Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The office follies, conclusion

"She WHAT?"

"I asked her to get me some coffee. I was on a long conference call," Dom says. "So she just glares at me like she's gonna rip my head off and says, 'I'm not your secretary!' "

"But she IS!"

"No shit, Steve! She's nuts! I don't know what got into her."

"So what? She just walked out?"

"NO! She grabbed my brass pen and pencil holder and THREW it at me! Then she said 'I QUIT!' and she left! She's ready for a padded limo, man!" It strikes me that Dom still isn't raising his voice. He never does.

"You ok, Dom? You don't look so good."

"Yeah, she basically missed me with the pencil holder. Just freaked me out a bit. She looked really pissed. I've never seen her that way. I don't know what's WRONG with her!"

Yeah, me neither. No fucking clue at all.....can't imagine what could be going on there...

Fred is still screaming over the phone: ".....my money! Goddammit, Steve, it's a good thing I'm not in that office right now...." he is saying.

"Fred." I say. "CALL. TIM. And do not call me back until you do."

"Steve, do not hang up-"

Click.

Bonnie is in my doorway. "I found out who transferred the call," she says.

"Who?"

"Doug." Our controller.

"Tell him I want to see him. Now."

"It was Dan Johnson on the phone."

Ahh, shit. What does HE want?

"Is he still on?" I ask.

"Yes, of course. I'll send him back."

My phone rings. "This is Steve."

"Steve, what in the holy HELL is going on down there?"

Aren't you gonna ask me what I learned today? 'Cause I learned not to fuck 18-year-old, coke-snorting secretaries who work for me. Especially ones with round, perfect asses and nice blowjob lips.

"Lila just quit, Dan."

"So I hear. Carl told me. I told you to be careful, Steve."

"It couldn't be helped, Dan."

"Yes, it COULD have. You could have not had sex with her, Steve. And I'll never understand why you gave such a young girl so much responsibility. Especially one you were fucking. NOW what are you going to do?"

Bonnie is back. "Steve, Fred is back on the phone. Says he's not hanging up. He's REALLY pissed!"

I cover the mouthpiece of the phone with my hand. "Tell him if I pick up now, he doesn't want to fucking deal with me," I say through gritted teeth. I am surprised; I usually don't swear around Bonnie.

"Dan, employees leave all the time. We'll make do."

"You'd better. As a matter of fact, I want HER back. You go and apologize to her, or buy her a frigging Barbie doll, or do whatever it takes to get her to take her job back." I have never heard him so pissed.

"Dan, she threw a pen and pencil holder at Dom. I'm not hiring her back." It's time for me to be bold. I run this office, and Dan does not.

"Ahhhh, I'm disappointed, Steve. I hope you're not losing control out there."

Bonnie is back in my door. "What?" I say.

"I can't get into the commission spreadsheet!"

"What commission spreadsheet," I ask.

"The one Lila works on. It's password protected, and I have the password, but it's not working anymore!"

I need to get Dan off the phone. This whole place is falling apart and I need to deal with it. Can't just tell him I'll call him later, though. He's the CEO.

"Dan, let me work on a plan to recover from this, and I'll get back to you by end of business today." Always give a target time, guys.

"Talk to you then, Steve."

Finally, unshackled from the telephone. "Bonnie, call Paul from IT. Tell him we need to hack that password." Lila must have changed it before leaving. Dammit!

"Already did. He says it's going to take hours or days."

"Hours or DAYS?"

"Steve, we need that report TODAY. There are a lot of commissions that need to go out!"

I look up at the Mona Lisa that hangs in my office. She's smiling, like she always does. It's a funny thing about that painting: No matter where you are in the room, she seems to be looking at you. Looking at her reminds me that this is a bump in the road, that this will pass and I will survive it. She reminds me that I can smile through just about anything.

I walk out to Lila's desk. There are pictures of some kids she used to babysit, and a couple of funny things she had clipped from the newspaper. She had a little red pompom cap on her pen and a tin box of Altoids on the corner of her desk.

She liked it here. What the fuck did I do?

I try to open the spreadsheet. Just for the hell of it, I try a few passwords: "asshole", "shithead", "dickhead", "meathead," etc. Nothing.

"I'll be back," I say.

"Where are you going?" Dom says.

"I'm going to get the password."

**********

Lila's apartment. The door is open. I walk inside and Lila is at the kitchen table. Snorting cocaine.

"Hey," I say.

She looks at me. It's the look of a little girl who just found out there is no Santa Claus. I can't lecture her anymore. It would be no use.

She gazes up at me, her face soft and wounded. "Just tell me you love me one more time," she says, in her little-girl voice.

"Baby, you know I love you."

She bursts into tears. She kisses me.

"Please believe me," I say. "I am so sorry it did not work out. I'll always care about you very much."

"Get out, Steve."

"Lila, I need the password for the spreadsheet. Did you change it?"

"LEAVE!"

"I really meant it when I said I love you," I say. "I blame myself for what happened. You deserve someone better than me."

Her eyes tear up. "You were on the phone today, and I looked at you," she says, "and you were laughing. You were LAUGHING!"

"I was laughing?"

"I haven't laughed in a week, Steve. I haven't even SMILED. And you don't even care. You're laughing on the phone."

"Lila, it's not that I don't care-"

"I hate you so much," she says. "I can't even look at you. I HATE you!"

"Don't say that."

"GET OUT!"

I walk to the door. She follows me. She grabs the door.

"The password," she says, "Is cocksucker."

Then she slams the door.