“You can barely keep a plant alive, Sharon,” by Salena Casha

Mar 22nd, 2023 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

You’re doing scenarios in an unconscious bias training in a Zoom breakout room with fifty people and they’ve reminded everyone to make sure you’re wearing the crocs they sent to your house a few days ago. These crocs are someone else’s crocs. They have been worn.

You can tell because they give off a faint odor of yeast.

You try to move as little as possible, hoping the socks you put on protect you from some anonymous person’s historic foot fungus. You don’t think about your own foot fungus seeping into the porous plastic. You don’t think about how they’ll reuse them in the future.

You keep wiping your palms on your yoga pants.

They say that any of the following situations which bear resemblance to your current or former coworkers are purely coincidental, but this one they’d discussing is too close to the time you saw Jen’s naked husband walk past on a kick-off call. He strode dick first. Some of the attendees did re-enactments of it on Only Fans for $10.

No one pays enough for full time gigs anymore, so you don’t blame them.

A new scenario starts and you wonder if the person they’re talking about wore these particular crocs.

“You’re in a one-on-one with your team director and she has her video on. You’re talking about a new native app function and she keeps passing something back and forth in her hands. She pauses long enough for you to notice it is a bag of hair


A.) Say nothing and instead, put a fidget spinner on the company card and Fedex it to her house.

B.) Take a screenshot as she passes the bag across the screen again and post it in a private Teams channel. Begin a lively debate of how and why she has the ziplock bag of hair in her hands.

C.) Ask your friend in IT to disable her video moving forward.

You can tell most are leaning toward B. This is not because of any particular feeling but rather because someone has already screenshotted the questions  and posted it in the private Slack channel about #coolbeats.

It is not a normal beat but you can see how it’s a cool beat.

Look what just dropped, it reads, and even though it’s a bit glam rock for a Tuesday morning, the reactions are coming through.

You add a heart on it and choose C. You have a lot of friends in IT and you can’t get in trouble for that.

They don’t tell you if there’s a right answer and move to the next.

This time, they split you into groups where you’re supposed to use a piece of paper that has lots of nouns on it like “brother, mother, college graduate, american, kink-shamer, alt right group member, fair weather hipster, Nick Cage fan, former student athlete stuck in the glory days,” and talk about which ones describe you so you can bond over your similarities. But for some reason a lot of people start with the phrase, “I don’t talk about politics so I won’t say what I believe in because it’s private. Especially not in this polarized climate with woke culture,” and suddenly, you know more about them than you wanted to.

When it’s your turn, you end up just choosing “couch potato” because you just got a new couch that you ordered six months ago and your top three favorite root vegetables are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, and new potatoes in that order. You keep an emergency potato in your breadbox at home in case you want to make fries in your air fryer.

A few people raise their eyebrows because you’re different.

Of course, there’s a requisite privilege walk, but they don’t mention race or gender or socioeconomic status because, that’s just not what we’re here for. Instead, it’s about how many plants you keep alive at one time and how many streaming services you have and if you ever lived within five miles of a Taco Bell and, because it’s all virtual, it’s hard to tell how far or close everyone is to the screen or where they started in their room or if they forgot about their virtual background and just disappeared entirely.

You’ve always lived near a Taco Bell so you disappear entirely.

From where you’re standing by your bookshelf, you hear a woman named Sharon talk about how she only subscribes to Brit Box and she has no Alexas, and she tries to explain to everyone else how she turns her lights off without voice commands when she goes to bed. They all just have no idea what she goes through everyday. Like, how can she work on top of it all when she needs to think about her pothos?

You all share a moment of reflection on her life and the fact she’s never had a Cool Ranch crunch wrap.

The closing exercise though is the one that your boss recommended you for and it’s another scenario.

“There are two data analysts with different sets of professional experience and different reviews vying for a promotion. One is a white man and one is not a white man. The one who is not a white man is promoted. What do you think about the scenario?”

You know that asking questions just gets you in trouble and everyone starts talking about how hard it is to be a white man these days in the working world and how they’ve been left behind, especially given everyone’s obsession with the new not-white James Bond. You’re thinking about the white guy who just got promoted instead of you, who is not a white guy. And then someone says, why do we have to use the word white to describe this person and everyone except you is nodding because it’s all white people and none of them have ever had to think about the color of their skin. You’d throw your crocs at the screen if they weren’t glued to your feet, at this point, wrapping you in another person’s foot fungus like it’s the final episode of The Last of Us.

You wish you could just get your brain sucked out and become someone else entirely. Maybe that was how this would end, if you’re lucky. But you’re not lucky.

Someone sighs and says, so happy this is a safe space and it leads quickly into a wrap up speech about how brave and vulnerable everyone has been and you see the tick mark move to green on your corporate education portal.

And yes, your stomach twists and there’s no blood left in your face and you don’t want to look at Sharon or anyone else’s video again as long as you work here, even though that’s not possible. Especially because Wednesday are web-cam Wednesdays. As you log off, a message appears that says:

Congratulations on completing bias training. We hope it helped you think about the world in a different way. If you can, please remove the crocs.

We cannot, unfortunately, accept feedback at this time.


Salena Casha’s work has appeared in over 50 publications in the last decade. Her most recent work can be found on FlashBack Fiction, Variety Pack, Bending Genres, Full Mood Mag, and Pithead Chapel. She survives New England winters on good beer and black coffee. Follow her on twitter @salaylay_c

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