everyone was spot-on professional and back in the attire that inspires confidence in our fiduciary capabilities. It was a quiet week. Friday seemed like an anomaly.
On Thursday I toured the cubicle hive, eliciting general employee concerns. I suggested we should dial it down a bit on the casualness, but, you know, still go sans ties. To show them I was in the spirit, I myself would try working tieless the next day.
As a further gesture of goodwill, I picked up bakery pastries for the break room. That’s why I arrived at the building after matters were already out of hand.
The accountants wore only body glitter. A shipping clerk went by in a diver’s wetsuit, brandishing a harpoon. One night janitor was MC-ing karaoke. Nyquist was throwing up into the pencil drawer, into file cabinets, and it was only 9:15 am. Music played on the public address system, so conga lines formed. Most people still able to stand were doing Jello-shots from my desk. Trudy sat in my chair with spike heels up on the surface, wearing a bow and nothing else.
Extremely liberated people were taking ill-advised pictures on their phones and not thinking of consequences.
The smell of gasoline was over-powering. The dance of the many compromised associates’ silhouettes on the walls was stylistically interesting—I’ll concede that—but the fire making those shadows was a bad problem.
I evacuated everyone, got them all out save Nyquist (whose body firefighters moments ago found melted to a plastic doll), before flames climbed the walls and met on the ceiling. The pastries were a complete loss.
Corporate called. They said they could see me on TV, as I was speaking to them. They said I’d better pack my parachute. They said now is a great time to explore other career options, catch up on time with the family, maybe retain legal representation. They said good luck getting elected Dog Catcher.
I went to Applebee’s.
TODD MERCER won the first Woodstock Writers Festival’s Flash Fiction contest, and his chapbook, Box of Echoes, won the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press contest. Mercer's poetry and fiction appear in Apocrypha & Abstractions, Blue Collar Review, The Camel Saloon, Cease, Cows, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Falling Star, 50-Word Stories, The Fib Review, The Lake, Main Street Rag Anthologies, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, One Sentence Poems, Postcard Poems and Prose, Postcard Shorts, Right Hand Pointing, RE:Union Journal, Spartan, and Vibrant Arts.