It was 2003, or maybe late 2002, and all employees were sent to training sessions to learn about respecting one another. In the spirit of mutual respect, we were told, a new program was starting up. Inspired by the acronym E.A.G.E.R. (Everyone Always Gets Equal Respect, isn't that clever?), the Administration had reared back and created the "Eager Beaver" award.
(No, wait, it gets better.)
Here's how it would work. There were three "Eager Beaver" awards, which would be sent out to three deserving staffers who had...demonstrated respect? deserved respect? inspired respect in others? The criteria were a bit vague. Each of those staffers would pick another deserving recipient and send the Beaver award along. And so it would go, like a great game of tag, until everyone had received the award.
To add to the fun, each Beaver award came with a little notebook detailing its travels. When you sent someone the award, you were supposed to write the date, the recipient's name, and what they had done to deserve the honor. Everyone who received the award was supposed to share these inspirational anecdotes with those around them. The result would be a positive pandemic of respect.
And the trophy that our administration chose to symbolize how much they respected us?
A stuffed beaver.
Three of them, in fact. In airtight tupperware containers.
I am NOT making this up.
Each E.A.G.E.R. Beaver Award was an actual plush beaver stuffed animal, about half lifesize (as near as anyone could tell).
Perhaps the definitive statement on the whole concept was made by an anonymous coworker at the meeting I attended. (No, it wasn't me.) When the administration proudly showed off the Beaver triplets nestled in their adorable little coffins, the staff's stunned silence was broken by a female voice saying, "Oh, my, what an unfortunate choice of animal."
Unfortunate or not, the E.A.G.E.R. Beaver awards continued for over a year. (One staffer joked that E.A.G.E.R. really stood for "Everyone Always Gets Exasperating Rodents.")
In their travels, the Beavers somehow acquired various accoutrement. One got multiple piercings in ears, nose, tail...any appendage that stuck out. Another showed up with a beehive wig and a tiny cigarette. And yet another one didn't survive his journey: when the coffin was opened, his eyes were little X's and there was a stake in his heart.
After a while, the originator and champion of the E.A.G.E.R. Beaver award parlayed her success into a cushy position as Director of a cozy little town library somewhere in the wild of New England, where presumably she was able to watch real beavers in their natural habitat.
Her poor successor not only had to keep the E.A.G.E.R. Beaver award going (on life support, as it were), but she had to deal with an increasing barrage of beaver-related humor.
First, there was a letter from the law firm of Castor, Canadensis, and Claustrum. Although this entry is getting long, I feel honor-bound to quote:
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dentis T. Canadensis of the law firm of Castor, Canadensis, and Claustrum.
It has come to our attention that our client, Bucky B. Beaver, has been in the employ of [your organization] for several years without receiving the pay that is legally due him.
We calculate that Mr. Beaver has served at least 5,850 hours without due recompense for his services. At Federal Minimum Wage of $5.15/hour, Mr. Beaver’s back pay currently amounts to $30,127.50.
If you do not remit the above sum in a prompt manner, our firm will have no choice but to begin legal proceedings.
Please note: In lieu of the full sum of $30,127.50, the equivalent in birch and soft pine is also acceptable.
I anxiously await your reply.
Next, a new casket appeared on her desk, with a previously-unknown stuffed beaver and the attached note:
Hello. I am Betty Beaver.
My ex-husband, Bucky Beaver, has not paid child support for the last three years. The no-good son-of-a-gun ran out on me in 2001, and I’ve been looking for him ever since.
Recently, someone told me that he was working for your [organization].
So where is the b*st*rd?? I’m not leaving until I get some answers!
Postcards began arriving from Bucky Beaver, sent from various locations all around the country. Most were variations on the theme "Having a great time, wish you were here."
Eventually I found a source for plush beaver finger puppets and ordered a dozen or so. They started showing up in interoffice mail, each holding a little sign that said "Where is my daddy?"
In the fullness of time, with an upcoming full staff meeting and its associated gathering of the clans, the administration issued a memo calling for the return of the Three Beavers. Then there was another memo, its tone a trifle more pleading. Finally came the personal appeal, passed down through the Managers: where are the Beavers?
To my knowledge, only one of the Beavers was ever recovered in one piece. I believe its remains were cremated in a private ceremony.
And that is the story of the short-lived E.A.G.E.R. Beaver award.