Around noon, the office got incredibly quiet. At first, it was not very noticeable since the interns were all discussing what to get for lunch and who was going to go. When the rest of the boys left Stanley behind with the girls, the subject of his last day was broached. Just about all the other interns who had finished working this summer got a big party. This was the last day of Stanley’s internship, so his party was due, but it was then as they discussed this that the girls noticed the deathly silence.
“Where is everyone?” Alison was the first to ask.
Indeed, the cubicles had emptied, and all of the office doors were closed. Could it be that everyone was having simultaneous meetings or took lunch at the same time?
“Why do I have the feeling like somebody died?”
“I don’t know. Where are the guys with our food?”
Stanley looked at his supervisor’s office and saw that the door was closed, too, and had been for the past hour. Something was not right.
Soon, the guys returned with the food, and the silence was temporarily forgotten. In fact, J.T. was completely oblivious to any change in the atmosphere in the office and continued to bring and screwing off to a new level. Stanley always thought J.T. was too loud during their lunch breaks, but today he was even more acutely aware of J.T.’s obnoxious behavior. For some reason, he had the sinking feeling like they were all going to get in trouble because J.T. was being an ass again. Then, Joanne stuck her head out of her office and spoiled the fun.
“Stan, could I see you in my office for a moment?”
Hanging his head, Stanley sulked into his supervisor’s office feeling like a child getting called in by his parent, without the slightest clue as to why.
“Close the door, please.”
Joanne had been smoking again. Stanley could still smell that stale cigarette smell in the air. Well, he thought, I can’t be getting fired. I’m only an intern. Besides, this is my last day anyway.
“Have you and the other interns been talking about what’s going on?” Joanne asked.
“No,” Stanley said. “I mean we didn’t really know anything was going on. We noticed it got real quiet all of a sudden.”
“Half the company just got laid off,” Joanne put it plainly. Well, that explained why it felt like a funeral out there. Apparently, the decision came down from upstairs this morning, and the hammer fell at noon. The head of the division had to call everyone in one-by-one to let them know if they were going or if they were staying. Joanne was among the few that had been spared, Stanley was glad to find out, but most of those that didn’t make it were the remaining survivors of the last merger, which made it worse.
That must really suck, to dodge the bullet in the first round of layoffs only to be the first to get knocked off now. The week Stanley started his internship at the beginning of the summer was when the refugees from the merger arrived. He had been here about as long as they had. Now, they were all leaving the same day. Stanley doubted there would be a party.
When Stanley emerged from Joanne’s office, the place didn’t seem so quiet anymore. The stillness was still the same as before, but now to Stanley it seemed more like a battlefield. By now, even the other interns had gone back to work and probably had gotten the news. There was not much for Stanley to do for the rest of the day, and with the grim mood, he was alone with his thoughts. This led him to think the most horrible, selfish thing, and he immediately felt awful about it.
If half of this company just got laid off, that doesn’t leave much room for me here in the future. Stanley would be graduating early, which meant he had only one semester of college left before he needed to get a job. Initially, Joanne expressed the possibility of Stanley being hired on here once he was done with school, perhaps even part time during his last semester. Now, even if a job here does open up, surely they’ll be more concerned about taking care of those that just lost theirs.
After what he just witnessed, Stanley couldn’t convince himself of this last noble thought. The rest of the day was not a happy time. It didn’t even occur to him or the other interns to even think about that party they all expected at the start of the day. The only comparable thing that happened at the end of the day was a mournful drink at the bar around the corner for the few recently departed that felt like hanging around a little while longer.
It was a short drink. Stanley and Alison were the only interns that felt at all up to it, and then they all parted company after only one. The two interns mused that they were probably the only ones that were getting out alive. Alison only had a few days left in her own internship. After this, neither one of them knew what would happen. The corporate battlefield was not looking so inviting anymore.
Well, Stanley thought, it may not have been the most fruitful day to end the internship, but it was certainly the most educational.
All stories by Peter Di Cicco.