"Mako Corp, this is Bill." Bill answered the phone while continuing to type with one hand.
"Bill, this is Molly at the front desk. The Xerox repairman is here, but I can't get a hold of Roger. Do you know..."
Bill cut Molly off impatiently. "Yeah, Roger's out today. He filled me in already. I'll be up there in just a second." Bill slammed the phone down and finished a rather bitter e-mail to the manager of a user who had complained that her e-mail was not working. "Stupid users..." Bill mumbled to himself as he locked his computer and stomped out of the office.
At the front desk a rather frumpled old man stood chatting with Molly. He was wearing a ridiculously large overcoat that trailed its fraying edge on the floor behind him. His thin, gray hair waved a friendly greeting at everyone who passed, and his bleary yet friendly eyes looked almost cartoon-like behind a pair of glasses which had to be at least a quarter-inch thick.
"Hiya there! Name's Harold, from the Omni Office Equipment Repair company. You must be Roger..." Harold held out a hand towards Bill who pointedly ignored it.
"Roger is out today, follow me." Bill said, walking brusquely past Harold whose hand was still extended in a friendly greeting. His friendly smile remained fixed as he bent to pick up a tool bag that was even more tattered (if possible) than its owner and shambled after Bill.
Bill arrived at the copy machine a full minute before Harold, whose relaxed pace included time for a friendly greeting for each and every person he passed. Bill stood waiting, impatience evident in the tense set of his body and the frown on his face. When Harold finally arrived, Bill showed him the problem with the copier then walked away without a backwards glance. Harold stared after him for a moment, a bemused grin on his face. Then, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders, he set down his tool bag, removed the over-sized raincoat, and began disassembling the copier.
Two hours later, Bill's phone rang again, this time right in the middle of analyzing the event log on a server to find the source of an irregularly occurring network error.
"Bill, this is Molly, the Xerox guy is finished, but he needs you to sign his work order." Molly's voice was hesitant; she obviously hated calling Bill.
"You can sign it, just make a copy or something to verify that the damn copier isn't jamming anymore and sign the damn thing. I don't have time to do everything around here myself!" Bill snarled into the phone.
Molly persisted. "He insists I can't sign it, he says it has to be the person who requested the work."
Bill thought he saw an opening here. "Well then, he is out of luck isn't he? Roger is out today, and can't sign it. So he will have to make do with your signature or come back tomorrow for a signature." He slammed the phone down without waiting for a response and turned back to the event log.
Not a minute later, the phone rang again. "Bill, this is Kevin. Molly needs you at the front desk to sign the repair guy's work order." Bill's eyes narrowed angrily. It was just like that stupid cow to go over his head and call his boss. No way he was going down that easily.
"Kevin, that old idiot needs Roger's signature, not mine. He'll just have to come back tomorrow and get it. I am in the middle of..."
Kevin's calm voice cut through Bill's excuse. "Bill, do you really want Xerox to charge us for a second service call just because you can't be bothered to walk out to the front desk? I'm not sure that would be a wise use of your budget..." Kevin left the unspoken threat hanging, and Bill had to admit defeat.
"Yes sir, I will be right there."
When Bill arrived at the front desk, Molly and the old man were laughing at something, and Bill felt his stomach clench as if he had just been punched. He just knew that they were laughing about him, that Molly was telling Harold how she had just gone over Bill's head to get him out there. Indeed, when they caught sight of Bill, Molly flushed a deep red and suddenly became serious. Harold on the other hand, continued braying laughter even as he reached his hand out to Bill again.
"Boy, I'll tell you Roger, this girl is one of the sweetest things I have met in a long time! I wish I had the time to stand around talking to her all day long!" Harold turned and winked at Molly, who ducked her head and pretended to be looking something up in a binder on her desk.
Bill ignored the proffered hand again, and glared angrily at Harold. "Where do I sign?" he hissed through clenched teeth, his anger and annoyance washing off him in almost tangible waves.
Harold was completely unaffected. "Well, I have to show you that the copier is in proper working order first, don't I?" Harold's hand was still held out in front of him, as if he expected Bill to suddenly have a change of heart and shake it.
Bill didn't. "I don't have time to follow idiots around all day to check their work! If it is not in proper working order, you can simply expect a very nasty phone call to your supervisor!" Bill looked over to Molly,who was watching out of the corner of her eye.
"I know how to go over people's heads just as well as other people around here..." Molly blushed again, and returned her focus to the binder.
Harold's demeanor was absolutely unchanged. "Well, if that's the way you want it Roger, I guess that's the way it goes. Sign here..." Harold indicated a piece of carbon paper on the reception desk. Bill scribbled madly then turned and stalked away. He heard Harold remark to Molly just before he turned a corner: "Wow, I remember Roger being much friendlier!"
Not an hour later, Bill's phone rang again."Mako Corp, this is Bill." He answered tersely. The troubleshooting of the server was not going well, and he was still in a bad mood from being bested by Molly earlier.
"Bill, it's Kevin. That damn copier is on the fritz again. Did you check it before the repair guy left?"Bill felt his blood pressure boiling, and for a few seconds, he could not even formulate a coherent response. When he did, it was a string of curse words that he knew his boss would not enjoy hearing, so he bit his tongue until he regained control of it. Finally, he was able to stammer a reply: "OK, I'll take a look at it." The words were bitter and dripping with acid, but Kevin seemed not to even notice.
"Next time, make sure you check the repairs before you sign the work order." Kevin's even voice said, and then the line clicked as he hung up without waiting for a response.
Bill sat at his desk, pondering several different possible courses of action. Most of them were intensely satisfying to consider, but with consequences that Bill was not yet willing to face. Eventually, he took a deep breath and pushed back from his desk, resolved to find a new job as soon as possible. A minute later, he was standing in front of the copier tapping madly at the touch screen display. When he had finally found the error code he needed, he opened the doors and peered inside at the complicated mechanism. He immediately noticed a frayed red wire sticking out from the midst of the various gears and levers that made up the copy machine. I knew that old fool was utterly incompetent. I will have him fired for this... Bill thought as he reached out and grasped the wire.
Molly looked up from her computer monitor as the lights in the building dimmed, and from somewhere across the cubicles she heard a loud sizzling sound followed by a loud pop. The lights returned to normal, and Molly shrugged her shoulders and was about to return to work when she heard the first scream.
Across town, Roger sat at a table in a nondescript diner on the wrong side of town. He slid a thick brown envelope across the table to an older man with thick glasses. The two said nothing to each other as the old man glanced briefly at the contents of the envelope, then bent down and placed it in a tattered old tool bag at his feet.