Chapter 4 – Nine to Five

On Monday it was back to work, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., which were the exact hours that his dad had worked from the time he was first aware that his dad was going to work until the time he retired. Until he started working, himself, Randy thought that all jobs, at least the ones in offices, were 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Eventually, his one goal was to work any hours but 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. But when he was offered the job at ThribbleSpec, the previous year, and was told that the hours were 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., he decided that it would be silly to make that—the hours of 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.—a deal-breaker, since it seemed to be, at the time, an ideal job in every other way. He really hated that phrase, “deal-breaker,” actually, and was sorry he had used it, even in his thoughts.

Something was horribly off on this Monday morning. Maybe it was the awkward and disturbing meeting with his co-worker, Harmony, on the previous Friday that had left a bad taste in his mouth. When he and Harmony crossed paths that morning, at like 8:01 a.m., and were likely to continue to do countless times that day, since the office was an open concept and he and Harmony literally rubbed elbows. Well, not literally, not quite, though Randy had worked in offices, in the past, where that was nearly literally true, on trading floors where the team-members were seated as close as possible, only restricted by the space required by each of their dual, oversized computer screens—a place where it was impossible to tell whether the smell of the meatball sub was coming from the guy on your left, right, in front, or behind you, and the utmost care had to be taken not to squirt the juice from a big bite of a meatball sub onto a team-member's keyboard, or shoe.

Anyway, Randy and Harmony greeted each other and got on with the day and acted no different than usual, with no acknowledgment whatsoever that they had slept together. Which they hadn't, of course, but Randy couldn't help but think that as weird as he felt about the previous Friday's meeting, he would have felt no less weird had they slept together. Though, of course, that wasn't true—he would have felt too weird to even come to work had that been the case. Yet people did that all the time, didn't they? He was pretty sure that several of his co-workers were sleeping with each other, outside of the workplace, of course, secretly. He wasn't totally sure, but he was pretty sure, at least about a couple of the perceived affairs, as you didn't spend half a century observing people in social situations without being able to read body language and psychic waves, even if he had no idea what the hell a lot of them were talking about much of the time.

He picked an open spot at a table as far away from the break-area as possible and opened his laptop and got started with the morning's work. First he checked Slack, even though there was no reason to check it because he would have gotten notifications. He was hoping there'd be no memo to address because he wanted to get a good jump on his usual work, which mostly consisted of creating spreadsheets with the latest data on the accounts he was assigned, and then likely it would be necessary, since it was Monday, to create a PowToon presentation that was a compendium of previous PowToon presentations, which generally no one ever looked at, but were necessary to have accessible at a moment's notice if there happened to be a request from a Senior Team-member at a regional hub.

The entirety of what went on at ThribbleSpec was a vast mystery to Randy and, he suspected, a good number of his coworkers. Every once in a while he would gain an insight, just through reading a memo or overhearing a conversation, but he realized that the more he knew, the more nauseating he found it, so he decided that, while ignorance wasn't exactly bliss, it was preferable. Much of it was highly technical and the exclusive realm of software engineers, or whatever they were called, and an even larger legion was the sales department. The reason he was able to land the job in the first place was that he had steeled himself sufficiently to answer an employment add that had unashamedly requested a “rockstar” spreadsheet “wizard.” He knew it was a ruse; a preliminary test to see who could hold back the vomit long enough to shoot off a resume and generic cover letter. The reason he was hired, he found out later, was that it was a ThribbleSpec company policy to hire a certain percentage of people over the age of 50 and with disabilities. Not necessary both, but either and/or both. Randy, not long after being hired, joked that it had fallen in his favor that ThribbleSpec apparently considered baldness a disability. His co-workers pretended not to hear him.

The morning dragged on, then, the way Monday mornings do in jobs in which the hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Monday morning was the grim 10% of the work week in which one couldn't imagine any life at all but the work week. In past jobs with similar hours in which Randy had worked, someone would usually bring in a box of doughnuts on Monday, which may as well have been knots of dough twisted into an infinity symbol before being deep-fried and then sprinkled with powdered sugar and named death snacks of the infinite Monday morning blues, or something. Of course, at ThribbleSpec there were no doughnuts, perhaps because the office was an open concept and there would have been nowhere suitable to put the box of doughnuts, except maybe on the pingpong table, since no one ever played pingpong. But there was always that potential, so it wouldn't have done to put the doughnuts there. The morning dragged on.