Sunday, 15 October 2017

Chapter 2 - Truth is stranger than fiction

With that the men from property walked out of the room and left James standing beside the desk.

Muttering to himself, James vented his frustration by swearing before reaching for the phone on the desk. When he realised there was no tone he abruptly put the phone back on its handle and paced around the room.

“I am the Executive Officer in this place, and I have been relegated to…a desk in the basement. Someone’s head is going to roll.”

Before he could do anymore, the door opened, and two women walked in.

“Hi Jamie,” they said. “My, don’t you look flash.”

James replied with, ‘My name is James, not Jamie – there is a mistaken identity.”

The women twittered before one of them said, ‘Oh come on Jamie, have you been to elocution lessons on the weekend. Look how you are talking, all good and proper.”

With that they both laughed again and busied themselves at their desks, getting ready for the day.

“Come on, Jamie,” said the taller of the two women, “You’ve still got to collect the papers no matter how flash you’re looking and talking today.”

“Papers,” spat James. “Don’t you know who I am? I am James Buinthelly, Executive Officer of this company. I do not collect papers the papers are delivered to me in the Executive Suite where I will be returning as soon as I find out who the idiot was who assigned me this……” he trailed off as he motioned to the desk.

Nonchalantly the taller woman shrugged her shoulders and announced, “My you won’t get far today, Jamie with that attitude. The best thing you can do is to change into your spare clothes you keep in your locker. That will bring you down to our level, once you get out of that suit.”

Infuriated, James turned and left the office and made his way to the lift.

He made his way back to the Executive Suites, however when he reached the door, he found his pass did not swipe to let him in. He peered through the glass doors, trying to get the attention of Marianne who was chatting to Jamie, the new owner of his office.

When he realised that he wasn’t getting noticed, he reluctantly turned and left, thinking he would call Judi to get her to sort it out and made his way back to East Wing. At least, there, he thought he had a desk and phone. Loosening his tie and removing his jacket, he felt surprisingly calm.

Opening the door to his new office, Yvonne (the taller woman) turned when she heard footsteps.

 “Hello.” So, you’ve returned.”

 “Yes,” he said.

He made his way to his desk, claiming his space by putting his case on it.

“Mmm,” she said, as she looked at him. “So,” she continued, Lisa’s gone to collect the papers, James….Jamie.” She was silent and then continued, “Whoever you are, you are working with us for now. I’m your Manager.”

Yvonne continued to stare at him, bemused at his presence. She played along, “Ok Jamie, when you’re settled, I’ll go through this morning’s data entry, just to err, refresh you, so we all know what we need to do..”

James nodded and switched on his computer. “Sure,” he said, and catching her name badge, continued, “Sure, Yvonne.”

Their eyes locked and then both turned away, James unpacked his bag and Yvonne set her eyes at the computer.

When he was settled, he let Yvonne know. She stopped what she was doing and began coaching him. He quickly picked up the method and almost embarrassed at having to give him the instructions, Yvonne was relieved to be able to return to her computer.

They worked in silence. James continued with the data entry, however, he wrestled with the demotion. Containing his feelings, he made an internal deal to see the day through as if it was a normal day in the office.

He debated about calling Judi and while he knew he was within his rights, an implicit feeling told him not to do it. Being placed, though in a position of powerlessness, which is how he considered his current position to be, the only thing he felt he could do was to listen to his inner compass. That is, if he wanted to survive this ordeal, intact. Holding this thought, he focused on the data entry.

After delivering the papers Lisa returned and noticing James at work, said, “All’s well then,” as she sat at her desk.
The team worked silently for several minutes until Yvonne got up and announced she was going to a meeting. When gone, Lisa turned to James, saying “If you need anything, let me know.”

He sensed she understood more than she was willing to say and replied, “Thanks Lisa.”

Both turned back to their work. The only sound was the tapping of fingers on keyboards and as if sensing the unsettling atmosphere, Lisa asked James if he minded if she switched the radio on.

“No problem,” he said.

The music dispelled the silence, and both were grateful for the added dimension the music brought to the room as they carried on with the morning’s work.

His mind wandered, thinking about that person with his name who sat in his office. He wistfully looked up the name of his executive assistant in the staff directory. His name was listed as her manager and when he clicked on it, the face of the person in his office displayed. Before he could express any emotion, Yvonne appeared.

“God,” she said, “that Fergan is his usual self, making changes to next year’s staffing budget without any real consultation. Just doing it to save his own hide.”

James swung his chair around, and said, “I go back a long way with Fergan. We both started out in in Revenue. I got promoted to a job he wanted, and he has never forgotten. I don’t know why, he has done alright. He’s clambered over people though to get to where he is and would be the first to throw you under a bus to save himself.”

James paused for a moment before continuing, “It’s why I’m here.”

Yvonne added, “Yes he had Jamie, our Jamie at the meeting. The guy who replaced you in..Executive."

She paused and then continued, “I don’t know how, but Jamie held his own. He came in under special measures, yet has come up with an extraordinary idea which is being put to the board next week.”

She stopped speaking for a moment and then continued, “Jamie’s proposing 1 day off in lieu, for staff each month in response to all the conversations he had with people over the past 12 months when collecting and delivering newspapers. Productivity and profits are high - under this model profits are projected to skyrocket.”

James nodded, allowing Yvonne to continue. “Yes, extraordinary suggestion, yet so true. Why not? If the staff are increasing profits, this means the company is well ahead – and a day off each month will improve staff morale. Quite astounding really.”

James reflected and then said, "mmm special measures, inclusive workforce, yes everyone makes contributions.”

“Yes,” said Yvonne, “it’s a label really – the way I observed Jamie handling himself like a seasoned pro.”

There was silence before she continued, “He does, though, know that he well, he isn’t ….er…the full….”

She continued, “I see how he interacts with the guys – they are very accepting, but I can see in him, that sense that, well he knows that he isn’t quite up to it – he knows, that they know, that he isn’t, well, that there is a bit missing…even so, the guys are so decent about it….

There was silence, both lost in their thoughts until Yvonne piped up. “Can you look at something for me.”

“Yes, what is it?”

She rummaged around her desk looking for a piece of paper and while she was doing it, James piped up, “Er actually Yvonne do you mind if I have an early mark? I’m feeling quite….shattered..”

Yvonne, stopped what she was doing and said, “Oh of course. It’s been quite a day?”

James collected his belongings and made for the door. “Thanks Yvonne, that’s great, see you tomorrow.” 

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