Miss Styles, Regional Manager Bill Tanaka said, was the epitome of efficiency. "The woman doesn't keep even three pencils in her desk," he said. "One to write with, and one for backup, that's it. She doesn't have photos of all her grandchildren cluttering up the office, doesn't have cutesy pink and blue flower shaped erasers gathering dust -- the old girl knows where every single piece of paper needs to go, and if what's on the paper isn't important, right into the circular file it goes. You'll find her a good match."
Mr. Smith arrived at the Wichita office in September, transferred from Livermore after the Vice President's nephew indicated that he really wanted to live in California. Even though Mr. Smith had a reputation for running a tight ship, he did not have a reputation for being the Vice President's nephew, so he was out of a choice location.
For fifteen years, Mr. Smith had been in charge of the Livermore office. His former boss had died in the street when a baby grand piano being moved into a third floor apartment had slipped its moorings, embraced the surly bonds of Earth and fallen on him. Mr. Smith was the clerk in the office with the most seniority and fewest infractions on his attendance record, so Corporate simply rubber stamped him into his former boss' desk and private office. There was no need to do any house-cleaning of the staff; everyone had been there for years, knew their places and pecking orders and how to keep things running well enough to keep their Christmas bonuses coming. Mr. Smith handed out the bonus checks, bought everyone a box of chocolate bonbons with coconut cream filling at Christmas, and held quarterly review meetings that lasted just long enough to finish the pizza they had delivered. Sales were steady, customers were dealt with by another branch of the company, no one was dallying with whom they ought not, or at least were sensible enough to keep it quiet if they were.
Wichita was a transition store. With offices in Toronto and Atlanta and Seattle, many of the staff came to Wichita with the intention of getting more seniority and moving to an office in a more desirable location. The employee who had been there the longest was Miss Styles.
"Well, she wouldn't have any pictures of grandchildren on her desk if she was a 'Miss,' Mr. Smith observed to Tanaka.
Tanaka waved his hand impatiently. "You know what I mean. Pets. She could have a dozen pictures of a stupid parrot in ceramic frames with balloons on them, but she doesn't."
Mr. Smith frowned. "What do balloons have to do with parrots?" Tanaka laughed and slapped him on the back and left.
When Miss Styles brought the folder with the next day's agenda, yesterday's completed sales reports from the Wichita stores, and today's activity report, Mr. Smith asked her, "How long have you had your parrot?"
Miss Styles put the papers on his desk and looked at his slightly blurred eyes behind his thick glasses. "I don't have a parrot."
"That's odd," he said. "I could have sworn Tanaka said you had a parrot."
She raised one eyebrow. "No, Mr. Smith, not a single parrot. Was there anything else you wanted added to the afternoon folder?"
He leafed through the sheets of paper. "Just one thing. I'd like to see three copies of each of these."
"Three?" The word escaped Miss Styles' lips before she had time to think.
"Yes, three. One for my file cabinet," he said gesturing at the black monolith behind him, "one for the office files, and one for my desk."
Miss Styles looked at him as though trying to read something printed on his forehead. "Yes, sir." She turned and walked back to the copy machine beside the office files. She made the requisite copies, inserted them into the folder, and returned to place it on his desk.
"I understand that you're an expert in efficiency," he said. "I like that. Could you please make a list for me today of everything you have in your desk? I think that you could be a grand example for the rest of the staff."
"Everything in my desk?"
"Do I have a California accent, Miss Styles? Yes, everything. Tanaka likes the way you keep track of things. I think our first staff meeting tomorrow morning ought to be about ways that we can cut out unnecessary expenses and distractions. We can use your list to get the rest of the office staff to clear some of the clutter and redundancy that impedes their personal organization. I'll want that list first thing when I come in, so you'll need to get it done before you leave today, please."
"You're going to use a list of what I have in my desk to limit what people can have in theirs?" Miss Styles raised both eyebrows.
"Yes, Miss Styles." Mr. Smith smiled under his thick moustache. "And don't forget, I'll want that in triplicate."
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