Back from a horrifying coffee-making experience that left the kitchen looking like a war zone, I am now trying to find Sally's phone number. This is not as easy as it sounds.

About two months ago there was a reorganization in Sally's department. That is, they, quote, reorganized, unquote, some people so that they would be permanently out of the building. In the process, the people that survived got moved around, most of them more than once. Some of them went to a different building. A few people were identified as babbling idiots and promoted on the spot. One of the theories was that there were too many good managers already.

In the process of moving people around, they always assigned each person a new phone number and a new set of business cards. Each time a new phone assignment was made, a memo was sent to the entire company informing everybody of the new numbers and locations. This went on for weeks. Sally got moved at least twice.

I never really updated my records. That is, I didn't update my post-its. And my post-its generally have to do with groceries. So now I have different phone numbers for the same person scattered across a list of emails, random notes, the contact list on the PC, the palmpilot, and the rolodex, which the company insists on providing along with every palmpilot after an executive vice president of engineering had the unfortunate incident of running out of batteries on his.

Having many copies of the same data would not be a problem if they got lost over time, but our expensive and efficient information-retrieval tools find everything there is as long as they can torture you for long enough to do it, so I have no choice, I have to make a list. Before, we couldn't find anything. Now we can find so much information on any subject that we can't do anything useful with it, and back to square one it is.

On the other hand, if we didn't have all of this wonderful technology we might actually have to get some work done.

I love technology.

I compile a list of numbers. I can identify the three that are the most recent, but I can't be sure which one is the right one. I choose the first of the list. I pick up the phone. I dial.

Hello? says the phone. A guy.

Hi, I'm looking for Sally... this is the number I had, I say.

Sally? says the guy. Sally Lintmeyer?

This is a problem that began after corporate weekend retreats and seminars became widespread. Before, we used a person's last name. Not anymore. It's a friendlier working environment in this way, I know. But that doesn't help me now. I can't remember her last name! Was it just Meyer? Probably.

Is there any other Sally in that department? I say.

No, says the guy.

Good question, then, I think. This guy is sharp. I should give his number to Tony for one of his occasional Amway drives.

So, I say, it's her then. Do you have her new number?

Sally doesn't work here anymore, says the guy.

What do you mean doesn't work there? Is she in another department? I say

No, he says. She was laid off. Three weeks ago I think.


Ok, I say. Thanks.

I hang up.

Laid off eh? Then who the hell have I been talking to the last three weeks? I close my eyes.

A tap on my shoulder. I jump on the chair and turn around. I suppress a scream of horror.

It's my manager.

Hey, he says. Good morning. Starting early today.

Always ready! I say. I smile. A big, friendly smile. He smiles back.

Late today or early tomorrow we will have a special group meeting, he says. A few announcements, he says. Nothing big.


Nothing big? I say.

Yeah, don't worry. But be sure to check your email for an update, okay? He says, and smiles again. Then he leaves. I hear him walk to the next cubicle and repeat his speech.

Great. A few announcements. Nothing big. Sure.

I have no doubt what the, quote, announcements, unquote, are. More rumors that have turned out to be true then.

We should all get some black headbands I think. The firing squad has arrived.