Sunday, 19 January 2014

We Regret to Inform You by Naomi Elana Zener

Jack was a paunchy, short, fifty-six year old male who had spent the past fifteen years of his life trying to build a once germinating seed of a clothing business idea into an empire. By this point in his life, Jack had come to accept the fact that his company was more valuable if sold in an asset sale, rather than trying to make it grow bigger. His glass ceiling had been reached, and as much as it frustrated him to look through the transparent skylight above him, reminding him of his limitations, Jack had come to accept that cashing out early was his only option. Nonetheless, Jack’s irascible temper and gruff, aggressive manner was not softened by his acceptance of his business’ fate. Instead, he continued to bark orders at his employees to work harder to help make the business more valuable, despite his secret attempts to sell it out from underneath his board of directors’ nose.

Over the years, Jack had lost many employees due to his mistreatment of them. He called overweight female employees fat, threatening to fire them if they did not lose weight, justifying his actions to human resources and the board on the basis that he ran a shmata business and his employees had an image to uphold. Jack was known to terminate employees’ health benefits when they applied for extended sick leave due to legitimate health reasons and fired women who became pregnant. Jack even had a revolving door of secretaries over the years due to his demands, which included calling one while on her vacation in India demanding that she immediately report back to the office, at her own non-reimbursable expense, to fix the espresso machine, as it had broken down for the forty-fifth time, notwithstanding it was cheaper to replace it.  To be fair to Jack, he came by his ‘charming’ personality honestly, as his father before him had set the precedent of how to be an ogre both at home and in the office. Jack’s father was a screamer who treated the staff in his accounting practice poorly, never able to keep an associate in his office long enough to take a vacation so the clients’ needs would be covered, not that his family beckoned the despot home.

During the past few years, Jack’s negative personality traits had become distinctively more sociopath-like, prompting his board of directors, who were also shareholders in the company, to issue Jack an ultimatum: he had to change his behaviour or the board would trigger the shotgun provision in the shareholders agreement to force him out of the company. Generally impervious and immovable to pressure or threats of any kind, in being backed into a corner with no way out, Jack, always the savvy businessman, thought that if there was a medical reason for his antics, then his board couldn’t dispose of him so easily.  So, Jack went to the doctor, who determined that Jack was not just simply a Napoleonic asshole, but that there was indeed a medical reason for his conduct, which Jack promptly reported to Henry, the head of human resources at his company.

“I have male menopause,” Jack advised Henry. “I require medical accommodation for my condition. Please inform the board accordingly.”

“Whoa, not so fast,” Henry replied, reaching across his desk to prevent Jack from dropping his grenade and running out the door. “Is that a real medical condition?  Or, is it just an attempt to justify your poor actions to the board so you won’t get bought out and tossed out?”

“It is completely real!” Jack screamed emotionally, as he pulled a letter from his doctor out of his suit pocket. “Men go through menopause just like women, except instead of hot flashes, men do get the same mood swings due to low testosterone. The myriad of symptoms vary and in men can be quite subtle and go unnoticed for years.”

“Clearly that was not the case for you since your mood has swung like a pendulum for years, “ Henry stated deadpan. “Your temper flare ups and unpredictable behaviour have been as subtle as when the Road Runner drops an anvil on Wylie Coyote’s head!”

“Watch what you say to me!” Jack spat. “I still run this company. And, my condition is quite delicate. I should be given the same respect as a pregnant employee!”

“So you’re saying that I should treat your situation as you would have me treat a pregnant woman at this company?” Henry prodded.

“Of course!” Jack replied.

“I see. You’re sure you want the same preferential treatment?” Henry queried.

“Absolutely!” Jack reaffirmed.

“Then, I regret to inform you that your position at the company no longer exists,” Henry advised. “You must vacate your office immediately, return all company-owned items, including your car, parking pass and gas card. And, you have fifteen minutes to collect your personal belongings. Security will escort you off the premises. If fifteen minutes is an insufficient amount of time to gather your belongings, then we will send them to you at your own expense.”

“Excuse my French, but what the fuck?!” Jack roared. “You can’t fire me!”

“Given your fifteen years of service to the company, we will pay you what was agreed to in your original employment contract. Thank you for your contribution to the company. We wish you good luck in your future endeavours.”

“Hey asshole, you can’t fire me!” Jack shouted. “I’m sick!”

“Did you or didn’t you just tell me to treat your situation as you would have me treat a female employee who announces her pregnancy?” Henry asked.

“Yeah,” Jack replied. “That means that you have to accommodate my medical condition and hold my job for me if I take leave, so that it is waiting for me upon my return to work.”

“That is not how you have me treat our pregnant employees. You have ordered me to fire any employee who announces her pregnancy, effective immediately,” Henry advised. “You said, and I quote, ‘I have no use for any woman as an employee who’s clearly  not dedicated to her job here since she went and got knocked up. Any law forcing me to hold a job for a woman who takes time off to raise her rug rat on maternity leave, allowing her to put her own selfish breeding interests ahead of my company’s best interests, can kiss my ass. And, if any man has the nerve to come and ask for paternity leave because he failed to practice safe sex, chop off his balls and fire him too!’ So you see Jack, I am extending to you the exact same courtesy you had me give to our pregnant female employees. I’m just following the precedent you set.”

“I’ll sue you and this fucking company!” Jack screamed.

“Get in line behind the waddling fertile former female employees in front of you,” Henry advised. “Why do you think that the board wants you gone? We have so many lawsuits as a result of your violating your employees’ human and employment rights that the damage awards will end up putting the company out of business. And, unlike those former employees, you have a golden parachute that you can skydive out of here with.”

Jack, too dumbfounded to respond having realized that he was dealt a fatal blow by his own hand, sat back pondering how to best retaliate.

“That’s fine, like you said, I’ve got plenty of money coming my way. So here’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to contact each former employee suing the company and launch a gender discrimination class action lawsuit for wrongful dismissal against the company, naming every member of the board and you. Enjoy your job while it lasts! Out of curiosity, what kind of human resources professional are you, following any direction that would violate the law?” Jack asked calmly, pausing for effect, as he got up to exit Henry’s office.  So, don’t bother asking for a reference because you won’t be getting one.”

© 2014 Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Rabbi, A Priest & An Imam Walk into a Bar by Naomi Elana Zener

 “Shalom, Father O’Reilly,  Imam Asaad,” Rabbi Shmaltz greeted as his friends entered the bar and sat down in the empty chairs on either side of him. “I’ve taken the liberty of ordering you your drinks. A stout Guinness for you, O’Reilly, and a virgin pina colada for you, Asaad.

“Salaam Shmaltz, I appreciate you making sure that it is alcohol-free,” Imam Asaad said. “So many times these bartenders think I am joking when I say I don’t want any alcohol and then I end up with a non-Islamic friendly buzz.”

“But, I bet it tastes so good once it hits your lips?” Father O’Reilly laughed, giving Imam Asaad a wink.

The trifecta of religious leaders had been meeting on a monthly basis at the Duke of York in an attempt to find a solution to their respective dwindling congregant numbers. Notwithstanding their best efforts, after a year of brainstorming and implementation of failed plans, the three men found that no matter what they did, they could not overcome the scandals finding their way into breaking news, negatively affecting their religious institutions on a rotating weekly basis. Thus, after considered debate, the holy men decided that they needed professional help.

“When will Petra from 'Pious Public Relations' be here?” Father O’Reilly asked.

“Any minute now,” Rabbi Shmaltz replied.

With the ring of the door chimes, the three men rotated their heads, as if possessed, to see Petra breach the establishment’s threshold.

“Hi there, I’m Petra,” Petra advised, breathlessly tossing her bag onto the table and plonking herself down beside Imam Asaad. “Please, don’t get up on my account.”

The three men drank in Petra’s appearance in slow motion: her sleeveless short-skirted dress, patent heels, red long Boticelliesque locks and a bosom to rival Doll Parton’s. The religious leaders were happy to be seated, as had they gotten up to greet her, their respective erect manhoods would have betrayed them, as they stood to rise before the men could.

“I’m parched. So glad you picked a bar for the meeting. Yum, that looks good,” Petra giggle, as she took a sip of Imam Asaad’s drink. Imam Asaad looked on in disgust as his glass had been defiled by a woman’s lips, a fact not lost on Petra.

“Oh relax,” Petra admonished. “Your reaction is part of the problem you’ve called me in to fix. My lips having touched your glass won’t cause you to melt or need to be stoned.”

“I think you’ll find that we are quite progressive,” Rabbi Shmaltz offered trying to diffuse the Molotov Cocktail ready to explode between Petra and the good Imam. “Just the other day, I performed a briss for an interfaith Jamaican-Caucasian-Asian Jewis0Buddhist lesbian couple’s son, who is named Jesus Yangtze Goldberg.”

“And, I performed my first wedding-come-wake. The bride’s father dropped dead the night before the wedding at the rub-n-tug where the bachelor party was being held, and the bride insisted that the show must go on. So, as the happy couple exchanged their vows to love each other until death do them part, the bride’s father, lay in an open casket next to them, with an embalmed grin. The father of the bride was still standing at attention, if you know what I mean,” Father O’Reilly chuckled.

“What can I do for you?” Petra asked.

“We want to attract the younger eighteen to thirty-four demographic back to our respective folds. Our old scare tactics, like you’ll burn in hell or grow hairy palms if you masturbate and don’t repent in church, no longer strike the fear of God in youngsters anymore," Father O'Reilly explained.

"Neither does the promise of vestal virgins,” Imam Asaad added.

“Maybe that’s because the association of vestal virgins is inextricably and forever linked with suicide bombers, as opposed to being an incentive to eat Halal meat?” Petra offered, taking another sip of Imam Asaad’s abandoned drink. “What are some other things you’ve all done to give your religions a little spit-shine?”

“At our synagogue’s daycare, we accommodate our interfaith families by teaching both the ‘Shabbat Shalom’ song and more secular nursery rhymes, such as “To Market, To Market To Buy a Fat Pig’,” Rabbi Shmaltz explained.

“In our church, we provide a medley of options for Communion when taking the body of Christ. For example, instead of a plain wafer, we have curry flavoured naan and chocolate matzoh,” Father O’Reilly explained. “We have a multiculturally diverse crowd to appease.”

“We have made progressive strides to abate the patriarchal notions that women are not equals in our mosque,” Imam Assad said.“We provide extra fans for the women in summertime so they don’t overheat in their burkhas, and we have ordained our first female cleric to conduct female only services.”

Petra nodded her head in silent approval, but felt that to combat the Christopher Hitchens atheist attitudes of the younger generation, these men would have to do more in order to surmount the hurdle of competing with pop media Kabbalah and Scientologist cults.

“Regardless of what we do, none of these women are happy,” Imam Asaad explained. “It’s as though they want us to rewrite the Koran so that men are the baby procreators, not the women.”

“Trust me, we all have that problem,” Father O’Reilly advised. “At least you don’t have to accept accountability on a daily basis for the child molestation that has occurred at the hands of sexually repressed and deviant priests. No matter what we have done to rehabilitate our image, even going so far as marrying both ‘Adam and Eve’ and ‘Adam and Steve,’ it is never enough.”

“O’Reilly you always harp on the pedophiles, but the Jewish Orthodox community has done plenty to sully our religion’s reputation. I gave you a copy of Deborah Feldman’s expose ‘Unorthodox.’ Did you read it? The progressive branches of Judaism are ashamed when we have to acknowledge that the ritual circumcision performed by very Orthodox mohels includes their sucking the blood directly from the male infant’s circumcised penis,” Rabbi Shmaltz countered. “Baby blowjobs don’t make for feel-good positive headlines. Nor, do molestations of young virgin teenage brides at the mikvah.”

“Certainly, child abuse has cast a dark cloud of your places of worship, but you try walking down the street with people calling you a murderer and shouting out that all Muslims are suicide bombing jihadists,” Imam Asaad added. “Last time I checked, the penalty for murder is worse than for child molestation.”

Exasperated by the mens’ back-and-forth one upsmanship type banter, Petra jumped into the fray.

“Let me dazzle you with some twenty-first century ideas how to spin doctor your problems,” Petra offered. “You all come from different religions, but share similar problems: misgony, patriarchal attitudes, homophobia, child molestation, outdated crimes, and  so on. For starters, you all have to accept that men and women are equals, period.  Imam Asaad, be a pioneer. Ditch the burkhas and hijabs in your mosque. Host ‘shackle-free’ days when women can leave the homes wearing whatever they want with their hair blowing in the wind? And, Rabbi Shmaltz, would it kill you to ease up on the food restrictions? Instead of herring and tuna fish, throw some ham and cheese sandwiches and shrimp into the mix at Kiddush time.”

The three men could not find their hands to scrape their gaping mouths off of the floor.

“Also, Imam Asaad, cap off each prayer day with a little shot of tequila. Being on one’s knees five times a day causes cramping and puts a lot of wear and tear on the knee joints. A little liquid libation will help ease that tension. Just ask a hooker,” Petra laughed.  “Father O’Reilly, I’ve not forgotten about you. To counteract all of the negative sexual predator priest press you get, Catholics should show a little more platonic sex-free love for little girls. Have some altar girls replace altar boys. And, ease up on the no sex before marriage rule, while also abandoning your church’s anti-contraception and anti-abortion stances. Women aren’t Jezebels for having sex. I watched ‘The Borgias.” Your pontiffs back in the day were married to women having sex with their wives and mistresses while still married to God, so end the hypocrisy,” Petra continued.

“How can you say such blasphemous things?” Father O’Reilly charged.

“I’m calling a spade a spade. None of you will attract the demographic you want unless you pull your heads out of your asses. These kids want the Diet Coke of Judaism, Catholicism and Islam,” Petra retorted.

“I knew we should never have entertained the idea of hiring a woman!” Imam Asaad cried.

“Don’t attack her gender,” Rabbi Shmaltz admonished. “Perhaps we should have hired someone a little older.”

“Do you even have any religious affiliation?” Father O’Reilly pressed.

“Christ no!” Petra exclaimed. “Religions are all cults. But, I am twenty-seven and in your target market, so I know what I’m talking about.”

“How can an atheist help us?” Imam Asaad shouted.

“I don’t have to be into religion. I’m in PR,” Petra stated. “You sold religion for thousands of years to the illiterate masses, but Google and Apple have made it such that you need to technologize your message. Leave it to me, and not only will everyone clamour for a seat in one of your pews, but they will buy your apps and watch your sermons remotely on their iPhones. I could sell Noah a ten acre beach front spread in Malibu as a Tsunami approached and convince him he won’t need his ark.”

"When can you start?" the three religious leaders chimed in unison. 

© 2014 Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.