“Michael! Just the man I need to see.”
It was Bob. I like Bob. He and I worked on a project together several years ago and got to know each other a little bit. We found that we have a similar desire to not make our jobs more difficult with stupid inefficiency and a similar frustration with people who rise to management but have no flexibility and cannot see the future failure of their awful decisions. It’s a sad situation when there are no quality applicants for a management position so the vacuum just sucks up the next in line without consideration of ability.
I don’t believe, as an agency, and perhaps as a society, we have met the minimum standard for comprehension of the phrase “minimum standard.”
So Bob comes up to me and he leans in (he is much taller than I) and he turns his back to the few people in the lobby. So I’m thinking a dirty joke is coming. Bob tells a lot of dirty jokes that aren’t funny. Most of them aren’t even really dirty. Still he feels the need to whisper them as if telling jokes at work is somehow forbidden. And he says, “Your name keeps coming across my desk.”
So now I’m thinking, “Oh crap! They promised it wouldn’t, but somehow word got out that I’d been suspended. But that was three months ago. How many people know? And do they know what I did to get suspended? Or worse, are they guessing what it was? That explains why everyone’s been acting so normal; they know I’ve done something and they don’t want me to know they know so they’re acting like they always do to hide the fact that they know!”
I actually did think all of that. Bob had stopped talking because someone had come into the lobby and a said hello or something and so he turned and exchanged a few pleasantries with them. Bob is a fairly popular guy.
“Sorry about that,” he says, turning his back to the lobby again and returning his voice to a whisper. “So like I said, your name keeps coming across my desk for courtyard parking.”
“Yeah. Instead of parking in the parking deck you’re eligible for courtyard parking. Only most people don’t want it because the courtyard has no protection from the sun and in the summer it gets pretty hot inside the car. Most people I ask would rather stay in the parking deck even though they have to walk farther. So, do you want to move to the courtyard?”
“No,” I said, my heart sinking. “I…” I stammered a little. “I only drive in once a week or so.” I paused. “I… I usually take the bus, so… so I don’t want to take the space.”
“Ok, great,” he said. “I’ll pass the offer on to someone else.” And Bob walked away.
It was worse – way worse – than everyone finding out I had been suspended. Worse than the would-be gossip of everyone speculating on my crime. Worse because it apparently didn’t matter. My little rebellion against this hum-drum 9 to 5, my tiny rage against the machine, essentially went unnoticed. It was business as usual. Except that now I apparently have been here long enough to qualify for special parking. I have seniority. Like a senior citizen.
I stood there like an idiot. I forgot why I had come to the lobby. It was probably to get a drink. Only now I was too crushed to enjoy anything. The elevator door opened and I instinctively got on. As the doors were closing this younger guy slipped in. Taller than me, thinner than me. His clothes were pressed and new and brightly colored. He had a full head of hair and he was clean shaven. I guess I was staring. And I guess my stare was a little jealous and perhaps a little angry looking.
“Is there a pro…”
“You shut up,” I said. “You shut your stupid mouth.”
“I was young when I came to this job. Young and attractive with possibilities. But the job took it from me. It took it from me and it gave it all to you.”
The elevator door opened on a floor that wasn’t mine. A lady got on and I stepped off.
“I hope you choke on it,” I shouted and walked away.
“What was all that about?” the lady asked.
“I don’t know,” the guy said as the doors were closing.
I took the stairs the rest of the way to my floor. I closed the door to my office and turned the light off. Then I opened the blinds and watched the empty pool across the street until I fell asleep. It’s how I spend most of my Friday lunches.
Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t say anything to the guy in the elevator. But I thought it. I thought it hard and I’m pretty sure he knew I thought it, even though he never took his eyes off his phone. Stupid 20 year olds and their stupid faces.