I walked up to the Old Port offices of Danny’s startup on my first day. I wanted to fit in so I was wearing flip flops, shorts, a checkered shirt, and a backpack. I was excited. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I was going to build something. I, Vince Carnelli, was actually going to contribute to something that would leave a legacy.
I walked up the dark stairs, which were darker than I remembered, and made my way to the converted loft space of Danny’s offices. I opened the door… and the offices were empty. The lights were off.
I checked my phone to make sure it wasn’t a weekend, and I hadn’t come in on the wrong day. It was a Monday. Then, I heard a sound in the far corner, and realized there was one person in the office.
“Hello!” I called.
The person walked towards me, and as she stepped out of the shadows, I realized that it was Andrea.
“Andrea? What are you doing here?” I asked.
“You weren’t returning my texts, so I thought I’d come see you in person.”
“But how did you know where I work? I mean, where I was going to work. Where is everyone?”
Andrea laughed at a joke I didn’t understand. She continued to laugh until it turned into more of a cackle. In all the time I’d known her, I had never known Andrea to cackle.
“This is it,” Andrea said.
“What do you mean?”
“This is everyone.”
“But there’s no one here.”
“Well what did you expect when you decided to go work for a business that couldn’t even come up with a name.”
“Wait, I still don’t understand what you’re doing here.”
“I’m here because you want me here.”
Without warning, Andrea grabbed the hem of her tank top and pulled it over her head.
“Woah! Hey! What are you doing? What if someone walks in?”
“So what? Who cares?”
“Andrea, it’s my first day, I don’t want to get fired for indecency.”
“First, who is going to fire you,” she said as she slipped off her shoes. “Second, isn’t this what you wanted? A chance to do something cool and fun? No responsibility. Just try it out for the hell of it?”
As she kept talking she was slipping her shorts down her legs. Now, she stood in front of me in just underwear.
“No, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted a chance to build something that would last. A legacy.”
“And what kind of legacy are you going to build in a company that probably won’t be around in six months?” Andrea said, with a smirk. Now, she reached behind her back for her bra clasp.
Before she could undo it, I closed the distance between us and grabbed her arm to stop her.
“I thought I could do something interesting. And useful. And that coming to work every morning wouldn’t be a soul sucking experience. But I am taking this seriously. This is my life.”
“Maybe that’s your problem, Vince. You take everything too seriously. You need to relax and just have a little fun.”
With her free hand, she traced a line down my chest. I let go of her and took a step backwards.
“I know how to have fun,” I said.
“Then show me,” Andrea said. This time she stepped towards me and grabbed my head in her hands. She craned her neck up to kiss me, but once again I backed away.
“No. I’m here to work.”
I thought this would upset her, but instead she just started to laugh again.
“Okay, Vince, you want to work. Go for it.” And she pointed me in the direction of a table that had a laptop on it.
“But I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what my job is.”
“That’s a problem,” Andrea said.
“Where is everyone?”
Andrea shrugged. “Probably out having fun. I think I’ll join them.” Leaving her clothes in a pile on the floor, she walked past me, to the door and went through it.
I was alone in the large office loft space now. Maybe I should wait for someone to show up?
Some time passed, and the emptiness of the large space started to weigh on me, until finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I ran through the same door Andrea had used, down the stairs to the street, out onto it and kept running.
When I finally stopped running, I found myself standing in front of a downtown office building. The offices of BTC.
I made my way up to the ninth floor, where I remembered Mr. Lefebvre’s offices were. It was only once I was in the elevator that I noticed that I was now wearing slacks and a button down shirt, and that my backpack had been replaced by a brief case.
The elevator doors opened and I walked into the busy office. People were sitting at cubicles tapping away at keyboards. Others were walking around, coffee in hand, chatting with colleagues. It was the normal chatter of a normal office.
I remembered the way to Mr. Lefebvre’s office. I passed by his assistant without giving her a second look, and she didn’t try to stop me. The door was open. I walked in.
“Mr. Lefebvre,” I said, “I accept your offer. I’m ready to start right now.”
Lefebvre’s chair was turned away from me, but I could tell someone was sitting in it. At my declaration, the chair swivelled towards me.
When the chair was finally facing me, my jaw dropped. Sitting in the chair was not Mr. Lefebvre, but…
“What… what are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing. I thought you turned down this job offer.”
“No. That was a mistake. I want this.”
“I’m afraid the position you applied for has already been filled.”
“Already? How is that possible? No. Please. I need this. Give me another chance.”
Tina laughed. And she laughed. But it wasn’t the sweet sounding laugh that I had become so enamoured with over the last couple of weeks. This was a deeper laugh. A more… maniacal laughter.
“Please, Tina. Where is Mr. Lefebvre? Can I talk to him? What about Mr. Tremblay? I’ll talk to him if Mr. Lefebvre isn’t available.”
Tina’s laughter cut off abruptly.
“No. You deal with me. You can’t run away from me now, Vince.”
“I… I… never ran away from you.”
“Didn’t you? Didn’t you run away at the first sign that things were getting serious?”
“I… No. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Poor, Vince. You really are lost. No idea what you want. Okay, fine. The position you applied for has been filled, but there is another position that I think would be a good fit.”
“Great. I’ll take it.”
“Have fun,” she said.
I blinked, and I was no longer in Mr. Lefebvre’s office. I was sitting in a cubicle. My hands were on a keyboard, and I was staring at an old windows screen saver. The rest of the cubicle was blank. The walls were too high for me to be able to see anything outside my cubicle.
I tried to get up to see those around me. That’s when I noticed my hands wouldn’t move. Looking down at them, I saw that I was shackled to the desk, with just enough room to move between the mouse and the keyboard.
“Hey. What is this? Hey! Is this some kind of initiation joke? Hello! Anybody!”
My calls got progressively louder, until finally I was screaming in panic. As my voice rose, the lights around my cubicle seemed to dim, until finally, my cubicle appeared to be floating in a sea of blackness, my calls disappearing into the void.
“I don’t want this!”
Then I woke up.
I crossed the couple of feet over to my desk and booted up my laptop. I started typing the first of a few different emails.
On the Monday of the following week, I found myself in front of Mr. Lefebvre’s office, again wearing slacks, a shirt and a briefcase. This time, I greeted his assistant, who indicated that I should go right in.
I knocked on the door frame of the open door.
This time, Mr. Lefebvre was looking at a laptop screen, but facing towards the open door.
“Vince! Great to see you,” he said, as he got up from behind his desk to shake my hand.
“Good to see you, too, Sir.”
“Excited for your first day?”
“I’m definitely ready to go.”
“Excellent. Follow me. I’ll introduce you to your team, and then we can spend a couple of hours together and I can bring you up to speed on some of the projects you’ll be taking on.”
Mr. Lefebvre led me around a corner to a row of cubicles just like any other.
He paused, indicating two pods of four cubicles on his left, the window-side of the building.
“This,” Mr. Lefebvre said, indicating the two pods, “is your Montreal-based team. You also have some team members in Toronto, Vancouver, and a few in San Francisco.”
We walked forward and stopped at the divider between the two pods. From here, I could see into both. In the pod to the right, two of the four desks were occupied. The other two desks had papers, picture frames, and computer peripherals strewn across them. It was clear that they had owners, but that they weren’t at their desks.
The pod to the left only had one vacant desk. It was the one that was facing the window and closest to the corner of the building. It was like the cubicle equivalent of a corner office. Unlike the two empty desks in the other pod, this one had only a laptop and a computer monitor on the desk. The rest of the desk was bare, and the walls of the cubicle were unadorned. I guessed that was to be my desk.
Mr. Lefebvre introduced me to my new team one by one. Out of the five members present, he recalled three names. For the other two, he was forced to ask that they introduce themselves. Four men and one woman. The two oldest men on the team, Serge and Mario, both looked like they were around my father’s age.
The youngest person on the team was Pierre. He occupied the desk kitty corner to the one I assumed was mine. He was bald and had a thick beard, so he actually didn’t look that young, but between the beard, his thick-rimmed glasses and the checkered shirt, I assumed he must be a bit younger than he looked.
The sole woman on the team was Brigitte. Brigitte was maybe ten years older than me, and would have been a very attractive woman if she knew how to smile.
The last person Mr. Lefebvre introduced me to was JF. JF was rail thin, but tall. He had an effeminate look to him, which he overcompensated for when crushing my hand as he shook it.
“Brigitte, where are the others?”
“I saw Seb this morning, he must be getting coffee. Mohamed usually comes in a little later.”
Mr. Lefebvre nodded, and then turned to me.
“We offer flexible hours. You can come in any time between 7:30 am and 9:30 am, so long as you’re getting your work done.”
“That’s good to know,” I said, wondering just how flexible that really was.
“And this,” Mr. Lefebvre said, walking to the corner desk, “is yours. All of our senior managers get window seats.”
He emphasized the word senior as he said this. I wasn’t sure if that was for my benefit, to stroke my ego, or maybe it was for the benefit of those around us, who might be wondering why someone new and younger was getting the prime real estate in the cubicle farm.
I simply nodded my head. I was beginning to imagine a world where every one of my employees was older than me, and resented not just my position, but my window seat.
The others, for their part, had already gone back to their screens and were typing and clicking away as if we weren’t there.
“If you need any help setting up your computer, the phone number for IT is on a sticky note on the laptop. Give them a call and they’ll send someone to get you up and running. Let’s go back to my office, and I’ll give you the rest of the run down.”
I followed Mr. Lefebvre back to his office. He went on about this detail or that detail, or the various perks and benefits of working for BTC. I remembered receiving a similar spiel when I had joined my previous employer, only to never have used any of the aforementioned perks or benefits.
As we settled into Mr. Lefebvre’s office, and I pulled out my notepad to scribble notes, he finished a thought about the employee share purchase plan. He moved on to his next topic.
“Do you have kids?” he asked. The question caught me off guard, and I hesitated. I don’t know if he noticed my hesitation or not, but he continued. “I ask because we also have a daycare on site. There’s a bit of a waiting list, so if you’re interested, I suggest you put your name down right away.”
“Uhh… Thank you. But no kids.”
“Ah. Ok. Married or girlfriend?”
He said it casually and offhand. It was meant as friendly conversation. But, it was a jarring shift away from all the things that were listed on the recruiting poster.
“No, Sir. Not married. No girlfriend,” I said.
As I said it, thoughts of Tina flashed through my mind. I hadn’t heard from her since I’d written her that email a week ago. The email, written at 4 am, was my attempt at explaining why I wasn’t ready for a real relationship. Putting my thoughts into writing had seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought they would be more coherent.
When I had received no response from her for two days, I re-read my email. As I did, I wanted to punch myself. Not only had I failed at being coherent, it also read as completely insensitive. As if I were breaking up with her electronically so as not to have to deal with a real live conversation. I considered writing a follow up email apologizing, but that just seemed worse. Like toying with her emotions.
That led to me chastising myself for being so self-important. I had spent all this time thinking she would be crushed by the email. Maybe she had read the email, shrugged, deleted it, and hadn’t thought of me since? I don’t know if it was my ego or my brain, but for some reason, I wasn’t buying that line of reasoning.
“Vince?” Mr. Lefebvre said.
I snapped out of my daydream. He had carried on briefly about his own kids before jumping into another benefit.
“Sorry,” I said, “Just taking it all in.”
“I completely understand. I’ve thrown a lot at you. You’ll need some time to digest. Why don’t we move on to talking about projects, and if you have questions about any of the benefits, you can chat with one of the girls in HR?”
Mr. Lefebvre spent the next hour giving me the run down of some of the highest profile projects the team was working on. He described every single project as a “top priority” or as “critical” to the success of the company. I had started asking some questions about the details of each, but after the third time I was told that I should probably talk with the team to get the details, I stopped asking.
I walked out of Mr. Lefebvre’s office with notes that were really just project names and questions.
I spent the rest of the morning meeting with the team. I met Seb, who I hadn’t met earlier. He was very pleasant and friendly. After only a couple of minutes of chatting with him, I found out he had three kids. He was a couple of years older than me.
Mohamed, the other employee who hadn’t been present when I was meeting the team that morning, was apparently out sick. Brigitte was the one to tell me, and based on the expression on her face when she delivered the news to me, it was clear that she didn’t really buy it.
I ate lunch at my desk. I received a couple of half-hearted invitations to join other groups, but I politely declined. I wanted to get through some of the piles of documentation I’d been given to read. Or so I claimed.
I spent most of my lunch hour texting the guys. Dev was excited because he was on the verge of closing another deal. Jon was bored. Tom was trying to convince me to go on a double date with him and Jo. Mike had just woken up.
By 2pm, I was already exhausted. I was out of practice working 9 to 5 hours. That’s when my phone rang. A small part of me hoped it was Tina, except that Tina had never called me before, nor did she have any reason to do so now.
It was Mom.
“Hi, Mom,” I said.
“Hi, Sweetie. How’s your day going?”
“Are you sure? You don’t sound good.”
“Everything’s great. Just trying to soak it all in. First day and all.”
“How’s your team?”
They all hate me, and they’re wondering why someone younger than them who knows nothing about the company was put in charge of them, I thought. I looked around me. Likely everyone could hear my conversation.
“They’re great. Very friendly,” I said.
“That’s good. I don’t want to keep you, I just want to know what time you’re coming home for dinner?”
“Umm… I’m not sure.”
“Mom, the work day ends at five.”
“I don’t know, Mom. It’s my first day. I don’t know what time I’m leaving yet.”
“I really don’t know.”
“How am I supposed to plan dinner, then?”
“Just eat when you usually eat, and I’ll grab something when I get home.”
“But it’s never as good when it’s warmed up.”
“It’ll be fine, Mom.”
“I don’t understand. Why can’t you just tell me when you’ll be home?”
“Because it’s not that simple.”
“Why not? Just tell your boss you have to leave at five.”
“On my first day?”
“I’m sure he’ll understand. He must have a family too.”
“I don’t think my boss cares what time I leave.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I have work to do.”
“On your first day?”
“Mom, I really need to go.”
“Well, do you think you can at least call me when you know that you’ll be leaving?”
“No. I probably won’t know when I’m leaving until I leave.”
“You won’t have any idea before that?”
“I really have to go, Mom.”
“We’ll need to talk about this when you get home, Vince. I don’t want to be in the kitchen until eight o’clock every night.”
“Bye, Mom,” I said.
I hung up, and wondered how much everyone else had heard. No one seemed to be paying attention, but I’m sure it would have been hugely entertaining for them all to witness their boss arguing with his mommy on his first day.
I turned to my computer and opened a web browser. I typed into the search bar, “Apartments for rent in Montreal.”
It was time to start my new life.
Well, folks, that’s it. The end of the story. Look for a post in the coming weeks about what’s coming next for this site.