Where is he? Where’s Tony? Ah, there he is, still in the conference room. Someone must have gone off topic as the production meeting is usually over by now.
Sliding into my office chair, I act like I’ve been sitting in my cubicle since my workday began twenty minutes ago. As long as it fools Tony, I’m in the clear.
“Running to work now are we?” Linda asks, standing straight as a meerkat so she can see over the barricade separating our cubicles.
Please just go away Linda. You’re drawing attention towards me. It’s hard enough trying to look like I’ve been typing for twenty minutes when my fringe is damp and clingy and- oh shit! -I hope those sweat marks in my armpits aren’t as big as they feel.
“I forgot to set my alarm clock last night,” I say, making eye contact with my computer mouse to avoid making eye contact with Linda. “By the time I’d woke up, I only had thirty minutes to get myself ready for work and get my daughter to school.”
“Screw that. I’d rather run to work,” says Linda, sitting back down.
I double-click on the Microsoft Excel icon on my computer desktop. My fingers attack the keyboard. Look at me go. You’d never have guessed I had arrived late to work. I deserve a high five as I’ve successfully dodged another lecture from Tony on being late to work- and thank goodness for that. I’ve suffered enough repetition from performing my data entry duty to lobotomize all my brains from all my past lives. I don’t need more repetition from Tony, listening to him repeatedly repeating the same inspirational quotes that are written all over the walls as inspirational art.
All the team leaders leave the conference room, return to their teams which means- dammit! -Tony is back to leading his team.
Tony swaggers between the rows of cubicles, his winner’s grin switched onto high beam. He stops at each cubicle, speaks to each member of his team. I can’t hear what’s being said but I’m guessing, by the vigorous shake of my co-worker’s head, Tony must be asking that dreaded question again. Why can’t Tony go be a team leader somewhere else?
I type faster, hoping that the quicker I transfer data from paper to computer, the more likely Tony will respect my outstanding productivity and leave me to do my work.
“Stacey,” says Tony, stopping at my cubicle.
“Tony,” I reply, my focus remaining on the insurance claim I’m copying onto the computer.
“Have you come up with any new ideas for Fun Day?”
I shake my head. It’s an easy response that doesn’t disrupt the flow of my outstanding productivity.
“Oh, what. You too? No one can think of anything. What about you Linda?”
“I got nothing,” says Linda from somewhere in her cubicle.
“Oh, you guys are no fun. It’s my job to make your job fun. So c’mon,” Tony snaps his fingers at me. “I need fun ideas Stacey, what do you do for fun at home. Go.”
“I’ve already told you Tony. I’m a single mom raising a daughter. By the time I get home from work, I don’t have time to do anything.”
“That’s no fun. What about you Linda?”
“I have less fun than Stacey. All I do when I come home from work is lay on the lounge with a bottle of red wine and Kindle myself to sleep.”
“Well, keep thinking fun you two,” says Tony, heading back to his office. “We need fresh ideas for Fun Day.”
When will Tony ever learn: Fun Day is no fun. If burnt toast was an office job, it would be data entry. Tony can spread all the fun he wants over data entry, spread it on thick, sprinkle it with Rainbow sprinkles, and he will never make our job taste delicious.
I know, I know. A happy worker is a productive worker. How can I ever forget it? I can see the quote- it’s right there -written on the wall above the photocopier in bold Parisienne Font.
Yet, still we’re being oppressed by Fun Day. Under Tony’s dictatorship we have only two options: obey Fun Day or lose our jobs.
If I had the courage to lead an uprising against Fun Day, I would as it has never made us happy or productive as the propaganda would have you believe. All Fun Day will ever be is just more hours we have to dedicate to our job outside of work hours. Where’s the fun in that?
Why haven’t we been liberated? Why won’t anyone in the western world take pity on us and invade our office with missiles and warplanes, to rid us of the tyranny of Tony, the crackpot despot, and his weapons of mass fun.
At last, lunch break bliss. It’s the only thirty minutes of my work day where I don’t have to type data into a spread sheet.
Linda and I sit together in the lunch room. Our cubicles are opposite to each other so we may as well sit on opposite sides of the same table.
Linda removes the lid from her Tupperware container filled with something leafy green.
“I’ve got salad too,” I say, reaching into my handbag for my lunch.
“Mine’s a Caesar salad, made it myself.” Linda stabs lettuce leaves with a fork. She scowls at Tony as he walks past our table.
“You know you can buy pre-made salads at a-” what were we talking about? The Monster High lunch box I just placed on the table has disrupted my thoughts.
Right now, my daughter will also be on her lunch break at school, wondering what to do with a tub of pre-made Greek salad. (only $4.95 at Seven/Eleven.)
Linda stops breathing, her wide-eyed stare at the lunch box interrupted by her sideways glance at Tony who is making himself a coffee.
“Put it away.”
“But it’s all I have.”
Opening the lunch box, I glance over at Tony. He’s still at the kitchen bench, stirring his coffee with a teaspoon. Surely I could grab my daughter’s lunch and stash the Monster High lunch box back into my handbag without Tony noticing.
“Stacey. Put it away now.”
“No, I’m really hungry.”
“I’m looking at what’s in that lunch box, and all I see is fun. What do you think Tony will see when he looks at it?”
Shit! Linda is right. I have to make this edible fun disappear.
“Ooh, that looks like fun,” says Tony, hurrying over to the table I’m sitting at.
Does fun have a smell? How else would have Tony distinguished the lunch box from all the lunch time commotion.
“It’s just my daughter’s school lunch.” I try to make it sound as boring as it is. “I packed it into my handbag by mistake.”
Tony isn’t even listening to me. He is mesmerized by what’s going on inside the lunch box.
“Did you use a star-shaped loaf of bread?”
“Um . . . yes-no,” I can’t concentrate on Tony’s absurd question, not while Linda’s frown is burning into me.
“The sandwich,” Tony explains. “It’s shaped like a star. Was the whole loaf of bread star-shaped?”
I look into my daughter’s lunchbox at the Nutella sandwich I have cut into the shape of a starfish. “My daughter refuses to eat her crust, so I cut it off the bread.”
“Wow,” Tony gasps, as a joyful daze drifts through him. “I wish my mom did that for me when I was a boy.”
Tony claps his hands, as loud as he can. “Attention! Can I please have your attention?”
He has everyone’s attention, plus- judging by the silence -he has everyone concerned as well.
“Fun Day is back. We have a new theme: Kid’s meal Fun Day. The more childish the lunch you bring to work, the more fun we will have.”
“What do you mean by childish?” asks Judy, sitting at a table near the fridge.
“Oh, you know. Something wacky. Something bright-colored. Lots of fun. Whatever makes a child laugh, I want to bring that into the office so we can all have a laugh.”
No one is laughing. No one is even smiling. I can sense the rising hostility in the room, why can’t Tony?
“So you want something whimsical, like Willy Wonka,” asks Adam.
Tony blinks rapidly; his grin shrinks down to the tightness of pursed lips. “Willy Wonka? I don’t know what that is.”
“He’s talking about fairy floss, gummy bears and toffee apples,” says Linda, scowling at Tony, “you know, party food, as in a kid’s birthday party.”
Linda has earned herself a finger snap from Tony. “You’re going to nail this Fun Day Linda.”
Tony places his hands on my shoulders. Of course I flinch. “Kid’s meal Fun Day is Stacey’s idea. What an impressive idea it is too. I’m impressed, because with food there are more creative options, more possibilities. We will get even more Fun Days out of Stacey ideas than we ever did out of Crazy Hat Fun Day or Hawaiian Shirt Fun Day.”
Yeah, that’s awesome Tony. Now all my co-workers despise me. I flee for the safety of my cubicle, but what I should have done was hide myself in the women’s toilets. Being the first one to return to my computer after lunch, gives my co-workers an opportunity to pass my cubicle on the way to their own cubicles, so they can share with me their feelings for my proposal for Fun Day.
“Thanks a lot Stacey. I can’t go play indoor soccer after work because now I’ve got to go shopping for a kid’s meal.”
“I was meant to be going to the gym after work. I can’t do that now, can I Stacey?”
“Don’t be bothered meeting us Friday night after work for drinks Stacey. You’re not welcome.”
Why couldn’t our office have been built on top of an oil well? Coalition forces would have invaded by now if we had oil under our feet. Tony would be captured and charged for crimes against humanity. We would all be celebrating our freedom with dancing and laughter between our rows of cubicles.
I’ve had enough. I’m done waiting to be liberated. I will liberate us from Fun Day. I will invade this office with so much fun; it will blast Fun Day off the surface of the earth and into the sun.
Wednesday is Fun Day, bloody Fun Day. Tony is convinced that Fun Day is as good as Sunday. To everyone in his team, Fun Day feels like another fucking Monday.
A table from the lunch room had been moved into the office, to display our contributions to Fun Day. Tony stands beside the table, hands on his hips, shaking his head at the bowls already on the table.
Michelle places her Fun Day contribution on the table, glares at me as if I’m to blame.
“Thank you, Michelle,” Tony says, frowning on a Fun Day, “for, yet another bowl of M&Ms.”
The bowls of M&Ms keep on coming as my co-workers offer something fun to Fun Day. Each bowl filled with hundreds of colored candy more colorful than an autopsy on a rainbow.
Kid’s meal Fun Day was supposed to be about infinite creative options and unlimited fun. So how funny is it, that in defiance of Fun Day, everyone in Tony’s team came to the same logical conclusion. Except for Linda, she is innovation incarnate as she slams a bowl onto the table, tearing open a packet of Skittles with her teeth.
“Is this fun enough for your Tony?” Linda says, dumping the entire packet of Skittles into the bowl. Next to the other bowls, the Skittles are identical to the M&Ms. Yeah, Tony’s looking disappointed. His Fun Day is producing about as much fun as a broken light bulb produces light.
I check on the time displayed on my iPhone’s screen. It is 9:15am. Our liberation was to begin at 9:10am. The invasion is running late and I’m starting to worry.
A burst of color invades the office. Every color of the rainbow, the color of war declared on Tony’s Fun Day. The sight of the invaders gives me the giggles. I can’t help it; the joy I’m feeling is tickling me.
Nineteen helium balloons float above a Balloon Lagoon employee. He spins around, gawking at his surroundings from every angle.
“Is this thirty-nine Hunter Street?” The Balloon Lagoon employee asks me as I approach him.
I look down at his Vans slip on shoes, “um . . . I ordered the balloons.”
Balloon Lagoon employee hands over the nineteen balloon strings to me. “I’d never expect a place like this to have a kid’s birthday party. I thought I had the wrong address.”
Exactly my point, but all I can say is: “thanks.”
“I mean . . . I can’t see any kids. How can you have a kid’s birthday party without any kids?”
I nod my head in agreement, still staring at his Vans. The Balloon Lagoon employee leaves the office more confused than when he arrived.
All my co-workers, including Tony- especially Tony -gape at my invasion force in shock and awe. The balloons, they’re so intense, their fun so thunderous, it’s like watching surgical missile strikes exploding around Baghdad, live on CNN.
Over the table with the bowls of colored candy, I release the strings. The balloons rise to the ceiling, each one shaped like a unicorn, a panda bear, a pink bunny, a laughing dolphin and so much more. The helium filled animals glide over us, B-2 stealth bombers dropping bombs on Tony’s Fun Day.
“That’s Fun Day, Tony,” I say, pointing at a floating Rex from Toy Story, “right there in those childish balloons. Can you see how childish it is? Do we look like children to you?”
Tony stares at one balloon, than another- he can’t stop staring. Usually I wouldn’t know this as I would be looking at Tony’s shoes when I speak. But right now, the way I’m feeling, I’m surprised my glowering at Tony’s face hasn’t singed his eye brows.
“Childish shit like this doesn’t amuse us. It doesn’t even make us happy. It will never boost our productivity. Or get you your end of year bonus- Yeah, we all know about that Tony.”
Timid and tiny, that’s me. My co-workers have never seen me this angry. I’ve never seen myself this angry.
“Data entry is dull, repetitive, and it probably kills brain-cells. No amount of fun is going to change that. Not ever! All your Fun Day does Tony, is makes more work for us outside of work hours. So for fuck sake Tony! Enough with the Fun Day bullshit. Stop treating us like children!”
All my co-workers wait for a reaction from Tony, for him to raise his voice, raise his fists, raise his eyebrows- anything.
Tony won’t give them a reaction to my outburst as he’s still reacting to the helium balloons. The more he gazes at them, the more they adjust the brightness level of his smile.
“I never knew party balloons came in the shape of animals.”
Neither did I until I looked at the online catalogue- wait! What’s happening? Tony is supposed to be humiliated, he’s supposed to be feeling stupid. That was the whole point of this helium balloon invasion.
“They’re wonderful, thank you Stacey. You’re a Fun Day expert.”
My body temperature spikes. My skin prickles. Oh shit! I can’t breathe. All of my co-workers hate me at once. Thank God! My brain’s survival instincts have kicked in. Flight mode is getting me out of here, getting me to safety.
What I wanted was a liberator. What I needed was an invasion. But all I got was the supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan docking in the capital city of Tony’s tyranny, so all the personnel could take shore leave and have fun.
Next morning, I awake in bed with a spiked headache lodged into the front lobe of my brain.
Stress, it has to be. After the balloons arrived, what was supposed to be a brighter day took a sharp right turn into a stressful day.
All day, my co-workers glanced at me with contempt during their many whispered conversations. They ignored me every time I offered small talk.
I’m glad everyone removed themselves from the lunchroom when I sat at a table, as it allowed me some alone time to cry. Someone had even dumped all the M&Ms into my handbag; or maybe everyone wanted revenge, launching a sneak attack against my handbag with a handful of candy.
A fluffy unicorn is tossed next to my pillow, followed by my daughter climbing onto my bed.
“Mommy, why are you still sleeping in bed?”
“Sweetie, Mommy’s sick. Can you pass me my iPhone- pretty please? I have to call work.”
Jumping off the bed, my daughter scurries into the walk-in-wardrobe, thrusts her hand into my handbag.
“Mommy! There’s Skittles in your bag.”
“They’re not Skittles sweetie, they’re M&Ms. Can you please just get me my iPhone.”
My daughter slips my iPhone into my hand. I select Tony’s work number.
“Hello. Safety Net insurance, Linda speaking.”
“. . . is that you Stacey?”
“Why are you using Tony’s phone?”
“Are you calling in sick? No Stacey, you can’t be sick, not today. Everyone wants to thank you.”
Everyone stuffed candy into my handbag yesterday. Why would anyone want to thank me?
“Look, I know you were being bullied by everyone yesterday. I did it too. And I’m sorry. We didn’t know the helium balloons were a part of your plan.”
That plan failed. So what’s Linda talking about? Unless . . .
“Tony’s gone?” These two words were all my brain could slip past in my confusion.
“Yes,” says Linda. “He resigned. He phoned last night, said something about a career move into selling helium balloons.”
I could never plan that outcome, even if I wanted too.
“C’mon Stacey, don’t call in sick. You’ve made a difference. You got rid of Tony. We all want you to celebrate with us after work.”
“Okay Linda, see you soon,” I hug my daughter. Joy needs to spread and I’m feeling joyous. The distant sound of a bronze monument to a dictator being toppled by newly liberated civilians is the sweetest sound I’ll ever hear.
It’s over. It’s done. No more fun.