Early in the morning, Alex drives into headquarters, where Peach has called an emergency meeting with all the other plant managers in his division, presumably to announce how badly they are doing. The spring morning looks beautiful, and Alex thinks about how little he pays attention to the world around him anymore. Instead, he worries about Peach. He thinks about how different Peach used to be, so much more confident and relaxed than he is now. He and Alex even used to be friends. Now, Peach seems manic, constantly at his wit’s end. These days, he and Alex mostly scream at each other.
Alex’s sense that he doesn’t appreciate the world around him suggests that the stress of his corporate career stops him from enjoying life’s simple pleasures, demonstrating yet another cost of a corporate career. Furthermore, the fact that he and Bill Peach used to be friends but now hate each other suggests that corporate life can ruin good relationships and change people for the worse.
As Alex walks in from the parking garage, he runs into one of Peach’s staff members. The staff member shares a rumor with Alex that Granby is considering closing Peach’s entire division. If that happens, Peach will lose his job, as will every single person in the division. Alex realizes that this must be why Peach has been acting so stressed—they’re all at risk of being unemployed within months. Alex enters the meeting and sits with the other managers, including Hilton Smyth, whom Alex dislikes and who glares at Alex as he sits down. Peach and his division controller (accountant) Ethan Frost are making a presentation on the division’s poor performance. Alex reaches in his jacket for a pen to take notes but instead finds a cigar. He thinks back to the day he received it.
The possible threat of the entire division closing explains Peach’s unhinged and irate behavior, suggesting that stress from a difficult corporate career can significantly alter one’s personality. Granby’s consideration of closing the entire division threatens the livelihoods of thousands of people, demonstrating the outsized role that large corporations have on the lives of everyday people.