Thursday, March 15, 2018

Story 229: The [Disease] Carrier

            “Aw, man!” the Administrative Assistant whined.
            “What?” his neighboring Admin. asked.
            In a low voice he said, “They want me to work at those Corporate events next week and I thought I had timed my vacation to miss them but I requested off the wrong week!  And now I’m stuck because I can only use the funeral excuse for one day and I need five!  And having to work these things is always so draining; my life is ruined, absolutely ruined!”  He dramatically banged his head on his folded hands resting on the desk, and sighed.
            Looking around her first, the neighboring Admin. leaned in and spoke in a low voice: “Not necessarily.”
            Without looking up: “Hm?”
            “I know someone who can help you, if you’re willing to put up with mild-to-major discomfort and the slight possibility of death.”
            His head popped up: “I’m willing.”

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

In a dirty, seldom-travelled hallway of the building, the Admin. checked the information on the card he had been given and finally located the door labelled “Boiler Room.”  He knocked and waited a full minute before a disheveled employee answered the door.
“It’s open; you could’ve just come in,” Disheveled said.
“Sorry,” the Admin. replied.  “I didn’t know the protocol; you know, I’ve worked here for eight years and never been down here until now, heh-heh-heh.”
“So!  I was referred here by a colleague to meet with ‘The Carrier,’” he overdid the air quotes, “who I was told could ‘assist’ with a certain ‘problem’ that I ‘have’ – ”
“All right, all right, get in.”  Disheveled opened the door wider and led the Admin. to a chair in front of a desk in an expectedly filthy office.  The former rummaged through a drawer, gave the latter a clipboard and pen, said “Fill it out,” and left.
The Admin., all alone with the creepy-crawlies in the shadows, felt that he would soon be murdered; knowing that the improbability of that triumphs over the possibility, he proceeded to answer the health questions on the 10 double-sided pages attached to the clipboard.  When he finished, he had no idea how to convey that to the person who seemed in charge of this joint.  He was about to make a run for it when Disheveled re-entered the room, grabbed the clipboard out of the Admin.’s hands, and exited, slamming the door behind him.
One of those old-fashioned waiting periods commenced for the Admin., in that he had nothing to do but wait since he had accidentally left his phone on his desk, which he realized also would have come in handy if he needed rescuing, but oh well.  He spent the next who-knows-how-long (since he also never wore watches anymore) counting the floor and ceiling tiles several times over and anticipating each time the furnace would roar to life when he heard someone approach the door.  He braced himself to face Disheveled’s Evil Twin, or, perhaps, Disheveled’s Monstrous Parent.
The door opened and a pleasant, well-dressed woman entered, carrying the clipboard.
“Hello!”  She shook the Admin.’s hand and sat in the chair across from him.  “Sorry for making you come all the way down here and wait – not the most sanitary of conditions, if you know what I mean, but can’t be helped.”  She flipped through the pages he had completed.
He stared at her.  You’re The Carrier.”
She looked up at him and smiled.  “Oh, that – my title’s actually Supervisor, but my clients tacked that other one on me over the years.  Whatcha gonna do?”  She chuckled, then read from one of the pages: “So, according to this, you’re pretty healthy.”
“Unfortunately, yes.  No one’s going to believe I’m sick for five days without any warning unless it’s something really good.  I was thinking the flu – everyone’s got that this year, right?”
She shook her head.  “No, that’s too much of a wildcard – people die from it, you know, and some of them were pretty healthy themselves.”
“I’ve had it before; I can handle it.”
“Mm-hm, and which strain was it?”
“…There’s more than one?”
She shook her head again.  “Nope, won’t do it; it’ll have to be something else.”
“But I deliberately didn’t get the flu shot this year so I could get some sick days!”
“And that was a stupid reason not to get the shot, but it’s not too late; you should get vaccinated ASAP.  Let’s see,” she flipped through a few pages while he slumped in his seat, “you wrote here that you had chicken pox when you were a kid: I can reactivate that to give you a nice case of the shingles that’ll lay you up for at least a week, if you want.”
“Wait a minute, I thought I can’t get the shingles because I had the chicken pox!”
“Ha!  The virus never left – you might get shingles, you might not, there’s no way to tell.  You’re just a ticking time bomb waiting for the right circumstances to break out in agony.”
He turned green.  “Maybe not that one, then.”
“Leave be as you say.”  She turned to another page.  “What about pertussis?”
            “Whopping cough.  This says you missed the vaccination when you were a baby.”
“Hmm…”  He thought on this, then shook his head.  “Nah, I don’t want to spend the whole time coughing my lungs out, that’ll be exhausting.  Isn’t there one you have that’ll just let me, I dunno, sleep the whole time?  Yeah, how about sleeping sickness?”
“You don’t want that one.”
“I’ve got it.”  She set the clipboard definitively onto the desk.  “Gastroenteritis with a side-helping of appendicitis.  You’ll be puking for a few days, but if I time it right you’ll be out for at least a week with a nice hospital admission for corroboration.”
“But I don’t want a hospital admission!”  He stood to emphasize his point.  “I just want to call out sick so I don’t have to cover a work event!  Now you’re going to have them cut me open and take my appendix?!  What if I need it?!”
“You’re the one who came here for my help.”  She remained in the chair and folded her arms.
“Yeah, but not to have my organs stolen!  Plus it'll leave a scar!  And I don’t want to be puking!”
“Then the best I can offer is common cold that peaks for four days max.”
He heaved a mighty breath, sat back down in the chair, and grumbled: “I guess if that’s the best you can do….”
She held out new forms and the pen: “Sign these so you can’t sue me later.”  He did so; she then held out another piece of paper and a credit card scanner.  “Now swipe your card here.”
“It’s that much?!”
“This is a very specialized service I offer; it takes a lot of effort to properly titrate all the strains of disease I carry.”
“All right, mumble-mumble.”  He slowly opened his wallet and swiped his card.
In the meantime, she put on a pair of gloves, rolled up his left sleeve, swabbed his inner elbow with a cotton pad, selected a syringe from the multiple rows that lined the inside of her coat, and injected him with it.  “There.  You should be good and sick by 7:30 tonight at the latest.”
“Thanks.”  He rolled down his sleeve and stood to leave as she cleaned up her mini-lab.  “You know, with all that stuff going on in your blood, you probably have the cure for cancer floating around in there and don’t even know it.”
“I doubt it – with all that stuff going on in my blood, I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long.  Might as well make some money off of it.”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Story 228: I Don’t Have to Argue Anymore

            Friends of convenience while at work, the two employees were eating lunch in the cafeteria when Co-Worker 1’s manager swung by.
            “Hey, hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Manager said just as Co-Worker 1 had taken a big bite out of a sandwich.  “Just wanted to let you know, that budget report due tomorrow morning?”
            “Yeah, you really should re-do your section, make it a little more… presentable, if you will.  I know it’s last minute and you’ll probably have to stay late to finish it, but it’s gotta be done, `K?”
            “Great, see you later.”
            Co-Worker 2 stared at Co-Worker 1, who had resumed eating the sandwich.
            “What?”  Co-Worker 1 asked between bites.
            “Just like that?”  Co-Worker 2 counter-asked.
           “You just got a boatload of probably unnecessary extra work dumped on you during your lunch break, and you’re not even upset about it?  And you didn’t even argue about how unnecessarily extra it probably is, because it’s extremely unlikely anyone’s going to notice how presentable that thing is or not?”
            “Nah – what’s the point?”  Co-Worker 1 dug into a chocolate pudding with glee.  “It would only sound like I’m whining, I’d be accused of slacking off and making our department look bad, and I’d still get stuck with doing it.”
            “Yeah, but, the principle of the thing!”
            “I used to think as you do,” Co-Worker 1 said, contemplating the spoon.  “I used to argue about the unfairness of it all, when middle management just didn’t seem to get what I was doing, or people in general were just the worst, until that magical day when I finally understood how ineffective that tactic is, and now I don’t have to argue anymore.  I’ve found a much better method of dealing with unpleasantness.”
            “Mm-hm: ‘yes’ them to death, then go ahead and do whatever I was going to do anyway.”
            Co-Worker 2 thought this over: “Isn’t that lying?”
           “Not really.  I usually say ‘OK’ as an acknowledgement of what they’ve said.  ‘Yes, I hear what you’re saying’ is all I am conveying, and I continue on as I was before.”
            “Yeah, but it sounds like you’re agreeing to do what they’re saying – you have to have been called on that by now.”
            “Usually variations on the phrase ‘something else came up that took priority’ works, or ‘I looked it over and saw that the original format was more cost-effective,’ or whatever the case may be.  If none else applies, I just say ‘sorry’ with the blatant undertone that I am not but there’s nothing they can do about it without calling me a liar, which no one ever wants to accuse anyone of being unless they’re willing to venture past the societal point of no return.”
            “All right, but are any of those really going to work this time?  I mean, this is your boss telling you to work late; I don’t think other priorities or ‘sorry’ is going to cut it.”
            “You’re absolutely right, so this situation calls for the one-use only ‘I forgot.’  I’ve been saving it for an occasion such as this, because it very easily can be overplayed.”
            “Wow.  This actually sounds like a better way to get along in… everything.  Mind if I borrow it?  I feel like I’ve been arguing with everybody lately because they want me to do stupid stuff that they’re too lazy to do themselves.”
            “By all means – let me know how it works out.”
           That afternoon, Co-Worker 2 was in the middle of a conference call when Co-Worker 3 swung by.
            “Hey,” Co-Worker 3 began; Co-Worker 2 turned off the telephone’s mic so the others on the call would not hear the inevitable shouting.  “So, just wanted to say that I’d appreciate it if you sent your daily e-mails to me first, about half an hour before sending them to everyone else, just so, you know, I get to see them before everyone else.  `K?”
         Co-Worker 2’s first instinct was to detail all the reasons why this was redundant, an unnecessary delay of the information being distributed, of no value to anyone except Co-Worker 3’s ego, and, most importantly, that Co-Worker 3 was not Co-Worker 2’s boss and therefore should not be telling Co-Worker 2 what to do; however, Co-Worker 2 instead said “Mm-hm” and pointedly turned on the phone’s mic while turning slightly away from Co-Worker 3.
            “Great,” Co-Worker 3 whispered, then slunk off saying “Byyyyeeee…”
            After the conference call ended, Co-Worker 2 dialed Co-Worker 1’s extension and relayed what had just happened.
            “And?” Co-Worker 1 asked.
           “You may be on to something.  We’ll see what happens when I keep sending the e-mails to everyone like I normally do.  Maybe I should tell my manager about it?”
          “Only as a last resort – if you escalate this, it’ll just prove that you’re deliberately defying.  This way, the upstart instead has to deal with recurring passive aggression, and most people can’t.”
            “Good point.  I wonder if this also works if someone tries to pick a fist fight?”
            “Hopefully you’ll never have to find out, but it should at least take the wind out of their sails.”

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Story 227: How Do I Know When It’s Not a Scam?

            Flipping through his mail, the homeowner sorted most of the letters to the garbage and one to bills when the last piece caught his eye: “IMPORTANT: DO NOT DISCARD UNDER PENALTY OF PRISON.”
            “Ooh, prison, that’s a new one.”  He opened the envelope and read through the papers; confused, he called his father.
            “Hi there, son!  Sorry I haven’t called in ages – super busy – how’s it been?”
            “Great; listen, have you ever received a survey in the mail threatening jail time if you don’t complete it?”
            “Sounds like a scam.”
            “That’s my first instinct, but what if it isn’t and I actually do get jail time for not completing it?!”
            “Well, who’s it from?”
            “Says it’s the ----- Survey for the Department of --------.”
          “Never heard of that first one, but why don’t you go online and see if the Department of -------- really does send those things out?  There should be a phone number you can call; just don’t use the one listed on the letter.”
            “That makes perfect sense, but what if I actually retrieve a fake Web site created for the sole purpose of making this whole thing look legitimate?!”
            “Can’t help you there.”
            The homeowner spent half an hour online trying to verify that the letter came from the actual Department of -------- and still was not satisfied; he then called the number listed on their Web site.
            “Department of --------, how may I direct your call?”
           “Yes hi, I’m a concerned citizen trying to confirm whether a letter I received in the mail stating that I’ll be sent to prison if I don’t complete the ----- Survey is real?”
            “Quite real, sir – you have 60 days to complete the survey before agents are sent to arrest you for noncompliance.  The survey should only take 15 to 20 minutes of your time.”
            “That’s not the point!  Isn’t it illegal to be arrested for something so trivial?!”
            “Not when it impacts taxes, sir; plus, no one would do it otherwise.”
            “That’s baloney, just offer a gift card or something.”
            “There’s no money in the budget for several thousand gift cards every year.”
            “That’s exactly what a scammer would say!”
            “You’re the one who called us.  Sir.”
            “Yeah, and how do I know this number is really for the Department of --------, eh?  You could have created a fake Web site that people get redirected to, with a fake number to direct inquiries to, and then the trap is sprung, and I’m not falling for it!”
            “…Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”
            “No thank you; you’ve satisfactorily answered my question, Satan!”
           He disconnected the call, uncertain how to proceed.  Should he track down an actual telephone book (if one still existed in this area of space-time) to determine the actual telephone number for the actual Department of --------?  What if the scammers had had the foresight to scam the telephone book publisher, too?  There was no way to know for certain what in life was real.
           Later that day, he completed the survey – never mind the threat of prison, he just could not face the thought of receiving reminder letters for this over and over again.