The Long Journey, Part Three

Part One

Part Two

My attention was diverted for an unacceptably long time. Somehow, I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that there was nothing in the conference room to deal with spills. My eyes shot over the details: table, chairs, phone in the center, the bland little cabinet, the television and… was that a VCR? One terrible fern, all alone and shoved in a corner, leaning sadly toward the doorway because there were no windows. The beer puddled on the table. I thought about moving the fern to the edge of the table, to bulldoze the beer into its pot. Is it possible for plants to get drunk? Better not to get its hopes up.

Moof had been staring at me as I contemplated. “You,” he said, pointing a thin finger at the dark stain on my crotch, “have pissed yourself. And you’re going to smell like Miller for a while, which will just reinforce the perception.”

I thought he would find this hilarious, but he seemed sober. “I probably shouldn’t have been rolling a warm beer can around,” I said. “Sorry for the mess; you got a towel or something in that cabinet?”

“So this is what I’m saying. What do people want to see? What do they not want to see? And most importantly, how will they act based on what they see, based on their perception? Their perception of very limited data?” This last with another pointed finger. “If we go into the street right now, people will see two men in casual work clothes strolling along, talking. We probably look and move like Americans to them, but already they’re starting to make assumptions. Let’s say we go into a restaurant, and the host notices the smell of beer, my breath and your pants. We know neither one of us is drunk, but what about his perception? Two Americans, smelling of beer, in the middle of the day? And one of them with a wet crotch? Nobody in this town is going to seat us. We’d be lucky if he didn’t call the police.”

“This is all pretty standard stuff, Moof.”

“Okay, fine. Tell me again why you’ve come all this way?”

“Human Resources wants to know why you’re able to meet your numbers when no one else has been able to, given the resources and business environment.”

“Right. That’s your perception. Based on very limited data. But again, do they really care about how? Does it really matter that it’s me getting results? You said yourself, no one even told you it was me running this office, and I saw the surprise all over you when you saw me. So I’m going to tell you that all they want to see are results in line with what they expect. Because they’ve seen better, they’ve sent you out here to find out why, but even that is a farce, because what they want to see is a two-page memo from you explaining it and offering three bullet point recommendations and an alternate. And that’s a report no one is ever going to read. It’ll just get attached to the travel orders and filed. Everyone’s boxes checked, and back to normal.”

It was hard to figure him. I felt a little like the fern.

“Fine, perception, expectations. What am I supposed to write in this memo that no one is ever going to read?”

“You’re creative,” Curtis said. “Dream something up. Make sure to use the words ‘opportunity’ and ‘synergy’ and ‘effective resource controls’.”

“I can’t just make up some bullshit. The company’s paying, and a cash expense account to boot.”

“Oh, I think you can do it. I know you can do it. Remember that oral interview assignment?”

I blanked. I looked up and to the left. I couldn’t—

“The assignment was to interview someone in the business, someone established, cold-call them and get them to do a five.”

He was talking about college. “Oh,” I said. “Yeah, well that was different.”

“What was the name of your interview subject? Do you remember?”

I had to smile. “She was female, and in her fifties, and a designer.”

“You don’t remember because you fabricated every bit of that assignment. You did the tiniest bit of research. You guessed the professor might check up, but she couldn’t check on everyone, and the most time she’d be willing to spend was about five minutes. You guessed if you set up two or maybe three true/false things to verify, she’d assume the whole thing was legit. And you did the whole thing from our dorm room the day before it was due, and you were absolutely fucking right. You gave her what she wanted to see.”

“Well, there was no Internet then.”

“Oh, please. That just makes it easier.”

“And it was just a class. And it was an unfair, stupid assignment.”

Moof Curtis smiled. “True. This is bigger. We’re going to make a real difference in this district. It’ll be fair, not stupid, and it’s going to pay you just under ten thousand dollars a week.”

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About ernestwhile

I live in New York City. I built a world of Lego bricks, colorful and simple and foreign. I've been picking it apart ever since.
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5 Responses to The Long Journey, Part Three

  1. Pingback: The Long Journey, Part Four | baconandlegos

  2. Pingback: The Long Journey, Part Five | baconandlegos

  3. Pingback: The Long Journey, Part Six | baconandlegos

  4. Pingback: The Long Journey, Part Seven | baconandlegos

  5. Pingback: The Long Journey, Part Eight | baconandlegos

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