Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marty Stuart and the Dragon: Part 1

Marty Stuart slumped into his swivel chair, shoving a lattee towards the IN tray with rather more force than was quite wise. This was not going to be his morning. This was the latest in several mornings that had not been his mornings. This was going to be.... Marty mentally broke off his train of thought as horror superseded fog. Not Jen this morning. Not Dr. Jennifer Smath MA, PhD, Director of this that or the other. Marty got a stab of pain through his head just thinking about her. She had been primarily responsible for most of his troubles in the office he was sure of it. Probably most of his troubles in life too.

Dr. Smath as she was known to her subordinates (to her face), or Her Reigning Majesty Queen Jen of Perfection (behind her back), knew this was going to be her morning. Not only had the Panroy contract been dealt with yesterday (to the immense satisfaction of the Minister who was able to put out a smug press release on the subject of environmental responsibility) but she had finally found a way to get rid of her number one problem.

Marty just rubbed her the wrong way.

“He's irresponsible.” she complained to her administrative assistant.

“He's a bum,” she said to her domestic partner, “Or rather he would be if that wasn't disrespectful to homeless persons.”

“There's this guy at the office, I've sent him for three rounds of diversity training and it hasn't changed anything.” she breathed deeply as she tried to relax in her therapist's office. Marty was almost singlehandedly responsible for her being in the therapist's office in the first place. “And two rounds of sensitivity training.” she added later.

The topic of Marty's diversity training was a sore one for Jen. The last one in particular had been the hardest. It might have been easier if Jen's domestic partner (she would never use the patriarcal and oppressive term husband) Hal didn't run the program and Jen didn't sit in on it to monitor her employees' progress. That was mistake number one, and two, three, six, and 359. Maybe if she hadn't seen it all it wouldn't have galled her so much.

Marty just couldn't seem to get it.

It started with the Icebreaker, when everyone had to say their name and preform a gesture. Like hopping around or waving. Marty didn't help the atmosphere at all when he burst out laughing and said, “Man, are you serious? Is this lame or what?” It went downhill when he was asked to make his gesture and he mimed shooting a gun. A few hysterical woman started shrieking at that point.

“Why can't I tell the chick who answers the phones that she looks cute in her new dress?” The entire room went into a collective shudder. Hal pursed his lips in a way that made Marty shudder.

“It is harassment.” Hal intoned with the air of a harassed robot. Marty found himself inexorably reminded of C3PO. A joke about the subject rose in his mind but he didn't have time to make it. Hal continued, trying to explain why this was harassment, that it was inappropriate, that it was objectifying and demeaning to the woman.

“But,” countered Marty with an air of finality, “They like it.”

“It wasn't supposed to be like this.” Jennifer had said that to herself a thousand times if she had said it once. Standing in front of the full length mirror in her room, aggressively brushing her shoulder-length hair, putting on the perfectly tailored suit, adding the conservative watch. She had cultivated the business woman ideal for so long that she never felt dressed on the weekends. Somehow it seemed an indecency to wear casual clothing, worse in it's own way than going naked. At least that could have some redeeming “liberation” attached to it. It was one of the reasons she had insisted they give up the idea of a cottage.

Dr. Smath spent long periods of time at her desk dreaming about firing Marty. She had always been a union girl. Many late nights in college had been spent studying the works of great union activists and apologists. Had even helped out in a few union strikes. Now, inexplicably she was entering a mid-life crisis, wondering whether she had perhaps been wrong all along, wondering if perhaps employers should have the right to fire employees just because they didn't like them. Wondering if there were any conceivable grounds in the civil service rule book for firing Marty. There weren't, she knew. She had gone over it several dozen times before.

The fact that he was shaking her long and devoutly held beliefs didn't improve her attitude.

Jennifer Smath, was in a good mood this morning though. If she wasn't a highly successful career woman she would have skipped across the room towards her nemesis. As it was she just threw a little more self confidence and purposful pep into her stride. Marty shrank internally, trouble was coming down the line and it was almost certainly going to land smack on his desk. As usual he decided to brazen it out. As usual, he made the wrong decision.

“Good morning Mr. Stuart.” The smile on her face might have looked professionally detached to an innocent and casual observer. Marty being neither and having a well developed psychosis about Dr. Smath in a good mood, something along the beware of Greeks bearing gifts thing, immediately jumped to the conclusion that she could only be that jocular if she was about to fire him. He jumped to his feet, got tangled in the legs of his swivel chair and lurched toward her is a manner that led Jen (who also had a well developed psychosis, about Marty) to assume that he was either going to attack or kiss her. She jumped back with unusual dexterity and Marty caught himself on the edge of the desk, managing to remain in a semi-upright position.

“Um, ah uh”, he garbled for a few moments before regaining what he considered control, “Well, well, well my dear Mistress of the Department what news have we? What hapless bit of paperwork am I to deface today?”

Jen froze, remembering too late that he was still going to be in the building for the next two hours, and dismissed whatever still remained of her breezy attitude.

“Nothing bad I hope,” she said with a smile that even the innocent and casual observer couldn't have mistaken for a friendly one, “You've been reassigned to an amazing new position.”

Marty continued to look like a victim of a particularly sadistic concentration camp where they torture victims until they assume a ghastly facade of cheerfulness. On another morning he might have been able to handle Smath and her “good news” but this wasn't it.

“You have been assigned to field work.” Jen plunged ahead, abandoning cheer for clipped efficiency. “You will report to R-'s office in 15 minutes where you will be issued a vehicle. You are to inspect and monitor our various environmental inspectors as they conduct their work.” Jen turned on her heel and started to stride away briskly leaving Marty in shock. Too soon he recovered and sprinted after her.

“Wait, wait, wait”, he babbled. “You mean go, like where, and do what?”

Jen looked at him the beady eye of irritation not softened by her internal jubilation at having scored a hit.

“You will be going with environmental inspectors as they work to make sure that they are doing a good job.” she explained flatly.

“In the country?” Marty frothed. “As in rural? As in, like, nature?”

“Yes,” said Jen now smiling sweetly. “Yes.”

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