Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Day at the Office



Tony is sitting behind his desk. Adam enters.

Tony: Sit down.

(Adam does so.)

Tony: Do you know what I’m holding in my hand?

Adam: A straight flush?

Tony: (sighing) Your latest appraisal. (Pause) Frankly, the organisation expected greater things.

Adam: Well, I've been working on a restricted canvas. (Smiling) Still reading through the classics?

Tony: (pretentiously) Just finished reading Don Quixote for the third time.

Adam: Did you skip the dull bits?

Tony: That would be sacrilegious … Though it’s overrated, of course.

Adam: Of course.

Long pause.

Tony: (uncomfortable) I’m afraid I’ve some bad news.

Adam: You’ve had a full body scan and received a clean bill of health?

(Tony raises his eyes heavenward.)

Adam: Your hair-piece is writing an autobiography?

(Tony shrugs helplessly.)

Long pause.

Tony: Have you lost weight?

Adam: I’m on a diet.

Tony: Finding it easy?

Adam: Definitely. I’ve no money for food since my wife left me.

Awkward pause.

Adam: How is she by the way?

Tony: Melissa? Never better ... Wants for nothing ... Damn gorgeous ... Great in bed. No need to tell you ... eh?

Adam: (thoughtful) Well ... No.

Pause

Adam: And the townhouse?

Tony: (smiling) Great. You invested a great deal of time and capital in the property.

Adam: Yes.

Tony: I haven’t had to modify or improve a single thing since I moved in.

Adam: I’m pleased.

Tony: (softly) Did we ... Did I ever thank you?

Adam: I don’t believe so ... No.

Tony: Not a word? (Pause) Astounding.

Pause

Tony: How do you relax?

Adam: I play blank CDs full blast and dance to annoy the neighbours in the next dust bin. I hope to move to a skip soon.

Long Pause

Tony: Melissa and I are concerned about your mental state.

Adam: Really? I’m flattered.

Tony: (apprehensively) You don’t mind?

Adam: Mind? I don’t have a mind. I pawned my brain years ago. (Smiling) It’s sitting in a shop window beside a Second World War hand grenade. In fact, it's hard to tell the difference between them.

Pause

Tony: Are you undergoing therapy?

Adam: Once a week. The psychiatrist pops pills during our sessions. It tends to interrupt the flow. She maintains I’m the only patient she has encountered who suffers from 'sibling rivalry' and is an only child.

Long Pause

Tony: You’ve been at this organisation a long time without any appreciable increase in rank, or salary. Any ideas why?

Adam: Losing my wife and home to my boss—you— had a profound effect. Other than that, I’m at a loss.

Tony: 'The gods support those who are stronger.'

Adam: Tacitus.

Tony: (unsure) Indeed ... You’ve a sharp mind when used properly.

Adam: Think so?

Tony: Yes.

Pause

Tony: No sour grapes?

Adam: None.

Long Pause

Tony: Any financial difficulties?

Adam: Other than being forced into personal bankruptcy several times, and a credit rating below 'Absolute zero'—fine. However, living in a dust bin has drawbacks in terms of comfort and the pursuit of a meaningful social life.

Pause

Tony: 'Sometimes it’s necessary to destroy the man to save him.'

Adam: Really? Has it ever happened to you?

Tony: No. I’m sorry to say it’s happening to you. As of today you can leave the past entirely behind. You’re no longer an employee of this organisation. I’d write you a reference ... What would be the point?

Adam: Exactly.

Tony: (smiling) I wish I was starting afresh again.

Adam: Shall I say I was fired, resigned, lost motivation and direction, or that the boss took my wife, home, and assorted assets?

Tony: (uneasily) I would never advise an individual to be less than honest. In this case, however, economy may be advantageous for all concerned.

Long Pause

Tony: (rising from his chair) I hope you found this conversation uplifting and rewarding. I know I did. (Pause) As your contract is terminated with immediate effect, please leave your employee card with security. (Pause) I would advise against returning to your workspace ... We don’t want your 'ex-work colleagues' to get upset, do we?

Adam: No ... Yes ... I understand.

Tony: Just look at the last twenty years as a right step in the wrong direction.

Adam: Really?

Tony: Hell, yes. (Pause) On the bright side, I met Melissa, socialised at your home, and eventually moved in. It changed my life no end. Couldn’t live without Melissa, or the 'townhouse', or my job for that matter. (Pause) Anyway, enough about me.

Awkward pause.

Adam: Do you remember the first question I asked when I joined the organisation?

Tony: No. (Chuckling) I remember asking if you were married. Didn’t realise your wife would be so attractive. I’ve still got that first photograph you showed me―I cut you out, of course.

Adam: 'What are the first projects I will be involved with?'

Tony: (smiling) You’re kidding me? Did I give an answer? ... No? ... No.

Adam: I wanted to make my mark on those initial critical projects.

Tony: Really? I wish I had known.

Pause

Tony: 'Fate always goes as it must.'

Adam: Beowulf.

Tony: (hesitant) Indeed ... A sharp mind.

Pause

Tony: (blandly) A message for Melissa?

Adam: Tell her ... Tell her, 'I loved her too much to hate her now.'

(Adam moves toward the door.)

Tony: And me?

Adam: (turns round) You have this strange effect on people that causes oily discharge and loss of appetite. In fact, the list is endless. My advice? Come back from the 'dark side'. Trust me, we’re all just one step from the slaughterhouse. You take care now.

Adam exits, leaving Tony shaking with trepidation and doubt.

THE END?

Reflections: I feel a sense of sadness and despair for those who surmise the need to look down on others through an injudicious sense of superiority. Some workplaces are populated with so many bullies, pimps and thieves it's hard to breathe air that has clean hands and a clear conscience.  

Don't be surprised if a figure of authority turns out to be more crooked and immoral than anyone he, or she, condemns. They may deny the charge and show a double face. Someday, however, they will be held to account for their violation of the truth and fundamental ethical principles.