The day Mulhausen shot the CIO in weekly staff was also the day I ignored Blair all morning. Although she was pissed off and cannily antagonistic toward me for allegedly having sex with my wife, I pretended to be pissed off and cannily antagonistic toward her for no apparent reason. The more seemingly indignant I pretended to become, the more malleable and compliant she became while also being utterly confused as to why I was so pissed off and cannily antagonistic toward her. I don't profess to understand it; I just know that this counterattack always worked.
Whenever I ignored Blair, it always freed up my time considerably. Blair exhausted a great deal of my time at work. This was another reason there was no time to do my job at the office. Not that I did anything anyway. And neither did any of the other executives at my corporation. Don't get me wrong, I was no executive. But I acted like one, so most everyone on the business side believed that I was one. In reality, I was just a manager everyone thought was a director who was about to be promoted to vice president. Nothing was further from the truth.
It all started when my direct boss was kicked out of the Company for not being difficult enough. If an executive is not oppressive and troublesome to everyone, including those above, something is unequivocally out of whack. In this case, the man was as pliable as Play Dough. Even I got everything I asked of him. When subordinates get what they ask for, you know you've got a serious breach in executive conduct. So, they got rid of him. One day he was there, the next he was “pursuing other opportunities.” Upper management planned on a long and thorough executive search, since this was a pivotal role, and they had no intention of making the same mistake twice. And although it was a pivotal role, they felt the company would operate simply fine for many months with nobody in the position.
Finding a difficult person is a difficult thing to do. In the interview, everyone always seems so pleasant and jocular; the kind of person you'd like to pal around with, not hire. It takes months and months of rigorous interrogation to get an executive candidate to show his or her true colors. And then, once a truly precarious candidate is identified, there will be subsequent months of negotiation on a contract and compensation package. A difficult executive candidate could draw deal negotiation out until the end of time.
In the meantime, I took over the role of IT Director without the actual title since someone had to do the job in the interim. It was quite easy to do what my former boss did, since he, like all the other executives in the Company, did nothing. I didn't realize how little he did until I had to do his job. And although I had more responsibility, I did less. And although I did less, I got credit for more.
“Looks like you get a couch in your office now,” Katie Loveshak from Facilities said with a coy grin as she slouched buoyantly in the doorway to my office.
I looked up and raised my eyebrows moderately as I awaited the punchline or at least further glib chatter on the subject, but there was none. She just continued to oscillate at my door and swell like a baking muffin top. That’s when I realized what was happening here. My boss was gone, and I was suddenly doing the things he used to do which was as little as possible, so Loveshak from Facilities, and probably many others, assumed I was promoted to the newly vacated position. Formal announcements didn’t happen at my Company, at least not in Technology. Mulhausen never enjoyed promoting anyone under him because it would put that person one step closer to his position. So if he found himself in the perilous situation of promoting someone out of sheer necessity, he would drape the title change in murky, nefarious secrecy and instruct the newly promoted to let the dissemination of their jubilant advancement happen organically. And this is why Loveshak was so giddy at my door. I was not going to lie about it, but I certainly wasn’t going to deny it. Especially if it got me a couch in my office. Sex on my desk after office hours during a volley of initial reckless passion was fine the first couple of times, but ongoing, an overly stimulated pair of coworkers really needed some semblance of comfort during the lurid act of adultery. A couch would work fine, even if it were just a love seat—which is what Directors got. VP’s and above got a choice between a table with chairs or a full-length couch. But who wants to sit at a table and talk when you could be fucking on a full-length couch?
“Great,” I said, slapping on friendly face. “When will that arrive?”
“Already ordered,” she said. “Should be here in a week.”
Loveshak typically made no concerted effort to socialize at work because she was too busy mandating compliance with everything even remotely related to Facilities. There was a friendly little sign everywhere that reminded us all our communal responsibilities. Clean the microwave after use, make another pot of coffee if you finish the pot, keep what you want, but all food and drink in the refrigerator will be thrown out the first day of each month, and other rules of compliance. She even posted in the men’s bathroom above the urinals a sign that read, “Pay attention to your aim; the urinals don’t clean themselves.” I was surprised she didn’t mandate sit-down pissing for men like McKinney’s wife requires.
“I understand why a woman would try to emasculate her man that way,” I told McKinney. “But I don’t understand why a man would comply.”
McKinney shamelessly shrugged his lithesome shoulders. “My two boys do it too. It’s messy otherwise. Who wants to clean piss off the toilet? Sitting down is more relaxing. I don’t mind at all.”
“It’s our right as men,” I said patriotically, “to pee on everything. You are raising your kids to be earthy. Is that what you want? Earthy children?”
“What’s wrong with Earthy?”
“Earthy gets beat up at school, that’s what’s wrong with Earthy. Earthy doesn’t get the girl. The hot girl. Earthy pines for the hot girl but never gets the hot girl. Earthy writes poems. Poems expressing melancholy, morose, despondent, and depressing thoughts. Earthy becomes a serial killer. That’s what’s wrong with Earthy.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“Not even Conklin’s wife makes him piss sitting down, and she makes him do everything—including the laundry, dishes, and cleaning the entire house. Meanwhile, she works an hour a day and fucks everyone in the neighborhood.”
“Conklin also cleans the toilets. So, what does she care?”
“Do you piss sitting down at work?”
“No, not here,” McKinney said as if the notion were utterly ridiculous. “You think I’m cleaning these toilets?”
“Of course not,” I said. “Loveshak cleans the toilets. Or so we’re led to believe. She might very well like to have a conversation with your wife, and then look at the trouble you’d be in.”
Loveshak worked for Bloom, Skeffington’s Office Manager. Skeffington was the CEO of the Division and had a predisposition for hiring either older or very, very plain women on the administrative side with the exception of Charmaine, his executive assistant, who penguined Kessler because Skeffington was too demanding. Loveshak fell in the very, very plain category and smiled only occasionally with listless eyes and a plunging posture. She was not unhappy; she was just mechanical and indifferent. Once in a while, I’d be caught in the elevator alone with her and feel the need to make conversation. There was never a need from her point of view, but instinctively I’d initiate social interaction and regret it immediately. The discussion was always bone dry and lacking any real sense of humanism. She was a drone. Whenever this happened, with acute peripheral vision, I’d glare at the passing digitized floor numbers as if that would make them pass quicker. The express elevator was never quick during a conversation with Loveshak. But we all had our little challenges to overcome.
“You’ll probably get a bigger office,” she said in a conspicuous timbre. “You only have 248 ceiling tiles now. That doesn’t seem fitting. You should have at least 270.”
I never subscribed to counting ceiling tiles. Not my own, not in other offices. I was glad just to have an office. And now, I was elated to get a couch.