THE CAFÉ ON MAIN CAMPUS WAS VOTED, ‘BEST BREAKFAST.’ Anticipating their meal, Mag and Rebecca scoped its interior and spotted a booth next to the window. Its current occupants vacating. Placing bags on the tabletop, they grabbed trays and stood in line for the buffet. Afterward, Mag sat with a plate full of food and exhaled… finally, I can relax. She informed Rebecca of the homeless man and young girl from grammar school, then told her about the ADKAR employee’s rude comment.
“I can’t stand arrogant people. And it wasn’t just what he said. It was the way he said it.”
Rebecca’s lip curled, “Like he’s superior or something?” Mag nodded, “Yeah, like he’s special and can’t imagine people have the audacity to ask strangers for money.”
“Ugh, what a dick.”
“There are tons of super unfortunate people in Australia and the States. What good does it do to think they’re less important than anyone else? I hate that.”
“Me too.” Rebecca nodded, “Did you give him any money?”
“The homeless guy?”
“No. The ADKAR guy.” She smirked, “Of course, the homeless guy!”
“Oh, right!” Sipping coffee, Mag chuckled, “I didn’t have any cash on me. But even if I did, I wouldn’t give any. It seems weird to give someone money on the street. You never know what they’ll use it for. Plus it’s not safe, right?”
“No, it’s not.” Rebecca’s head shook, “I don’t do it either. But I’ve seen other people do it. To be honest, I don’t know how you live with so many homeless in the city. I rarely see homeless folks in Almaden.”
Mag sighed, “My parents hate it too. Whenever they visit, my dad says it’s super uncomfortable. I can’t argue with him because he’s right, it is strange.” Pointing to her right, “There are people in my neighborhood who live in four-million-dollar homes. When they pull out of their million-dollar driveways, they might ask a homeless person to get up from the sidewalk so they don’t run ’em over with their fancy car. But my area isn’t the only place like that.” Rebecca’s brow raised, “You should move to the South Bay.”
Mag pondered… easy for you to say. You and your husband own a home there. Drew and I are nowhere close to buying a house in the Bay Area. We’re about a 750,000 dollars short. Instead, replying, “My apartment’s rent controlled. If I move to the South Bay I’ll have to pay double or triple the amount.” She contemplated… besides, I love living in the City. My neighborhood has tons of character.
NEARLY COMPLETING HER MEAL, Rebecca noticed Mag’s half-eaten tray of food and thought… she did it again! Sipping a thick green drink, Mag recognized Rebecca’s judging eyes. Her nerves spiked, “Ewww… this drink tastes weird. I mean, I like it. But it has a strange aftertaste. Have you tried it?”
“No.” Rebecca’s face scrunched. “Looks like it’s supposed to be healthy. Probably made of kale and wheat-grass or something.”
“I don’t know. But I can’t finish it.”
“You didn’t finish anything on your plate!” She pointed at Mag’s half-eaten bagel, eggs, potatoes, and oatmeal. Mag looked down, “I’m so stuffed. Maybe I took too much?” Eyeing Rebecca’s empty Parfait cup, “How’s the parfait?”
“I’m gonna get one. You want anything?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Be right back.”
Sliding out the booth. She stood and collided into someone else. The impact knocked her sideways and the passerby grabbed Mag’s shoulders, steadying her body. Mag reeled, “Uh! I’m sorry!”
“No problem,” said the passing woman. Bracing Mag’s frame, looking into her eyes, “It’s okay… Hey! Mag!? How are you?” Peering up. Mag recognized Monica, another co-worker in her department. She began employment at ADKAR two years ago and already achieved better working relationship with their manager than either Mag or Rebecca. Her imposing height and quick wit persona dominated conversations, making Mag and Rebecca acknowledge her as assertive and smart.
But they considered her a threat.
Never certain if something uttered in Monica’s presence might be used against them. For this reason, they avoided non-work related conversation with her.
Mag recomposed, “I’m good.”
“Are you going out with us tonight?”
“I don’t know.”
She’d forgotten some team members were going out after work today. Being ‘Final-Friday.’ Closure of fiscal quarter. The team just completed month end processing. Mag didn’t plan on joining the outing, but had no other plans.
“I almost forgot, where are you guys going?”
“I’m not sure.” Monica gazed up, “We’ll probably stay in the city. Are you gonna come?” Her volume doubled, “You Should Come!” Her voice reverberated throughout the cafeteria. She pressed her hands together. Pleading. Hopping up-and-down, frantically.
“Please Come!!! Pleeease!”
Other diners peered at Mag. Spiking her nerves, “Sure. I’ll come.” She didn’t know what else to say. Anything to make Monica stop. “Yay!” Golf-clapping silently, Monica’s voice returned to normal volume. “I’ll send an email with details.” Gliding toward the exit. “And we’ll see you tonight.” Upon uttering the word ‘you,’ she pointed at Mag, “Bu-Bye!”
“Okay, see you later.” But there’s no response. Monica’s gone.
Looking at Rebecca, Mag pouted, “Looks like I’m going out tonight.” Forcing a tight-lipped smile, Rebecca raised her brow. Head tilting. Shoulders shrugged… yeah, that’s precisely what it looks like.
Mag puzzled, “How come she didn’t ask you to go out?”
“Cause she knows I won’t go.”
“True. You never go out.” Rebecca sipped orange juice. Smirking, “Besides… Monica and I don’t get along too well.”
“I forgot about that. Hey, do you think she heard me when I said, ‘See ya later?’”
Brimming with confidence, Rebecca smiled, “Absolutely.”
“I think so too. Anyway, what was I doing?”
“Oh yeah!” Mag’s eyes ignited. “Be right back.”
GRABBING A PARFAIT. She returned to the table and informed Rebecca of her bi-weekly manager meeting with Susan, scheduled later today. Neither looked forward to these meetings since both disliked their boss. Despite several attempts to become friends with her, nothing worked. Susan seemed cold and distant. Neither Mag or Rebecca could figure out why.
“All three of my projects have overlapping time frames and Susan says they’re all high priority.” Mag extended her hand, counting fingers, “Number one, how can all three be high priority? Number two, how are they all due around the same time? And Number three, why is each one huge? Oh! And number four.” Her gaze intensified, “Why are all three assigned to me?”
Rebecca slouched, “I know! I just finished two huge projects. They both had the same completion date.” Mag stirred her parfait, “I think Susan expects us to work the same way she does.”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you noticed she sends emails after hours all the time?” Rebecca nodded as Mag retrieved her mobile from the tabletop, “I think she sends more emails after hours than during normal business hours. Check this out.” She isolated emails from Susan, then extended her mobile toward Rebecca. Pointing at a message header, “Susan sent this to me at 12:30 a.m. Who the hell sends emails at twelve-thirty in the frigging morning? My phone buzzed when this came in and I woke up. I actually responded to it! I have no idea what I wrote.”
Rebecca raised her brow, “I didn’t get an email from her last night. Thank God.”
“You’re lucky. I get late emails from her about once a week. Maybe twice.” Rebecca glanced at Mag’s phone, “What did she say?” Mag exhaled and rolled her eyes, “That’s the thing!” Expanding the email, she pointing at the final paragraph. Finger trailing and reading aloud, “‘It’s imperative we resolve the data issues the Philippine team is experiencing. This is a high priority item. Mag? What’s your solution?’”
Placing her phone on the table, she pointed at it. “Susan couldn’t wait until 8 a.m. to send this to me? She needed an answer at twelve-thirty in the stupid morning?”
“Did she include Monica in that mail too?”
“I don’t think so.” Mag picked up her phone, verifying. “It was only sent to me and the Philippine lead, Marnelli. Monica’s not involved in this.”
Rebecca spoke excitedly, “Who’s the lucky one now? Whenever I have a project with Monica, and Susan sends late emails like that one. Monica replies instantly and she doesn’t send a short message. She types a damn novel. I’ve received emails from Susan at like two or three on a Tuesday morning.” She pointed at herself. “And… I’m asleep. I don’t get up to check my phone. I already turned it off. But in the morning I check, and I see Monica and Susan exchanged a butt-load of messages all night long.”
“Yes! Monica’s a major kiss-ass! Cause when I read the emails they’re all full of crap! There’s nothing substantial in them. Nothing gets resolved. It’s all stuff that could easily wait till morning.”
Mag leaned back, circling her spoon through the parfait. She scooped a yogurt covered strawberry, raising it to her lips. “I wish Susan was more like Mira.”
SHE WAS FUN. SINGLE. FRIENDLY AND SMART. Mag and Rebecca’s previous manager graduated from Stanford, then climbed ADKAR’s corporate ladder to management level over the course of four years. Mira knew every detail about tasks assigned to her staff and helped when things got too busy; something Susan never did. During their monthly one-on-one meetings, she and Mag spent more time discussing Mira’s sex life than discussing Mag’s work performance.
Mag whispered breathily, “Did I ever tell you about the guy Mira told me she met online?” Rebecca’s head shook, “I don’t think so.”
“I told you she had a thing for guys who were, you know…” Mag pursed her lips, “Large where it counts?” Rebecca grimaced, “Yes.”
“Well, after Mira met this guy online, he sent her a photo of his junk and Mira liked what she saw.” Rebecca glanced across the ceiling, “What a surprise.” She sighed as Mag sensed her distaste for the subject matter. “I know, it’s totally gross. But she told me stories like this all the time. I guess she just preferred big guys.”
Waving the back of her hand, Rebecca scoffed, “Go ahead. Finish the story.”
“Okay.” Perched on the edge of her seat, Mag’s speech quickened, “Oh! I forgot to tell you. Mira described the picture to me too. I’ll spare you the details because you really don’t know what gross is. Anyway, I do… ’cause she detailed every inch of this guy’s python-schlong to me.” Rebecca put her index finger in front of her mouth, imitating gagging sounds, “So disgusting.”
“Anyway, Mira agreed to meet the guy at a coffee shop and apparently when they met, he wasn’t interested in small talk. He asked right-away if she wanted to have sex.”
“Of course he did! What else would he wanna do?”
“I agree. But I guess Mira wanted something more.” Rebecca shrugged her shoulders, “Why would she want something more? She wanted guys with big units, right? She probably asked to see his penis pic as proof!” Mag responded apologetically, “I don’t know! She was kinda weird.”
“She was ridiculously weird.” Rebecca leaned back during a moment of silence, “So what happened next? Did she have sex with this foot-long-freak?”
“No. She got put-off by the guy trying to force the situation. Instead, she asked to verify the size of his stuff through his jeans.” Rebecca’s jaw dropped, “She grabbed his junk in the coffee shop?!”
“Yeah. I guess it was dark in there or something. Mira said she reached under the table and squeezed it. And the guy was telling the truth.” Rebecca turned away, “I’m gonna puke on the floor.” Mag whispered loudly, “She said it was thicker than her forearm.”
“Oh! Well, that changes, uh. Nothing at all! I’m still gonna puke on the floor!” Rebecca stared blank-faced, watching Mag scoop the last bit of parfait from her cup. “He sounds like the perfect loser she was looking for; why’d she turn him down?”
“Mira didn’t like it when guys tried to rush things. She only liked encounters where she felt in control.”
“I don’t know why you liked her so much.”
“She was really smart. Work-wise, she knew exactly what she was doing. She was way smarter than Susan.”
“That’s true. But there’s no way I’d want Susan to be crazy like Mira.”
“Yeah, Mira was pretty wild. But never boring.” Rebecca shook her head, “I don’t want my boss telling me about her love life. That’s information overload.”
“I can’t believe she never told you any of this stuff.”
“She probably knew I’d tell Human Resources.”
“Yeah! I can’t believe you didn’t.”
“Well, after a while, it was too much. I never knew what she was gonna say. Anyway, my point is, I wish Susan were one-tenth as much fun as Mira.” Rebecca curled her lip. “Eh, I don’t know. Why’d she leave ADKAR anyway? I forgot. Did she quit?”
“No. She was fired I think. But Human Resources worded the email ambiguously.” Mag motioned her hand, left-to-right. Reading imaginary words in air.
“Effective immediately, Mira Lewis is leaving ADKAR to pursue other opportunities. Please join us in wishing her the best in all future endeavors.”
“I don’t know why they do that?” Rebecca spoke dismissively, “Why don’t they just say she got fired?” She smirked, leaning in close to Mag. “They should be brutally honest.” Waving her hand, mid-air. She recited her own imaginary words.
“Effective immediately, Mira Lewis is leaving ADKAR to pursue monster penises. Please join us in wishing her the best in all future ding-dong endeavors.”
Mag burst, laughing, “Yeah! That would actually be the truth.”
THEY DROVE TO THEIR BUILDING, approaching a walkway adorned with colorful tributes to ADKAR’s accomplishments. Oversized phone sculptures painted neon pink and ice-white decorated the lawn. Awarding respect to ADKAR’s mobile hardware division. Along the hilly landscape, a staggered array of giant zero’s and one’s depicted binary code from application developers.
Entering the building they accessed a multi-floor foyer, displaying oversized statues of digital creatures from ADKAR’s gaming division. Characters frozen in time, engaged in never-ending battles within ADKAR’s cityscape. Elaborate replicas of buildings, blending modern and classical designs surrounded them, paying tribute to the structural engineering team. Gazing up, a convex-shaped four-story tiered view. The perimeter of each level enclosed by clear glass baluster barriers beneath rainbow swirled handrails, loaded with multicolor lights. On the left, a twenty-foot-high loop-slide connected the third level to the ground floor with employees gliding down.
Each workday, Mag felt pride in her building’s appearance as if somehow responsible for its distinct grandeur. She radiated. Smiling… it doesn’t look like a corporation. It looks like candy.