CHARLESTON, SC—Seth Poole's employee-identification card is a revealing indicator of the toll that two years of work at Blue Juice, Inc. has taken on the internal auditor's appearance and overall health, sources close to the 37-year-old revealed Monday.
"I happened to see Seth's ID sitting on his desk the other day, and I let out a gasp that could be heard across the hall," Blue Juice accountant Joan Brandywine said. "It didn't look like the same person. I thought, 'Dear God, what happened to that young, vibrant man who walked into the May 2002 employee-orientation session?'"
Blue Juice, whose sales topped $50 million last year, is one of the fastest-growing organic-juice brands in the country. Hired by Blue Juice CEO Benjamin Valdavia, Poole said he was initially excited to join the small but rapidly expanding company.
Poole's ID card, however, reveals his growing disillusionment with both Valdavia and Blue Juice. Assigned the task of assisting Valdavia in the expansion of the company's operations in order to ready it for a broader domestic market, Poole said he soon found his job to be "less engaging" than he had originally expected. As evidenced by the ID, over the course of 24 months on the job, Poole was transformed from a boyish-looking 35 to a haggard, sallow 37.
Other Blue Juice staff members who have seen the card attest to Poole's dramatic aging.
"That ID shows a man who's excited to be working for a company that offers a high-quality, all-natural product," executive assistant Mandy Keefer said. "That's not really what Seth is like. Not anymore. At our last team meeting, Seth kept repeating that the package redesign we're planning is a big waste of money that the company doesn't have. Then he said, 'I don't know why I even bother coming in to work.' I'll bet he can blame at least a couple of those crow's feet of his on those redesign prototypes."
Keefer estimated that, every time Valdavia says "vision can't be charted on spreadsheets," Poole loses 75 hairs.
"Yesterday, I walked into the breakroom and found Seth leaning over the donuts, picking frosting off a Long John, and mumbling, 'If Ben does his fishing-out-of-his-wastebasket gag one more time, I walk,'" Keefer added. "It wasn't pretty."
Jason Marshall, a security guard in the building where Blue Juice is headquartered, said he was initially confused by the image on Poole's ID card.
"I saw this old guy flashing some young guy's ID, so I stopped him," Marshall said. "Once I saw the photo up close, I could tell it was [Poole]. Man, the last couple years have been hard on that guy."
While Poole seemed unaware of the dramatic change in his appearance, he did report that his health has taken a turn for the worse in recent months. He said he developed a duodenal ulcer earlier this year, shortly after he discovered that Valdavia had extorted cash from the company's 401K matching fund for renovations on his Vermont lake house.
"When I found out [about the embezzlement], I said to him, in a tone of voice you'd reserve for a child, 'Ben, you know this is stealing, right?'" Poole said, his scowl forming deep lines on his forehead. "And he said, 'How was it stealing when I paid it back within a month?' So I asked Ben if he had heard of any of those recent corporate financial scandals, and he answered that those companies were publicly owned, whereas most of his assets are tied up in Blue Juice. He thought that meant he was entitled to borrow from the employee-retirement account fund for personal reasons."
Poole's face has also borne the ravages of his boss' inconsistently implemented "open communication" policy; Valdavia's recent declaration to investors that, unbeknownst to his staff, an IPO was imminent; and his tendency to call Poole into his office for lengthy chit-chats when Poole is about to leave for the night.
Poole's photo ID does not tell the whole story of his decline. The face on his card only hints at the 10 pounds now missing from his once-muscular body.
"I used to go to the gym, but I haven't seen the inside of Gold's since we started on this new distribution structure," Poole said. "I used to eat fairly healthy, too, but I've grown pretty accustomed to snacking on whatever's in the breakroom all day and then grabbing some McDonald's on the way home. I always pair it with a 32-ounce Coke. That's right—sugary, empty-calorie-laden Coke. I refuse to choke down another fucking Blue Juice as long as I live."
Leo Drake, president of Safeguard Solutions, the security-consultant firm that sold Blue Juice its ID-card machine, recommends that companies update their employees' photo IDs annually to prevent a "reverse Dorian Gray" effect.
"Regularly renewed IDs will reflect the subject's likeness with greater accuracy, improving the ID's functionality as a tool for identity verification," Drake said. "In addition, employees won't be confronted every day with proof of their ongoing personal decline."
Drake added: "By no means should employees be allowed to keep their old IDs, lest they make the connection between their workplace struggles and their unnaturally aged appearances."