Being invited to the Human Resources manager's office was rarely good news for worker bees. More often than not it was for coercion to correct ill behavior or the administration of some form of emotional corporal punishment for more serious transgressions. It was all spelled out rather explicitly in the employee manual. So it was with some humorous apprehension that I walked the Green Mile to the HR office.
While being escorted by the floor manager, we walked past the head ends of several assembly lines and wary eyes glanced our way. Facial expressions turned grim. Then I saw the guy I was working with when apprehended for being away from my workstation without authorization. He gave me the thumbs up sign. My step lightened.
Once in the office and the door was shut, the diminutive HR manager directed me to sit down, which I did. Then she sat down behind her desk. However, the floor manager remained standing as if acting as some sort of ad hoc bailiff. Or bouncer. This struck me as rather humorous, in that the floor manager was the physical polar opposite of the peanut-of-a-women sitting virtually camouflaged behind the big desk.
The HR manager explained to me that I had been caught being away from my designated workstation without authorization and the punishment was a three day suspension without pay. She then handed me some papers to read. They were self-explanatory and not exactly a tough read. When I went to hand them back to her, she informed me that I had to sign them.
The formality of the paperwork seemed typically bureaucratic and even understandably necessary from an HR standpoint, but I found the requirement of my signature to the documentation to be overkill. So I politely and quite innocently asked why my signature was required.
HR manager: "Signing the papers only signifies that you've read and understand what company rule or rules you have violated, as well as what the prescribed punishment for the violation or violations are."
ME: "Well I can save you some work. I was away from my workstation without authorization. For that violation I'm being suspended without pay for three days. The earliest I can return to work will be Thursday, and until then I am forbidden from being on AeroSeat company property.
See? I understand the violation and punishment."
HR manager: "That's all well and good, Jeff, but you still have to sign the papers."
ME: "I have to?"
HR manager: "Yes, you have to."
It was then I realized just how ridiculous all of this was. Not only was the infraction total bullshit, but this kangaroo court was total bullshit. And we had reached a Mexican bullshit standoff, if you will. It was clear that if I was ever going to make my way out of this office with any semblence of personal dignity, I'd have to do something drastic.
Feigning an epileptic seizure was out of the question ...
Then it came to me in a flash: I envisioned the distraught HR manager rushing me, placing the pen into my hand, pulling my arm over to the paperwork on her desk, and to forcing my signature onto dotted line.
Looking the HR manager directly in the eyes, I slowly leaned back in the chair, defiantly crossed my arms on my chest, and sarcastically challenged her, saying:
Time stood absolutely still for a brief yet delicious moment. It wasn't exactly a religious experience, but it sure came close.
Her facial expression changed to a cross between shock and indignation. It was obvious she wasn't accustomed to such blatantly recalcitrant behavior. This wasn't part of the curriculum at UCONN's Torrington Branch. She was rattled to the core: the poor woman didn't know what to do.
Meanwhile, the floor manager buried face in hand and then massaged her temples with thumb and middle finger, as if to fight off a migraine. This whole meeting had gone terribly wrong, not only veering off the pages of the play book, but across the desktop, over the edge and crashing on the floor.
Neither enjoyed any of this. Not. One. Iota.
But I was!
The seemingly petrified HR manager shook off her frozen state, stuck out her lower lip in a most pronounced pout, and having no other plan, dropped ten and punted.
Hastily grabbing the paperwork, she spun the documents around, grabbed the pen, and in large and exaggerated block letters wrote:
...and as if to drive the last nail in a coffin, she spat out in percussive diction, "This is going in your personnel file!"
I was then directed to leave the building and I was unceremoniously escorted to the front lobby by the floor manager.
In the hallway to the lobby, I said to my escort, "Looks like I'm getting to leave work early after all...", referring to my request at the beginning of the day.
The floor manager didn't reply.