Regarding Your Time-Off Request by Sean-Taro Nishi

Close up photo of gears
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Time-Off Requests

Dear Team,

First off, how lucky we are to still be thriving in this economy! Because not everyone’s so lucky. Some people are out there sleeping under bridges and rubbing sticks for warmth. Does this mean the world is rigged? Absolutely not. The world is fair, and if you Googled the word fair, you’d see that we’re the leading pioneer in fairness. And yet, some of us don’t realize how lucky we are!

Now, we’ve always given you a lot of leeway because we’ve found data proves that leeway is useful for productivity. But we’ve also found data that proves leeway can lead to idleness, which in turn leads to less productivity. And that’s bad. So to cut down on idleness we’ve had to cut down on leeway, which means we’re cutting down on time-off requests.

Am I saying never take time off? No! Time-off requests can be submitted every second Friday of the month, from noon to three o’clock PM, by locating one of your MENTORS and asking them to sign off on a blue Time-Off Request Form (green forms are for MENTORS only). Some of you have pointed out that the East Coast office is three hours ahead of us West Coasters, so they have an unfair advantage because they get to make time-off requests earlier. My answer is: We’re working on that.

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Time-Off Requests (Cont.)

Dear Team

I’d like to remind you all that we don’t force you to come here, you do it under your own free will, and in return we give you an hourly rate and free lunches, along with access to ping-pong tables, a climbing wall, on-site therapists, among other PERKS, not to mention two whole days from Friday – Monday to stay home and pursue other activities.

So as we processed your time-off requests last month (and boy were there a lot of them), we noticed most of you submitted for the week of August 20th to attend our very own Tammy’s wedding. I was elated by your level of unity, for a year ago, you were all new hires who were too shy to even touch each other during trust-falls at orientation. Sadly, a team is only effective if (most) of you are here, so we had to deny those requests. Because who will run the show while you’re gone? Your department is unique in that it is the only kind in our entire office, which should fill you with joy and pride. We’d practically fall apart without you! (Which isn’t totally true; we still have the St. Louis branch, the Philadelphia branch, the Phoenix branch, and if all else fails, the New Delhi branch. So yes, we’d still manage without you, it would just be a lot more of a hassle. And we’d prefer to avoid a hassle whenever possible.) And it’s not like Tammy doesn’t see you Monday through Friday from eight to six. You’d think she would get sick of seeing you by now!

So what’s the hassle about not getting a few extra off then? Do you not like getting paid? I used to work at a Mexican fast-food chain called El Burllito where they only let us work twenty hours a week. And did we get free shuttle buses? Yoga lessons? Amazon Prime memberships? Nada. So I consider myself lucky to have a job that wants me to work so much. And you should too. Because you are valuable, and if you weren’t valuable, we would let you take time-off as much as you want.

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Tony

Dear Team,

I want to take a second to talk about Tony, who started here the same time as you, and has never made a time-off request. In fact, he actually requests overtime! (which must be approved by your MENTOR, by filling out a Yellow form). And for those of you who attended Mingle Jingle last Friday on the sixteenth floor, you probably witnessed Tony’s big toothy smile as he received an award for his continued punctuality and good demeanor. Why, you might ask, would Tony never think to make a Time Off request? Could it be that he enjoys working here? With our lax dress-code, open-office layout, and privacy cabanas? Maybe he sees his office like a home, his team like a family, his dedication to worklife a calling in and of itself?

The reason I bring up Tony is because some of you have referred to this place on the office Slack channel as a “prison,” which is ridiculous, since when do prisons have private meditation rooms and sangria? Now, we all know that Tony came here through a prison-work-release-program, which is not something he needs to be made ashamed of at all, and honesty, I feel like I can relate to him more than the rest of you, having had members of my own family who were incarcerated, recognizing the toll it takes on the human spirit, how it can either break a man or rebuild him, etc. In this way, prison life is actually very conductive for office life.

So the next time you see Tony gazing out the twentieth-floor window at the streets below with a forlorn look, you might want to take a second to ask how his day is going, maybe buy him an iced espresso beverage at the cafe below. And please stop referring to him as “El Cuchillo” behind his back, which is actually quite offensive, for what a man does behind bars to survive is his business and no one else’s.

And why Tony might seem so forlorn? My guess is he misses his family. Many of you don’t know this, but he floated all the way from Cuba to Miami on a school bus converted into a raft. He hasn’t seen his parents in almost fifteen years, and as a naturalized US citizen, it’s illegal for him to travel back, so you can imagine how hard it must be on him. And like myself, Tony has been spending a lot of his PERKS seeing the office therapist, which is open knowledge and not something he needs to be ashamed of. Because none of us should be afraid to talk about their mental health, unlike say, certain family members who used to feed me Prozac like breath mints as a kid.

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Transparency

Dear Team,

For those of you asking, no, I was not given an invitation for Tammy’s wedding, though being a MENTOR, it would’ve been a conflict of interest anyway. In no way did this affect my decision to deny your time-off requests. As a matter of fact, I will be visiting my father in Italy this coming week, who I haven’t seen since I was sixteen and in a courtroom surrounded by lawyers. Because who knows? Maybe I’ll become part of that family? Like a team, but more permanent, where no one gets fired or quits or makes unnecessary time-off requests.

The fact is: Transparency is important. We need to be open with each other. A team can only function with open, honest communication. Which is why I feel it’s important to point out that Tammy is making a mistake by marrying her fiancé Brody. I did some digging on Brody’s social media profiles (outside of work, mind you), and have found evidence that he is an unreliable partner and lover. Sure, he seemed very charming at Mingle Jingle last May with his long curly hair and leather jacket, but was his attitude not somewhat condescending? Did he not make remarks about our office space being “depressing” and our work “stupid?” Didn’t his nose piercing make him seem like a little try-hard? The fact is: Tammy deserves better than a so-called “musician” who felt it appropriate to wear headphones while talking to people. All I’m saying, Tammy, is you can do a lot better than this.

-Jill

 

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Hope You Feel Better

Dear team,

I was very upset to learn upon coming back from my vacation that five team members came down with an inexplicable case of Whooping Cough and had to stay home from their duties for the entire week. This is unfortunate, as the only team members on-call at the time were Moses and Regina. As a result, we had to delegate duties to our Philadelphia branch, which makes us look bad. Not that I’m mad. Do I sound mad? Because what do you say to someone who’s sick, except “hope you feel better?” What do you do when acts of God occur and your whole world spirals out of control? You go with the punches. Hope to see everyone’s bright and shining faces soon.

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: The Truth Shall Prevail

 

Dear team,

Let’s congratulate Regina for her perseverance for the truth. It was Regina who brought to my attention that those of you who claimed to have a potentially life-threatening illness were actually attending Tammy’s wedding. Regina found out because she’s a part of your office Slack channel, and could see all the photos from Tammy’s wedding you posted. It’s good that she noticed this, because I am not part of your Slack channel, even though I’m your MENTOR, which is strange to me, but apparently some of you wanted more privacy, which is the opposite of what a team should be, i.e. transparency. So shame on you for lying.

What does this mean to the infractors? I will be putting a three-month hold on all your PERKS. That means you bring your own lunch, own coffee, own toiletries for the bathrooms. Headphones while you’re working? Not anymore. Drinks at the end of the week mixer? Nope. Extraneous knick knacks at your work stations? Put em’ away. We can’t legally reduce your hourly rate, but if we could, trust me, we would. This is how serious we take truancy at work.

And a big kudos to Regina for her ability to tell the truth. Because what else was Regina supposed to do? Hide the truth? Which is lying? Do you know what that does to a person? It erodes their soul, like too much Drain-O on my grandmother’s plumbing. Let’s take the example of when I was seven, and I found a pair of another ladies underwear in the backseat of my dad’s Jeep Wrangler. I could have kept that to myself, seeing as he offered to buy my silence with the Pony Palace Playset® I’d been asking for my birthday. But I knew if I didn’t tell my mother, I would be lying, and liars go to Hell. So please refrain from calling Regina a “narc” or any other derogatory term, and instead look at her as a model for how a team should be. Because if we had a team of all Reginas, we wouldn’t have to worry about Philadelphia or St. Louis or New Delhi absorbing our offices.

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Goodbye Regina

 

Dear Team

It saddens me to say this but our very own Regina will be leaving our company after finishing up the week here. Regina has been feeling very unwelcome around the department after light of certain team members’ delinquencies were revealed. And despite the fact that I explicitly reminded everyone to empathize with Regina, it appears that my pleas have fallen on deaf ears, or you all didn’t get the memo. Did I forget to send it? I’m so disappointed. And some of you may not have known this, but Regina was living with her grandmother, who is mentally unstable, and relied on Regina and her income to keep their apartment warm and stocked with medication for her bouts of violent sleepwalking. So now Regina will be looking for employment elsewhere, and without her income or PERKS, I imagine life will be hard for her. Is this what a team looks like? Should team members harass and belittle each other and post photoshopped pictures of each other on pig’s bodies with snouts onto the TEAM channel? Does that sound very team memberly?

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: My Trip

 

Dear Team,

A team can only function with absolute transparency. It’s only fair that I tell you how stressed I’ve been lately, and it’s been affecting my work. Essentially: My trip to see my father did not go well. His new family were rather cold towards me, like bitter gazpacho. I couldn’t understand anything they said at the dinner table or follow their outrageous Italian hand gestures. The only time my father spoke in English was to talk about alimony, specifically back-pay he owed my mother for years. Said I turned out fine, being a “manager” (his words, not mine) in some “Silicon Valley Tech Company” (we are much more than that), therefore she doesn’t need the alimony. He asked me to sign some paper agreeing to this, and I did, hoping it might reconcile us after years of estrangement. Then that night, I started thinking: Guy doesn’t call me for years, and suddenly he wants to see me, just so I can sign some paperwork? Does that sound like a family to you? So I may have thrown a carafe of pinot noir across a table and stormed out of his seaside villa (beautiful). The point is: They were not my family. You are.

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Rumor Mill

Dear Team,

I’m sure by now you’ve heard through the rumor mill some unflattering accusations against me. And while I should refrain from saying anything until I get a proper lawyer, I will reaffirm my innocence and deny any wrongdoing. Which concerns allegations that I approached one of my own team members and proposed a deal so outlandish that I refuse to even type it out. Because why would I possibly ask a member of my own team, my own family, to murder my own father? How does that make sense? Would I really do something as crazy as buy a certain someone a plane ticket to Italy and pay them to kill my own father? Who raised me from when I was born until I was eleven? Who sadly couldn’t make it within our family, but found a new one, which fit him even better? Ridiculous.

Because you might hear that I paid our very own Tony to do the deed, which is ridiculous. Tony is not a criminal and would never agree to such a deal, even if I paid him in cash and offered unlimited time-off as a reward. And while it is true that I handed him a map of my father’s house with all windows and doors marked, it was only so I could point out some architectural points of interest, since Tony mentioned an appreciation for architecture in our past conversations. And could it be true that Tony initially agreed to go through with this plan, only to backtrack halfway to the airport and instead went to the police? So he could reveal my alleged involvement in this murder plot? Doesn’t that sound crazy?

-Jill

 

To: Team Members

From: Jill Valentine, MENTOR

Re: Goodbye

Dear team,

I am retroactively reversing my previous decision and giving you back all your PERKS. Do whatever you want, take as much time-off as you’d like, and do it while you still can, before I leave this company. In light of Tony’s recent disappearance, I’ve been called by the higher-ups who’ve swung the hammer on me, hard, and asked me to take my leave. The thing is: I would never lie or mislead you. As your MENTOR, I had your best interests at heart. It makes me think about a cat I had in college named Waffles who was diagnosed with a nasty ringworm infection, so I had to lock her in the bathroom for three weeks. Do you think it was easy hearing her plead for my affection, which I could not give because she was covered in hideous lesions? The worst part was: I couldn’t explain that I was doing this because I loved her, as Waffles was a cat and could not understand humans (except “treats!”). So when Waffles finally passed away my senior year, it broke my heart, knowing that deep down inside, she harbored resentment towards me from that awful time in her life. So even if you don’t remember me, I want you all to know that I cared about you, that I acted out of best intentions, and someday, maybe, you’ll see what a real team is like.

-Jill

 

Silhouettes of people walking
Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

Sean-Taro Nishi
Sean-Taro Nishi is a Japanese-born writer currently living in Los Angeles with his partner and two cats, Toby and Waffles. He completed his MFA in creative writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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