Friday, December 9, 2011


I used to work in one of the great software houses of central Jersey, all during the eighties. Actually I worked in two of the great software houses. The first one, in a fit of wild prosperity, built a palatial corporate headquarters where everyone had an office with a door and all the best computer equipment. In the middle of the software palace was a huge atrium with gardens and trees, tended by a gardening service. Young women in gardening service uniforms used to come in to feed and water the trees, murmuring to them lovingly. I played opera tapes in my office with the door closed while I worked. No one could hear them but me.

I sold a couple of novels. At home I had an adorable young child with whom I wanted to spend more time. And so I left the software house for a year or so to try to make a living writing mysteries. When the money ran out I went back.

In my absence, the prosperous software house had fallen on hard times – overextended, perhaps – and another software house had bought it. New people were in charge, ruthless people, creatures from Mordor almost. The trees were gone. Three-quarters of the old employees were gone. A new crowd had joined the remnants of the old crowd, the survivors of another brutal corporate takeover. Walking the halls, wandering in the atrium, I saw shock and despair on the faces of everyone I met. If I ran into one of my old colleagues, we would greet each other like survivors of a disaster. You! You're alive!

People continued to be fired. Supervisors were forced to rank their staff and let the lowest go. Two thugs from security together with the Human Resources director in his funeral suit would appear at the door to your brand-new cubicle (the offices with doors had been torn out) and escort you to the parking lot. That was so you wouldn't trigger the virus you were presumed to have installed to bring down the company. Because of course you hated the company. Everybody hated the company.

And now Christmas was coming.

We still had an hour for lunch, and we had a large space on the ground floor off the atrium where the fitness equipment used to be before the new management got rid of it as a frivolous waste of time, a space where we could meet and sing together. A bunch of us decided to give a Christmas, or should I say holiday, concert. We rehearsed, among other things, the Hallelujah Chorus. Every lunch hour we would get together, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and sing the Hallelujah Chorus, one of the noblest expressions of human hope and joy in Western culture. We delighted in the beauty of one another's voices. It was sublime.

The day of the so-called Christmas party, or holiday party, arrived. Possibly there were company-supplied refreshments, I can't recall. Our choir assembled on the floor of the atrium, among the stumps of dead trees and ruined gardens, and sang a few secular numbers, Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland. Peering down at us, impatient for everyone to get back to work, was the boss. He was not the uber-boss, for Sauron himself was squatting in his lair in the main corporate headquarters in another state. But he was the boss of that particular facility. And he was looking down on us in disapproval, because we were not at work serving the software house.

We sang the Hallelujah Chorus, as loud as we could. The sound penetrated to the farthest reaches of the building, maybe even to the Human Resources office. People came out of their cubicles and looked over the railing. You can't sit down during the Hallelujah Chorus.

I think about that event sometimes, when the state of the country looks dark. You may think you have us under your heel now, but the kingdom of our God is at hand. Everybody sing.

Kate Gallison

(reposted from


  1. What a wonderful background in the world of computers. You're so lucky to have had that . tjs

  2. I still can't sing, Kate. I wept instead. Merry Christmas! THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS.

  3. I agree with tjs and of course, Annamaria, but I also can see a collection of stories, short and long coming from that soft ware company experience!! It's great that even in the middle of despair music can spring up and make it all feel better, even is just for a short while!! Keep the music on at all times!!!