My friend Al came over for dinner one night, as
he does once a month or so. It hadn't been very long since the last
time, and he said he had something to tell me. Normally I like to
experiment when I cook, but when Al joins me I
pretty much go by the book. Al says he doesn't like it when
cooks "play dice with the recipe".
Small talk lasted through the dinner, and when we adjourned to the
library for some cheese and crackers, he told me the big news. There'd
been a large reorganization at Aquinas Corporation where he works; he'd
gotten a big promotion and there would be some hiring.
He'd heard me complain before that my job at Dogmacorp was a dead end;
people taking a position there tended to get stuck in it. He suggested
that I look into moving.
As he said good night, he gave me the number of someone to call and
said I shouldn't wait too long if I wanted to give it a try.
The manager I met with the next day told me that Al was right. Aquinas
was a conservative company, rarely hiring or firing
anyone but rather shifting them around, and when there was an opening
it didn't tend to last long. He had a few positions we could talk about,
but I was not qualified for most of them. He knew how
things were at Dogma, though, and he could see the desire in my eyes.
I guess something about me rubbed him the right way, because he seemed
determined to get me into something.
The next Monday morning, I reported to my new boss, Mr. Pauli, in the
animal husbandry department. "Call me Wolfy," he
ordered me in his booming voice, with a smile that seemed like he'd
pulled it out of storage for his annual practice with it. He handed
me to someone passing by who turned out to be the head of the canine section
and said "Here's the new guy. He's yours; train him and don't
let me ever see him again." Being a dog lover, I couldn't have been happier
with that accident. I started out feeding, watering, and walking the
dogs; after a month, I was helping out in the veterinary office. My
second day there, a beagle was brought in with a deep gash over
one eye. "What happened here? This was no accident" I exclaimed as I
held him down so the doc could clean and bandage the wound. "I heard
he was wandering around and made a mess on the wrong rug."
"But…" "Just drop it. It happens around here sometimes."
That seemed like an odd attitude for a vet to take, but I was new so
I shut up. Until a week later, eating my lunch out by the paddock, I
saw Wolfy slam the door of his Beemer and stomp toward his office,
squirrel running across the path in front of him. I couldn't
believe my eyes. I picked it up and took it to the vet, and said that I
had to do something about this; I was sure it wasn't an isolated
incident. Then after lunch, I was summoned to Pauli's office.
I closed the door and he said in his steely voice, "Boy, this department's
not big enough for the both of us.
One of us has got to go, and it's not gonna
be me." He gave me a slip of paper from his desk and told me to hie
myself to Personnel and don't come back.
But first, I got myself cleaned up and trekked across campus to see Al
in his new office in Nikola Tower. That was a pretty rarefied
atmosphere for an ex-junior stablehand. In the elevator, I got a few looks
from suits that made my hair stand on end. But I found my way to Al's
office and told him what happened. I was afraid my stay at Aquinas was
over, but he said not to worry about it. Everybody knew some people just
didn't fit in with Pauli. He was sure they would find something new for me.
He said he'd phone down and put in a word for me at tech support, work
that I'd done in the past.
And so it came to pass. Jacked in with
my doppelgänger Barry on the phones for training, I was told
that everybody accepted the principle that the customer on the phone
could be fulsome with praise for your help, or Werner
the supervisor could be standing behind you monitoring your call,
but not both. But he told me that I'd do fine as
long as I never treated a customer badly; then I would feel Werner's
Over the first few weeks, I found out why Werner was one of the most popular
employees in the whole company. He had his quirks, but despite
the strangeness, I recognized his charm, which had
captivated most everyone in the company, top to bottom.
I passed almost a year this way, getting along with my co-workers, good reviews
from Werner, no problems; until the day I lost it with a customer.
He'd made a big order of particles but insisted on the phone with me that
he'd received nothing but waves: transverse, longitudinal, standing, you
name it; packets and boxcars full
of them. I pointed out to him that he'd be happy with the shipment if he
just looked at it another way, but he raised his
voice and we got into a shouting match. As if by magic, there was Werner
standing behind me; he muted my phone and reminded me of the
customer's always right rule, then took over the call
and promised the customer a new shipment of particles would be on the way
After he was done with the mollified customer, I said "Why send him a
whole new shipment? You know he could see them as particles if he chose
to." He turned to me and said "Copenhagen, your
interpretation doesn't matter!" He started
getting violet in the face and I feared
catastrophe. I was sure that I would be
annhilated and my short tenure there would bring down the average half-life
of the department. I was right, but it wasn't so bad, because it turned
into a promotion.
Once again in Personnel. Ms. Florsheim looked up from my file. "You
didn't stay too long in animals, and people didn't work out in the end.
Let's try numbers. I'm going to send you over to Dirac in accounting."
This was great! Accounting was easy, the hours were better. Or so I
Dirac had always been thought of as a little bit crazy; he
refused to deal in liabilities, insisting they were just contra-assets.
He claimed he could see the company's books as a vast sea of assets
and "holes". Finally upper management heaved a big sigh and
ejected him from the company. Then they decided not to trust what he
left behind, and ordered a complete sight inventory. The accounting
department somehow took the blame for this, and we found ourselves
voluntold to get into the warehouses and start counting.
So a week after my supposed good luck, here I am in warehouse number
271828 with a clipboard and a Segway. And I'm hungry! But I have to
finish this section before I can call it a day. Everybody else who was
in here has finished and gone home. Only the security guard is left, and
he's giving me the evil eye. "Come on, Copenhagen, get a move on!"
"Dammit, you made me lose my place! Now I have to start this aisle over!"
I retreated back to the start of aisle 314, section 602, floor 23: "Leptons".