And then I fucked him

My earliest experience of middle-management was with my boss, R.D. (not his actual name), the enduring memory of whom is his pasty drunken gaffaw against a backdrop of chinking bottles. The chinking bottles were on his very person. In his shirt pocket. These miniature shorts are the type of which you wonder at when you see them poised in the mini-bar of your hotel. They’re there in front of you, glistening, just out of the reach of your pitiful expense account. But here, tonight, they’re free and R.D. is making sure that he will never run dry again.

I’m in no position to speak. I’ve been on the Elephant Beer and apart from leering at the sales manager of some hotel chain or other I’ve got nothing useful to offer. But this is my mentor I’m watching here, my guide through the world of Big Corp and already he reeks of whisky and corporate middle management.

I learnt pretty much everything I know about business from Dilbert. And one his great insights is that the role of middle management is to stop the people below them, the workers, getting above themselves. And with every demeaning task he slipped your way R.D. nailed that principle into you.

If it sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself that’s not the case. I was just enjoying the bathos for the moment. R.D. encouraged me too. He once called me a whipper-snapper for snagging a contract that many of my predecessors, himself included, had been refused. The opponent, the formidable Mr. Yamakoto (or similar), a veteran of the hotel industry with an elephant of a memory for scum like us who came yearly to try and pilfer from him. We succeeded almost everywhere else but never at the Nikko, in Dusseldorf. But that’s because I’d never been there.

The compliment hurt R.D. and when he asked me straight up how I did it I smiled smugly to keep the pain going a little longer. I owed it to him. Two years before he’d taken disproportionate delight in handing me my notice. Not just that. He needed to remind me that there were three million unemployed people out there and any of whom could do my job. I thought was unbelievably harsh. I wasn’t doing brain surgery but I had to file alphabetically. Not everyone can do that.

It was a hollow victory. I hadn’t duelled bravely with Yamakoto, sheared through his steely lines of defence, the contract signed in blood and tears. Not at all. He fancied me. That was obvious from the get go so I gave it to him just how he liked it. I bathed in the wealth of his experience and took glowing comfort in the radiance of his samurai stature. I got lost in the numbers and I let him educate me. I bowed to his successes, aligned myself to his studied movements and prostrated myself in front of his fearsome logic. And then I fucked him.

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