My phone rings: it is Old-School Boss. I am nervous, but no more than usual. His formal, headmasterly tone always manages to unnerve me, and when I replace the receiver after one of our exchanges I often feel I have slipped back into the skin of the painfully shy and inarticulate schoolgirl I thought I had left far behind.
“Can you come down to my office for five minutes please?”
Something in his voice, coupled with the way in which my boss averts his eyes when I mutter that I have been summoned, alerts me to the fact that something is very wrong.
Old School Boss motions for me to close the door behind me. He doesn’t wait until I am seated to deliver the first line of his speech.
“I’m afraid I have called you here to tell you that I am obliged to terminate your employment with the firm.”
My mouth forms a perfect “O” of astonishment.
“This is because of your internet site.”
Somehow he manages to make “internet” sound like an unspeakably filthy word.
He doesn’t care to disclose how it is that the existence of petite anglaise has suddenly come to light, but I suspect the high number of page views I happened to notice last weekend by someone living in my boss’s town were not coincidental. The statistic had made me mildly nervous, but when nothing was said on Monday morning, I dismissed my fears as nothing more than a nasty bout of sitemeter-induced paranoia; an occupational hazard.
With hindsight, I realise this would have been a good time to say “but how can the firm be identified?” However at that precise moment my synapses probably resemble a game of join the dots.
He adds, almost as an afterthought, that he also has reason to believe I had accessed my blog during working hours.
I am handed a letter to read and sign, which invites me to attend a dismissal interview the following week. There is a phrase I do not understand, “mise à pied conservatoire”, the horrible significance of which only becomes clear once I get hold of a dictionary, at home. I have been suspended without pay, pending my dismissal interview for gross misconduct*. The kind of grizzly fate usually reserved for people who endanger the lives of other employees, turn up to work under the influence or embezzle funds.
“I’m going to have to ask you to collect your belongings, and you will then leave immediately.”
I take a few moments to gather my wits. Cheeks flaming, I slowly make my way back upstairs.
Curiously, when I return to my desk to start gathering up my personal effects, my boss is nowhere to be seen.
*This was revised ten days later to “licenciement pour cause réelle et sérieuse – perte de confiance” – (dismissal for real and serious cause – breakdown of trust). Something of a relief as gross misconduct involves immediate dismissal, whereas “cause réelle” involved a paid notice period during which my presence in the office was not deemed necessary.