Friday, January 17, 2014

I Can't Leave Fast Enough

Everyone I had worked with over the past decade was gone. It seemed like I was the last man standing from a time that no longer existed. Be that as it may, I still had to hang on for the remaining weeks and not be fired or I would get nothing but a hand shake from the guards out the side door. I probably wouldn't even unemployment. This wasn't going to be as easy as it was in the past. Operations had been a fun place to go to work because there was plenty of work to do with a bunch of jokers. With no ad revenue everybody's job was in doubt. So the days of joking around were over and I kept having to remind myself to speak in whispers, at least to the few people I trusted.

I was looking over the Style section that I was closing. Of the few ads was a rare full page ad for woman's apparel. The more I looked at the proof the more the outline of the model revealed more than the paper allowed. However it was a close shave as to whether this breeched the standards. So I took the ad to Bill, one of the last old managers to get his opinion. After looking it over Bill agreed. "Oh yeah. Take that over to Gordon to have him touch it up." I grabbed the ad jacket then headed for Gordon's desk. I threw the jacket down on Gordon's desk with the offending graphic facing up. "You wanna fix that Gordon?" Gordon looked at the ad for a moment then asked, "Fix what." Rather than speak anything aloud in the subdued, hostile working environment that I found myself in I grabbed the ad then wrote over the face of it, "Lose the Toe." Gordon immediately understood this to mean the camel toe and noticed the devil's triangle of which I wished to refrain from evening mentioning. I could hear the complaining if I said vagina or labia or God forbid little man in the boat. Rather, even though time was not of the essence as there was little to do for anyone, I simply wrote "Lose the Toe."

Shortly thereafter my manager, who's name escapes me now, walked by my desk and said, "Tom can you step into my office for a moment, please." That never sounded pleasant especially now so. "Sure." I responded and followed head hung low behind my manager into her office. "You mind closing the door please." She requests as she sits behind her desk. "Okay." I respond though asking to have the door closed is never a good sign either. That's when I noticed the recently flagged vagina ad jacket sitting on her desk so I relaxed a bit. I figured my manager is going to thank me for the good catch keeping the revealing pose out of the paper. She begins addressing me as she points to the ad. "We can't have that Tom." I look down and agrees. "That's right boss. That's why I flagged the ad for Gordon to fix." Now I'm anxiously waiting for my "good save" when drops the bomb on me. "No Tom. We can't have toe. You can't say toe at the Washington Post." I look at the word toe and time slowed to a crawl. A black cloud fell over me and thoughts raced through my head. Was I to be fired for writing the word toe? Not even the words camel toe but toe? Obviously after Gordon was done with the ad someone on the crew, and I have my suspects, had complained about the word toe. "We can't use the word toe?" I ask feeling my anger building. "No not at the paper." She answers and it's obvious she's actually serious. I wanted to delve into what scenarios where it would have been appropriate to use the word toe.  But I thought better of the idea. "Oh yeah boss. Now I see your point. I'm sorry about the screw up but I'm grad we didn't let it run like that." Nodding she replies, "Yes I am too. That's all I had to discuss with you Tom. You can go now." That was a relief for me as I felt I was safe from being fired for used the word toe. However, it also put me on high alert of how these last few week would be.

I sat back at my desk with a look that said I wasn't having a good night. Crystal picked up on this as she passed by and stopped next to my desk. "Hey. Everything okay?" I hadn't noticed her until this second and turned. I smiled shaking my head. "Don't say toe." Crystal was perplexed by my comment. "What?" She asks. "Toe." I respond. "You can't say toe. It's against the policy of the Washington Post." Crystal is more confused than ever. "What the fuck are you on about boy?" I explained my recent infraction and run-in with my manager. "Oh my God. I can't believe it. They've got to grow up." Crystal concludes laughing then walks away toward hers desk. I can see Crystal shaking her head still in disbelief as she turns back towards me with an expression that asked "really?". Then she disappears below the cubical divider line. My phone rings. I grabs it. "This is Tom." "What if my car needs a tow? Is that against the policy of the newspaper?" I realizes it's Crystal on the line joking about my toe scolding. "Honey you better watch it on the company phone throwing the T word around." We laughed then hung up before drawing any notice. All joking aside, it was not a time to draw attention to one's self doing anything other than working hard and smile like a happy shoe shine boy.

The following week I was reading an article in the paper about Jimmy Carter feeling that most people who did not support Obama's health care proposal were actually racists. I found that odd since how could Carter know what was the motivation for anybody's position on anything? Speaking to Gregorio nearby I remark, "It says in the paper that Jimmy Carters think people against Obama care are actually racists." Gregorio looks up and asks, What?" I repeat was I just read in the paper. Then Lavinia speaks up and challenges my statement saying that not what Jimmy Carter said. So I assured her he did at least according to that day's Washington Post. Then a began reading the article out loud to prove to her that he apparently did say these things. As I was concentrating on the words of the article I took no notice of the anger building within Lavinia. Suddenly she exploded. "YOU THINK YOUR SO DAMN SMART. YOU'RE AWAYS SAYING SOMETHING AGAINST OBAMA OR DISCUSSING RACISM. I HATE YOU. I REALLY HATE YOU." I don't know how long she stood over me screaming vile hatred at me but Costa hearing the screaming came running out of his office. He hush her up then ushered her into his office. The door closed behind them and I wondered what would become of Lavinia?

The two remained in Costa's office for around half an hour. Lavinia still had several hours remaining on her shift. Would she be written up? Would she be suspended for screaming at me on the floor like she did right in front of the head of ad operations? Certainly of the tables were reversed I'd have already been escorted out the door sans my badge to ever get back in. But when Lavinia emerged from Costa's office she walked over to her desk across from mine, never making eye contact, gather up her things and left for home. No she wasn't getting fired or suspending. She got the rest of the day off for screaming loud enough for everybody on the ad ops floor that she hated me. Great! The Washington Post is all about fairness and equality. Some are more equal than others.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tumbleweed Goes Down Hard

I had not yet signed the papers that would set in motion my departure from the paper but I would need to do so in the coming weeks. In the mean time Crystal and several others including Utha had accepted the offer. Crystal was tired of the politics at the paper and Utha had medical problems that she was sure to place her among the ones fired if she did not go voluntarily. She'd go and take the money.

As I sat down for work Gregorio looked over at me and he was trying to contain his joy. "The boy's gone." He said under his breath about information that was not meant for just anyone's ears. I assumed what Gregorio was talking about was Tumbleweed but just to verify he asked, "Tumbleweed?" Gregorio nodded and went back to work. About that time I see Tumbleweed walking across the floor. He sits down and I can hear him begin asking where his page dummies were for his sections. This was a sign of bad things to come. "Where's my dummies?" He mumbles several times. Then Costas taps Tumbleweed on his shoulder and says, "You want to step into my office." Tumbleweed replies weakly, "Do you know where my dummies are?" Again Costas disregards his questions and asks him into the office. I watche as Tumbleweed, Costas and another manager walk into the office and close the door behind them. That's never a good sign I thought.

I looks over at Gregorio. "What did he fuck up?" Gregorio replies obviously overjoyed, "He ran the wrong directory the other night. He's gone buddy…I'll tell you that." Gregorio went back to sorting through his papers with a smile remaining on his face. After about half an hour had passed the door to Costas' office opened and Tumbleweed emerged with one of the managers by his side. Tumbleweed was crying as he was led off the floor towards the elevators. As he was leaving he turned back looking at me. I looked back nodding as if to say, "see I told you so." Tumbleweed turned and left the paper for the last time.

After several days Gregorio came to me laughing then says, "You got to hear this one Tom. When Costas called Tumbleweed into his office he told him, 'I guess you know why we're calling you in here?' Then that idiot admits he's been online gambling at work and looking at porn. Well Costas told him that actually it was because he ran the wrong directory but thanks for the tip." Me and Gregorio both laugh. "Well I tried to warn the boy." I remark. "But the fool wouldn't listen."

It was the following weekend when Randy came over to my house to have me fix his windshield  wiper. What had happened was, In typical Randy fashion, he had pulled over to get gas but left his intermittent wipers on which he forgot about when he grabbed one of them lifting it off the glass so he could clean the windshield better. While gripped the blade the wipers engaged cause the one he wasn't holding onto to go through it normal motion. However, the blade he was hanging onto got out of sync. When he shut his wipers off from that time forward the blade in front of the driver side stuck straight up instead of returning to the normal resting position at the bottom of the windshield. It was driving Randy crazy. Randy was one of those people that should be banned from using tools. He just didn't have the patience for it. He had had Dave come by to help remove a flat on his boat that had been that way for a decade or more ending his cruising the bay for the most part. The condo association had finally gotten around to warning Randy to move it - or at least  see if the boat actually could be moved. The flat tire was by the curb so Randy could not get the four-way lug wrench on the nut unless he jacked up the tire so the four-way would clear the curb. However, when he jacked up the tire to get the wrench on the nut the tire would spin as he tried to remove the lug nut. He looked like a monkey trying to fuck a football hopelessly attempting to remove the tire. I got the wheel off using a socket wrench and a brain.

So I begin to work on removing the passenger side wiper of Randy's Chevy. I'm not paying Randy any notice as I work on the wiper. Randy is fiddling around with the other wiper and asks, "So what went down with Tumbleweed?" I shook my head thinking about it. "I warned the boy and everything I said would happen, did happen. IDIOT!" Randy continues working on the driver's side wiper. "I tried to talk some sense into the boy too but he obviously didn't listen to me either. I even had Paul called him." Randy says about their old boss who knew a thing or two about being forced out by the Post. "Well a lot of good that did." I remark as I pop the wiper blade off. I'm examining the mechanism to establish what might needed to be removed next. "Have you had any word from him?" Randy nods. "Yeah. About a week ago. He's putting in applications and he's still working that retail job he had when he was still at the paper.

I hear a cracking noise on the other side of the car that Randy is working on then I hear Randy curse, "Dammit!" I look up from my work noticing Randy is trying to pry off the driver side wiper blade using a big screwdriver. Sadly, he used his windshield to pry up on the blade sending a big crack running across the entire front of the glass. I look over the damage. "Good job, Randy. You just broke your own windshield. If you wanted me to fix your car you should have let me fix it. You know how dangerous you can be with tools."

This was more than Randy could take and the two called it a day. Randy headed home with a cracked windshield and the goofy wiper. The following week I signed the paper. However there were still two slots to be filled by volunteers or by two who would be picked. Moral continued to deteriorate in ad operations.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Knives Come Out

From that day forward the attitude for most of the staff changed toward their fellow coworkers. They were now the competition. Many feared losing their health care benefits if their were fired like Ann whose husband had a bad heart. Soon it would become apparent to those who feared losing their jobs most that, should something happen to seven other people to get them fired, it would be just a pity. If one of the staff tripped up, then putting a foot out to help them on their way out the door might just save one's job. I sensed this uneasiness in people's faces at work but simply wrote it off as them worrying about losing their jobs. He never suspected where and by whom I could be stabbed. I only knew things were different. Seeing things from my perspective I didn't feel desperate so I never focused on the desperation of others on the ad ops floor.

When Gregorio showed the piece of paper from across the room to me and I understood was that it was some kind of joke on Tumbleweed. Gregorio was the new supervisor for pagination. He had beaten out Tumbleweed who naturally had also applied for the position because he was after all "the senior paginator." So when the younger, less experienced Gregorio got the nod over Tumbleweed there was some bad blood between him and his new boss, Gregorio. Therefore in hindsight, perhaps playing a practical joke wasn't the brightest idea Gregorio ever had but it was another slow night in the middle of September. That was supposed to be the busy season yet by nine in the evening everything was done. Still I was busy drawing on the computer and didn't pay much attention to Gregorio. Being hard of hearing didn't help matters either. Being a bit proud about admitting I'm getting older and more deaf, I generally would give some confirming gesture or acknowledgement to make someone believe I heard them rather than make them repeat themselves. Tonight was no different as I smiled at Gregorio's prank on Tumbleweed. Perhaps if he'd have grasped the nature of the joke I may have advised Gregorio against it.

The joke consisted of a fake letter created by Gregorio supposedly from the owner of the paper. In it the letter chastised Tumbleweed for his poor work habits then says he's fired. To most people this would be an obvious joke as why would Donald Graham soil his hands firing so lowly an employee as Tumbleweed. He had multiple choices of henchmen for the job. Tumbleweed, not being the sharpest tack in the box, thought the letter was actually real and that he was being fired. He called his mother at home because Randy wasn't around to talk with now and it was too late to call his house.

"What?" Was his mothers stunned response. However, after a few minutes of him explaining how he found a letter delivered to his desk supposedly from the head of a national newspaper she knew it was only a joke. Then she thought of a way this could help her son keep his job. "Look David." She advised over the phone. "You need to file a complain with personnel immediately. Anyone involved will most likely be fired and that's going to improve your chances for remaining on the job." Tumbleweed felt a bit uneasy about the plan but followed his mother's instructions nonetheless and shot off an email to personnel.

After sending the email Tumbleweed started having second thoughts. He walked over to my desk and began talking to me from out of nowhere about the prank. "Hold on man. What are you talking about Tumbleweed?" I broke in not understanding what Tumbleweed is mumbling about. "I think I screwed up, Tom." Tumbleweed replied looking very worried. "How did you screw up, man?" Dave asks turning towards Tumbleweed. He explains the whole prank and about when I was going to stop him to assure him that he's not been fired - and the editor has bigger fish to fry Tumbleweed says, "So I complained to personnel." My mouth dropped open. "You did what? How did you contact personnel." Tumbleweed replies, "I just emailed them. I'm sorry Tom. I'm sorry." He sighs. "Well it's too late now. Nothing good is going to come of this Tumbleweed. Think about it. All this is going to do is get your boss in hot water but I doubt they will fire him for it. So from now on you are going to have to work with Gregorio everyday. He's going to assign you the really hard jobs just hoping you'll screw up. Man nothing good is going to come out of this." All Tumbleweed kept repeating over and over was, "I'm sorry man. I'm sorry." It would not be very long waiting to find about what was really meant by the apology.

In the mean time the gave the heads up to Gregorio who saw the fake letter still sitting on Tumbleweed's desk. He walked over grabbing it before ripping it into pieces. When Tumbleweed finally returned to his desk Gregorio had a few choice words for him before storming off. Tumbleweed looked over to mee. "I'm sorry man." I shook my head and responded, "You just better tell personnel tomorrow that you got all worked up for nothing and over reacted." Tumbleweed nodded signaling to me that this would be his intentions. So I relaxed hoping I had defused trouble for both Gregorio and Tumbleweed.

Sadly for all parties this would not be the case. I had expected personnel would contact me to get his take on the incident and sure enough within days he received a call to go to personnel. When I walked into the office, sitting there with the young woman in personnel was the head of operations, Costa. Hmmm, I thought to myself sitting down after introductions. Interesting. At first I'm asked about the prank. I explain what I knew about it and tried to forward the idea that Tumbleweed simply over reacted. However after giving my statement something quite unexpected happened.

Costa went about explaining that he and personnel had come to the conclusion that the prank was all my idea and that I'd put Gregorio up to doing it. I at first dropped my jaw stunned by this nonsense. Were they going to fire me over this? In addition Tumbleweed had claimed I had repeatedly sexually harassed him by calling him gay. Naturally I had done this many times joking back and forth just as Tumbleweed had done to me. After listening to Costa and the woman from personnel saying they used secret evidence to find me culpable I didn't know what to say. It appeared Tumbleweed was trying to get me fired too! I thought about all the food I'd given Tumbleweed and the times I'd fixed his car plus the Fourth of July invites. The more he thought about that and the kangaroo court being used to find me guilty the angrier I became. When Costa handed me the paper signifying I was being written up rather than fired I took it and said. "I'll take that money to leave. You can believe that." Costa responded not to do anything rash even though they had already written me up before even hearing my side of the story. They had already made up their minds citing such evidence as me laughing when Gregorio showed the fake letter from across the room. I was the oldest person in the room and the only one who was hard of hearing. It never occurred that deafness might have something to do with why I would laugh about a gag I'd never actually heard of when told from across the room. I knew I wanted out and the sooner the better. I took his little paper and left the personnel office.

When I returned to pagination I saw Tumbleweed sitting there wearing a smirk across his face. He had the look of somebody who felt they finally had the upper hand after a long time being on the bottom. I sat at my desk and began working. From behind I heard Tumbleweed say, "Hi Tom." I didn't even bother to turn around to acknowledge that Tumbleweed was alive. Things were pretty much the way I had warned and that was before he knew Tumbleweed had tried to get me fired too. I knew the paper would not get many chances to fire me now because I was taking the money and leaving. I knew I had to keep my mouth shut and watch out because a cannibalistic attitude took over advertising operations. Now everybody's face took on the look of fear and doubt about the future. Gregorio had kept his job and he hated Tumbleweed now were his words could express. In addition, just as I had warned, Tumbleweed claiming that all of this sexual harassment was occurring right outside the office doors of the head of advertising operations, Costa, looked rather bad. Nobody came away happy except temporarily for Tumbleweed. He wore the stupid grin for several more weeks until he began to see where I might have been right about the outcome and his mother very wrong. He had tried everyday to make chit chat with me but I pretended Tumbleweed wasn't there. In my mind Tumbleweed had tried to get me fired and now he wanted to be buddies again. To me this demonstrated how out of touch Tumbleweed was and that he was liable to do or say anything. So it was better to have no contact with him as far as I was concerned.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2009 - Randy Gone, Seven Going

Randy was on the phone with personnel when Tumbleweed walked up hold an ad jacket containing the last ad he needed to close his section. Tumbleweed knew Randy was talking to personnel when he heard Randy refer to the person as Edna. She worked in personnel and had been involved providing orientation to Tumbleweed when he was hired. So Tumbleweed listened in on the conversation as he waited and heard the word retire. Randy hung up finally and hadn't even realized Tumbleweed was standing nearby as he was preoccupied shuffling through some papers. "Who's retiring? Tumbleweed asks causing Randy to whirl around in his chair. "Me if all goes well." Tumbleweed could tell that Randy was serious. He didn't know what to say. Then Randy continued but in a more hushed voice. "Look, the longer I stay here at this point the better the shot that Tom is going to get me fired. He was out to get me and look at all the people who are gone now since he became the top guy in operations. Even though he's gone now he's poisoned the well. The paper's looking for any reason to can employees. They used Tom because the guy was a big oaf and the paper is getting him to be their heavy and look for any reason to fire anybody so they can cut costs. I'm getting the hell out now with something rather than have personnel trump something up and 30 years worth of retirement and everything is down the drain." All Tumbleweed can say is, "Are you going to be able to retire and get by with what they'll pay you even though you're not sixty-five yet?" Randy smiles and replies, "Oh yeah buddy. My mortgage is a hundred seventy-five bucks a month so I'll be just fine." Tumbleweed a bit shocked responds, "A hundred seventy-five dollars a month! My condo fee is way more than that." What Tumbleweed didn't say was his mortgage was ten times higher than Randy's puny payment and his was getting ready to increase again - or so he'd been warned. However, since the collapse in the market the rates had not gone up sparing Tumbleweed further financial misery.

By the middle of the summer Randy was gone. He had made it safely into retirement. The early retirement had cost him dearly and if only he could have stuck it out three more years he'd of really been set up financially. But at least he got something and for the time being it seemed he would be able to get by with it. When Randy left there was no fanfare or parties. Those were now a thing of the past at the paper. Everything grew darker at the building as more time passed. Half of the floor was now darkened where in recent times not so long ago employees for the paper were doing a job that was now no longer required. Those jobs were either killed by the Internet or their services were replaced by a software program that did their job for almost nothing twenty-four hours a day and never asked for a raise, formed a union nor demanded benefits. Randy had been a stabilizing influence on Tumbleweed. Before doing anything rash he always ran it past Randy first. Sure Randy played many practical jokes on Tumbleweed but that was just fun and games like things were back in the sixties at the paper. All the new hires got hazed in one way or another in those days. If one of the new employees wasn't walking around asking for a left handed wrench that he'd been told to fetch by one of the older workers playing a practical joke that everybody else was in on then someone must have just passed away at the paper. But all jokes aside, Tumbleweed knew that Randy knew the deal around the paper. He'd already saved Tumbleweed's ass several time by catching something that would have published in Tumbleweed's section. Tumbleweed had already been suspended two times while Randy was working along side him. Tumbleweed was on thin ice and he knew it. Now with no more Randy looking over his shoulder Tumbleweed was on his own - at least he felt that way, with the exception of the advice given to him by his mother.

Tumbleweed's outward appearance began to change. He looked more unshaven, unkept and like he'd not gotten enough sleeps. His eyes had dark circles. The last thing he wanted to hear when he got to work on such a nice August night that there was going to be a meeting. Everyone was a bit apprehensive when they were told to meet in the big conference room at eight o'clock, not just Tumbleweed. It was not that time of the month for what was now the monthly blood letting. Talk about the meeting and rumors were running rampant. The entire staff for operations now numbered only twenty-nine. That number included everybody from ad makers to paginators, artists, etc. The crew was a skeleton of its former self and even then there was not enough work to go around. The recent contract the union and paper signed allowed for the paper to keep a percentage of key employees regardless of seniority. These franchise employees could be kept on while employees with more seniority could be fired. Not everybody knew this as the big summer meeting began. But the contract language that allowed the paper to lay off any employee regardless of seniority was certainly on senior paginator Tumbleweed's mind.

The head of advertising operations took to the lectern and began speaking. "As you know the paper has had a drastic drop in the number of ads. The paper is not offering a buy out per se but a cash payment to leave. No matter what, seven of you will be reduced from the staff." Ann spoke up, "What if seven of us don't want to go?" Costa the head of operations very quickly answered that question. "Then management will decide which people will be let go." "Will they still get the money if they are forced out?" Someone from across the room yells. "No." Is Costa's no nonsense response. Everyone in the room remains in a stunned silence. "How will management decide which employees have to go?" Ann continues asking the questions on everybody's mind. Costa replies into the microphone, "That will be depending on the needs of the paper." Liz speaks up. "What about seniority?" Costa attempts to explain how twenty percent of the staff can be kept regardless of seniority. The remaining employees would be culled based on seniority after the key employees were taken off the table for termination. Still I see confusion in most people's eyes and say, "It's sort of like the twenty percent of the employees the paper picks can be tagged like franchise players in the NFL." Around the room but with a couple exceptions, the men all nod understanding their fate while the woman mostly remain confused. The room rumbles with a bit of chatter as those who understand explain things to those who do not understand or don't want to believe it. Costa breaks in over the speakers. "This decision will be made in eight weeks. Talk to your managers if you have questions." The meeting adjourned and the staff walks out in stunned silence. They look like they were lining up for a wake.

 As they all file out to return to their desk they began mumbling to one another. People like Liz had always counted on seniority to protect her from her bad work habits, lateness and absenteeism. Some employees had real health problem that also cause them to miss work. That was their problem now not the paper's. Needless to say Tumbleweed was very worried. If six people took the deal and only one person had to be fired he knew it would be him. He just knew it. That night when he got home he told his mother about the meeting and the two stayed up for hours discussing the possible ramifications especially in lieu of Tumbleweed's recent back to back suspensions. Forget about the fact that pagination had too many people. Several sections of the paper had been eliminated or combined with other sections.

I drove home that night not so worried about the meeting. I'd already been told that I was among the twenty percent that would be insulated from being axed. However, with everything that I'd come to learn of recently about things that never made it into the paper, I'd become really disgusted by the entire lying operation. I felt sort of dirty for being a part of it. Everyday I read about some additional case of government corruption or even treason that would never receive one dot of printer's ink in the paper. At the same time the only ads the paper could count on were ones bought by the federal government. Without those ads the paper would fold up like a dixie cup. However without the official stories and editorials that those government ads paid for perhaps the same fate might befall the government. As far as I was concerned the paper and the government were in bed together. Getting out of advertising operations did have its appeal to me and at least I felt I had a choice in the matter unlike most of the other's on the floor. They mostly prayed some other seven people would take the money and go.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2008 - The Election Everything Hoped To Change

The longer 2008 and the Bush presidency wore on the worse things became at the paper. The economy was going into the tank. Everybody in advertising knew this since there were no ads. If not for the revenue from government ads the paper surely would have folded like so many already had. The presidential election matched my prediction of Obama against McCain. By this time I understood how media steered the news rather than report the news. So the media's constant coverage of these two presidential picks meant only one thing - they would be America's two choices this election. Randy was a solid Republican while most people on the operations floor liberal Democrats. Tumbleweed naturally would be voting McCain as well while Dave knew he would vote for somebody probably.

Amy walked up to my desk and began complaining in her Filipina accent. "Oh look what Randy put on my baack." She held up a "Kick Me" sign. I smiled and replied, "You want to get Randy back?" Amy nodded answering that yes indeed she would like revenge. "Okay then, go get me an Obama sticker." Amy agrees to the conspiracy then runs over to scanning. There was plenty of Obama campaign literature hanging around the paper and Amy soon returned with a sticker that read "Obama/Biden." I smiled a devious smile as I took it from Amy. "Perfect!"

I pulled off the backing exposing the adhesive. Then I grabbed an ad jacket and walked over the Randy who was sitting forward in his chair exposing the vulnerable "Kick Me" blind area of the back. Timing would be vital in this political subterfuge. I walked into Randy's space slapping the ad jacket on his desk demanding, "Where's my damn ad?" Randy immediately leans back in his chair. I release the sticker with my free left hand dropping it perfectly timed so that Randy's back presses it snugly against the back of the chair. Proof of his switch in political choices clung it to his shirt back. Randy occupied with the ad jacket that is not even his responsibility chastises me. "This is a digital ad, you idiot! Give it to Dalin in digital." He whirls around with the ad, the Obama/ Biden sticker firmly stuck on his back. I grab the ad apologetically trying to keep a straight face. "Sorry boss. My mistake. My mistake." I take the ad from Randy and turns just in time to keep my grin from giving me away. This is too perfect - almost unprecedented. For the next hour Randy paraded around with the sticker on his back while everybody he passed snickered. Everybody knew damn well Randy was a Republican through and through. Naturally, I went throughout the floor advising everyone of Randy's sudden political conversion. "Hey, did ya see that Randy's now an Obama man?" I asked Faith who looked up amused at such a thought even being impossible. "You're kidding right?" She asked with her curiosity piqued. I respond, "Well if he's not an Obama man - then why is he wearing the Obama sticker?" Faith remarks in a disbelieving tone, "Randy's wearing Obama stickers?" I say, "You're damn right he is! Of course, strangely he chooses not to where the sticker as is done traditionally on the lapel. Randy wears his Obama support on the broad shoulders of his back." This causes her to stand up and look over at Randy sitting unknowingly at his desk sporting the sticker. They both bust out laughing.

Heather finally felt sorry for Randy and let him in on the joke. He ripped the sticker from his back like it was a poisonous snake then threw it into the trash can. He wasn't laughing at the time and there would be hell to pay when he figured out who had desecrated him is such a dispicable way. All of this political intrigue at the paper and subterfuge would fade from importance. The economy was looking like it would go off a cliff. More and more of the loans made during the height of the boom were defaulting. Apparently nobody knew who would get paid back so banks stopped making loans. With no loans being written the money supply dropped like a rock. After all that's where money comes from - cash created out of nowhere from nothing by the Federal Reserve to be lent out and paid back. With the drop in the money supply, the price of everything especially Real Estate dropped right alone with it. Before the end of the year the price of gas had crashed back below two bucks a gallon and continued dropping like a rock. The stock market was dropping hundreds of points day after day. People ready to retire watched as their nest eggs and hopes for retirement evaporated into thin air. Naturally, I was rather smug reminding everyone that gas did stop rising in July. Now the price of gas crashed along with the economy and money supply. "How many new refineries have been built since summer? How many new wells drilled in the ocean? Zippo!" I taunted everybody left and right. "How many new wind mills and solar panels?" The staff sat quietly as I finished my rant.

Meanwhile Congress was being threatened of they didn't pass a bill bailing out the big central bankers then Marshall Law would be declared. It suffices to say the T.A.R.P. was passed shortly thereafter. The banksters got their money and now we've got Marshall Law anyway. That's what it is when police and paramilitary forces can put a city like Boston under house arrest and randomly search the publics' private homes at gunpoint to look for one scared Chechen boy who's probably most likely being framed anyway.

I had also told anyone who would listen that Obama would be elected president. When my predictions came true Randy and Tumbleweed just shook their head. It was almost as if my prediction put me somewhat to blame for Obama's election. Even worse Obama would have the Congress. Once the election was over things really appeared bleak. The Christmas season was approaching but it would be a season of dark. Everyone working in operation as they traveled home late at night after work all noticed the same thing. There were no Christmas lights up anywhere in the business districts. It appeared everybody was battening down the hatches for a big storm. Needless to say the ad flow remain in a death spiral. I used the opportunity to teach myself the Adobe Creator Three Suite - well at least the Illustrator and Photoshop programs. The other folks on the floor did little as there were no ads to build, proofread or push don't the Track-it production line. So they worried while I even took a couple online course on the Adobe suite offered by the Post to the employees. But the others for the most part spent their work hours just worrying. Though I did productive things during this time while they worried, their worries were not without merit.