Encounters in Publishing #5: The Germans are Coming! by Liz Mathews

I took a Monday off a week or so ago, and on my next morning back I ran into a coworker in the elevator. “The Germans are coming tomorrow,” she told me. “We have to be in at 9:00.”

At first I had no idea who she was referring to. Did we have a German author I’d forgotten about? Or maybe the Flatiron had been sold to Germans, and not Italians like I’d previously heard? I looked at her funny.

Then I remembered that when I get paid, my paycheck gets automatically deposited in my bank account from Holtzbrinck. Those Germans were coming.

“Why 9:00?” I asked, panicking a little. Typically we were supposed to show up by 9:30…when we made it on time.

“Tom requested it. He wants us all to be in our offices, working like good employees when they arrive.” Tom is our publisher.

“I don’t think I can do that,” I said. The elevator doors opened. We’d arrived at the 14th floor.

When I checked my work email that morning, sure enough there was a note from my boss requesting our presences bright and early the following AM. “Let me know if this is not possible. You’ll be allowed to leave at 5:00, in return.”

Had it been up to me, 9:00 wouldn’t have been a huge deal. If I’m honest, I could probably be at work everyday at that time but for my desire to prance about my apartment for an hour and a half before leaving (this is true—this is a thing I do). However, this particular week I was on a cat’s schedule. That is, some friends were out of town and their cat has diabetes and is on a strict food and insulin shot schedule: 8:30 in the morning and 8:30 at night. They asked me to take care of him. They also offered me money, which is why I said yes. Anyway, the cat wouldn’t allow me to get to work by 9:00.

I emailed my boss to explain the situation. “Were it not for the cat,” I wrote, “I’d be happy to be here so early. But I think I’m going to be late.” She didn’t respond.

By the end of the day I was having visions of being locked out of my office the following morning, a box of my things waiting for me with a note hastily scribbled in a German accent. “You are not a worthy employee,” it would say. “Everyone but you was here and diligently at work, and that is unacceptable.” So I went into my boss’s office to plead my case.

“Oh, yeah, no problem,” she told me. “Everyone knows we’re the last publisher to get here in the morning—I don’t know who chose to have them visit us first. Don’t worry about it.” She looked at me frankly. “That cat needs you.”

So the next morning I dressed smartly in black and white, and headed out. It just so happened to be pouring that day—of course, on the day I’m supposed to look nice for the Germans. I fed the cat and gave him his insulin shot, and then went to work. All were in their snazziest slacks and skirts and shirts (except for one, I later noticed, who was at least wearing her nicer sweatpants), and most were working quietly at their desks. I saw no Germans.

“They haven’t even come over here yet,” my coworker from the elevator told me. It was 9:35. As it turned out, the Germans didn’t walk past our side of the office at all.


Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.