Pooping in Your Career Pants: People Don’t Forget
The great Avaya “luncheon” meeting in suburban Surrey
A Tale of Memorable Acts of Career Horror
THERE IS A scene in Superbad — perhaps the greatest MySpace-era comedy, next to Talladega Nights — where the character played by Dave Franco (James Franco’s little brother) berates Evan (Michael Cera) on the soccer field for not having his head in the ongoing game and instead chatting with Seth (played to perfection by Jonah Hill) about that night’s upcoming party.
Seth comes to Evan’s rescue and tells Franco’s character, “Hey Greg, why don’t you go piss your pants again?”
“That was like eight years ago, asshole!” says Greg.
To which Seth responds: “People don’t forget!”
And it’s true. People don’t forget things like that. I had a classmate poop his pants on the fifth grade. Very talented artist. Last I heard, he designs sets for big-budget local movies. Yet even if he wins an Oscar for production or set design, I will forever remember him for his clandestine in-trouser incontinence at 10 years of age. (He tied his jacket around his waist, but we knew. We knew.)
I had another classmate, freshman year in high school, who comes from a local political family. His name was a junior to the vice-mayor’s tastelessly emblazoned brand in the center of town. He pooped his pants to everyone’s knowledge at the center of the gym during a school-wide assembly. And it was such an epic incident it deserves a new paragraph.
Here’s how it went down. Everyone was chillin’ around, waiting for the prefect to show up and order us to line up, double file. Then, we began incrementally sensing a strange, slightly sweet, chocolatey whiff sneakily cutting through the neutral, blank air of our chatter. It was like a freshly opened bag of M&M’s. At first, we tried to ignore it. But as we carried on with our inane, pimple-laden grunty giggles about girls and tits (it was an all-boys school), it became more difficult to carry on, with the sly scent of milk gone bad, cocoa, and now a sour hint of bile and ass sweat, wafting in between our conversations and weighing down on our laughter. No, this was not some newly unwrapped bar of Hershey’s. This was something more sinister.
So on we went to investigate the source, and the culprit began revealing itself. See, this guy had a biblical, old testament, post-Abraham name. And like the prophet he was named after, he was parting the sea of students wherever he languidly — out of necessity — walked. But unlike the Red Sea, the students did not remain parted in a linear middle. They reflocked after the prophet had passed, so the result was a circular repulsion, concentric to the prophet that was the axis. Like a target, with the prophet as the bullseye.
And there were more old testament-style signs and plagues. Instead of doors smeared with sheep’s blood, there was a black polyester pant seat smeared with mocha-colored sludge. Instead of a swarm of locusts, there was a swarm of flies. There was no doubting who was The One. He was 13.
And he could become president — the best president in history, for all I care — but I will always remember him as the high school freshman who was dripping sludgy, cocoa-brown diarrhea in the middle of hundreds of students — future industry movers and shakers — walking with his head down towards the prefect at front and center, in an act of mea culpa.
People don’t forget.
(Which gets me thinking: am I pooping my pants — committing acts of unforgettable career horror — by blogging like this? That’s the topic for another post.)
FAST FORWARD TO 2009, a pleasant November morning, 7:30 a.m. I was at the lobby of the Guoman Tower Hotel in London, waiting for the rest of the Philippine outsourcing junket (operative syllable: junk) to show up. We were there — all lead-hungry, sales-eager outsourcing, telco, and equipment vendors — primarily for the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) conference and sidetrips/meetings arranged by a Philippine sourcing industry association. Let’s fictitiously call it the BPO Production Allegiance of Pendergrass (BPAP) even though this fictitious name is totally random and doesn’t make any sense at all (*wink*).
This sidetrip was to a luncheon meeting at the Avaya office in Surrey. The chief executive of my company then was supposed to join me on this sidetrip, but possessing his gentlemanly intuition for all things crass, his interest level suddenly took a nosedive (I exaggerate: he just said it suddenly went down) upon the sight of jean-clad, tie-less, sportcoat-wearing male executives from the Philippines’ most staffed (“largest” is too generous an adjective) call centers and top telcos (telecom is an oligopoly in the Philippines so all three or four players are “top” or “leading”). There was just something about sellout Gen X’ers suddenly flush with power in industry that gives off a milk-chocolatey diarrhea stank and automatically pops up an intelligent man’s thought bubble that says: forget the fuck about it.
So after about an hour and a half (an hour and a half!) of milling around, weaving in and out of inane chatter, at the assembly point of so-called Philippine BPO industry movers and poopers — I mean shitters, no I mean shakers — the organizer of this Avaya luncheon sidetrip (let’s call him Pistol Pete — don’t ask; he was the Avaya Philippine country rep) finally arrived and asked us to board the bus, double file, that would take us to Guildford, Surrey.
So on we went, through narrow English streets, in an awkward, lanky bus that was like a high school freshman on a growth spurt, languidly — out of necessity — making his way through a crowded flea market. Throughout the trip, the industry shitters carried on with their inane chatter about their sorry obligation to procure French designer bags for their wives and the how-to’s of shopping “wisely” at Harrods. In and around those themes. You know, standard fuckhead topics. The trip lasted four gruelling hours.
Now, remember, those of us who showed up on time had our latest meal before 7:30 a.m. We arrived at the Avaya House in Guildford past 1:00 p.m. Fifteen minutes of more milling around at the lobby, waiting to be ushered in. Another 15 minutes in some kind of a modern-design guest holding area (bright-colored, oddly shaped lounge seats) stocked with crackers, coffee, tea, and nothing else. I had never realized the survival utility of crackers till then.
Then the Avaya presentation and hardware demo by the Guildford product-demo guy (I don’t know). Nothing earth-shaking or life-threatening to warrant more than 30 minutes and two questions. Certainly not worth the four-hour poop ride and the malnourishment. But these fucking self-important, out-of-touch call center and telco sons of bitches kept extending the goddamn meeting with their “can it do this game-changing thing” questions worthy of a 10-second Excel formula. As in really? That’s your idea of disruptive? (Disruptive wasn’t a thing yet back then, by the way.) Something that could be done by a Pivot Table? And you’re asking these sophomoric questions to make yourself look like the real industry mover and pooper that you are? They could wrap their tight-fitting jackets around their waist all they want, but I knew, I knew about the in-trouser incontinence/incompetence they were performing.
So finally, the half-hour-worthy presentation ended after 90 minutes. And much to everyone’s chagrin, Pistol Pete began ushering us back to the bus, trying to act clueless about the plight of our nourishment and the flies swarming his black polyester career pant seat. And no, we did not just try to ignore his disastrous professional diarrhea, we pointed it out. “Me so hungry. Chocolate sludge,” we said, pointing to his ass.
The bus ride back was even more horrendous. Aside from the telco and call center bullshit and Pistol Pete’s career ass stank, by the time we were getting back, London rush hour was already kicking its nasty. Malnourishment at the senior levels of the Philippine BPO space was at its height. An entire nation’s “sunshine industry” (another shit-stained turn of phrase) was at risk of dying from septic poisoning and acute malnutrition. Another four hours of utter outsourcing career horror.
Finally reached the Guoman Tower Hotel past 7:00 p.m., and shit, I got a dinner at the Philippine trade attaché’s residence at 8:00 p.m. No time to grab a quick survival cracker, hopped on to the first cab available to take me to Cumberland Crescent. And this is why London cab drivers are the best in the world: the guy just wouldn’t accept that we couldn’t find my miswritten destination address and let me get off at the corner that I felt was kinda nearest to where I wanted to go. He passionately viewed it as a personal failure, even after I assured him that it’s okay, and I’m going to be alright waiting for my contact to pick me up at that corner (turns out to be a couple of minutes’ walk).
So I finally reached my destination on foot and blew past the chips and crackers straight to the most meal-approximating items on the buffet: gyoza and rice noodles. Halfway through my third refill, the junket coordinator of the BPO Production Allegiance of Pendergrass crawled through the doorway. He was, like me — I believe “famished” was the word.
And that’s the story of the infamous Avaya “luncheon” meeting of 2009 in Surrey.
FAST FORWARD TO today, 2015, I see in my crappy LinkedIn feed, an update from the COO of an “industry enabler” (a category of outsourcing player that is neither a vendor nor a shared service captive but a provider of real estate, equipment, or communications), humble-bragging (fuck you, humble-braggers) about “winning” an Avaya Whatever Partner “award” (actual name of bullshit pseudo-award unimportant). And in the accompanying picture of Enabler COO receiving quasi-award from Pandering Product Brand was — drumroll — Pistol Pete, architect of Avayagate.
Yes, he had survived his craptastic moment of career incontinence. But I — we — will always remember him for dripping sludgy, cocoa-brown diarrhea in the middle of a dozen or so industry movers and shitters, walking with his head glancing side to side, avoiding eye contact, towards the lanky bus at front and center, in a non-act of mea culpa.
And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, London cab drivers are the best in the world: because they never poop their pants.