Eating Kenny’s Lunch

Kenny felt his only option was to accept the lateral move to a field office in Michigan, the corporate equivalent of banishment to a glass dome on the fabled carbon plateaus of Triton-7 in the Syphinctus-Zarloon sector of the distant Harboxis Galaxy.

I suggested he think it through carefully, stall for time, if necessary. I said he might want to attempt to negotiate a fat severance package or outplacement.

“They’re betting you’ll turn down the transfer, dude. They’re yanking your chain.”

“Yanking?”

Kenny was such an easy target– the runt in a litter of feckless staff support people encircled by wolves—and the wolves were very, very hungry.

It had come down this way: Kenny was supposed to stand behind the stage curtain at the annual sales extravaganza–Expo-a-Go-Go 2012 — with a flashlight and guide a series of company big shots one-by-one across a darkened stage to a podium. A spotlight would then bathe said honcho in brilliant white light… whereupon he or she would endeavor to inspire the assembled sales loonies to sell more stuff.

What can I tell you, Kenny got lost– he’ll be the first to admit he was never good with directions, wouldn’t know magnetic north from East Moline– and no one noticed that the little yellow circle spewing forth from his flashlight and cautiously inching across the stage was shanking far to the left and away from the podium… until the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing went ass-over-tea kettle into the orchestra pit.

“He actually bounced,” Tiny Boudreaux later told me.

And Kenny, if nothing but agile, had somehow managed to balance an extra second or two on the precipice before hollering, “Oh, shit!” and toppling right down on top of the guy.

His career prospects were said to have diminished substantially at that very moment.

“I saw him in the elevator yesterday,” Kenny said. “He called me a peckerwood.”

We were eating lunch in Kenny’s office, nibbling the peanut butter and crackers, tuna sandwiches, chips and cookies he always brought to work in a bag and shared with me. The company cafeteria– with its soggy meatloaf and daily floorshow of shameless political maneuvering– was a place to avoid.

“Last night I dreamt that Neil Cavuto and I were in a tree house eating bananas,” he said.

I made myself comfortable in Kenny’s chair, put my feet on his desk and savored a bag of salt and pepper kettle chips. “I finally found a carburetor for the Studebaker.”

We each munched away quietly, lost in thought, eyes glazed, staring off into the middle distance.

Jitterbug’s pregnant,” Kenny said.

“You need a fence around the yard, my man.”

“It’s that yellow lab from across the ravine,” he said. “I’m sure of it.”

My role was to provide white noise for a friend who was facing a difficult decision. I became the relaxing hum of an electric dryer on the fluff cycle.

“Oh, well,” I said. “These things happen.”

One time, everyone in our department had to take a personality test as part of a teambuilding exercise. The results were not surprising. My boss was a Driver-Driver (tough, results-oriented), I was an Amiable-Driver (friendly, results-oriented), and Kenny was an Amiable-Amiable (hopeless, utterly hopeless.)

He was not a go-getter, oodles of horsepower did not rumble within. Kenny was just a good guy who looked forward to Saturdays so he could horse around with the kids and cook shish kebab on the grill. His job was a means to that end. Driving the same car the same route to the same job for the rest of his life was his ideal scenario.

And so, it surprised me when he said, “Know a good realtor?”

And that was that. Kenny surrendered and took the move to Michigan. And a few weeks later there he was, sitting on an overturned plastic bucket on some god-forsaken frozen lake, fishing pole in hand, a fluorescent orange stocking cap pulled low over his ears, his skinny Irish behind warm and toasty compliments of the thermal undies and hollow-fill snow pants he’d received in a care package from home.

He stared off into the tree line for a long, long time paying no attention to the colorful plastic bobber dancing from side to side of a neatly augured hole in the ice. And after a time, after polishing off a two liter bottle of orange soda and a foot-long Slim Jim and some M&Ms, he began to doze, as, all the while, the fading afternoon sun seeped through the ice, illuminated a thin blue monofilament line and played off the intricate scales of a game little minnow, struggling, on a sleek, black hook.

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