A true story.
The “Occupy” movement may have started on Wall Street, but protests against corporate greed have spread across the globe and given special-interest groups a voice. On Thursday afternoon, at the corner of Bay and King, the Poly Placements team inadvertently started its own crusade: Occupy Lobbies. Intersections were closed. Front doors were locked. News teams were on hand.
Part of the company’s corporate ethos is the notion of success through congeniality and the personal relationships developed with clients. In the spirit of Samhain, on a crisp autumn day, the Poly crew decided to go in costume to hand out Halloween candy to members of its corporate family.
Sometimes a costume is just a costume.
The costumes du jour were bright orange prison uniforms, with members of the Poly team adding temporary tattoos and (itchy) bandanas to complete their menacing looks. Despite the symbolic teardrops and flaming skulls that covered most of our exposed skin, none of us looked as if we would last a day in the “big house”. Whether it was all the smartphones and designer handbags, or the gross lack of shivs, the group had a bit of a correctional-facility-chic look to it. Luckily, tangerine is the “it” colour for spring/summer 2012.
The first few stops on the Polymate parade were in Mississauga, where we were warmly received. Consultants chuckled, recruiters and recruits chit-chatted, and employees from nearby departments peeked around cubicle walls to get a glimpse of the Pumpkin Day pageant. Even when the inmates of Cell Block P were released back into society for a coffee break, the smiles and gentle barbs from Tim Hortons patrons made it easy to acclimatize to life on the outside. Tripping on glucose and compliments, we had pep in our collective step, as the tour through suburbia was an unequivocal success. The downtown leg was another story.
There was a sense of unease in the air as we approached the financial district. The grins and good-tidings from the 905ers gave way to blank stares and the occasional derisive look from the 416 crowd. We soon found out why.
As our costumes offered little in the way of insulation, we decided to use the underground PATH to get between destinations. Evidently, security took issue with our plan, as we were met at the door by two guards, with a third eventually joining them. It seemed that some Occupy Toronto protesters were planning to drop in on Ed Clark and his Bay Street friends, and we apparently did not make the guest list. Though the shunning put a bit of a damper on our day, we certainly appreciated their concern for safety, so we took back to the street to continue our journey.
Our wardrobe-fuelled predicament came to a head when we arrived at Bay and King just as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and others, were making a special delivery: the occupation of the busiest intersection in the financial district. When the protesters saw us standing on the corner, they naturally invited us to join them. Their interpretation was understandable; after all, the prison uniform is a time-honoured symbol of the tyranny of the elite.
Mr. Big: A candy bar, not a movement.
But alas, the prison garb was not meant as a provocative social comment about our imprisonment by the chosen 1%, nor did the candy represent the cheap thrills of a capitalist system whose temporary sweetness would ultimately leave society toothless and bloated. We politely declined the invitation to be civilly disobedient and scurried across the suddenly jammed protest site to the office of some nearby clients, avoiding the dozen or so TV cameras that were there to capture the incident.
Much of the rest of the day was spent occupying lobbies, and we got to know many of the security guards in the area (Ed. note: it was rather amusing to see the company president try to explain our situation with a tattoo across her neck). In the end, the waiting was merely a minor inconvenience, and we eventually finished our confection crusade to great acclaim, bringing another memorable day at Poly Placements to a close. Though we would certainly like to help recruit the 99%, our coincidental association with the Occupy Toronto movement has given us a lot to think about when we choose next year’s costumes.
Guest post by Geoffrey Gilbert, a recruiter and inmate here at Poly Placements.