Thursday, June 29, 2006

Responsible Man

If it wasn't for Responsible Man, nothing would ever get done. Who is there to do it? If it weren't for him, the kids would never sleep, and the wife would never wake up. If he didn't prevent it, the kids would eat all the pastrami. That stuff's expensive! If he didn't put his foot down, the wife might pick up the kids after school, and they had never agreed to that. He will pick up the kids. She might forget or somehow do it badly.

Around the office, Responsible Man makes all the coffee. Others just make a mess, or some thin brown goop that tastes like sand. He also sorts the recycling. What would happen if a bottle remained in the can bin? Not to worry. It's been seen to.

He signals before he turns. He looks both ways before crossing. He brushes his teeth in every conceivable direction. There has never been a flaw in his various performances. He never gets tired of instructing. This is the way to do this. That is the way to do that. You there, in the corner, listen up! He would like to give gold stars to good listeners.

He is generous with his time. If the guy in Austria can't get the printer working, he'll be glad to harangue him about running the script. Did you run the script? I sent it to you. Did you get it? Did you run it? Why didn't you run it? Did it work? Why didn't you run the script?

He's taking care of business. Every day and every night. Responsible Man gets home in time to do everything for everyone there, before he gets back online to do everything for everyone there. He checks his emails often. He checks his voicemails often. He wishes there was something else he could check as well. He wishes he could read people's minds because then he could help them sooner. He could help them before they even know they need his help. But they will. Oh yes. They will.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

People Who Are Always Against Something

You see them at every peace march. They have far too many bumper stickers on their cars. If they can't think of a new cause, they'll recycle an old one. Recycling is good for the environment, after all, and since there is nothing new under the sun, never mind.

How come they never report the good news from the war zones? Like, how many people did not get blown up that day.

Those people are always against something. It's either something big and important (Stop killing people, for Christ's sake!) or something small and trivial (how come P & H go together even though everybody knows that those two put together always makes the F sound, so what the heck?). And what is up with those H's anyway - they're often silent, and when they're not, they make no sense. Ha! How come we never protest this duplicity of the H?

Those people. They're even opposed to folks naming their babies whatever they want to! What is up with that? If someone wants to name their boy Pioneer, why not leave them alone? (even if those parents cannot even bring themselves to call him Pioneer, but always refer to him as Kiddo). And Pioneer is such a cute little baby! Who cares what his name is? It could be worse. It could be Ralph.

Those people who are always against something are now even taking a stand against people who are always against something!! Stop the Madness. Bring the troops home now. And while we're at it, no more of this P & H Togetherness. It's an abomination.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Hobbits

They liked to be crammed together in the very smallest room. The more of them there are, and the tinier the room is, the happier they are. Even better if there are no windows. They are talking all the time, and try to never leave the room. When one goes out, the others talk even louder to make up for him. They know each and every detail about each other. Nothing can be hidden. Since they also control every little thing about the company, they know everything about everybody else as well.

You don't even know they exist, down there on the ground floor, behind the receptionist. You thought that was the shipping room. Cleverly disguised. The heart of operations beats concealed from prying eyes. Peel back the door, and there they are, like termites in a stump. They look up with beady glistening eyes. Fresh meat! A new guy. They tell you all about your password (it's not secure enough), your cubicle (don't get too cozy, we'll be moving you again soon), your bicycle in the basement (did you find that thing in a dumpster or what?).

Standing there and nodding, you get a glimpse behind the scenes. A moving map along the wall shows all activity, everybody everywhere and everything they do. It shifts and moves, a tapestry of life, in this case, GPS devices. They know exactly where you are.

It's superficial data, but they can mine and sort. They see tendencies, exceptions, unusual patterns in the night. A red spot twinkles on the wall. One notices, jots it down. Another winks and tells you they're on top of it, no worries. The noise is deafening, a clatter of keys and songs and voices, always voices., chattering.

Close the lid and walk away. Better not to think too much. Tomorrow they will still be there, and even when they tear the building down someday, they'll be the last ones out, clinging to the wreckage, scampering like roaches among the ruins and the bricks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The ShapeShifter

You never know about this one. On any given day she could be anywhere from nowhere to all over the place. In the morning she slips through the cracks in the deck. By evening she's stuck in the chair. If the scale is dusty, she might not make it through the door, but if the scale is clean, you might not see her sneak out.

Take her to dinner, and it might be croutons and water or maybe it's pasta and beer. The ShapeShifter is never the same weight twice. You never can tell about her.

Better not question too closely. She could be touchy or not. She's either obsessed or couldn't care less. She veers from size to size without so much as a warning. At least she could give us a sign! Her friends would like to know what's up.

The ShapeShifter glides from program to program, from What Would Jenny Do, to Watch What You're Doing, to I Can Do This By Myself I Know I Can. It's vegetable medleys for dinner and lunch, and a crust of bread for breakfast.

She's beautiful big and beautiful small, she's beautiful in between. She never thinks so, though. She has pants for every occasion. She even has names for them. If it's summer it's time to get in shape. If it's winter, it's also the time. In the spring she has much to look forward to. In the fall she never looks back.

The ShapeShifter changes from morning to night, she fluctuates day after day. You smile and you nod and you say "why yes, dear", whenever she alludes to "the fact".

The Old New Guy

The Old New Guy is cautious. He's been The New Guy too many times before. Always getting stuck doing the dirty jobs. Always volunteering because he wants to make friends, fit in, get along. Not anymore. Let them do their own dirty jobs, he tells himself. He defeats the New Guy expectations. They want me to smile, but I won't. They think I'll be nice but I'm not.

The Old New Guy settles into his desk and surveys his surroundings. Which one of these people is going to be trouble, he asks himself. Usually the first friend you make is the one person no one else likes. That's why that person's so friendly to the new guy. The new guy doesn't know the history, he doesn't know better. If you don't watch out, that first one will be coming around every day and wasting your time.

They expect you to make the coffee, he reminds himself, so he announces that he's kicked that little habit. There, that'll do. They expect you to bring in some doughnuts, so he lets it slip out that he's been on a diet these days. No obligations. No welcoming lunches. The Old New Guy's sorry but has other plans that day and the next.

It's not like the end of the world if you don't get along right away. Give it time. Let it sort itself out. The Old New Guy sits back and watches, he finds out who's who and what's what. He overhears snippets of gossip. He monitors the [social] group emails. He hears who's the loudest, who's most annoying. He prefers the people who don't always smile, who don't need to know who he is right away. In meetings he volunteers nothing.

He'll ask a few questions, especially the boss and the one guy who seems the most threatened. Put fears to rest. Seem interested. Involved. Keep the head down, do the work, do it well. And then, when the situation is ripe - he'll give it a week, maybe two - and when no one expects it at all, he decides how he wants to fit in; and he does, like a lion among deer, on the prowl.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Best Friend

He looks at you with sad eyes when he sees you talking with someone else. He is the one you love. He is the only one who loves you truly for who you are. No one else even knows the real you, so why are you talking to them? What do they have that he doesn't have?

Do you remember the time when he was there and only he? Don't you remember what he said and what he did? You laughed, and it was just the two of you. Those were the days.

There were no girls back then, remember? Girls wouldn't even look at us. They laughed at our names, our shirts, our shoes. Girls were bad and even now, that woman you married, do you really trust her? She doesn't know what you've been through, or who you've been, and what it took. She's only seen your wallet and your car.

That look he gets it drives you nuts. Leave me alone, you shout, for just one minute, will you? please? For heaven's sake. You remember all the times he tagged along, you couldn't get rid of him, always in the way, underfoot. You felt sorry for him. No parents at home who cared. No other friends. He helped you with your homework, helped you get a job one time.

That was long ago. This guy's gone nowhere. Look at you, you're on your way, you've got some irons in the fire. Things are going to change and soon, but this guy's got to go. Look at him sulk because you had the nerve to answer your bloody phone when it rang!

He steps aside, hangs back. The Best Friend knows but can't accept. You don't like him anymore. Those days are gone for good. Do you have to fucking move to another state? Christ! He shows up like an idiot dog, with his stupid grin, his dumb ideas, his worn out welcome - "yo yo Yo".

Yo fucking yo.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Adrenaline Girl

Breathless, of course, but never in a hurry. Adrenaline Girl doesn't need to breathe. Her heartbeat generates enough oxygen on its own to power a small village. She wills her beamer over the mountains, and you'd better hang tight. Don't be squeamish or she'll drop you off the edge. No time for small talk. The Girl is on the move.

Give her a minute, she'll do a hundred things. Give her an hour and the sky's the limit. She never looks back. Adrenaline Girl powers past obstructions, obfuscations, concrete barriers, anything at all between where she is now and where she is now. And now. She's already there.

The Girl could hold a job but the job could not hold her. She's done so many different things, why bother with a resume? If you need to know, just ask. Have a need? Consider it done. She has already solved your problem before.

There is no detail too insignificant to be overlooked rapidly and forgotten. Adrenaline Girl does not require memory. She can process on the fly. She whips around the corner, and everything is new. She holds no grudges, burns no bridges, she doesn't even remember your name.

You can catch her in your rear-view mirror, but only for a moment. Then she's gone and you don't know which way she went. Time moves ahead. People come and go. Quickly. Always quickly. Don't stop now. Just go.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Pre-Bereaver

The Pre-Bereaver is sad before it happens. He knows it will all end badly. He's seen this kind of thing before. He understands. One cannot be too careful.

No ounce of prevention can avert it. No pound of cure will relieve. These things happen. They are bound to.

The Pre-Bereaver has a special day each week he sets aside for mourning. It takes time to savor each loss, every failure, the end.

Do not ask what is the matter. It's nothing, really, he will say. He is never completely out of pain.

Large attempts are doomed. Small affairs are best put off. The time is not propitious.

He consults his little gray notebook. Every awful event is duly noted. He sighs. It was meant to be.

At the airport, his flight is delayed, then cancelled. He misses his train. The busses hardly ever run at this time of night. The car is in the shop. No wonder, then, he never arrives.

At the store, they just ran out. The special on the menu is nothing that he likes. He prefers crab. They only have salmon.

The clothes won't fit, and then they'll shrink, but it's just as well, because he would've looked terrible in them. He's never been photogenic.

You will know him when you see him. At the office party, he's the one in the corner, consulting his watch.

His wife will never leave him. He needs her too badly.

His sons never call. Their girlfriends don't know they have a father.

The greatest tragedy - he fell in love when he was very young, and since then, nothing else has ever come close. He adores his wife, and she is the only recipient of his smiles.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Roundabout

The Roundabout sweats a lot, in every situation. He is unusually salty and moist. On winter days he wears both scarf and hat. In summer he wears suits. He is always the last to squeeze into the subway car, with much commotion and apology. Everyone makes way for The Roundabout and hopes he moves along so they're not stuck standing next to him.

You can tell by the look in his eye when he's about to launch. The Roundabout begins every conversation with exasperation. Several blinks of a countdown, and then the request. He wants to ask you a question, only one, and he promises it won't take more than a moment. He bursts into the office and is always in a hurry. You'll be glad when it's over, but it won't be unless you're lucky and something else comes up, because once he starts the Roundabout cannot be stopped.

He only wants to ask one question, but he will never ask that question. Too many other questions intervene. He has to back up and preface it and tell you why he needs to ask that question. This entails a story, which is long and involved and makes no sense whatsoever. At first you might have guessed what the question was going to be, but soon you give up trying. You have no idea.

Soon he switches tracks, then switches tracks again. He sweats some more as he realizes he's forgotten why he's pestering you. The story he's recounting is too complex. He gets lost and cannot find the way. He sits there in your office, sputtering, blustering, pretending that he's getting there. You of course have other work to do but you can't get around this obstacle, this blockage, this living exclamation point.

There will come a time when you deliberately don't invite him to some function, and he'll be sad. You'll wish you'd thought of it sooner, because after this he no longer appears at your door. He knows that you don't like him, and all those questions were merely pretexts for a visit. He had wanted to be your friend. He's sorry to have been such a bore. He has big sad eyes. You wish he'd look away.