Work! Work! Work!

Excerpted from Whose Kids Are These Anyway by Ken Swarner. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I have been enjoying my job a whole lot more now that Larry Johnson packed his belongings and moved out of our department.

I don’t want to appear insensitive, but, you can’t have someone with that much free time and a calm disposition dragging down you or your co-workers. For years, my associates and I attended to our jobs just fine and we all planned to stay there until we retired. Then, Larry arrived last December. I took one look at him and called an emergency meeting in the breakroom.

“I don’t want to panic anyone,” I said, “but there’s something peculiar about the new guy.” The staff looked concerned. “Did anyone notice his clothes? They’re pressed.” A wave of fear spread across their faces. “His complexion is clear. His hair is combed. His shoes are shined.”

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People started to weep.

“You mean to tell us…” Steve from purchasing started to say.

“Yes,” I interrupted. “I don’t think he has kids.”

Everyone screamed. We sent a reconnaissance squad to Larry’s desk to confirm my suspicions.

“Sure enough,” the squad leader reported back, “but it’s worse than you thought. He’s not even married.”

The problems started immediately. While we were doing what we always did: shuttling kids to doctors appointments, rushing home for forgotten school lunches, and hawking boy scout fundraisers in the elevator, Larry was working late, arriving early, and eating his dinner at his desk. Then, the inevitable happened – the boss noticed.

“Has anyone seen how hard Larry is working?!” he barked.

How could we tell our leader from the Leave It to Beaver generation that we had responsibilities to our children? He’d never understand. So, out of fear for our jobs, we tried to keep up. Many of us worked 10 or 15 minutes past quitting time. I even skipped my son’s pre-season soccer tournament to
complete a major project over the weekend, but that backfired when my supervisor caught me in the men’s bathroom listening to my wife’s play-by-play of the game over our cell phone. Even Gloria Freeman, the pillar of strength in accounting, couldn’t handle the pressure. She transferred out of our department to the night shift. She has three kids in competitive ice skating…who could blame her?

Finally, I had to lay-it-on-the-line with the boss: “Maybe Larry would be a good candidate for that new job in Department Six,” I suggested to him. “You’d look good, sir, for recommending him.”

And that’s how we got rid of Larry “No Kids” Johnson.

The next day, Larry’s replacement showed up with a hint of baby formula behind each ear and a paperclip necklace as her only accessory. I was the first to greet her. “So, do you plan to work overtime here?” I asked nervously.

She winced. “Do you see these dark circles around my eyes? I was up at the crack of dawn digging a pacifier out of the compost pile, and when I leave here, I have to drive 10 giggly Brownies clear across town to the slaughter house so they can earn their farming badge. Who has time to work?”

She has my vote for employee of the year.

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