Home > Disclosure(13)

Author: Michael Crichton

Lewyn said, "`M'e're trying to cheer up Tom, Stephanie."

Kaplan took a seat, and gave Sanders a sympathetic smile. She didn't speak.

Lewyn said, "Did you know this Meredith Johnson appointment was coming?"

"No," Kaplan said. "It was a surprise to everybody. And not everybody's happy about it." Then, as if she had said too much, she opened her briefcase, and busied herself with her notes. As usual, she slid into the background; the others quickly ignored her.

"Well," Cherry said, "I hear Garvin's got a real thing for her. Johnson's only been with the company four years, and she hasn't been especially outstanding. But Garvin took her under his wing. Two years ago, he began moving her up, fast. For some reason, he just thinks Meredith Johnson is great.''

Lewyn said, "Is Garvin fucking her?"

"No, he just likes her."

"She must be fucking somebody."

"Wait a minute," Mary Anne Hunter said, sitting up. "What's this? If Garvin brought in some guy from Microsoft to run this division, nobody'd say he must be fucking somebody."

Cherry laughed. "It'd depend on who he was."

"I'm serious. Why is it when a woman gets a promotion, she must be fucking somebody?"

Lewyn said, "Look: if they brought in Ellen Howard from Microsoft, we wouldn't be having this conversation because we all know Ellen's very competent. We wouldn't like it, but we'd accept it. But nobody even knows Meredith Johnson. I mean, does anybody here know her?"

"Actually," Sanders said, "I know her."

There was silence.

"I used to go out with her."

Cherry laughed. "So you're the one she's fucking."

Sanders shook his head. "It was years ago."

Hunter said, "What's she like?"

"Yeah," Cherry said, grinning lasciviously. "What's she like?"

"Shut up, Don."

"Lighten up, Mary Anne."

"She worked for Novell when I knew her," Sanders said. "She was about twentyfive. Smart and ambitious."

"Smart and ambitious," Lewyn said. "That's fine. The world's full of smart and ambitious. The question is, can she run a technical division? Or have we got another Screamer Freeling on our hands?"

Two years earlier, Garvin had put a sales manager named Howard Freeling in charge of the division. The idea was to bring product development in contact with customers at an earlier point, to develop new products more in line with the emerging market. Freeling instituted focus groups, and they all spent a lot of time watching potential customers play with new products behind one-way glass.

But Freeling was completely unfamiliar with technical issues. So when confronted with a problem, he screamed. He was like a tourist in a foreign country who didn't speak the language and thought he could make the locals understand by shouting at them. Freeling's tenure at APG was a disaster. The programmers loathed him; the designers rebelled at his idea for neon-colored product boxes; the manufacturing glitches at factories in Ireland and Texas didn't get solved. Finally, when the production line in Cork went down for eleven days, Freeling flew over and screamed. The Irish managers all quit, and Garvin fired him.

"So: is that what we have? Another Screamer?"

Stephanie Kaplan cleared her throat. "I think Garvin learned his lesson. Ile wouldn't make the same mistake twice."

"So you think Meredith Johnson is up to the job?"

"I couldn't say," Kaplan replied, speaking very deliberately.

"Not much of an endorsement," Lewyn said.

"But I think she'll be better than Freeling," Kaplan said.

Lewyn snorted. "This is the Taller Than Mickey Rooney Award. N ou can still be very short and win."

"No," Kaplan said, "I think she'll be better."

Cherry said, "Better-looking, at least, from what I hear."

"Sexist," Mary Anne Hunter said.

"What: I can't say she's good-looking?"

"We're talking about her competence, not her appearance."

"Wait a minute," Cherry said. "Coming over here to this meeting, I pass the women at the espresso bar, and what are they talking about? Whether Richard Gere has better buns than Mel Gibson. They're talking about the crack in the ass, lift and separate, all that stuff. I don't see why they can talk about-"

"We're drifting afield," Sanders said.

"It doesn't matter what you guys say," Hunter said, "the fact is, this company is dominated by males; there are almost no women except Stephanie in high executive positions. I think it's great that Bob has appointed a woman to run this division, and I for one think we should support her." She looked at Sanders. "We all love you, Tom, but you know what I mean."

"Yeah, we all love you," Cherry said. "At least, we did until we got our cute new boss."

Lewyn said, "I'll support Johnsonif she's any good."

"No you won't," Hunter said. "You'll sabotage her. You'll find a reason to get rid of her."

"Wait a minute"

"No. What is this conversation really about? It's about the fact that you're all pissed off because now you have to report to a woman."

"Mary Anne . . ."

"I mean it."

Lewyn said, "I think Tom's pissed off because he didn't get the job." "I'm not pissed off," Sanders said.

"Well, I'm pissed off," Cherry said, "because Meredith used to be Tom's girlfriend, so now he has a special in with the new boss."

"Maybe." Sanders frowned.

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