Off the keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Originally published at Off The Grid In Minneapolis, Dec 21, 2012

Discuss this post in Epicurean Delights inside the Diner

I got fired from big bank Thursday, Dec 20, 2012.

Fired, for dancing, in my orange wig, on my break, an hour before the end of day at big bank, before a five-day holiday break.


It basically went down like this:

Sometime about Monday, an idea about dancing at my cramped cave-like work station, took hold in my imagination. Like all great ideas, it felt exactly right, until I had a day to think about it, flooded with all the reasons why not to, there being many. Wednesday night though, the vision took hold again, and I pulled out my dusty glitter dancing shoes, the wacky jacket and the wig, the Bose sound system, the iPod and the necessary cords. Thursday morning I packed them up, and off to the bus I went.

On the bus I wavered. Then, listening to my mp3s, I heard the two songs I would dance to and then I knew. Arriving at big bank per-usual twenty minutes early, I walked into the back break room and started preparing. I put on the shoes, the jacket and the wig; when I turned around, ready to dance to my station, there was Bob, the head manager in the department, looking at me, smiling. “Hi Bob!” I said, and he smiled again and walked out of the break room, uninterpretable, but not seeming to mind. I followed him down the aisle about six paces behind, between regular big bank employee cubicles, bouncing around like I do, to the very song that inspired the costume (which only I could hear), which had looped to that point serendipitously. Heads were turning, mouths agape or turned upward with a light in the eye, I sauntered to my station, danced awhile, while I punched in online, talking to a woman seated near me, people laughing and giggling. Then I took the gear off and went to work.

My original intention had been not to pull out the gear again, until the last five minutes of the day. But there was little work to do, people were clearing out early to go home, so I kicked up the timeline to the afternoon break.

In the meantime, I struggled against a cold sweat. Dancing in my chair to stay warm. Serendipitously too, I found this article on the website Zero Hedge, as to whether or not one can remain moral, and continue to work for a big bank. I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusion – I don’t know what a moral is, it sounds to me like a dead fish – but I do consider myself a man of integrity. Then, minutes before I started to prepare for dancing, a guy behind me was reading a loan and he said, “Look at this, this guy is a Pastor of an evangelical church and school, making $20,000 a month. His wife is a teacher at the school and makes $1000. Saving the poor and disfortunate, I guess.”

I put the jacket and the wig on (I wore the funky shoes all day), and at exactly two o’clock, I turned on the music.

The first song, Junek Bug Joe, only 2:18 long, djembe drum and mandolin based without vocals, by my friend Joe Credit, out of Missouri, or wherever he is now. (This link is to Joe’s song about coffee, the only one I could find. Blogspot doesn’t have an audio upload. You’ll get the idea.) LOL. Up tempo, up beat. Nearly every head I could see was facing me, perhaps 70 people, and most of them were smiling.

Before minute one passed, Jeffery, one of the work directors, who has a very genuine heart, leaned over the cubicle wall, and told me I needed to turn it off and take it to the break room. I asked him if I was going to get fired, and he said he didn’t know, and I told him I was going to take that chance. He tried to convince me otherwise, but there seemed in his surprise, a hint of admiration. Work Director Mark, told me to turn it down, which I did, but then I turned it up again, and then Manager Jim told me to turn it down, and I told him I couldn’t, lamely that it was my “dream” – trying to dance all this time. I turned it down, and then back up, and he stomped away angrily, “You’re not going to turn it down then, that’s just great!”

Mind you, it was never anything like so loud, that we couldn’t speak easily to each other from a distance. Some time last week, when I was sitting at a computer out in the middle of the department for a day, all three of these guys had stood around me in my chair, while we discussed, puzzled over and tried to solve a mystery about a loan I was working on. Four adult men putting their heads together to solve a problem – it was quite enjoyable actually, and the first time I felt like I connected with these guys in a very real way. Now, it was all command and control. I heard Jim saying to someone piercingly, “You aren’t taking pictures, are you?”

The first song ended, and there was a spontaneous uproar of cheering, clapping and laughter, MUCH louder than the Bose had ever been. I leaned back, cupped my hands around my mouth and projected out, smiling, “if the apocalypse is indeed upon us…I recommend…Dancing!” and there was another round of laughter.

The second song, G.B.A, by Xavier Rudd, out of Australia, began more ominously, though it basically being about making the world a better place for kids. He cusses twice, but we’re all adults here, yes? Manager Jim had fire just about blasting out from his ears, and work director Mark stalked around giving me a look, ready to pounce. As I danced, periodically berated to turn it down, turning it down, turning it back up, I could feel the vibe darkening, and watched as people disappeared back into their atomized space, fewer and fewer looking at me. Jim finally gave up and stomped back to his desk. I continued to dance, trying to maintain my own joyous vibe, letting go as I could (I could see at least one wild haired woman intent on what I was doing, the very same “true princess“) and when the song ended, there was a depressing, cold silence.

I sat down, took off the wig, jacket and shoes, packed up the gear, and punched out for the day. I saw both Jeffery and Mark standing around Jim’s desk, so I walked there to talk to them.

“What do you need?” said Mark, hostile, ready for a fight.

“I just wanted to let you guys know, It wasn’t my intention to try to show you guys up, at all. I didn’t mean any disrespect. I realize this could get me fired, but even then, no hard feelings. I punched out for the day.”

“You’re leaving for the day?” said Mark, his hostility quite suddenly vanished.

“I think that’s best. And if I don’t hear anything tonight or tomorrow, I’ll just show up next week.” Jeffrey seemed to think that was reasonable. Meanwhile, Jim was seated at his desk on the phone, scowling at me. He got off the phone, I reiterated what I had said, for his benefit, but he scowled some more and got back on the phone without saying a word.

I walked back to the break room, sat down somewhat stunned, and then prepared as if I might have to walk home, as the bus would not arrive for another 90 minutes. Mostly packed, I picked up my long underwear pants, and began walking to the bathroom.

As soon as I walked out of the break room, I saw both work directors walking down the main aisle toward me. Mark said, “hold on right there,” and I stopped, standing there with my long underwear in my hand. They rounded the corner, a woman with them, who I immediately saw by her badge, was none other than the vaunted Sheila, head dept-manager Bob’s boss, the same dragon lady who I have criticized in this blog, who I never have met, who I have been told, “never look her in the eye.”

Looking her in the eye, smiling, all three people before me prepared for a fight, she says to me, quite calmly but with the slightest edge, “Ok, what you did, you disturbed the other staff. Are you waiting for the bus?”

“I was; thinking about walking home maybe too.”

“Well we can escort you out, or I can call security.”

I laughed softly and shook my head and smiled. “That won’t be necessary; but, um, would it be ok if I slip into the bathroom for a second, and put on my long underwear?” which I was holding out in front of me in my hand, and I’m pretty sure all three of them, even dragon lady, giggled.

When I came back, dragon lady was gone, replaced by Lanni, my contact at the temp agency. She got there quick. “Hi Lanni!” I said. “So this is it, my last day at big bank?” Mark pointed at my badge, and I said, “I still need to be able to get out of the building,” and made a gesture smiling, as if to keep it, and it got awkward for a second, though not in any harsh way, Mark almost apologizing at that point. “I tried to do a good job while I was here,” I said, and Jeffery and Lanni esp. seemed to agree that I had. “I just have a very real antipathy toward big bank,” and then I wished them a happy holidays and Dec 21, Solstice, and they walked me to the door. On the way out through the revolving gate, Mark’s goodbye was loudest, out of all proportion.

Outside the gate in the stairwell, Lanni told me she had received a phone call and raced from downtown to protect her employee.

I hypothesized out loud, laughing, faux serious, “There is a lunatic dancing in an orange wig, and he’s yours. Come retrieve him.” She hadn’t heard the actual story, so I explained, briefly.

“Well that’s relieving,” she said. “Usually when people leave like this there is a lot of acrimony, shouting. You just made me laugh. After a pause, “Are you Ok?” She seemed genuinely concerned.

“I’m doing great,” and then I lied a little bit, saying that this work is “not what I am here to do.”

“When you think about it, all I was doing was dancing.” I explained the costume and how I danced outside the Halloween stores I managed. She asked about the songs. She said some people here at big bank are on edge, in lock-down mode, understandably, that she’s noticed that, everywhere she manages temp employees. She said if she hadn’t been able to come down to get me, they were going to call the police. I said thanks for showin up (though that would have been interesting. Hi Guys!), and then we said goodbye.

“Hey, it’s almost the Apocalypse, right?” I said, by way of alluding to the weirdness of it all.

She had a faraway look then, “Oh right, when is that?”

“Tomorrow.” As I started toward the door.

She turned away, but turned back. “You don’t really think the world is going to end, do you.”

“Nope,” I said, smiling, and walked out the door, seven miles home, on the heels of a Midwestern snow storm.


Looking back, my only regret is that I wasn’t singing softly on my way out of the department, the first verse from the Blind Melon song “No Rain”:

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain,

I like watchin’ the puddles gather rain.

And all I can do, is just pour some tea for two

And speak my point of view, cause it’s not sa-aane

It’s not sa-aa-aaa-aane…

That, and I guess, when Sheila walked up, I didn’t say, “Hi Sheila! We finally meet!”

There was video. My sweet friend Shelly, who I have also defended in this blog, like a true champ, pulled up a chair, right up front and got comfortable, with her phone. They chased her back to her seat, by the end of the first song, and I’m not really sure, but she may have been the one Jim interrogated about taking pictures. I called twice and she checked in by email, I asked if it would be ok with her if I posted the video here. She didn’t reply until 3:42 this morning, saying that she learned it was security policy at big bank, no pictures or video, so she deleted it. I’m kind of crushed about that. But it’s ok I guess, and there were a lot of smart phones in that space so perhaps there is a video floating around the internet somewhere. Perhaps I could petition the NSA for a copy. LOL.

Which is funny too, when I first conceived of this idea, about an announcement, it certainly wasn’t then about getting “term’d” by big bank. It was more personal, about how all I really want to do is dance around the world in an orange afro. There’s a lot more to it than that, but no room now to go into it, in this post. I will say, it feels confirmed for me now; not least as I sit here in the sun, drinking coffee, listening to the great advocate of Liberty, Wayne Lapierre of the NRA, like a a true capitalist/militant/fascist gun lobbyist, advocating for moral lock-down, a government database for the “mentally Ill,” and a full frontal, visibly military State even in the schools.

I didn’t anticipate the command and control response I got, in the specifics. I figured there was a strong chance they would fire me. I thought though, they’d just let me do my thing and then fire me. Oh well, I disarmed them, at every turn, except Jim, who is new to the job, neither of his superiors were there, and he’s got two kids, a house and a wife. The “other staff” who were the ones “disturbed,” were the regular big bank employees who could not have seen me dancing unless they came to investigate. That a djembe beat from a pot-loving starry eyed mandolin genius, a digerridoo based song about making the world a better place for kids, and a guy dancing in an orange afro wig, on a day when there had not been any work for most of us to do for several hours, would be mistaken for any of the various horsepersons of the apocalypse, shows IMHO how far gone these folks are. Though I’m sure any of them might see the error in their ways, if they would just lighten up.

To my knowledge, though, big bank has not in firing me, forgiven the mortgage payments I owe it.

So anyway, that’s what I did, at the end of the Mayan Long Count.


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