Three From the Workplace

An Early Christmas Present

A month before the Christmas party, the one I didn’t want to go to, the boss pulled me to one side and told me that this was my last chance.

And so, two weeks later, I stood at the dining room doors, waiting in line as the boss’s boss greeted everyone, except me.

I sat down at my table next to a name card setting for my ex-girlfriend, even though they knew we had split up and she wouldn’t be making a guest appearance.

And so I got drunk on complimentary wine and left before dessert to wander the bars of a city I didn’t know in a rented tux so old and shiny I pretended it was retro not ridiculous.

Back at the hotel I disabled the smoke detector, drank the mini-bar dry and watched some films on pay-per-view.

It was my second Christmas party with that company.

There wouldn’t be a third.

But the boss was wrong.

It wasn’t my last chance.

It was theirs.

***

Officious Little Prick

The morning sun streamed through the large windows into what we called The Glass Tomb.

 I was there to give information to customers who wanted to know the times of buses, but no one was usually around in the morning, and I closed my eyes and tried for a micro-sleep. Being oblivious to the world for a few moments I didn’t see the officious little prick watching me, but he had found his moment.

A few days later I was hauled in before the boss and accused of sleeping on the job, which of course I was but denied; I was simply resting my eyes because they had been sore due to the bright morning sunshine.  The officious little prick stood his ground and claimed that it was obvious I was asleep, and what if customers had seen me? What sort of image did that present of our company? I asked if it was a policy of this company for employees not to take momentary relief from pain caused by working conditions.

There was silence while the boss and the officious little prick weighed up the situation.

The boss sighed. He obviously didn’t want to be bothered with such nonsense while there was real work to do.

“Yeah, can’t argue with that.”  He said.

The officious little prick snorted, walked out of the office and we never spoke again, and I was never placed in the glass tomb again.

It’s those little victories against the officious little pricks of this world that make all the difference to the working day.

*With thanks to Stephen King for pointing me in the direction of the term ‘officious little prick’ at such a young age.

***

One of the Good Ones

I desperately needed the money, which is the only reason anyone should take a part-time job working Friday and Saturday nights in an office from six in the evening until eight the next morning.  My job was to authorise credit payments for petrol for long-distance lorry drivers.  The drivers would call up and I would authorise, but they rarely called, which meant that I spent those fourteen hours sitting alone, listening to music, reading and playing computer games.

It was an easy gig if you didn’t mind the boredom, and I tried many ways to break the monotony of those fourteen hours. One of the very few highlights was smoking cigarettes with the cleaners in the office smoking room during their shift break on the Friday evening, and then they would disappear to begin their weekend, and the empty office block was mine. One night, at around four in the morning, I got lucky and a huge thunderstorm broke out, and I stood at the large windows and watched the sky erupt with lightning and rain, which made me feel melancholy, being that I was far from home and family and friends, and of course alone and tired.

As time went by on that job I became more inventive in my boredom-breaking habits, and as no-one ever came by I thought it was safe to smoke a joint or two throughout my shift. One night, just as I had just finished a joint, the door opened and the boss walked in. I was sitting there with shoes off, feet on the desk and the radio on. The boss had never visited before, I had never even seen him, but he had decided that tonight was the night he wanted to stop by just before midnight. He sat down behind a desk, introduced himself and asked how I was doing. We made small talk while I entertained paranoid notions that he must be able to smell the weed I’d been smoking, because my face must be betraying my stoned state, and he must be able to see and smell that cloud of smoke hanging in the air. And I continued to ask him questions, to keep him talking while trying to look interested in his replies, hoping that this would distract him from noticing that anything at all was out of the ordinary here.

And then he left.

I never found out why he had decided to stop by that night, and I never saw him again. I can’t remember why that job ended, because that job was just another in the long list of meaningless jobs I’ve had throughout my life. Jobs where the effort and the pay were minimal, and if you could find a perk or two you took them without thinking, and if you were caught it was no real hardship to lose such a job because there was always plenty of meaningless, low-paid jobs out there, back then.

Maybe that boss was one of the good ones, who recognised that it was no big thing to smoke a joint during a fourteen hour shift, and that everyone needs a break from the monotony of the working day or night from time to time.

And maybe that’s why, after twenty years, I still remember him.  We remember the good ones and we remember the officious little pricks, but for different reasons.

More by Garry Crystal Three From the Bar

 

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About the Author:

Garry Crystal is a freelance writer living in the UK. His short stories and articles have appeared in print and online including Expats Post, The Andirondack Review, Turnrow Journal, Roadside Fiction and Orato. His first book Leaving London is available on Amazon and other retailers now. View My Profile

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