Part one here. Part two there. Current story somewhere below.
Ah, there’s nothing like the salty, fruity aroma of sweaty armpits to put you in the mood for a 6-hour workday. Ignoring the leering guy swaying next to me as I stood on the bus headed for my clerical assistant job, I instead concentrated my attention on the sitting accountant flicking open her switchblade and stabbing the top of her briefcase that had a picture of her grinning boss. Her high-pitched laughter sent tingles through my nervous body.
Oh, this should be a fun day.
By the time I reached downtown Pittsburgh, I felt the need for a Valium along with the rest of the crying and moaning people. I disembarked from my chugging chariot and saw strange chalk drawings on the cement near my new place of employment. Curious to see what the graffiti artist had drawn, I placed one foot on the windowsill and climbed up to get a bird’s-eye view.
A chalk outline in the shape of a human body.
It was a really good outline. I climbed down from the sill and pushed on the doorhandle.
The door didn’t open as I had expected. I rammed my forehead into the unmoving glass. With a nice red bump forming, I jiggled the handle. Locked.
There are only two reasons why a company locks their doors during business hours.
1: To keep out disgruntled customers carrying semiautomatics.
2: To keep out disgruntled past employees carrying semiautomatics.
Narrowing my eyes suspiciously, I walked toward the intercom. My thumb pressed the button as the piercing, static shriek filled the air. Nearby, women screamed in terror, infants spoke in tongues, and grown men collapsed to the sidewalk crying.
Well, despite the numerous omens that morning, I shrugged off the sight while assuming the commotion resulted from another year we would have to endure with the Pittsburgh Pirates losing streak. *17 NOW. THEY’RE UP TO 17 STRAIGHT YEARS OF LOSING! Put down the baseball bats and take up fishing, boys. Oh, wait. They would have to swing a rod. This might be too tough for the team.*
Anyway, two female voices spoke . . . to each other, “Yes? No, Erin, I got it.”
“No, Vicki, I’m downstairs anyway.”
“Hey, did you hear about Jessica from accounting?”
“Well, she had all these strange marks on her briefcase and there’s a picture of our boss in her cubicle with the eyes gouged out.”
“Yes! And she’s just sitting there, grinning and humming the 1812 overture.”
“That is so weird. I was going to ask her if I could borrow her switchblade.”
Not sure which conjoined twin to address first, I cleared my throat until they heard it above the static. Then I said, “I’m Michelle Hickman. The new assistant.”
The silence lasted for a minute and then someone sighed. “You poor deluded soul. Would you like red roses or white lilies for your grave site?”
“Erin, you shouldn’t say that! You’ll scare her off.”
“Vicki, she should know what she’s in store for.”
“But we’re not permitted to speak of . . . THAT FLOOR.”
“I didn’t say anything about . . . THEM.”
BUZZ! The door unlocked as I hurried to grab the handle. Three seconds I waited, debating if I should walk in. Then a gas company truck drove by as both men pointed fingers at me and laughed.
I walked inside the building. It had three floors, each for a different department.
First floor: Sales & Accounting
Second floor: Promotion
Third floor: Production
I strolled down the narrow hallway while listening to the sales manager who cracked his whip. Hunkered in their cubicles, the sales team made calls cajoling people to separate themselves from their money and give it to the company for no other reason because the sales people get paid on commission and the gas company screwed them over too. I headed upstairs to the second floor - my new home.
From the Production department, the woman smiled and walked by as she entered the Promotion section. She walked up to each desk and shook the person’s hand before turning around and coming back toward me. She gave a little wave and said, “Hi, I’m Lori. Nice to meet you. I’m quitting today.” Then she left.
Well, that wasn’t encouraging.
Reluctant to be there now, I scuffed shoes across the floor and entered my department. They had five people in the room: manager, assistant manager, secretary, tech support, and the in-house person who scanned through documents. They also had three other hired people who helped the in-house person but they worked from home.
I approached my manager and shook her hand, electrocuting her on the static charge I had built up when scuffing my shoes on the rug. While rubbing her hand trying to get rid of the numbness, she said I had to leave.
“Um . . . what?”
“You have to go to the other building to fill out your tax information,” she explained.
I scratched my head. “Um . . . why? I’ve already signed my soul in blood to the IRS long ago. And I thought I had to fill out everything here?”
“Oh, we’re just a subsidiary company to the main corporation. So to engage in illegal activities, er, I mean for you to work here, you have to go to the other building.”
She gave me the directions and I left for the other building where I filled out my paperwork. Then I returned, chatted to the conjoined twins again (who thought I had made a break for freedom), and returned to the second floor. The manager introduced me to the other employees: assistant manager “Bill,” secretary “Sara,” in-house “Terry,” and computer tech “Ralph.” *Of course these are fake names.*
Well, supposedly, the managers had been talking about my resume with the other people in the department and Ralph learned that I had a computer programming background. Since this was right before the Y2K scare, he was in charge of updating all the systems for the hoaxed COMPUTER DATE ARMAGEDDON in which all systems would crash around the world and airplanes would fall from the sky.
*snort . . . I knew such crap wasn’t going to happen. But did Bill Gates listen to me? NOOOO!*
Anyway, Ralph eagerly thought he had a scapegoat, um, eager assistant to push his task onto. He took out his programming sheets from the file cabinet and tried to work reverse psychology on me, insulting me as if I didn’t know anything about computers while hoping I would get angry enough to brag about my vast knowledge - hence taking over his duties.
I wasn’t getting paid to do his job. I took the papers, scanned over them, and then handed them back. I stared straight into his eyes and said with all seriousness.
“Soorr-yee, Senor. No comprende.”
Everyone laughed, except Ralph. He snorted and shoved the papers back into the cabinet. I sat at my new desk, fully aware I made at least one new best friend on my first day. I was now ready for anything, until the manager, “Annie,” took out the ankle chains and pointed at the copier machine.
Damn . . .
End. Part. Three. Part. Four. Tuesday. Police. Arrive. To. Take. Away. Employee.