Getting the Pink Slip Again: A Short Story.

Nick Underside had a stinking suspicion that somebody in HR was trying to make an ass of him.  HR, or human relations to the layperson, was not aware that a Nick Underside even existed. They had not renewed his contract, and hence, had deleted him from their "certified teacher" database. As a lame duck employee for the fourth time in six years, Nick believed a grand conspiracy against him was being orchestrated by vindictive HR employees, and he wasn't going to take it anymore.

"I'm not going to take this anymore!" Nick shouted when he received the form letter that coincidentally wasn't pink, but literally contained all the misfortune of a pink slip. Nick subconsciously wished the slip was pink. Nick hated pink.

Because Nick could not maintain a job for more than a year, he never received any seniority, and because he had no seniority he was always the first to be cut when the school wanted a new football uniforms or an administrator wanted a new color copier.  When this or that school realized they needed an emergency teacher, his name always popped up on the "available teacher" list.  Nick skimmed the not pink, pink slip:

Your service at Emerald Streams Elementary School is no longer needed, it said. We thank you for your assistance in making Emerald City School Districts an outstanding public school system, and encourage you to apply to any and all positions that may open up in the future.

Following the words that he had nearly memorized from the last three times, were the auto-signatures of four important bureaucratic administrators from the school district.  The auto-signatures signified how insignificant Nick was; their time was too important to waste on actual employees. Coincidentally two of the signatures were from Human Relations who hated dealing with humans.

Human Relations at Emerald City School district was a bit of a misnomer.  After being hired, the department spent a total of four minutes talking about procedures and policies and then pushed the new employees into a room to be trained by computers.  If there was ever a problem with a paycheck or ID badge, the department attempted to deal with the situation with a form-letter via email with a specific hyperlink pasted within. When the employee pursues the assistance of a human, she is met with a curt reply stating to file the complaint with "Insta-Aid", an online help documentation system. . HR. in fact, dealt with humans less than any other department at Emerald City Schools. Mostly they played an intricate game of paper pushing. This game involved not reading the important personal information of certain employees about upcoming leaves or absences, and handing it to a different part of the department so that they would not read the information, and this would go on until the employee requesting leave would be denied, as the proper people never actually viewed the proper documentation by the allotted deadline.

Nick picked up his cell phone. (He dreaded using the district telephone. There were no documented cases of district phones being screened, but he couldn't shake the feeling that every time he used it, data was being sent to the information hub in HR, potentially building a portfolio of all the "unnecessary" calls he had committed throughout his short tenure at Emerald. In fact, Nick had never abused his calling privilege as he hated the phone with an undying passion, but the thought that anything could be misconstrued by the HR department he already mistrusted, kept him wary). He did not want to call from his district telephone. Perhaps his number had already been screened.  Nick suspected that the HR department worked hand in hand with the NSA.

"Hello, Human Relations."

"Hi, I'd like to speak to the director of Human Relations, Nancy Bennioff."

"And who may I ask is calling?"

"My name is Nick Underside, I'm an employee at Emerald Streams Elementary School."

"Just a second...uh...sir...Could you give us your teacher ID #? We have no record of a Nick Underside being employed at that school...are you sure?"


"Uhh...did you say 666...

"Yes...I know the connotation..."

"Uh...nothing is popping up?  Are you sure?"

"What do you mean, am I sure? Am I sure I'm Nick Underside, or sure that I work at Emerald Streams Elementary school?"

"Sir, I'm sure you know who you are, I'm saying at that school, we have no employee listed under 66627.  I'm sorry, but I can only answer questions from employees with valid ID numbers?"

"Are you serious? Have you ever related to a human before? Of course I am who I say I am, and I work where I say I work."

"Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree." "What is the purpose behind this call, if I may ask?"

"I want to know why my contract wasn't renewed?"

"If your contract wasn't renewed that would explain why we have no record of your employment. You are not an employee."

"I still have a month left on my existing contract! I still have students in my room! You guys are still paying my paycheck for another month! This is nonsense, may I speak to the director or not?"

"Sir, being on payroll and being an active employee are two entirely separate things. I'm sorry to inform you that the director of HR only has time to speak to current employees."

"That's what I'm trying to say...I am a current employee!"

"Semantics, sir.  You are not."

"Well who can I talk to as a former employee?"

"I believe you can talk to the labor board, sir."

"Do you have their number?"

"I've never had to contact the labor board, sir.  I am a current employee."

"GAAAAWWWWDDDD!" Nick frantically hit the END CALL button on his touch screen.  He missed the dramatics of slamming a phone down and hearing the ringtone echo throughout the room, even though he'd only seen this on television.

At the HR office, the receptionist said, "Wow, he hung up on me. How anti-social of him! No wonder we terminated his contract."


Nick stared up at his water stained acoustical ceiling tiles and scraped his hands down his face like a plow, hoping to dig out all the stress and frustration and anger and hurt and pain and pride and fear and self loathing.  It was not successful.

His email was still open and a new message was at the top.  It was from one of his more annoying students.  

It read: "Mr. Underside.  I'm sorry you got fired again. It's not fair. Your a good teacher. No a great teacher. Your the only teacher that ever related to what I was going thru. I just thought you should know. Thank you, Billy Anderson."  

Nick smiled at the irony of the grammatically sad letter sent with true sincerity.     

"Thanks Billy." He said aloud to nobody.

Humans. Dealing with humans is a messy business. Nick fantasized about getting a job that didn't have to deal with people. He wondered if there were any openings in HR.  


  1. I'm printing this. As a self employed person I sometimes feel sorry for myself that nobody ever offers to take me on full time with regular checks and stuff. This will remind me to not wish too hard for certain things lest they come true.

    1. If you print it how will I get my royalty checks. Oh yeah. That's right. I don't make money from my creative efforts.

  2. Kind of an appropriate piece in the education field at this time of year. Thankfully, the HR people I deal with actually do talk to people. :)

    1. It was a weird piece, because I worked in HR for a year until my job was replaced by a computer, and I was being a little vindictive towards...well, I better not say.

      Good to hear from you. Sorry I was gone so long.

  3. This isn't semi-autobiographical, is it? Because this kind of stuff boils my blood. I have several friends who were pink slipped over and over again (some still going through it), and it is grossly unfair and everything wrong with this country. It's why my backup career did not include high school education.
    Stepping off soapbox.
    Glad to see you're back. I was wondering how you were, and about to send up a flare...

    1. Sadly, yes it is. Again. Hence my enmity.

      Glad to be back. It took too long.

  4. I really, really like this. No, not what happened in the story...but I think this is really good. Please send it somewhere!

    1. I'll send it to HR. They'd love to read it.