The Wolfe Loafers by Barker Black

I wrote this after having a pretty good day.

It was 10:38 am.  I’m a big fan of 10:38 am.  It’s the time when I finally allow myself to start counting down to lunch.  I spend my morning setting aside small tasks until 10:38 am when I can execute them one at a time and make it to 11:00 am.  I’m a huge fan of 11:00 am.

I rose for my first task, to use the restroom, taking the time to push in my chair and lock up my desk.  I walked slowly to the stairs and went up one level in the building to the nicer, less frequently used bathroom.  It’s not because I have any weird problems that require privacy or anything, it just takes longer and the upstairs bathroom doesn’t smell like molding hay.  It was a number one; it took four minutes.

I returned downstairs and walked the floor the long way to the ice machine, using three more minutes.  The ice scoop is too big for the Styrofoam cups that are supplied and requires a very delicate balance and twist of the scoop as the ice is poured out to make sure each cube lands in the cup.  Cubes that miss and crash onto the floor are met with “be sure to clean that up” from Secretary who sits around the corner from the break room.  She perks up at the sound of people entering the break room, waiting for her cue.  I didn’t spill and imagined her disappointed in not being able to remind me to be safe.  I filled the cup of ice with water from the cooler which is supposed to be ice cold already but never is.  Two additional minutes ticked away.

I walked down to Territory Lead’s office and knocked on his open door.

“Hey, since we picked up the Alberta account, should I go ahead and start writing up the fund transfer requests?”

I already knew the answer was yes but by asking I could probably burn six minutes.  If he was feeling chatty I could stretch the conversation all the way to 11:00.  He was feeling chatty!

I stood in the doorway as he complained of Junior Account Manager pissing away valuable time closing the deal.  I couldn’t help but feel some internal pride that I was doing the exact same thing by having this conversation.  A quick glance at the wall revealed it was 10:58 and I was pleased.

Mission accomplished, baby, ooooooh yeah.  Lunch time!

I started shifting my weight from side to side every couple of seconds to let him know I was done with the conversation.  It worked, as it always did, and he started wrapping up and turned towards his desk.  I turned to leave.

Before I could take a step Junior Partner was in front of me.  I started to step around him but he motioned for me to reenter Territory Lead’s office.  I complied, taking a position in the corner opposite the door.  Junior Partner closed the door.

“Just wanted to let you guys know that Other Territory Lead is going to be moving up.  You’ll see the formal announcement in the next few days, but I wanted to let you know early,” Junior Partner said.  I like Junior Partner; he’s a nice guy.  He shields our team from the petty bullshit politics that prevent productivity and making fucking money.  He also trusts me and seems to value my advice.  As an account advisor, I appreciate that.

“I knew something was up, he’s been acting weird.  Which team is he going to take?” Territory Lead asked.  I do not like Territory Lead; he is also a nice guy but he is a terrible boss.  He thrives in the petty bullshit politics that prevent our team from making fucking money.  He does not trust me and limits my opportunities to work on important, exciting things.  He often takes credit for my ideas or positions me be the fall guy depending on the outcome of the situation.  As an account advisor, this fills me with murderous-fucking-rage and I think about resigning for between an hour and ninety minutes every day.  Every day.  And I like my job.

“He’ll be over Asia Acquisitions and Mergers,” Junior Partner responded.  He turned to me, “did you send the note about Alberta to Senior Partner?”

“No, I have it drafted, just tweaking the wording.  I’ll send it out shortly.”

“Good, I need you to start handling a lot more of Alberta.  Territory Lead, be sure to include Jack and Other Account Advisor on any other important correspondence with Junior Account Manager.  There will probably be a few more announcements in the next few months.”

Holy fuck, is he hinting Territory Lead will be promoted?  Holy fuck!

I was elated.  Territory Lead is just too competitive.  You have to be competitive to get ahead at Company, but Territory Lead takes it too far.  He constantly one-ups me.  He creates traps to trip me up and when I am able to circumvent the traps then Territory Lead steals the credit.  He has ten more years of experience than me and he and I are in no direct competition.  Rather, my performance was supposed to be a reflection of his leadership skills.  Our team success was supposed to be a measure of his success.  He didn’t seem to get that.  While he didn’t deserve it at all, the thought of him being promoted out of our team was beautiful and I struggled to keep a muted expression.

I recalled a conversation I had over beers with a friend and his brother and their dad who were visiting once.  Alex’s dad had mentioned that when he was a working stiff he and his coworkers would submit the names of managers they didn’t like to headhunters.  He mentioned it bothered them that they would be getting the manager into a potentially better position but it was worth it to get the person out of their fucking lives.  That’s exactly how I felt.  I liked Alex’s dad, he was a cool guy.

The conversation between Territory Lead and Junior Partner wrapped up around me and I headed back to my cube, noticing that it was 11:11.

God damn it, short lunch today.

That’s the risk in using small talk or any other social activity to kill time; I knew it going into the conversation and had nearly pulled it off perfectly.  It dampened my mood a little as I need the full sixty minutes to clear my head and preserve my sanity.  I can only stand Company in small, measured doses.  I grabbed my wallet and keys out of my desk, threw my messenger bag over my shoulder, and walked to the elevator bank.  I just wanted to get out of the building without any further delays.

I pressed the down button and prayed to get an empty car.  I didn’t feel like dealing with the fake nods, or worse, the fake conversations you have in an elevator sometimes, or if you’re me, somehow most of the time.  I hate that I seem to be the only polite person in the entire building.  I hate more that there are so-fucking-many rude people.  I hold the door, even if I’m in a rush.  I’m the last on and the last off the elevator.  I don’t talk on my phone, talk to other people, or engage in any other annoying activities.  I just ride the elevator to my destination and get off.

The bell dinged, the doors opened, and the car was empty.  Booyah!

I rode down without stopping and was on the ground floor in thirty seconds.  I walked out into the lobby and spotted Bitchy Acquaintance standing near one of the exits, clearly waiting for someone.  I was afraid she’d try to talk to me, so I began to readjust my bag in an extremely exaggerated motion that allowed me to act like I was focused on it and walk past without making eye contact.  She didn’t say anything and I was relieved.

When I didn’t see Chatty Security Guard anywhere between me and the stairs that led up to the bridge connecting the building to the parking garage I was further relieved.  I know nothing about Chatty Security Guard and we’ve never had a real conversation.  However, when he’s in the lobby he will engage anyone walking past and is not satisfied with a quick exchange.  He asks obvious questions and follows them up with more: “Going to lunch, eh?  Where ya headin’?  Sounds good, you be safe.”  There is a three sentence minimum.

I ascended the stairs slowly holding the handrail.  I didn’t pass anyone I knew descending on the opposite side.  My escape was going ideally.

I walked briskly across the hardwood floor ensuring the heels of my shoes made a loud clicking noise with each step.  I like the clicking noise immensely.  It tells people the soles of my shoes are made from leather and wood, not plastic or rubber or whatever; that they were expensive.  I hope people will notice the gold skull and crossbones on the ball and wonder about the shoes.  I don’t want them to ask me about them, just wonder.  Wonder who makes them, wonder if they are expensive, wonder how I can get away with wearing them in such a conservative office.  I savor the short amount of hardwood between the stairs and the carpet of the bridge.  I was a little disappointed that I didn’t notice anyone noticing me, but there are worse things.

As I turned the corner into the bridge I saw two fat women waddling in tandem.  The walkway can accommodate three people or two fatties abreast.  There was no way I could squeeze around them.  This left me with a few options.  I could walk up behind them and politely ask them to move their ginormous assess and let me pass, but they might say no or give me a shitty look or call me a faggot.  And I’m a pussy and shy away from situations that risk confrontation, regardless of how unlikely and insignificant it might be.  Option two would be to walk up and hope they heard me coming and naturally moved over, but that never seems to work and usually results in me walking uncomfortably close to the other people, so I dismissed it also.  I went with my third option and adjusted my pace to stay a good ten feet behind them, which caused me to insert a tiny pause between steps that felt extremely unnatural.  This was going to cost me another two minutes.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and stared at a text message I’d read several hours earlier hoping to look like my extremely slow pace was due to my distraction with the phone.  I knew I risked being scolded for not watching where I was going.  “That’s not safe!” they’d say, but I decided the risk of the scolding was less than the risk of confrontation with the fat ladies.  I listened intently for the shifting of bags, the rustling of pant legs, and other noises that would indicate someone was walking up behind me and would further add to the traffic jam.  I was also concerned they would notice I was walking weirdly and realize I was a pussy who didn’t want to confront the fat women.

As we all reached the parking garage elevators, I slid my phone back into my pocket.  The fat ladies hit the down button, probably heading to the ground floor, probably only took the bridge in the first place to get just a minute more of air conditioning.  It angered me that they had no idea their terrible bodies had cost me two minutes of sanity.

I hit the up button and I rode up to the ninth floor.  Getting in as late as possible means I have to park on the top.  Sometimes that means parking on the roof and entering a sun baked car, but today I was on the ninth of ten floors and my car would be tolerable.

I climbed in and twisted the ignition.  The clock read 11:17, hardly worth driving out to get food at all.  I thought about getting back out and walking to the park, but there would be homeless people in the park and they might talk to me so fuck that.  I exited the garage driving very carefully and very slowly.  The speed limit is 5 miles per hour, which I’m pretty sure is below normal idle speed on every car ever made, but I do my best to comply.  I make full stops at every intersection.  ‘Always be safe, Jack,’ I reminded myself.

When I pulled in to the Panera Bread parking lot it was 11:25.  I’d have twenty minutes to eat my usual Chipotle Chicken Panini, sip some tea, and sneak glances at the beautiful cashier who I would someday convince myself I was going to talk to about more than just my method of payment.  Her nametag said Jessica.  I wondered if she noticed my shoes.  I wondered if she ever saw me get out of my BWM.  I wondered if she knew that I bought the shoes and the BWM to impress her.  That I managed to tolerate my job because of her. That really every decision I ever made was to impress her or people like her.  She probably did.

Yeah, twenty minutes, it wasn’t much, but it was enough.  Just breathing the air outside of my office, a somehow different air, helped me relax.  All things considered, I was having a pretty good day.

Posted in Don, Really Serious Literature