An excerpt from my book – My Sober Year currently available on Amazon.
Chapter – Meetings
I limped into my office and noticed a dark red spot on the knee of my pants.
Are you kidding me?
Not the way I wanted to start the work day.
I sat down at my desk with a varsity sized coffee in hand and laughed when I saw the huge stack of files staring at me from the inbox.
Great day to have a nasty hangover.
Despite my overall negative attitude toward both my employer and the material duties of my job – I was quite good at it. The procedures I approved had a high “live rate” as it was referred to in my office. The claims I denied have a high “kill rate” meaning the patients die before the treatment would have taken place. I coined that term. Of course, the deaths do not bring me any joy. I think I would have been promoted a while ago if it were not for my past job experience and my “I don’t give a fuck” attitude.
I had a team meeting later in the day. The thought of sitting in a conference room for two hours of my life led me to take an eight ounce flask from my desk drawer and pour a quarter of the contents into my large coffee.
The things that get me through the day.
Getting the flask out, pouring the whiskey into the coffee and getting it back to its hiding place was a stealth operation. God forbid someone see me. As much as I resented it, I did need the job. The whole transition took about forty seconds. I poured the whiskey into the cup by putting it in between my legs and pretended I was looking at a document that had fallen into my lap. I hurried to put the flask back behind a box of stationary I never used and quietly closed the drawer.
Just then my good buddy Darren walked past my desk. He looked as bad as I did. He’d had a rough one the previous night. His hair was a mess and his beard – dangerously close to violating company grooming policy- had what looked like dry salsa in it. I questioned if he had showered.
“What’s up buddy? What did you do last night?” I asked
“Oh, you know how I’ve been working on that stand up comedy act?” Darren responded.
“You did a stand up act and didn’t tell me about it?” I said, actually quite pissed.
“Dude, I suck. The whole thing was embarrassing.”
“Where was it?” I asked.
“Down on the Lower East Side. Some dive comedy club.”
“What was your material?” I asked.
And then Darren put his head down and told his story.
The Comedy Club as told by Darren:
“I got to the club at around nine o’clock. The open mic performers usually go on at ten, but I wanted to have a good buzz before I went on stage so I paid homage to the bar for a while. It was a good move. I’m much funnier when I’m drunk. I’m not sure how many I had, but the bartender looked at me when I order my second to last drink and asked ‘Are you going on stage tonight? Cause if so, you might want to hold off until after you are done.’ But what the fuck does he know? So I had a couple more and heard the MC call me to the stage. I was drunk, but it was a good, loose drunk. I was going to be hilarious. The material was solid. I had rehearsed. I knew I would kill it. And then a funny thing happened. Well actually it wasn’t all that funny. I noticed the crowd was predominantly female. A couple of guys, but it was pretty much forty women, ten men, one thing I could not make out the gender of and the bartender who doesn’t count because he was a humorless bastard.
When your opening joke has to do with an abortion, a warm coat hanger, and a roll of Tums…..well, you can only imagine the response from the crowd. I think the men in the crowd were afraid to laugh. They could have thought it was the funniest set they have seen in years and they would not have let out a peep. These women were angry and nobody in his right mind would dare get in the path of that lynch mob.
What the night came down to was a young lady heckling me for the next hour. This includes the five minutes I was on stage and the next fifty minutes at the bar. She was non-stop- I was a worthless woman hater, the small size of my penis, if I had one, and she even went on to question if I even knew who my father was. I think I got home at around 3:30 this morning. Listened to that song by R.E.M. “Everybody Hurts” and went to bed.”
After digesting Darren’s story I smiled at him, gave him a pat and the shoulder and asked, “Ready for today’s staff meeting?”
“Oh fuck me. That’s today?” Darren asked.
“Aren’t you presenting?”
“What?” Darren sounded confused.
“You are third on the agenda. You have two case studies to go over. “
“Yeah. No. Not prepared. Not gonna happen.” Darren said.
“You are a train wreck. “
“Yeah, how about you give me a sip of that coffee.” Darren said.
“Shit, did you see that?”
“No, I smell it.”
I handed Darren my Irish coffee.
“Finish it; you need it more than I do.”
Our office’s conference room looks like it came straight out of 1978. The only items missing from it being Studio 54, as Darren and I call it, were a disco ball and lines of coke. We debated blowing lines off the long oak table, but the opportunity never presented itself.
We took seats as far from our boss, Gary, as possible. Half to avoid him detecting the scent of alcohol and half because I couldn’t have given two shits about anything he was going to say. The meetings were a waste of time and energy. Time and energy I could have spent at a bar in order to cope with my shitty job.
Gary walked into the room looking all boss like. Two toned shirt. A leather case surrounding his notepad. Slicked back black hair. He would have been well dressed in any era, but you could tell he missed the eighties and he took the Gordon Gecko style with him. Gary was imposing with the height of an NBA forward and the build of an NFL lineman. The first time I saw him I almost called him Shrek. The resemblance was striking.
Gary could be, at times, an OK guy. He would shoot the shit with you; ask about your family, your life, or maybe what you are doing for the weekend. Enough so that he knew what was going on with you without knowing so much that he had to feel invested in you personally. Gary was possibly the world’s worst boss. He followed the company line with precision. It is sad, but he had no original thought. Everything was by the book. It was annoying and frustrating to work for Gary. But what could I do about it? I needed the paycheck.
Gary opened the meeting, “I’ll be brief with my opening remarks.”
No fucking way, this guy loves to hear himself talk. He has yet to keep one of these opening soliloquies under a half hour.
He hit on the normal topics. Productivity, expenses, attention to detail within cases and specific “problem clients”. I got a kick out of the term problem client. Like Medicertain was so fucking high and mighty that they had the luxury of calling a company paying them for insurance (a product that is nothing more than paper) a “problem”.
“Keep up the good work. I’m the best boss in the world. Blah. Blah. Blah.” At minute twenty-eight of Gary’s uninterrupted pontification I wanted to jam my pen in my eye just to feel a sensation other than boredom. It was in a new low in terms of how I spent my time, yet all too familiar of a feeling. Darren and I began writing things in our notebooks to one another.
I hate my life.
What would happen if I faked a seizure?
Anything to keep my mind from the now thirty-six minutes of continuous talking from Gary. I began to daydream of drinking a scotch with three ice cubes in the glass, slowly melting into the perfect drink. It would be the appropriate setting for such a drink. I’m sure Darren wouldn’t have minded one either. His head was nodding back and forth on the brink of catching up on sleep.
“Brian, your thoughts?”
I felt like the question came out of nowhere. I hadn’t been paying any attention to the drivel filling the room. Now I had to give some form of input. I took the road previously traveled and took the company line. “Gary, I could not agree more with your assessment of the situation. Your idea, while a little risky, is original and possibly revolutionary.” Darren nudged me and whispered – “Are you fucking crazy?” I guess Darren was paying more attention than I was.
“That’s great Brian. So you are willing to take this on?” Gary said with an enthusiastic smile.
“Well Gary I would love to, bu-”
“Excellent. We’ll set you up with the company audio visual department for this coming Saturday.”
“Audio visual department?” I muttered under my breath just loud enough for all twenty people in the room to hear.
You are the dumbest motherfucker alive. Darren wrote on his notepad.
Now I was concerned. My boss had given me an assignment that involved the use of a video camera on the weekend and my co-worker who, only hours ago, enlightened a room full of women on the practice of the homemade abortion called me a “dumb motherfucker.”
Maybe if I pull the fire alarm this will all go away?
No such luck, but it was now Darren’s turn to present. I may have been stupid, but Darren was unprepared and given the circumstances, fucked. Darren worked for a different part of Medicertain, but still reported to Gary. His job was to manage the accounts for companies we provided insurance. To put it simply – Darren took all the yelling, screaming, and crying from clients after I denied claims. He was a people person. He could make just about anyone like him (when not talking about abortion). It was a valuable skill in his line of work. He also happened to be in possession of a corporate card and he used it liberally with clients.
Darren got up and spoke about two clients who had complaints. He completely ignored what the topic of his presentation was supposed to be: Denying Medical Claims in an Uncertain World. He did not have any handouts. He had no PowerPoint presentation. It was a picture in how not to give a presentation in Corporate America. He killed zero trees and did not have senseless slides that people stared at without any idea why. When he was done the room was silent. Not his finest corporate moment, but it was the only part of the meeting where I paid attention.