S. Shawcross / 19.5" x 9.5" / Oil on masonite /
There's an island, I figure anyway, somewhere in the Caribbean where the long hot sands stretch out alongside the teal blue ocean and the wind wafts through coconut trees. This is an island where "they" are. (This, of course, is just "my" grand conclusion based on living daily here in the northern part of the world.) They are the people who are not here. They are the people with whom we wish to conduct some sort of interaction with but whom always seem to be "not here right now." Everywhere you go, you are told that the manager is not here right now, would you like to speak to someone else? The owner is not here right now, would you like to come back later? The person you elected in the last election isn't here this year would you like a candy? The bank manager is not available at the moment, would you like a free calendar? They are not here. They are never here. They are there. That can be the only conclusion: there is an island full of people who are not here.
The people who are not here leave behind their little minions to handle things because they are there and not here. One of the most important minions sits behind a very important looking desk in a profoundly conspicuous location under a usually lighted sign called Information. They have practised for hours pretending to be on the telephone on a very important matter before they actually look up to tell you they don't have that information right now. Their job is to tell you they don't have any information on whatever matter you bring up. They will never actually have that information anyway in their lifetime but they don't tell you that. You could come back day after day after day and they would still not have the information because whoever might have that that information is living on an island in the Caribbean drinking no doubt pina coladas on a lounge chair laughing about something or another. Probably about you; although I can't say that with any certainty, although I have my suspicions.
Another minion of the people who are not here but are there, snorkelling with colourful little fish on coral reefs, are the people who answer telephones eventually. They are very happy in their jobs because they are faceless employees of giant corporations and institutions and government places that can say whatever they want to you to ensure you get off the phone with them. You could ask this person if blue-spotted kumquats from Antartica are going on special this week and they will tell you yes. Their whole point is to ensure you have no business whatsoever disturbing them but since you are, they will pleasantly agree to everything you want so they can get a pay check that week. They will never give you their names because it is "policy." That policy probably doesn't exist but the idea of it keeps them unaccountable. This is their preferred existence. If they do give you a name it is usually made up so when you call back to speak with Beelzebub in Accounting, you are informed they do not exist, a variation of "he is not here right now", would you like to speak to Esmeralda? So, despite what Beelzebub said, he isn't here. He is there.
Another minion of the people who are not here but are there, dancing the cha cha to a live band near the pool by the ocean with other people who are not here, is the person who apparently listens to conversations with the other minions on the telephone. This call may be screened, you are told. This is not true. They don't screen calls because if they did they would hear your sputtering incredulity and cut into the conversation to ensure you are pleasantly agreed with. The only thing they are screening is their game of poker on their iPad. No, Nothing ever happens when they screen your calls. They just want you to believe this so that when you go off the handle they might have a witness that you called someone a foul-toed freaking moron. No, sadly, despite concocting some of the best righteous rhetoric of rage you've ever spouted in your life, nothing ever gets screened or recorded.
By far the most important minion left behind to handle things for the people who are not here but there, watching a live show of hula hoop dancers beneath the full silvery moon listening blissfully to the crashing surf, are the clerks. Clerks are deeply important minions because they have extra protection. Now this person has a face and normally a little happy tag with their first name on it. Ebenezer will be happy to help you but usually they have to pretend to be on the telephone with a very important person first. They learned this from working the Information desk. They then go to their computer. This is their extra protection to ensure they don't actually have to do anything. "I'm sorry," they say, "the computer does not have that information on it." This is a variation of "the computer can't do that," or "the computer isn't working right now," or "the computer doesn't know who you are." If the computer then can't do anything, they can't do anything and you and Ebenezer are left awkwardly staring at each other. Eventually they express their apologies and happily go back to doing nothing after sending you to some closed door with a giant waiting room behind which there are people who are not there so you wait for hours and hours until you start to cry and go home.
Receptionists are also minions of the people who are not here but there, having their green clay full-body facials and eating pineapple with blue cheese nibble bits while planning their boat tour of the outer islands. Receptionists whole purpose, beyond pretending to be on the phone, is to get you coffee. They get you coffee to keep you occupied in the waiting area and then they disappear into the bowels of the building until you eventually cry and go home. That's when they come back out.
You will never win against the people who are not here. They are there. And you are not.
Next week we will be discussing the specialized Bankster minion and how to keep your sanity which might actually be possible during retirement planning sessions.