Dirby is buzzing me on the intercom again.
Secra," he says."This is Ted Dirby." Ted Dirby is a firm believer in
always identifying himself by his full name -- first and last -- even
has been our Office
three months now: more than enough time for me to recognize the sound
of his voice when I hear it.
are no other
'Teds' in this office. It's not like I'm going to
accidentally mix him up with Ted Smith or Ted Jones or Ted
is calling me from less than a hundred feet away.
LCD screen on my telephone helpfully identifies the caller as Ted
Ted?" I say to him, in what I refer to as my Velveeta Voice: all bland
overprocessed false cheer. This is going to be about the dumpster in
the hallway again ... I just know it.
would like you to call The Management," he harrumphs, for the
43,897,621st time this week. "They still haven't done anything about
the dumpster in the hallway." Ted Dirby is a firm believer in Calling
The Management whenever anything goes wrong in our office building: if
the thermostat is set too high, if the air conditioner is set too
low, if somebody 'suspicious' is wandering around in the hallway, if
the toilet tissue in the men's room is unspooling from the top
rather than from the bottom. Now he wants us to call The Management
because our neighbors across the hall have left a plastic recycling
dumpster full of old books and papers sitting outside their door, right
in front of the Dirt Company main entrance. The dumpster has been there
for about a week now, while our neighbors are in the process of moving;
it shows no sign of going anywhere soon.
me transfer you to JoAnne," I say.
is the person who has been handling The Dumpster Crisis this week.
JoAnne handles all of Ted Dirby's most important crises: The Blue
Ballpoint vs. Black Rollerball Crisis, The Dust Bunnies Behind The
File Cabinet Crisis, The 'Why
Isn't Anybody Signing Up To Help
Organize The Company Picnic?'
Crisis. And now, The Dumpster In The
Hallway Crisis. This is because, as senior admin person, JoAnne is
responsible for the smooth and efficient flow of operations in our
office ... and because she's really, really good at this sort of stuff
... and because Ted Dirby still thinks I'm dumber than a bucket of
dirt, apparently, and therefore can't be trusted to handle a situation
as delicate as The Dumpster Crisis. (A notion I do nothing to disabuse
him of, I might add. Mainly because I'm actually NOT dumber than a
bucket of dirt.)
When I transfer the call to JoAnne's
extension -- "It's Ted Dirby," I solemnly announce -- it is clear that
her last viable nerve is in peril. A
minute later I can hear her arguing with him. "Building Management
the dumpster, Ted," she tells him for the
43,897,621st time this week. "There is NOTHING
they can DO
of course, is not the answer Ted Dirby wants to hear. Ted Dirby is a
firm believer in Yes Answers: Yes
I can! Yes I do! Yes I am! Yes I
will! Yes Answers are
Ted Dirby says. Yes
Answers are power
answers. Yes Answers get the job done.
Answers, on the other hand, are a one-way ticket to the Unemployment
can't hear what Ted Dirby is saying to JoAnne, but it's obvious from
her muted responses -- and by the sound of her head furiously and
repeatedly banging itself against her desktop, after she hangs up --
that she's being asked, once again, to achieve the unachievable. Haul
the dumpster down the freight elevator by herself, perhaps.
Accidentally start a bonfire. Sleep with The Management. Do whatever it
takes, in other words, to rid the world -- and our hallway -- of the
unsightly dumpster. She
emerges from her office, looking grim and homicidal. For a long moment
she stands at the front door, staring out at the dumpster. Then --
without a word to me or to anybody -- she marches back down the
hallway, goes into her office and firmly closes the door.
moment later I see her telephone extension light up on my switchboard.
the meantime, Ted Dirby bursts out of his office, like a little
styrofoam pellet out of a popgun, and rushes off for his 12:30 lunch
meeting in San Francisco. As usual, he doesn't say a word to me as he
signs out: he doesn't look at me or nod at me or acknowledge my
presence in any way. As he scurries down the hallway, I see him glare
at the dumpster in unmasked hatred.
issue here, I think, is 50% power -- this is a situation he cannot
control, no matter how much he spits and swears and orders people
around -- and 50% aesthetics. Ted Dirby is a firm believer in The
Painfully Tidy Office ... especially any portion of the office that
Might Be Seen By Visitors. No discarded candy wrappers laying around in
the lobby area. No empty coffee cups on the front desk. No more than
three magazines displayed on the coffee table at any time, and then
only if the most current issue is arranged on top of the older issues.
"First impressions are the impressions that
count," Ted Dirby says. I
don't completely disagree with him on this one. I've been in the front
business for almost twenty-five years now, and I understand the
importance of projecting a polished and professional image. I'm pretty
darned good at it, too, if I do say so myself.
here is that I don't allow my sphincter to get tied up in knots over
little things, the way Ted Dirby does.
for instance, he seems
to be fixated on cardboard boxes. The mere sight of an unattended box
sitting anywhere within a 500 foot radius of the front desk sends him
into paroxysms of fury. This goes for incoming boxes -- UPS shipments,
dirt samples, Priority Mail cartons, pizza containers -- as well as
outgoing shipments waiting for pick-up, or (especially) empty boxes we
no longer have use for. Before Ted Dirby joined The Dirt Company,
JoAnne and I used to routinely stack our flattened cardboard boxes
the front door, for the cleaning crew to pick up after hours and haul
off to the local recycling center. Now we're not allowed to do that
anymore: in order to accomodate Ted Dirby's tragic cardboard allergy,
we're forced to hide the boxes in the file room until after 5 p.m.,
when he has gone home and the coast is clear and it's safe to dump them
in the hallway once again.
wonder what Ted Dirby would say if I told him I was married to a CARDBOARD BOX MAKER for
isn't until the middle of the morning that the offending dumpster is
finally carted away, by a squad of burly young mover guys in baggy
and backwards baseball caps. I watch as they load the dumpster onto a
handcart, secure it with about a bazillion bungee cords and roll it
down the hallway towards the freight elevator. One of the mover guys
waves at me as they roll past my front door. Cheerfully, I return the
hears the commotion and wanders out of her office. Together we watch
the freight elevator doors slide closed on the offending dumpster.
she says dourly.
Ted Dirby called her from his cell phone just moments ago -- he
bypassed the switchboard and called her direct line, for a change: no
doubt attempting to avoid my Velveeta Voice -- and he told her that
he's been thinking about The Dumpster Situation. Ted Dirby is a firm
believer in Making The Best Out of a Bad Situation. Perhaps we could
call our neighbors, he is suggesting, and ask to borrow their dumpster,
once they're finished with it? We're having an Office Clean-Up Party
tomorrow afternoon -- a prelude to the upcoming office move this fall
-- and now he's thinking that maybe the dumpster would come in handy as
we're sorting and purging files. "I told him it was too late," she
says, and there is no mistaking the note of grim satisfaction in her
voice. She adds that she did call Building Management to see if maybe
they've got a spare recycling bin or an extra large waste receptacle we
can use for the afternoon. "The building manager might be stopping by
to drop it off later," she says.
with that she leaves for a well-earned lunch-slash-nervous breakdown.
I'm hoping I see her again ... but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised
if she never comes back.
spend the next forty minutes sorting through the folders in my hanging
file drawer, in anticipation of tomorrow's gala Office Cleaning Party.
I've got to admit: the hallway does
look a lot better without a
big plastic dumpster obstructing my scenic view of the
broken water fountain. It makes the entire Dirt Company lobby look
neater and tidier and more professional. In fact, I'm feeling so
inspired by all of this unexpected neatness and tidiness that I'm
thinking about rearranging the magazines on the coffeetable -- maybe in
alphabetical order today, just for kicks? Engineering
Magazine, followed by Soil
Engineering Trends Magazine,
followed by Trends in Soil
Engineering Magazine? -- when
the Building Manager Guy suddenly lets himself in through the front
got our message, he says -- "ALL
of your messages," he adds
pointedly -- and he thought he'd better stop by personally and make
sure the dumpster was gone. "I don't have any spare recycling bins," he
says, "but I was thinking maybe these might work just as
well." And with that, he wheels two ancient shopping carts through the
front door. Both carts are cast-offs from the recently defunct Oakland
K-Mart store, from the looks of them. Both carts are covered top to
bottom in multiple layers of rust and grime.
both carts are filled to the brim with old flattened cardboard boxes.
threw in a few extra boxes," he says. "I thought maybe you could use
them for packing?" We can fill up the shopping carts with all
our old books and papers, he suggests, and then roll them downstairs on
freight elevator when we're done.
smile sweetly at Dick. "I think these shopping carts will work out just
fine," I say. "Thank you so much." And I request that for the time
being, he should probably roll them into the middle of the lobby, right
in front of the coffeetable.
Ted Dirby won't be able to miss them when he comes back from lunch.
throw a rock?