Ezra Titus

1966 – 2009

Florida Department of Sewage and Wastewater — Terminations.

“Florida Department of Sewage and Wastewater — Terminations.”

That’s how I answer the phone at work. I started working here at the Florida Department of Sewage about six weeks ago. On the second day, I was promoted to head of the Licensing Department because I wear a tie. Then, about three days later, I was promoted again (probably for the same reason) and given what they call, “The Terminator Job.” I fire people. Overall, there are about 10,000 employees, statewide, and I execute about 30 of them every week.

When we’re having trouble with an employee, I send out one of three letters: The usual termination letter is a Microsoft Word file that my assistant, Denise, designated as “b normal.” The two other form letters are, “b nice” and “b harsher. Denise graduated from High School last summer, as is evidenced by her idiosyncratic spelling style. For example, she handed me a phone message yesterday, and beside the message were some doodles of hearts and stars, and this: “Denise + Randy = 2 cute 2 B 4-ever.” Wouldn’t it be efficient if we could spell every term in every romantic equation with a single letter?

The letters are applied as follows: We have district managers with bank accounts they can use for business related expenses. If they start writing checks to their babysitters and dentists, we send out “b normal.” It says they’re terminated, but if the “b normal” people call us up, beg to keep their jobs and make amends insofar as their bank accounts are concerned, we keep them on. Denise codes them in our terminations log as “NATW,” meaning, “Not all the way.”

If someone resigns, we send out “b nice,” wishing them luck and politely asking them to send in their operator’s licenses so that we can terminate them with the state. “b harsher” is for those we fire for lying about their office locations, falsifying their records or plain old “gross incompetence.” The “b harsher” letter essentially says that unless you kill yourself within five business days, we’ll sue you for so many different things that you’ll wish you had. Also, there’s a letter for someone who has died – “d ceased.” It goes to the spouse or next of kin and expresses our condolences. Denise is in the habit of adding a status code to the dead peoples’ termination entries in the log. She writes, “Died – All the way.”

When somebody has been terminated “all the way,” we send out a blast email to everyone here at the corporate office, letting them know who’s gone so that they won’t be confused in the future when they try to contact that office. Denise writes the emails:

“2/27/05 — Nina Hackett has been a bad girl, and now she is gone forever.”

I find these emails amusing, but yesterday’s topped them all. I forwarded it to myself at home, and here it is:

“Just to everyone — I have attached a list of people who were eliminated this week. So if I faxed you a hard copy before, two extras will not be on the.

Assistant Terminator”

I guess something caught her attention in the middle of that last sentence.

Sometimes, people who are terminated “all the way” call to beg for their jobs back, but it’s too late. Denise has already highlighted their names in the log, which means they can “never, ever come back.” So, no matter what they say, they can no longer be employed by the Florida Department of Sewage and Wastewater. I took these phone calls, but because I was new to the job, I wasn’t getting them out of the way fast enough (according to Denise).

One day, I was struggling with a weeping, screaming man on the phone and getting nowhere. Denise was standing there watching me, waiting for me to initial some papers. At one point, she grabbed the phone out of my hand and said to the man on the phone, “Listen. We’re not gonna’ hold your hand. You screwed up, so just cough up your license! You’re holding up the program here.” — She slammed the phone down and said, “That’s how you really do it.” — I’d be lost without Denise.

After a while, Denise and I got so good at terminating people, we were doing it like Japanese robots. We could have “termed” everyone who worked there in three weeks, which is why they stopped us. So, then, I had nothing to do, and I wrote this at work. Take that, Florida Department of Sewage and Wastewater! Work became a daily nothing. I couldn’t stand it. Sitting there watching my screen-saver all day was slowly driving me insane.

Yes, I could click around on the Internet, but that only entertained me for about 90 minutes. After that, I’d have 1,000 more hours to spend in a cognitive void, under fluorescent lights. I wished there were more people to terminate, and eventually, there would be.