|panda-like calm through fiction|
He sat down on my couch. His suit, which likely cost a month’s revenue at my practice, was rumpled and stained with sweat. His hair had thinned considerably since he began seeing me a year ago, and it was disheveled. His eyes were tired and dry; his face tightened a moment and he rubbed his eyelids. “How do you feel?” I asked.
“Small,” he sighed. “Smaller than ever before.”
“Why is that?” I asked, leaning forward.
He smiled, stopped rubbing his eyes, and fixed me with a stare that was piercing, but not unfriendly. “I want you to know I’m not a callow moron.”
“Why is that important to you?” I asked, crossing my legs to extend out the moment he had to think before he answered.
“Because most people think that I am. You’re different. You listen, for a living, and you have the intelligence to understand my conundrum. Businessmen have gotten a bad shake, but we aren’t,” he stopped, and sighed.
“I know layoffs are a temporary resolution; it was originally a grave measure to a temporary budget shortfall. But the problem is, and this is mostly because of the shorter business cycle, it’s no longer temporary.”
“By laying off a section of the workforce, you’re cutting your maximum potential performance. You save for this quarter on payroll, which looks good on paper, but you’re just stealing from your next quarter’s productivity. And aside from the staff you lose, which, unless you’re a complete moron, you hired for a reason initially, the cuts take their toll on morale, which also affects productivity.”
“Any number of factors can affect profitability; in this downturn, we’ve had a lot of orders cancelled or payments delayed, though the big one is still increased competition from foreign companies- shrinking market share. But when we miss our numbers, we reduce staff to make up the difference- which cuts future productivity- in essence voluntarily shrinking our market share even further.”
He took a breath and held it; over the course of his soliloquy his gaze had fallen to the floor, and he didn’t let the breath loose until his eyes flicked back to me. The breath seemed to be the only thing keeping him up, and he slumped noticeably in his seat as it left him. “You make a very impassioned but weighted argument, but that’s all intellectual. How do you feel about all of this?”
He swallowed; he hated the process, even if he needed its outcome. “I’m tired, of being vilified, being the bad guy. My hands have been tied at every step of the way. Have I been complicit? Have I lost esteem in my own eyes? Absolutely; I thought at a certain point that I would stop being somebody else’s whore, but if you’re not management’s bitch you’re the shareholder’s, and either way they’re turning your ass out.”
He winced; he recognized how he was using his profanity as a crutch. “I liked my job; I was good at my job. I got to where I am because I could grow a business; they’ve turned me into a joke, an arborist pruning a dying tree.”
His eyes narrowed, brow furrowed; “But doctor, we’re dancing around the central issue, here, and I want you to be frank with me. It’s difficult enough to have to ask the question aloud, without jumping through the usual analytical hoops.” He paused, trying to regather his steam, but his eyes focused back to the carpet, and his question came out in a whimper: “Could stress be causing my penis to shrink?”
I paused, and pondered for a moment, then shrugged my shoulders. “Probably.”