The Gate Keeper (Chapter 8: In which (more) plans are made)
by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…
Junior creatives question the meaning of life, work and love, while the itern rises to a brand new work station…
In which (more) plans are made
The TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande Creative Commons was purposefully named to ‘leverage the open source nobility inherent in the phrase.’ The enforced colloquialisation of references to the agency’s open plan office space had been cooked up by one of those transient consultants, a man with a briefcase who billed a couple of a hundred grand and then buggered back off to whatever business school had spawned him. Fiscal leakage aside, many said the creative commons was his sole legacy – that all he had left the agency with, besides an enormous invoice, was the highly fanciful idea of a happy, confident mutually beneficial zone creativity.
In reality, the agency’s creative commons was a sprawl of dirty brown carpeting on which sat a jagged series of open plan fractals, each little cluster of desks representing project teams who, when viewed from on high, appeared to be chasing each other in slow motion across the floor, like those rocks in the desert that never move but nonetheless blaze suspicious trails through the sand.
Simon Shone was thinking about all this as he leaned theatrically back in his chair. He was also debating internally how Vati had slipped into the exec strategy sessions so easily. He also wondered if he finally had clinical tinnitus from too much time inside the Sennheisers and, if that was the case, whether visiting a doctor would do any good. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, he was also chewing over how it came to be that he had spent over seventy percent of his 20s working on the same chewing gum brand.
No one at Boston City Campus had ever even mentioned the idea of specialisation. It wasn’t a concept he had understood even as recently as two years ago. When they promoted him he assumed the jump would involve a shift away, toward anything, bottled water even. How was he to know better when he had no idea? How was he supposed to understand just how ominous that smile from the old board dude really was when they shook hands? Simon thought the geezer’s babbles about specialisation were in the past tense – but no, they were real, and immediate. Chewing gum was his eternal, specialised fate.
He scrolled through Biz Community as unobtrusively as possible. Sure, they said no one was hiring any more, but he was willing to take a cut – a heavy cut even – to find some kind of change.
“Sorry,” Mama E whacked his shoulder with an industrial sized binder. The shock of it nearly spat him out of his spring loaded office chair. “Two things,” she gave him the beady eye, rolling straight over his yelps.
“He would like to move the pitch review for the chewing gum forward by a day – which means your presentation is at 9:00am tomorrow morning. And second,” Mama E shifted inside her colourful tent wraps, inching imperceptibly towards Vati’s desk space. “Vatiswa will be required on the Mangaung project on a permanent basis for the next three months. Please tell her to come and see me whenever you see her. We need to make arrangements to extend her internship contract and to find her working space in a different part of the commons.”
Mama E glided back from whence she came, casting her head slowly left and right in a matriarchal fashion. Heads stayed down as her shadow passed, then lifted and twittered like excited advertising starlings.
Simon Shone swore in a disgusting manner and cursed the entire female species. He was tired of advertising. He was tired of chewing gum, teenagers, hip hop dancing and threading SMS prompts into a compelling IVR experience. Most of all he was tired of being over looked. For these reasons he decided it was time to thread lead into his soul, a process which would begin in his dealings with little Vatiswa.
Phil the graphic designer, sensing unusual vibrations in the desk he shared with Simon, looked up hopefully. Instead of a glimpse of Vati’s receding ankle, or, even better, her actual face, his eyes locked into those of Simon Shone. Phil shuddered. There was a metaphysical compromise somewhere deep in his colleague he would never understand.