Executive Times






2006 Book Reviews


Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed by Annabelle Gurwitch




(Read only if your interest is strong)




Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






You can almost imagine the agent’s pitch for publishing Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed. “In one book, stories from interesting and famous people about being fired. This will fly off the shelves.” While some of the stories in Fired! are witty, most are boring, and if you were listening to many of them at a cocktail or dinner party, you’d want to change the topic as soon as possible, or look for someone else to talk to. Chances are, though, in such settings, you’ve heard better stories about being fired than the ones in this collection. Here’s an excerpt, from the contribution titled, “Mauve,” by Jack Merrill, pp. 88-91:


After I graduated from one of the most expensive private uni­versities in the country, I signed up with a temp agency. This agency specialized in placing “creative types,” which meant you didn’t have to have many office skills, just show up on time and look attractive.

They sent me to a variety of offices. I was receptionist at a law firm on the seventy-fourth floor of the Empire State Build­ing. I worked at a brokerage house, a real estate office, and then—the big opportunity—Estee Lauder, the cosmetic giant, way up high in the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue. I had a vague idea that they produced moisturizer or something. They needed me to work on a creative project that could take two to three weeks.

My job was to assist a creative team in making sure that cos­metic counters from Tokyo to Grozny had the proper displays for the Estee Lauder fall colors. Now this may sound easy, but it wasn’t. There were all these languages to deal with and pam­phlets explaining how to set up the counter displays correctly, the counter displays themselves, little colored leaves to strew about the countertop, the incentives to the salespeople to help them sell, and the special packages we were offering to con­vince the customers to buy. I thought it was fascinating. We were heading up a global operation! We were to have global impact! Women around the world were about to understand the new importance of mauve.

I pictured some poor blond village girl in Chechnya who had slogged her way down dirty unpaved streets to arrive finally in Grozny. I pictured her fighting off poorly dressed peasants, enduring the lascivious advances of big-city store managers, somehow surpassing other pretty blond Chechen village up­starts, and clawing her way to get to a coveted job at an Estee Lauder counter. That very same Chechen striver would be opening the box I had put together for her. She would be thrilled by the way I smartly organized everything inside. Opening the display card on her department store’s no doubt dingy gray linoleum counter, considering which way it could be best viewed by the hordes of color-starved Eastern Europeans who were desperate to know what color to paint themselves. My happy Chechen upstart would daintily strew the little orange spray-painted leaves on her counter, being careful not to let them fall on the floor. She might even put some leaves in the display case itself, as suggested in her guide, handily written in Chechen. Then she would open the colors themselves, ten­tatively applying the makeup in the testers before introducing them to those desperate Chechen masses. We were spreading peace, commerce, and mauve.

I was beside myself. What an amazing place to work! Ques­tions started pouring out of me. Who came up with these col­ors? How many times a year did they change them? How long would mauve last? Is Estee still alive? How long had my fellow workers been involved in color campaigns? What was the last one? What would be the next? My creative team looked at me with a skeptical eye. Why did I care? Wasn’t I somewhat overqualified for this job? How did I end up here in the first place?

If my creative teammates were becoming cold and distant, I wasn’t going to let that stand in my way. Think of my Chechen striver! I was going to love spreading color around the globe— even if it was mauve. On my lunch break I scoped out the office. What a view! The windows look right into the roofline of the Sherry Netherland Hotel. All angles and gargoyles, copper and gothic, with the green emerald of Central Park stretched out beyond. I loved it!

I think I was literally talking to myse1f, about how amazing it all was, when I noticed some female executives in an all-glass conference room nearby. They were all looking in my direc­tion. One of them had gotten up to close the glass door. They were all so attractive and smartly dressed, busy no doubt with weighty issues concerning future territories and colors. This place was right out of a movie. I left them to their work.

After lunch some new people came into the conference room where we were working. They were interested in how things were going and seemed to take a special interest in me. My cre­ative team deferred to them and that made me think that they were important. They must be here to check out the new guy, I thought. I mean, I had asked all these smart, probing questions and they must have recognized that I was just the kind of person that would be perfect to join the team permanently and maybe even one day head up the global reach of Estee Lauder!

One of them asked why I worked for a temp company when I seemed so bright and interested in everything from the fall colors to the layout of the office. Wow, I thought, someone as important as the Estee Lauder Corporation appreciated my innate understanding of global politics, style, and color. Then security showed up. Fully uniformed, they wore badges and ac­tually carried guns.

I was told I would be paid for the entire week but that these nice fellows were here to escort me out of the building. Now. But first they were to look through my backpack, and they were going to frisk me.

I was so surprised, I just let it happen. The next thing I knew, I was in the General Motors Building’s white marble lobby. What had happened? I went from the global temp of the cen­tury to literally being thrown out, in like two minutes.

During the interrogation it all became clear. They thought I was some kind of spy. They thought I had infiltrated the impor­tant world of fall colors in the hope of selling the information to other companies who could piggyback their fall color lines and campaigns on Estee Lauder’s. They were looking for micro­film, tape recorders, and documents that I had stolen. Maybe even the fall colors themselves. I was mistaken for a spy in the high-stakes world of corporate espionage. Maybe there was a future in the world for me after all.



After leaving the enigmatic temp world behind, Jack Merrill went on to be a founding member and artistic director of the renowned theater company Naked Angels in New York City. Jack performs stand-up on both coasts.


Are you ready for more? If so, by all means read and enjoy Fired! If, like me, you found that you could care less, take a pass.


Steve Hopkins, April 24, 2006



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*    2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the May 2006 issue of Executive Times


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