Burton Daniels, up to this point, had been a model employee, straight-laced, no trouble, to some a little dull and boring, a fixture like the wilting pot plant next to his desk. He was well-known for his impeccable timekeeping and a full attendance record. He kept his head down, worked hard and always enjoyed high scores in his annual performance appraisals. He was predictable. But all of that was about to change.
It was too beautiful a morning for a conventional sacking. Burton pressed the elevator button for the sixth floor, home to human resources. He had been summoned to a meeting with a manager about half his age and with less than one tenth of his years of service in the company. He knew his time was up. He knew on this gorgeous day that he was for the chop but he felt relaxed and more than ready for mischief. Forty years in the same firm counted for nothing after the takeover. Loyalty and zero absenteeism in all those years were worth zip. The company, once as British as sausage and mash, was now owned by an American outfit and staffed in the upper ranks by whizz-kids sporting small but noticeable MBA lapel badges. It was not the company he joined decades ago. He had seen how the Yanks were cold and ruthless. Burton exited the lift on six and approached the reception desk.
“Burton Daniels, 10 0’clock, if you please.” The assistant ticked a schedule and asked him to take a seat. Almost immediately, Della Hinges appeared, shook hands with Burton and escorted him to an interview room. He thought she was a bit too jolly for an executioner.
Let the mischief begin, he thought, and as Ms Hinges began speaking, Burton started to hum. When she paused, he paused. When she started speaking again, he started to hum again. He did not hear much of what she was saying. He could see the irritation and slow-burn of frustration on Della’s reddening cheeks. Time for a change of tactics.
Every time he was asked a question, he answered: “Poultry”. “Do you know why you are here?” “Poultry”. “What’s the matter with you?” “Poultry”. “Why are you being silly?” “Poultry”. Della sat back in her chair and rolled her eyes. “Burton, I have important things to say.”
At that, he broke wind and in the entire history of bodily gas incidents, this was epic, this indeed was Ben-Hur times a thousand. It was noisy and noxious. Della shot up and opened a window wide. Burton was giggling like a schoolboy. “Well,” he said, “when you’re getting the sack, all bets are off.”
Della had a perplexed look on her face. “Burton, no one is being sacked. I was trying to discuss a new opportunity with you. With all your experience, we have been considering offering you a general consultancy role to improve the wider business.” Burton scrunched his eyes tightly. “But, now, after this behaviour, I’ll have to report back to the directors. I don’t know what they’ll decide now.”
Burton Daniels pressed the elevator button and headed for the ground floor. Outside, he noticed that in an otherwise clear blue sky, a clump of black cloud had formed just above him. He caught sight of his reflection in a shop window and he and the reflection both shook their heads in total disbelief. In a moment of calculated madness, predictable Burton Daniels had achieved the unpredictable. By default, on this too beautiful a morning for a conventional firing, he had just sacked himself.