A tale of a good place to work, by The Big Snake
It’s eight in the morning. Technically the work day doesn’t start until nine, but Larry likes to come in early. He’s not the owner or even the manager, but he was given a key and an alarm code about 30 years ago so it would be kind of hard to take it back at this point. The privilege was bestowed upon him by the owner back when this was still a privately owned company. Reliable Larry, is what he used to call him. He is reliable, and everyone does call him Larry even though his full name is Lawrence.
First thing Reliable Larry does when he gets in is brew up a full pot of joe, then boot up all the computers (incorrectly, of course) before cracking open the day’s paper and flipping to the weather section. B2 is typically the page. RL (short for Reliable Larry, friends of Larry will call him this) prides himself on keeping up on the weather. You’re not going to stump him when it comes to that, no sir. Is it going to rain on Thursday? Ask Larry. It rained on Thursday, but how many inches of rainfall did we get? Ask Larry. Cold front? He’ll track it down. Low pressure system? RL has got eyes on it. If he hears you ask a question out loud about the weather anywhere in the building, he’ll be sure to stand up and announce his answer loud and clear for everyone to hear.
Eight forty-five rolls around and here comes our next employee.
“Mornin’ RL” the man says, as he hangs his coat up and heads toward the fresh pot of joe he already knows Larry brewed up.
“Mornin’ Lou!” Larry looks up from his paper. “How are you?”
“Livin’ the dream!” Lou shouts back from the break room, while filling up his Must Be Monday coffee mug. Lou has a different novelty mug for every day of the week.
Lou hears Larry chuckle at his response and smirks with satisfaction. “Gets’ em every time” he says confidently to himself.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Lou is quite the jokester. A real cut-up, kind of the company comedian. He’s got one for everything too! Go ahead, talk about your haircut. Lou will say “Should have got them all cut.” Taking a piss? “Don’t take it, leave it.” One of the ladies that works in the back announced that she was going to the bank once and Lou said “Be sure to bring back some free samples!” That was one of Lou’s best. Does having multiple divorces under your belt make you funnier? Probably not. If you were to try and make that case, however, Lou would be your best piece of evidence. He’s been divorced four times.
“You’re quite the comedian Lou, I’ll tell ya.” Larry says to him as he heads back over with a fresh cup of joe in his hand.
“What’s new RL? What’s the forecast looking like this week?”
You can see Larry’s eyes begin to brighten, so drastic is the change that you would think he must have been damn near dead before. That’s no big surprise to us around here, so don’t be alarmed. This question will always light Larry up like a neon sign on the Vegas Strip! The mere mention of a barometer will have RL surging to life, like a dancing animatronic bear on an amusement park ride.
Looks like RL’s weather run down will have to wait for now, the front door just swung open.
Lou beats Larry to the greeting “Oh boy, here comes trouble!”
It was Beverly. For two old dogs like Larry and Lou, she is quite the sight for sore eyes.
“Oh Lou, stop!”
Bev is a big and boisterous woman. Laughs loud, talks loud, likes her wine on ice and plenty of it dammit. She has the kind of laugh that could penetrate a bunker wall. Being around her often feels like being inside a Dave & Buster’s. Noisey, overwhelming, but hey sounds like everyone is having a good time right? Right.
“How was your weekend?” Larry asked.
Old Reliable Larry has a bit of a thing for Bev.
“Yeah, what kind of trouble did you get into this weekend?” Lou follows up.
Beverly belts out one of her signature laughs, she has a bit of a thing for Lou. Doesn’t care much for Larry.
“Just stayed up late to catch SNL, then started to get the pool ready on Sunday.”
Bev was a real TV junkie. She’s been watching Saturday Night Live since the early 90s, hasn’t missed an episode in almost thirty years and she IS NOT about to start. That’s just the tip of her prime-time television iceberg, however. Hawaii 5-0, all fifteen reiterations of the CSI series, Two and a Half Men, just to list a few. She really loved The Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt, even wrote the station an email plea in hopes they wouldn’t cancel it. They cancelled it anyway.
Bev lets out a giggle and cracks a smile.
“Have you guys seen that new Progessive Insurance commercial?”
All regular TV programming aside, Beverly’s specialty was commercials. She remembers every jingle, every slogan, every product and every silly gag. From the Geico Cavemen (better believe she watched the spin-off show), to any product Ron Popeil would peddle on early weekday mornings.
“Oh it’s hilarious, so it starts on the beach…”
Bev continues to recant the commercial, in its entirety, line from line- scene to scene.
Larry follows up with a run down of this week’s weather forecast.
Lou throws in a classic line: “You know what they say about the weather in New England. If you don’t like it, just wait a minute!”
The clock strikes nine and here comes John, right on time. He is sporting his classic morning look of a rumpled peacoat, and puffy red eyes. Gripping onto a large Dunkin-Donuts coffee like his life depends on it (John presumably has a bit of a drinking problem).
The gang quiets down, and doesn’t make direct eye-contact with John.
Thing of it is, John is the acting manager around here. He started with the company about six or seven years ago, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He had the ambition of a racoon on garbage day, and the patience of a new father (at the time John just had twin boys, and was indeed a proud father).
Once the owner sold the company to public investors however, John kind of…. changed. We understand change is to be expected, and to be honest a lot of things changed around here after that. Not like how John did, however. We assume other events in his personal life contributed to this change but, we aren’t sure. It’s best not to speculate, and gossip will sure travel fast in a close-knit work environment like this one. One thing is for certain, all of a sudden he stopped talking about his children and stopped bringing his wife to the company events.
Okay, so we have SOME theories about what happened. I mean, a curious matter like this will lead to some rumors. Our UPS guy swears he saw his old lady with another man out at the Woodtick Plaza Chili’s. Some say he found out the twins weren’t his, walked out and lost it all in the divorce. There are a few more far-fetched claims too. Like his children were just a figment of his own imagination, and he is now on an intensive psychiatric drug regiment. Some even suggest foul play was afoot. Does John have an alibi? Has anyone thought to ask? The price of child-meat on the black market is high, and wife meat… a little less valuable, but still high enough for a handsome pay day. Okay, enough with this hearsay.
Point is if he is nursing a nasty hangover, it is best to leave him be in the mornings. Much better to go around John in the afternoon. And guess what? Lunch-time is where he really shines.
If you ever need a recommendation on where to grab lunch, he is your man. What are you in the mood for? How long of a line are you willing to wait in? He’ll take all these factors into consideration before giving you a plethora of options. Oh you like Sushi? Do you remember where the old A&P used to be? Place opened up there a few months ago, food is decent and the prices are great. More of a pizza guy, huh? Gosh, at least four solid places to choose from: FIRST for a thin crust: SECOND for house-made sausage: THIRD for great novelty pies (philly cheese steak, arugula + mushroom, etc): The FOURTH will get you a slice for two-bucks, and that thing is like the size of half-a-damn pizza! Four bucks at that place can mop up a monster hangover.
John looks at his watch and then glances at his employees. This is usually the point where he will tell everyone to get to work and stop “hanging around”, or just continue to his office. Again, depending on how much he had to drink last night.
He turns away and heads to his office.
It’s damn near nine-fifteen now, and here comes Caleb. Late.
“Oh, how nice of you to join us!” Lou shouts out upon his entry.
Caleb doesn’t laugh like the rest, instead he looks up and lets out an unenthusiastic “morning” that is so flaccid you can practically see the word spill out of his mouth and hit the floor like vomit. He doesn’t even bother to take off his jacket before making his way clear past the gang. His hair still wet from the shower it looks like he jumped out of five minutes before he was supposed to be here.
Caleb is, for lack of a better word, different. We say this not to be judgemental, that boy is just a tough nut to crack sometimes. He’s been here for almost two years, we figured he would have warmed up a little by now. No such luck. Still mopes around the place, pulling out his cell phone whenever Bev tries to talk to him about a classic Saturday Night Live sketch. Never laughs at any of Lou’s classic one-liners. Hell, he will just straight up walk away from poor RL when he starts spouting off about the weather.
We just don’t get it. He is one of those millennials, but John is only about seven years older than him so it can’t be strictly generational differences. We even had a twenty year old intern last summer who loved it here. Tess. She was going for her undergrad in Bipartisan Bee Colony Diplomacy at the University of Phoenix. Now Tess was a good kid.
Caleb? Not so sure. It’s like he is just here to collect a paycheck. We don’t get it. This is a good place to work.
John notices our gloomy late comer, and pops his head out of his office.
“Caleb! Check your email this morning!”
Needless to say, John has not been happy with Caleb’s aloof attitude since starting here. They have had more than a few meetings about it.
“You got it.” Caleb sits at his desk to find that, once again, dumb old Larry has unplugged his monitor to conserve energy. “Fucking Larry…”
Power restored, he sees the email John must be talking about. It was the only email in his inbox. As a matter of fact, it was one of the only emails he has gotten since starting here.
“Valued employee, we appreciate your feedback. In response to your complaint we ask that you call this number at your earliest convenience 1-800-XXX-XXXX”
“That’s odd…” Caleb thinks to himself. He doesn’t recall filling a complaint. Sure, working here wasn’t his cup of tea. More of a means to an end really. We all got to eat. But he would never file a complaint. You have to care to file a complaint. Besides, this is the easiest job he ever had. No one seems to even do any actual work around here.
He picks up the phone and dials the number, it barely gets through a full ring before someone answers.
“Good morning Caleb.” The voice is unfamiliar, flat and grim. The kind of voice that you would expect to give you a sinister secret, or expose a government conspiracy.
“Yes hello, I’m just calling in because-”
“We know why you are calling in.”
“Okay, well I don’t recall filling a complaint so pardon me if I’m a bit confused.”
“The complaint was filled by your manager. We, however, wanted to let you know that you are doing an excellent job here. Really, exemplary work.”
“Well uh, thank you.” Caleb is confused. He can’t recall any work he has actually done here. As a matter of fact, he is not really sure what anyone does around here. This mystery man on the other end of the phone doesn’t need to know that, however. Time to deploy a clever trick to get more information without tipping him off.
“One quick thing, sir… what portion of my work are you referring to?” Nicely done Caleb!
“All of it!” There is a brief pause. The voice deepens, shifting the tone of the conversation. “You do know what we do around here, don’t you young man?”
Okay so apparently the response wasn’t that slick. It’s time to drop the act, Caleb’s curiosity is overwhelming at this point.
“Honestly sir, no I do not. I have no clue.”
“We engineer workplace stereotypes.”
A company that engineers and perpetuates workplace stereotypes? Whoever heard of such a thing! How is that a profitable business model?
The other end is so silent you can hear the whiskers on the man’s face rubbing against the phone handset.
“What? Is there a market for that?”
“You get a paycheck don’t you, Caleb?”
You can see all the thoughts scrambling through Caleb’s head as he takes the phone away from his face. Paralyzed by the information he is trying to process, like an iPhone downloading a new version of IOS. This must be how those people on Reddit feel when he makes a mind-melting radical post like “Change My Mind: I think Healthcare Should Be FREE” (That was his most popular post to date, with a staggering 187 upvotes).
He looks around the office at everyone. It makes sense. Beverly quoting all those commercials, Larry’s constant run down on weather events, John coming back from a long lunch on a Friday, with a mouth full of chewing gum. Lou’s fucking public domain jokes about everything. One thing doesn’t track though, why is he here?? He’s not like them, dammit! He is different! He has dreams!
He puts the phone back to his ear.
“But if that’s what we do, then why am I here? I understand Bev, John, Larry and definately Lou… but me? I’m-”
The man fires out a loud, dismissive laugh. “Of course, you’re different Caleb. This is just a means to an end for you, right? By the way, how’s that novel coming along?”
Dial tone. He hung up.
A spike of adrenaline stabs Caleb in the heart. He has been working on a novel for some years now, yes. The working title of it is “Dunce Cap Willie”. In it Caleb intends to expose the flaws and evils of unchecked capitalism in modern society, through the lens of the lovable protagonist, who is a simple dumbass. It was going to be his “Forrest Gump”. He still picks it up once in a while, but he never told anyone here that. How would this gravelly voiced stranger know about it? What the hell is going on.
Caleb looks up to see John leaning over his work station. Grinning like a maniac.
“So, Caleb. Let’s talk about lunch.”