Rob surveyed his captive audience of coffee chain employees, gripping the lectern and the poster with his logo, an image of an employee and a boss shaking hands. He was proud of his record, displayed in 40-point font at the top of his website: “Keeping workplaces union-free since 1997.” He knew just which phrases to deploy at these meetings to justify his five-figure minimum fee; just when to use Tactic Seven (fear and intimidation) and when to deploy a combination of Four and Six (inertia and loyalty, the latter most effective when he could bring in a crying manager or two.) His waiting list was nearly six months long, he told his clients, because what he delivered was well worth the wait.
So he had no way to make sense of the furtive glances and poorly concealed hand motions that the employees were making as he began his presentation, opening with the line, “Unions are a business, and they just want to grow.” Instead of rapt attention as he warned them of the high cost of union dues, he was seeing smirky grins blossom on their faces, their eyes darting to what looked like large yellow cards in their laps. And were those … golf pencils in their hands, scritching against the cards with every argument he made? Annoyance began sparking in his chest, flaring into anger as the little grins spread across the room, and then it was clenching just under his breastbone, like a fist. The scritching sounds grew louder when he got to the slide with cartoons of union bosses gorging on caviar, and now his entire chest was a fist, clenching and unclenching in pain. His hands fumbled with the remote and clicked on his last slide, scenes of the workplace as one happy family, the fragile peace that unions aimed to destroy.
And then one of them, all covered with rings and tattoos, held up her card (their card? who could tell these days?) and shrieked, "Bingo!" And the laughter in the room burst out like a thunderclap, a thunderclap he could feel inside his chest, and as he collapsed onto the carpet the last things he saw in his life were their faces, those grins wet and shining, and the poster slipping from the lectern and onto his heaving chest, the two hands turned to each other, gripping each other tight.