June 3rd, 2004

Bill Hicks

Countdown

"Any idea what the meeting's about?" I asked Irish.

"I haven't heard anything specific, but the Godfather thinks that it's something big. He's pulling a Karnac and put his guesses in sealed envelopes to see if he was right about what the topics were."

I folded my arms and leaned back in my chair. The Godfather had an uncanny knack for knowing what horrible and evil things were being handed down from our Corporate Masters. If he thought something big was coming, then odds were good it was going to actually be something, indeed, big. And big in the world of television never equated to anything good.

"Tex Dillweed is leaving, though, that much I do know," Irish said. "There's a memo down on the girls' desk. Not ours, of course." Irish and I shared a desk, and the girls, two other directors, shared another.

"Good. He's an idiot. At least one good thing today." Dillweed was in charge of the graphics and promotion departments, a gigantic idiot, useless in every respect, and one of those people who only speak to you when they want something. He was like fingernails on a blackboard to me, to such an extent that the other directors would frequently do whatever work he brought them for me instead of having me interact with him. I think they were afraid I might take a swing at him, which was an unreasonable assumption on their parts. Not impossible, however.

"Okay," I said. "Let's brainstorm. What could the meeting be about?"

"Corporate is coming," Irish said, "so I imagine it's something big, or at least big to them. Could be about the stock." The company had recently been removed from the NASDAQ for long-term poor performance. "Anything that hits them in the wallet is always a big deal to them."

"If the company was trading at fifty dollars a share, I'd still be making what I am now, so if that's all it is, I could care less."

"I've also heard the Emperor is leaving." The Emperor, our General Manager. His last child had just gone off to college, and so theoretically there wasn't anything holding him to the station or the city any longer. "Or could be an anchor shift. Broom Hilda could be going to mornings." He laughed at the absurdity of this statement. Hilda was roughly a thousand years old, far past the shelf-life of female local television anchors, but she held fast to her 6pm and 11pm anchor position like a barnacle on the hull of a ship. She must have had compromising photos of someone in power having sex with children, animals or both.

"They could be canceling my show," I said. I'd been directing a horrible afternoon magazine show for two years, something the company came up with to replace expensive syndicated programming like Judge Judy or Dr. Phil. They were certain that the show would make them money, and to be fair, it has, since the overhead is next to nothing, and most of the segments are sponsored by local businesses, but the quality... oh, the quality is so, so sad. Public access has better production...

More later...
Bill Hicks

McQueenless

"I'd like to turn the floor over to Corporate Hop-a-Long now, and he can give you an idea of what's going to be happening around here over the next few months," the Emperor said, gesturing towards the suit with the crutches and cast. Hop-a-Long hobbled his way to the center of the room, and certainly no one was secretly wishing that he'd hit a puddle of water, a marble, a stray glass eye... not a single soul in the room was hoping that he might fall and break more than a bone in his leg.

He cleared his throat *cough cough* and stared at us all. He looked more like an English teacher with his thick glasses and neatly trimmed beard than a corporate uberboss, but any lingering doubts about his lack of humanity were erased when he began speaking.

"There will be," he began, and a stream of small black flies flew from his mouth as he spoke, "a 45 day period where those of you above the age of 55 may opt to leave the company and receive continued health care coverage for the period of one year, or until you find yourselves another job someplace else.

"Come September," he said, and a foul sulphurous stench became noticeable, "there will be significant steps made towards automation.

"Following this period of automation and early retirement," he continued, black ooze beginning to seep from his nostrils, ears, and the corners of his eyes, "positions will be merged or eliminated entirely. You will not be safe. Your families will not be safe. You will be fucked, royally and totally, especially if you make more than $30,000 a year. Not all of you will be sacrificed for greater corporate profits, however, and we won't tell you right now who will and who will not be. If we did, those of you who are going to be fired would perhaps attempt to find other jobs now, leaving us with an employee vacuum that would hurt our massive broadcasting profits. As such, we're going to string you all along for the next four months until we're prepared to lop your heads off, and then we'll carry on without you, and bathe naked in tubs of money from our bonuses.

"Any questions?" he asked. A lone hand timidly rose, and fell again as a shot rang out. The body collapsed to the studio floor, and Hop-a-Long put the smoking gun back into his shoulder holster. "Any further questions?"

Dead silence.

"No one escapes from Stalag 17," he said. "Unless we fire your sorry asses."