Adventures in job hunting.

I was doing some job hunting recently when I entered an office building not far from where I live. I strolled through the spacious lobby that was cooled off by large ceiling fans and walked up to the receptionist desk which sat in front of a elegant wooden wall bearing the company logo. I greeted the receptionist and asked her, “Are there any job openings here?”

She smiled and replied, “Just a moment.”

She just sat there at her desk, doing nothing to indicate that she was working. Her phone remained silent and her computer was idle long enough for the screen saver to run. She had on a look of intense concentration as if listening for something.

I waited for a minute and then spoke up again. “Yes, I was wondering if there were any job openings here.”

“Just a moment, please,” she answered, firmly but politely. Again she just sat there, listening attentively as if expecting something.

Then I made out faint voices echoing in the lobby that grew increasingly louder, and I could soon hear frantic footsteps and voices engaged in what sounded like a heated argument. The yelling became loud enough for me to understand the words and sounded like they were coming from behind the wooden wall.

To add to the confusion, the receptionist leaned over to the side, opened one of the side drawers of her desk and pulled out a pair of ear protection headphones. While smiling at me, she put on the headphones and then lowered herself to the floor to crawl under her desk.

Suddenly the logo on the wall slid out of sight to reveal an opening from which a giant cannon emerged. Inside the cannon was a man, fully dressed in his business suit and his face red with anger. “It wasn’t me!” he yelled. “I had nothing to do with us losing the contract!”

With a deafening roar the cannon fired, and the man flew out of the lobby, airborne over the parking lot and the trees outside the building where he continued flying towards the horizon, never to be seen again.

Smoke completely engulfed the lobby but quickly dissipated when the ceiling fans began spinning in the opposite direction to lift the smoke for disposal through the air conditioning vents. After the smoke cleared, I saw the cannon gone, the logo back in place on the wall and the receptionist back at her desk, sans headphones. It took me a while to digest what had just happened but soon decided to resume my purpose for entering the lobby in the first place.

I greeted the receptionist one more time. “Are there any job openings here?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

Chapter 16 – The Return of Skambintojo.

“Guys, it’s not looking good.” the team leader looked worried as he addressed his team of tech support agents who had gathered in the small meeting room. “Our numbers are down, way down. We need to bring them up immediately. We don’t want to upset S-, I mean, The-Manager-Who-Gets-Mad-When-We-Say-His-Name.”

The agents looked worried except for Fred, who looked annoyed. That was the third time the team leader nearly said the manager’s name.

I know the manager’s name, Fred thought. I’m not afraid to say it. Correct yourself like that one more time and I will say it, right here, right now.

“So when we get back to the phones, bear in mind that the dialer will be running faster than usual so we can catch up. That way our numbers will improve and S-, I mean, The-Manager-Who-Gets-Mad-When-We-Say-His-Name will be in a much happier frame of mind.”

“Say, who is The-Manager-Who-Gets-Mad-When-We-Say-His-Name?” Fred spoke up. “Skambintojo?”

Suddenly the entire room shook as the walls took a direct hit from some unseen being on the other side of the wall.

“DON’T SAY IT!” shrieked the team leader.

“Say what?” Fred retorted. “Skambintojo?”

The entire room shook again with another jarring punch from behind the wall, and a tiny crack began to form on the wall. The team leader’s eyes widened with terror. “Fred, do NOT say that name again!”

Fred looked up at the team leader. “Was that-?”

“Yes,” the team leader looked furious. “Say his name once more and he will reveal himself in a manner which cannot be unseen! The sight of his presence will burn itself into your eyes forever and there is no way you can ever get rid of it! I am warning you! You do not want to see him! DO NOT SAY HIS NAME AGAIN!”

Fred stood up. It was time for everyone to hear the truth.

“Bob Smith,” Fred began. “I can say that name, right? He was the agent who worked here years ago, slammed hard with nonstop calls and driven beyond his wits, beyond the borders of sanity.”

“What does that have to do with S-, I mean The-Manager-Who-Gets-Mad-When-We-Say-His-Name?”

“He was angry,” Fred continued, “Not just at the managers, but at everyone for failing to speak up. None of the agents could handle the heavy work load yet they said nothing and it got no better, in fact, it got much, much worse. That was beyond what Smith could handle and he began plotting his revenge.”

The team stared at Fred in silence.

“Fred carried out his plans for revenge by doing well at his job, in fact, he did so well that he began working his way up the ladder at a swift pace. SME, Team Leader, Supervisor, he kept going until he reached where he wanted to be. The manager of the entire call room. That’s where he unleashed his revenge, making working conditions next to impossible and causing agents to break into fits of rage so they could join his ever growing Army of Deranged Agents. His plan was flawless, except he needed a name to invoke fear. A name like ‘Bob Smith’ hardly has that effect, so he changed it. He went online and translated the word ‘Caller’ to Lithuanian. And do you know what the translated word is?”

The team leader’s eyes widened with terror. “DON’T SAY IT!”

“SKAMBINTOJO!” Fred bellowed.

The walls in the meeting room exploded to fragments of sheet rock as Skambintojo and his Army of Deranged Agents stampeded into the room from all directions.

Fred took one look at Skambintojo and let out a scream of terror.

Greasy black hair. An oily face spotted with pimples. Glasses with thick, black plastic frames. A red shirt with white polka dots. Purple pants with green vertical stripes that stopped short of his ankles. One black sock. One white sock. A pair of black platform shoes.

“All righty then,” Skambintojo greeted the terrified agents. “You heard your boss. Let’s get your numbers up and make me proud!”

The agents all screamed in unison, their shrill voices united as a single choir to reflect the atmosphere of fear in the room. Truly, things could not get any worse than this.

My last day at work.

Just minutes after I came back from my lunch break, my boss came up to me and snarled, “So you want to fruit my bread off? HOW DARE YOU! You have 10 minutes to get your stuff out of here before I call the police! YOU’RE FIRED!”

Shocked, I stammered, “But, but how-?”

“I saw your tweet!” My boss glanced at his watch. “You now have 8 minutes before I call the police and have you ARRESTED!” With that my boss stormed off, leaving me shocked at what had just happened. It was just an innocent tweet, that was it, just an innocent tweet. I didn’t even think “I detest this line of work! I vow to fruit my boss’s bread off!” even remotely sounded threatening, otherwise I wouldn’t have posted it. Apparently my boss thought otherwise, considering he’s one of those people born without a sense of humor.

I sat at my desk, immersed in total confusion. I thought my boss once told us to avoid using Twitter at all costs, yet he himself goes there to see tweets from people he follows, including mine. I was trying to sort out this contradiction when my boss came up to my desk again and murmured “Three minutes…” as he walked past.

There I sat, in total disbelief, refusing to believe that I had just lost my job that quickly after having survived three tumultuous years of unemployment. I didn’t want to give up my job without a fight so I decided to resume working on the projects I had in front of me. I was hoping to impress my boss to the point of him changing his mind about letting me go. A few minutes after resuming my work, I looked around cautiously. I had not seen my boss since he snarled his three-minute warning. Maybe he was kidding.

But then, maybe not. I saw my boss again at the entrance to the office, talking to two police officers who had just arrived. Suddenly he pointed at me from across the way. When the two officers saw me, they began walking towards my desk. My eyes widened with terror. I got up and began making my way towards the exit.

“What about your stuff?” my boss yelled.

I ignored him as I opened the front door to step outside.

I heard my boss yell from inside as the door closed behind me, “Your stuff’s going straight to the trash!”

I didn’t care. Better to lose my stuff than to deal with him any further. I hurriedly walked across the parking lot next to the office building and had just reached my car when my boss yelled, “Hey! You forgot to fruit my bread off!”

I stopped in my tracks and turned around slowly to face my former boss. He was standing there in front of the office building.

“Come again?” I shouted back.

“I said, you forgot to fruit my bread off!”

I stood there, staring my boss down as if this were the final showdown in some old western movie. Slowly I walked towards the building where I worked only minutes before.

“You can’t come in here!” my boss yelled as I approached the front door. “You don’t work here anymore!”

I pushed him aside as I ran back inside towards my desk with him in full pursuit. Once I got to my desk, I opened the top drawer, pulled out an orange and then headed for my boss’s office. The door to his office was open and there laying on his desk was a loaf of bread. Gripping my orange, I took aim and hurled it at the bread. The orange met its target head on and punched the bread off the desk, sending it falling to the floor.

“GET OUT OF THERE!” my boss screamed as he finally caught up with me in his office. But he was too late. When he saw his bread on the floor he let out a scream of despair. He instantly fell to his knees, shocked beyond measure that I had so victimized him like this. He was devastated to levels more unbearable than his senses could tolerate, thus allowing me time to slip away unnoticed, but not without myself feeling guilty at having committed the ultimate criminal offense, for I was true to my word and had indeed fruited my boss’s bread off.

The preceding story is a work of fiction. I was thinking about how easy it is for people to post angst-filled updates to their favorite social networks without thinking of the consequences that follow. There’s no telling who will read your updates, especially if you’re on a social network where anyone can read your updates, including your boss.

If school textbooks read like thriller novels.

I just finished reading The Lost Symbol, and before that, The Da Vinci Code, both of them thrilling works of fiction that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. The author, Dan Brown, is a masterful storyteller, skillfully arranging his words to surprise the reader with unexpected twists in the plot. I also admire how he blends in the characters’ thoughts between the paragraphs.

Yesterday I tweeted, “What if school textbooks were written as thriller novels? The students would be up all night turning pages and actually read every word.” I continued entertaining this thought to the point of imagining how such a book would read. I came up with the following passage from an imaginary thriller novel that doubles as a math textbook. The hero is no one other than a very young Robert Langdon.

Bobby Langdon stood in the darkened bathroom, the interior illuminated only by the nightlight on the wall. Too many thoughts racing around his head kept him wide awake after midnight and the only way to calm them down was to build up the courage to confront was what was confusing him the most.

I must seek the truth.

He stood in the bathroom near the nightlight facing the wall. In his hand he held a green crayon and raised it to draw a short vertical line on the wallpaper in front of him. Next to it he drew a second vertical line.

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

Bobby was nervous now, feeling guilty about committing an act of vandalism with a green crayon. His parents had raised him well and he knew better than to resort to drawing graffiti on the bathroom wall at 12:30 at night.

But this is the only way.

Bobby took a step back and surveyed his handiwork. One green line and one green line. Raising his hand he counted the lines.

Two.

Something is not right here.

He counted the lines a second time and once again the total was two.

Bobby started shaking his head in disbelief. He felt a surge of panic that did nothing to relieve the conflicting thoughts from within that refused to let him sleep. Cautiously he opened the door to the bathroom and darted across the hall to his bedroom. After closing the door behind him he switched on the light and then dashed to the pile of textbooks on his desk and pulled out his math book. He flipped the pages towards the chapter on basic addition.

Right away he saw something was wrong.

Very wrong.

Printed on the first page of the chapter on basic addition was an example of a very basic addition problem and upon seeing it Bobby was driven to a state of near hysteria. Seconds later the math textbook was launched into flight across the room, where it landed on the floor with a loud bang. Surely this would wake up his parents in the next room but Bobby paid that thought no heed. He was more confused and conflicted than ever and his throwing the math book across the room did nothing to relieve the internal conflicts now burning with escalating intensity.

Bobby got up from his desk, walked to his bed and collapsed on the soft sheets. He rolled over on his back and silently lay there, his eyes wide open and focused on the ceiling.

I don’t know what to believe.

And so he lay, wide awake, trying to differentiate between his shocking discovery on the bathroom wall and the example math problem that not only marked the beginning to the chapter on basic addition, but also set off the firestorm of confusion that kept Bobby from sleeping at all that night.

For inscribed on that page marking the beginning of the chapter detailing the basics of addition, next to a cartoon drawing of a smiling textbook, was a simple addition problem intended to introduce the reader to the basic concepts of addition.

1+1=3.

Apologies to Dan Brown.