#84 Isolation

“Why is Jeremy still here?”, snarled Tom.

“I know, the little creep should have left months ago”, Sandra replied.

Jeremy Smith, a junior-level data analyst at Strategic Data Initiatives Inc. was not well liked by his co-workers. A natural loaner, Jeremy came into the office when he chose, left when he felt like it, and management never raised an eyebrow. And why should they? Jeremy was the fastest worker they had – he often completed work 2-3 times faster than his senior colleagues. He was in line for a promotion, in a few months he’d pass Tom & Sandra, both veterans of the firm.

They had taken upon themselves the job of trying to get Jeremy to quit. They instructed none of their friends to speak to him, something that none of them were doing regularly anyway. Jeremy was to be treated like a pariah. He didn’t seem to notice. It was normal for no one to speak to him, for his phone to not ring all day, etc.

Then they started spreading the rumors around. Everything they could think of. The nastier the better. Jeremy just ignored all of it.

Sandra & Tom were at a loss of what to do. They dared not put anything about him in writing, via email or somewhere in the office, as management could easily track that back to them. Suddenly it came to them.

“Ya know, he always wears that stupid hoodie”, Tom told Sandra.

“Yea, so what?”, Sandra replied.

“I bet he wears headphones underneath it!”, Tom said with glee.

“Ah, so he doesn’t hear anything… that would explain it”, Sandra said with a smile.

So they started on a new petition – to make a dress code change at the office. No hoods, no headphones. They coached it as some way to improve employee relations – people would feel more connected to each other, and junk like that. They got some supervisor in another part of the office to go with it, and he got it implemented site wide. On Day 1, they saw Jeremy walk in, no hood, no headphones.

They started their rumor mill up, and before long people were blushing at the things Sandra, Tom, and their followers were ‘accidentally’ saying about Jeremy. Jeremy just sat there, a blank expression on his face as he worked away.

Sandra & Tom couldn’t figure out what they were doing wrong. To their dismay, Jeremy was promoted. Not to management, but to a senior analyst position on a higher floor. They were happy he was gone. He didn’t fit in anyway.

Several months passed until one day a peculiar email arrived in both Sandra & Tom’s inbox. They had a meeting with their boss’s boss on a higher floor. They went up and gleefully thought about what this might mean. They’d both been looking to move into management, maybe this was literally the call up.

They were a bit shocked when they entered the room and saw Jeremy sitting in one of the chairs before the desk.

“Sandra, Tom, come in and sit down”, the boss beckoned. They sat down next to Jeremy.

“I believe you know Jeremy, although I gather you two weren’t close when he worked near you. So you should probably know that Jeremy is legally deaf – so speak up!”, the boss said as they peered over at Jeremy. That’s why the kid hadn’t ever noticed their venomous spew!

“Jeremy has worked on employee statistics here, and he’s brought me some interesting findings about both of you”, the boss began. Sandra and Tom began to get nervous.

“It seems that, for some time now, you’ve both been failing to meet performance standards. Normally you would have been coached on this and we could have fixed the problem – but it seems as though floor management has been a bit behind with silly things like dress code changes and enforcement. I’m really sorry to tell both of you this, but I don’t think we can keep you at the analyst level any longer”.

Sandra and Tom were shocked. Sure, they’d slacked off a bit since they figured Jeremy did and was rewarded for it.

“Uh, what are our options?”, Tom asked, a bit taken aback.

“Well, unfortunately you only have 2. You can become Jeremy’s assistants as he starts a new group here, or you can resign”, the boss said matter-of-factly.

“We’re not sure that would work well”, Sandra said.

“Yea, Jeremy honestly doesn’t seem like he needs assistants”, Tom added. “Perhaps we could work in another division, or have another chance?”.

The boss raised one eyebrow and glanced at Jeremy. Jeremy, for the first time Tom or Sandra had ever seen, let out a curled smile. Perhaps more of a smirk. His hearing aide turned up to high had given him Tom’s answer, and he knew the intent behind it.

“I’ll have security escort you both out”, the boss said.


To Do Lists For Sanity’s Sake!

So I’m not normally a forgetful person. In fact, sometimes I recall things that surprise others around me (i.e. random birthdays, etc…). And one thing I’ve never had trouble remembering is the tasks that I have to get done, both long and short-term. Major parts of my job(s) don’t fall through the cracks. So why do I use a to-do list service? The little things that go bump in my head… Continue reading “To Do Lists For Sanity’s Sake!”

#71 Don’t I Know You?

Mitch walked into the office. He was 15 minutes early for the interview, so he sat by the reception area after checking in. The receptionist smiled at him, however he couldn’t help but notice her prolonged gaze, almost as if she hesitated before telling him that Mr. Smith would let her know when he could head back.

Mitch was 20 years old, and a college graduate. He’d studied hard, and his internship at a small branch of the larger company had earned him the interview. He was nervous, but well prepared for almost anything. It turned out that no amount of preparation could have helped him in the awkwardness that was about to occur.

Mr. Smith called for Mitch about 20 minutes later. Mitch walked down the hall and was beckoned into Smith’s office by his loud booming voice. Mitch could be quite loud too, however that was with friends. Today he was somewhat reserved, sitting in a new suit, mentally ready for the barrage of questions.

Smith and Mitch looked at each other for a moment after shaking hands, as Smith got a pen and pad ready to take notes.

“Uh”, Smith began, slightly taken aback, “Where are you from, Mitch?”

“From outside Newberry”, Mitch replied.

“Newberry…. “, Smith said, rolling it around in his mind and mouth. He almost visibly shook his head as if shaking off the feeling of discontinuity. He asked Mitch several pre-written questions from a standard interview form, but stopped about 10 minutes in.

“Mitch, I gotta ask this – have we met before?”, Smith asked.

“I don’t think so, I’ve never been to the city before, and I don’t think you ever visited the branch I interned at”, Mitch replied.

“But still, you seem really familiar”

“Yes, you seem a bit familiar too”, Mitch said as he glanced around the room. Noticing pictures of presumably Smith’s family, Mitch was shocked to see people who looked familiar as well. Smith noticed Mitch’s eyes glancing and took down the photo with the most number of people in it.

“Is that your mother?”, Mitch asked as he pointed to one of several older women in the photo, “And an aunt – there – from your father’s side?”.

Astonished, Smith replied affirmatively. Mitch looked at each member of the family and guessed their relationship to Smith, guessing correctly every time. Mitch then pulled out his wallet and showed Smith several photos. Somehow, Smith was equally able to name them.

“Mitch, you just graduated college, correct?”, Smith asked after the photos had been stowed and shelved.

“Yes, in December 2011”, Mitch replied.

“I graduated in December 2001”, Smith said.

The began to compare life histories, and over the course of the hour, an hour that was supposed to be filled with questions about a prospective job, benefits, challenges, and the like, they realized that their histories ran roughly parallel, 10 years removed. They even bore a resemblance to each other physically, although they didn’t notice this until near the end of their meeting.

The two men parted company but promised to consult with family and friends, looking to see if somehow they were connected. Obviously Smith liked Mitch, and recommended he be hired. Some months later, Mitch received a call from his great-grandmother, who was ill and normally not able to talk. She was feeling good that day, and wanted to speak to her only great-grandson. Mitch asked her about Smith, telling the matriarch the details of their meeting.

“Well Mitch”, the old woman began, “When you reach my age, you realize something. We’re all fundamentally living the same lives, just years apart. Some times it’s more noticeable than others, such as with you and your friend there. And you, my child, have hopefully saved yourself a lot of grief by learning this life lesson early.

“What do you mean Grandma?”, Mitch asked.

“It’s easier to spend life recognizing the common threads that bind us together, and not focus on the loose ends that distinguish us.”

ONE HUMAN FAMILY © by inazakira


#69 Elevator Etiquette

Ed stepped onto the elevator as usual, with a long line of people behind him. After the long day of going up countless stairs, he was happy taking the extra few minutes to ride the elevator up and down. Being able-bodied, however, made him vow to be as courteous as possible. He immediately pressed the “door open” button upon entering, held it until all were on board, pressed the “door close” button, and then upon reaching the destination, he reversed the process, always allowing others out before him. Finally he sent the elevator back down to ‘help out’ the next weary soul on their way home.

On rare days when another beat him out as ‘first in line’, he chuckled as the door slammed into those boarding the elevator, the person near the panel not bothering to keep his or her finger depressed onto the button until all were there. In Ed’s mind, the daily ritual of the elevator etiquette had become something of a lofty place in society – if he didn’t set the example, the entire world suffered.

Then came the day he realized that it all didn’t matter. Sure he never expected to receive a medal or anything for his elevator chivalry, but one moment, standing on the elevator, looking at some familiar and not so familiar faces, he realized that he was the only one who noticed that he went to great lengths to be kind to others. And with the exception of the rare older person who thanked him for holding the door, no one else much cared.

For a few weeks he contemplated ‘retiring’ from his elevator operator role. While habit kept him doing the same old things, he knew that habits could be changed just as easily back to the default. He kept asking himself why he bothered with these gestures, until he finally had the answer.

He did it because it made him feel better, made him feel as though he were contributing in some small way to the world. And in the end, if he was the only person who benefitted explicitly from it, it was still worth it. So he kept up, not caring if any day in the future it would make a difference in a big way to his fellow passengers. Over the years it had already made a big difference to him.

Elevators © by Charlie Day DaytimeStudios


#55 Apostrophe Shrugged

“I don’t get it”, Apostrophe said to his friend, Comma. “People keep calling me up at all hours to go sit in “its” when they obviously want possession and not a contraction”.

“It’s your own fault Apos”, Comma said with a smile, “Just like me, people have figured out how darn useful you are, and sometimes they throw you in where you’re not needed”.

“I feel like a grammatical failure”, Apostrophe said sadly.

“Oh come now, you’re not a failure”, Comma said reassuringly.

“But I’m so misused, it’s horrible”, Apostrophe cried.

“No, what’s horrible are our friends who aren’t used at all – take ole Guillemmets – no one uses him at all except to be ‘cute'”, Comma said, “And poor Slash is always getting confused between his back and front!”.

“Yea, but it’s different to be overused incorrectly”, Apostrophe said.

“Hey buddy – at least you’re not Hyphen or Dash – those guys have complained for years”, Comma replied.

“Well… I guess it could be worse”, Apostrophe said as he wiped the tears from his eyes.

“Yea, at least we’re not…”, Comma started.

INTERROBANG!“, they said in unison.

And off in the typesetting wilderness, Interrobang sighed.

Portable Typewriters © by alexkerhead

#48 Sticks and Stones

Tim sat quietly on the playground. It had been several days since he’d made it through a recess without torment, and today looked promising. Both groups of bullies, those who were stronger and those who were smarter, were preoccupied with other sociopathic pursuits.

Tim wasn’t exactly odd, at least not according to his parents or teachers. He knew a bit too much of the world to fit into 5th grade social structures. He didn’t care to converse about the latest trend, discuss the latest dirty rumor, or play some mindless game with people he hated. So he hung out on the side of the building, waiting and praying for the bell to ring.

“Gotcha”, screamed the largest one of the pack as they rounded the corner. “Knew we’d find a loser like you here”.

Tim endured the taunts for the eternity of ten minutes before the bell rang. It’s ringing sent the pack scampering off, but Tim stayed back a moment, to make sure they wouldn’t be near him as they marched single-file back to their classroom. He stood in the shadow of the building until a hand on his shoulder startled him. He spun around and saw a man he’d never met before, but instantly felt comfortable with. There was something so familiar about him.

“Hello Tim”, the man said.

“Who are you?”, Tim said as he inched away. His brain told him to be cautious.

“My name is Tim too”, the man replied. “In fact, Tim, I’m you – just about 20 years older”.

“That’s crazy – who are you really?”, Tim replied.

The man then proceeded to verify his identity. He told Tim about memories he’d never shared with anyone, and showed him the scar on his leg from an accident they had suffered a year earlier.

“So why are you here?”, Tim asked the man.

“I need to give you something, something you’ll need”, the man said with urgency in his voice. “You see, having it will make the next 10 years much easier”.

“What is it?”, Tim said.

“Permission not to care about what they say”, the other Tim said as he gestured toward the spot the bullies had stood on moments earlier.

“Oh, I don’t care”, Tim said.

“That’s not true, we both know it”, elder Tim said. “You and I both know that the words do hurt, and that there is nothing that anyone, even I, can say to make them not hurt. The truth is, children can be the most psychopathic bullies on the planet – irritating each other adults alike. So I’m not going to tell you to ignore them, I’m just telling you that you have permission to not care about what they say. There is a subtle difference”.

“Sounds the same to me – just ignore them, they’ll go away – that’s all my parents … uh… our parents say”, Tim replied.

“And they don’t go away, do they?”, elder Tim said with a laugh. “They won’t go away – but you can stop their words from having any effect once you realize that nothing they say has any meaning at all”.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m from the future – right? I know what’s going to happen to you and them, and I gotta tell you – in 20 years you won’t have talked to any of them for 17 years. And every stupid little thing they say now will have absolutely no bearing on where you end up in life, what you do, who you marry, and how good of a person you are. You’re going to have dozens of friends in 20 years, they’ll all love and respect you, and you know a few of them already”, elder Tim explained.

Tim stood there while his older counterpart put his hand out.

“Just think about it Tim – you can build a shield they can’t penetrate – you know what they’re saying makes no difference beyond the moment they say it – and even then, only you can give it any weight”.

Elder Tim left, while his younger self somehow made it back to class in time.

The next day, Tim stood where he wanted to, not in the corner. The bullies approached.

“Hey Dummy – you look so stupid just standing there”.

“Really? Guess you’d know what stupid looks like – you see it in the mirror every morning”, Tim said in reply. He’d been saving that line for months – but by following the advice of his parents to ‘ignore’ the bullies, he’d never used.

“Why you little…”, the big one said as he charged toward Tim.

“What are you going to do Dummy? Go sit in the principal’s office for hitting me?”, Tim replied.

The older kid had never heard someone talk back.

“Let’s go guys – this dummy is too stupid to beat up”.

As Tim watched them walk away, he chuckled at the irony of the bully’s final taunt.


#41 A Letter To The Eager Train Lady

Dear Lady,

I try to see the good in every one, giving the benefit of the doubt. But you defy my logic skills – I simply can’t figure you out! You push your way into the spot, closest to the door, as if the extra inches you gain, increase your experience score. I sometimes find myself tempted, on days you seem most high strung, to place myself between you and the door, proverbially sticking out my tongue.

But maybe you have your reasons, I can’t say I’ve ever inquired. You might have been left behind as a child, abandoned and forgotten, a lifelong compulsion thus inspired. Or maybe you think the doors will close quickly, as they are sometimes apt to do, and the usual conductor will judge you sickly, and to the next station carry you.

Finally, you might just be rude.

But then again, I try to see the good in everyone.


The big guy in the black coat.