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organically abandoned office

"Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot" - Chapter 137

By jasonmcgathey | Jason McGathey | 23 Feb 2023

organically abandoned office

The end of January finds Edgar back at his actual desk – or for that matter, anywhere else but Lorena – for the first time in a couple of weeks. It's a surreal landscape, made even more so in confronting a couple of characters who have been plugging away right here, same as always, though he hasn't seen much or any of them for some time. Kind of like a parallel universe he should rightly find himself strapped into, but was by unknown means jolted off course. Park he has seen not at all, while even Valerie, pressed into the predictable role of Todd's gopher in the early days of the Lorena panic, has been able to work from HQ once again here of late.

            Today, in the course of grabbing his first cup of coffee since arrival, he encounters  his dear old friend/former-just-maybe-a-little-more-than-friend in the kitchen area, washing dishes at the sink. They don't have enough money to pay for a once per week cleaning service, but apparently can afford to have their quote unquote marketing person performing these tasks instead. As Edgar stands, waiting for the Keurig machine to dispense its magic elixir, Valerie clicks her tongue over the latest specimen. Todd is really the only person who just throws things in the sink, of course, ranging from dirty dishes to soda cans, which makes this his doing. It's only natural that Edgar half turns now, with a laugh, and asks Valerie what's up.

            “Eh, there's some...weird powder in this mug. This is the one he gave that douchebag rep yesterday,” she explains. Then giggles and adds, “I wonder if it's poison.”

            “Does it smell like almonds?” Edgar jokes.

            They share a laugh about this, which is a great feeling beyond the comedy itself. Thus far not many have arrived here at the office, and a chill vibe pervades, much needed following these six and seven day weeks of insanity. But also, it's a reminder that while this company has been all but gutted of just about every cool personality, not all of them are gone. A few of those who get it remain, some allies still lurk in the fringes here and there. In this manner, moments like these are a welcome reminder of older, and yes, it's safe to say, in many respects far better times.

            “So what do you think about this new arrangement?” she asks.

            By this she means the next wave of major projects, the Palmyra remodel and the move out to Waxoff. It's only been not even a week since Lorena's grand opening, and already Todd has shown up countless mornings with a bunch of fresh blueprints for both, which “he” has allegedly slaved over for untold hours the previous night. The plan is to scrap the current raised front office at Palmyra, alongside remodeling the retail space itself, and install a handful of individual offices there, for employees who live close to that location. So this is potentially somewhat sweet for Edgar, who's already been informed he made the cut on that concept. He can work out of that much closer location maybe three days a week, with the other two for the time being spent up in Lorena, and the once a month visit or so to the Chesboro locations thrown into the mix.

            As far as Waxoff goes, the plans are even more elaborate. Todd has apparently found a building with enough office space for those who remain, which also features a spacious warehouse. Laced in with his continual lofty projections about being completely on their own in “less than a year” and “breaking totally free from Bellwether,” whatever that might mean, alongside a healthy dose of tying this concept in somehow with his former mayhem, he's also indicated that they will send all deliveries to this warehouse. All deliveries, for every store. There will purportedly be some ordering mechanism in place for the stores to order directly from their own warehouse. Then their own in-house driver, Gary, will bebop around, dropping off all this merchandise. As the other half of Todd's argument that this Central HQ is costing them too much money, he claims that such a setup will save them a ton, too, in the form of mass centralized purchases, and reduced shipping costs from their vendors. Who knows, it could be true, Edgar thinks, although the whole thing seems a bit farfetched. But if nothing else, if RU Data still can't seem to get ordering up and running at the stores, they should theoretically be able to use just one set of Slingshot accounts for sending all product to this warehouse. So that's something, anyway. As a side note, though, it's probably considerably shy of a coincidence that Todd lives near Waxoff, and it's also quite close to Fred, Don and Vince as well.

            “I don't know, it might be cool,” is all he says, however. “It should be a little less driving, anyway. I guess we'll see.”

            “A little less driving for you maybe,” she replies. Then elaborates, weight shifted to one hip, while she holds out the palm of her opposite hand. “I mean, since I moved back home, it already takes me about an hour to drive to this place...”

            “Yeah, same here.”

            “ then I'm not gonna drive another hour clear out to Waxoff! Is he insane?” Valerie wonders. Then giggles, continues. “Hee hee. Don't answer that. But I'm actually really stressed about this. I don't know what I'm gonna do.”

            “Well, let me think about the best way to phrase this,” Edgar says, pausing to collect his thoughts, “umm...let's just say that, with a guy like Todd, a good looking girl is always going to have a job. Not to say that's right, but...he's totally that type. So I don't think you have anything to worry about, really. I would just ask him if you can work out of Palmyra, or even at this store.”

            As comprehension sinks in, and Valerie sees how this could be feasible, she nods, slowly, regarding Edgar. “Yeah...maybe so. You might be right.”

            Buoyed by many disparate elements, he finds himself in an especially good mood all morning. Part of it is getting back to a normal routine, hopefully, at least in incremental stages, symbolized by returning to the office at last. But it also feels great to socialize with his people again, in this low key, relatively chaos free environment. Also, the ego boost or whatever you would call it, brought about by dispensing some advice which seems to have been taken well, helps keeps his sunny outlook aloft, too.

            All of which likely contributes to one of his zaniest ever gags, as far as this place is concerned. He can't really say what gets into him or how this thought sequence even came about, but it's maybe an hour later and he's back in the kitchen, firing up the Keurig machine for another round. Has already placed his mug under the dispenser and is waiting, when his thoughts inevitably return to that conversation, which in turn leads to him glancing over at the sink area. His eyes settle upon the drying rack, where a number of recently washed dishes have been placed. Dishes other object, which takes him a moment to place, so much so that he absently strolls over to give it a closer look.

            It's the little tray for the whiteboard's dry erase markers. Why that would have required a thorough hand wash is hard to say, although a theoretical image series pops into his head, one which doesn't take a ton of imagination to believe might be mostly accurate. This image of Todd yukking it up over in that conference room, with one or more of his jackass buddies, the industry contacts he's attempted to ingratiate with here of late. This showy, performative stunt of calling Valerie into that room, making a big, jokey scene about how filthy this thing is and telling her to wash it. An angry “secretary” with thunderclouds over her head, then, silently exiting the room with this object clenched tightly in her hand, as Todd and his chum(s) heartily guffawing and making still more wisecracks behind her.

            By now, his eight ounce cup of coffee has long since dispensed. However, though it's just about impossible to perfectly connect these dots later, for some reason the thought process does lead him here, where he's voicing some low, dark, vaguely conspiratorial chuckles, and taking this whiteboard marker tray over to the Keurig machine. Picks up his trusty coffee mug, and setting this object down in its place. Yes, it certainly does fit. Also, as he dumps his steaming hot coffee into the tray, he can see that it would readily hold at least another small shot, if not another full eight ounces.

            Firing up another batch, he then tiptoes over to his office, with the original trusty coffee mug in hand, stowing it away. Returns just as quietly to witness the completion of this brainchild, which, he feels like you have to admit, is as clever as it is gut busting hilarious. The only question is, can you drink out of the thing? Well, it turns out, as a test sip proves, though there is a little bit of a lip on this tray, it is indeed perfectly usable. And the key now, he thinks to himself, makeshift mug in hand as he approaches the door, is to say nothing, to not draw attention to this in any way. To act as nonchalant as possible, like this were the most normal occurrence in the world. And questions about whether this gag will raise any eyebrows are confirmed almost immediately, as he leaves the kitchen and just about collides with Dale.

            “Oh god. Is this what we're reduced to, now, around here? Not that this would surprise me any,” he says.

            Valerie, who is typing away at her desk, cranes her neck in their direction. Her smile turns into outright laughter as she spots what he's doing. “Hey, at least they finally threw out his crusty old coffee pot.”

            “Hey now. The coffee pot itself wasn't crusty,” he protests, “I mean the warmer tray was a little stained, yeah, but I don't see why that would matter. And actually it was already like that when I took the thing.”

            Grinning over at Valerie, blowing right past this defense without comment, Dale suggests, “it's because he's always drinking three day old coffee.”

            “And ten pots of coffee a day,” she adds.

            “Oh yeah. All day, every day.”

            “Yup, totally.”

            “That doesn't even make any sense,” Edgar calmly replies, between sips in the kitchen doorway. “How can I drink three day old coffee but also ten pots a day? Quote unquote all day every day? I mean, we only had one coffee maker...” In response to this, both Dale and Valerie offer frozen smiles, as they stare at the floor and struggle to even come up with a reply. Which only makes Edgar cackle all over again, as he returns to his office.

            Oh, if only these rays of sunshine could beam upon them forever! Sadly, 'tis not to be, not even for one full day. It's just barely after three in the afternoon when the pendulum fully swings in the other direction, however, which does mean they almost made it to the finish line. Or he does, anyway, as Valerie and Dale seem to both have left for the day, or maybe just walked over to Central. Whatever the case, they are not here. And the tradeoff is that Todd comes barging through the door now instead, the first he's been here all day. Park is around, yes, and he thinks Vince is as well, but Edgar has had no interaction with either today. It doesn't much matter because as Todd has plainly entered the building in a foul mood, hunched forward and stomping, brow furrowed above his thick glasses, he wears out an immediate path in the carpet to Edgar's office door.

            “Hey. I'm gonna send you a list of all my independent contractors. I need you to look up and get their mailing addresses to me. We need to get their tax forms out to them today.”


            Edgar had been putting his final touches to the new items file for the day, and continues doing so after Todd storms away. As he works on uploading this, his thoughts wander a little, and his eyes settle upon the trusty old Windows 7 computer, still humming away quietly on a shelf beside his desk. Even after Todd bought him the new Windows 10 one, this device has remained operational. At this point it's mostly just a repository for old files, should they need them, which he has connected via a KVM switch for easy access. But now that he thinks about it, if he's going to at least be halfway based out of Lorena for who knows how long, it might make sense to take this unit up there. It's more robust than his laptop, and he could just leave it plugged in and running, parked on his charming little card table in the equipment room.

            Todd's emailed list of names comes through about fifteen minutes after their conversation. At least it was sent as an Excel attachment for once, instead of typed into the body of the message. This being the case, considering that Edgar has a running list of contacts on – what else - spreadsheet himself, he is able to use that nifty little plug-in that Reece bought him, basically the best spent $25 in the history of modern commerce, and pop their info into Todd's original list, if there is a match, in a matter of maybe three seconds. Unfortunately, that's about how many people this covers, too: three. For as Edgar scrolls through this list of about fifty names, he hasn't even heard of at least half these people, if not more. Regarding the ones who are somewhat familiar, okay, like he remembers that Scott guy out in St. Louis, and at least has the dude's email address. There are a couple others where either this is true, or else a phone number.

            As he's mulling this over, the printer erupts to life across the room, which can only mean one thing. Todd is clearly on another paper and ink destruction frenzy. Edgar's racking his brain trying to think of where else any form of contact information might be for these people, whatsoever, and then considers the cash register databases, in Slingshot. He can remember setting up employee discounts, at Todd's behest, for a few of these “independent contractor” type pals of his. In Hupp and Slingshot both, actually. But in the latter, you would have had to at least enter an email address for the person, whereas Hupp requires nothing else but their name. He's able to pick off a handful more in this manner, though it's only in thinking about this notion of an employee discount that it sets off some alarm bells in his head. The kind of sensation where you realize that something had struck you as awry quite a while back, when this topic first came up, but you kind of blew right past it in the moment, preoccupied with something else. Employee...employee...independent contractor? Wait a second...

            Thinking this, and feeling that the time was right to deliver Todd an update anyway, Edgar gets up and strides across the office. “Hey, I can only seem to find mailing addresses for three of these people,” he informs Todd, attempting to just stick his head in through the doorway, and no more. “But actually, it just occurred to me: were they paid as independent contractors, or were they set up as employees? Because if they're independent contractors, then as far as taxes go, that's a slightly different scenario. But either way, payroll should have their...”

            Todd waves his arms to cut Edgar off right here. And looks kind of pissed in doing so, it must be said. “Just get me their addresses. I need their mailing addresses.”

            “Okay, well, like I said, I only have addresses for three of them. There are a few more that I at least know their email or phone number. So I can reach out to those ones if you want. But I've seriously never even heard of half these people.”

            His mouth compressed in a tight grimace, face somewhere in the neighborhood of ripe rhubarb red, Todd angrily nods. “Come look at this,” he says, “I'm tryin ta print somethin and the freakin document's hung up.”

            As Edgar reluctantly makes the long journey around Todd's desk, to a vantage point where he can view this computer screen, the blue circle of death spinning atop some Word document is the most notable feature. Investigating further, it seems that the facts of the case are that Todd is attempting to print an 81 page document. Yet it has only gotten to 38 before freezing.

            “Word,” Edgar scoffs and cackles, “I swear, it gets worse with every new edition. It's like they're trying to do too much or something now.”

            “Can you go get the pages that are already printed?”

            After Edgar wanders over to his office and back, clutch of paper in his hand, they can confirm that this print job did indeed fire off just the first 37 pages before getting hung up. He doesn't exactly have time for a detailed reading, though this appears to be some insurance document of some sort. After showing Todd how to cancel the print job, the illustrious company president is about to start at the beginning and reprint the entire thing, before Edgar interjects.

            “You could just start at page 38 and print to the end,” Edgar says, volunteering, “I can show you how to do that if you want.”

            “I'm just gonna start over,” Todd insists, and does exactly that.

            While this sideshow is highly entertaining and quite informative, it does distract from the matter at hand, the whole reason he stepped over here in the first place.

            “Well, okay, so like I was saying, I could only find three of their addresses. I did find an email or a phone number for a few more, though. I can try to reach out to those, if you want, and send you an update of everything I have so far. The rest, though, I seriously have no clue who they even are.”

            Todd nods without looking up at him, continuing to stare at his screen with curious intensity. Edgar takes this as his cue to do exactly this, and strolls back to his own desk, to begin this next wave of detective work. After composing a short email template, asking that these individuals get their information to Todd as soon as possible – listing the boss's email and phone number both – Edgar dashes a separate message off to each of them. He's not about to volunteer his own email address as the destination for this last minute nonsense, because then Todd would probably expect him to hang out all night waiting on their response, and it would be his fault somehow it they didn't respond until eleven o'clock or on Sunday afternoon or something. This all might still be true anyway, in fact, but he'll do what he can to avoid it.

            In the one instance with the phone number, some Lou Rivas character whom if Edgar remembers correctly was a carpenter who worked on that light remodel of ripping out the juice bar over at Arcadia, it seems that this dude lives in Mississippi. Why Todd would fly someone in just for that small project, apart from a total buddy hookup type move, is questionable, but this seems to ring a bell. Lou is a shouter on the phone, too, hollering, “HEH? WHO IS THIS?” into the receiver. Or maybe it's just loud, wherever he is. Says he's out walking the dog at the moment, after all, and displays some open suspicion in declaring he'll call back in a few minutes, when he returns to the house.

            Which he does, thankfully, a quarter of an hour later. Still, by the time 4:30 rolls around, thirty minutes after Edgar would have left on a “normal” day, this process seems to have reached a standstill. He got the info from Lou Rivas, and two other people who, despite his message, emailed him their addresses anyway. This brings the grand total to 6 mailing addresses, out of 49. Hopefully some additional ones have forwarded their info to Todd, but the way Edgar sees it – which is in fact 100% accurate – this isn't his problem. He has nothing to do with maintaining payroll information for a bunch of independent contractors.

            “Hey, I'm gonna take off,” he says, dipping into Todd's office once more. “I just forwarded you everything I've got. I did get addresses for a few more of them. Some of the others I at least found an email for, so I told them to send you their info. But yeah,” he shrugs, “like I was saying, I've never even heard of half these people, and the rest I couldn't find any contact info on.”

            With just a cursory semi-glance in Edgar's direction this time, Todd offers a single, sawed off nod. Red in the face, the hinges of his mouth clamped tightly together, basically looking very similar to that day he was pacing around and hissing about Barbara, right before she was fired. So clearly Todd is quite pissed off, at him and the situation as a whole. He's guessing that either payroll mentioned this to Todd, that today was the legal cutoff for getting this info out, or someone else did, and then he contacted payroll, only to discover they'd never heard of half these people, either. Whichever way this went, it amounts to the same thing.

            As Edgar returns to his office to unplug the Windows 7 machine, and carries this out to his truck, his thoughts are completely absorbed with analyzing this phenomenon, a process that will continue during the long drive home. This was in no shape whatsoever his responsibility, but he knows enough about the managerial mindset to understand that Todd clearly thinks it is. And that this also amounts, for all practical purposes, to the same thing.

            Once again, it strikes him as thoroughly mind-blowing that so many of these figures have risen to where they are in this industry. Despite some extremely muddled thought processes and, even more critically, no clue whatsoever who does what and how things work. On one hand extremely cocky and vocal about how much they know and the control they exert and that basically they are the only figure that matters around here. Yet, nothing is ever their fault, somehow. And this character might be the worst one Edgar's thus experienced, for all of the above. As the thought process essentially runs like this:

            The techie guy does database stuff, doesn't he? Yes he does. He should have this information – and if he doesn't, I'm gonna write his ass up! I'm not taking the heat for this crap. How was I supposed to know about all this red tape and deadlines n' stuff? This is total horseshit.

            The next golden insight that arrives, however, which draws a chuckle out of Edgar, and a smile that lingers long afterwards, is to consider that, no, this is in reality too coherent of a thought process. Though quite flawed, and incorrect, the dots nonetheless connect from point A to B and so on. No, in reality, it would have went more like this:

   tape...(brow furrowing, mouth clamping, face turning a deep crimson)...horseshit! Horseshit horseshit! I'm not taking the blame for this...

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I am a professional writer with 8 published books under my belt. And many other unpublished ones, in various stages of disarray.

Jason McGathey
Jason McGathey

Semi-Coherent Musings - from one of the leading masters of this questionable art form!

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