Real

Damyanti is putting her blog on hiatus for a few weeks as she finishes drafting her novel for a competition. The anxiety she’s feeling reminds me of an interesting conversation I had during a job interview, which serves as the inspiration for the following.

“No. Doesn’t bother me at all.” Herb Jovich punctuated the sentiment by locking hands behind his head and leaning back in his chair, which squeaked under his considerable weight.

“But how?” Fen’s tone was exasperated, disbelieving. “Getting calls in the middle of the day, telling you to drop everything and deal with the latest crisis? Cleaning up after other people’s messes, working to impossible deadlines?”

The back of Herb’s head sank into the pillow of his hands. “That’s what they say. But their words, those aren’t what they really mean.” He sniffed, took his right hand from behind his head and waved it in the direction of his desk phone, his body still reclined. “A little after two today, Mesnick’s gonna call about his monthly report. He’ll be screaming about something, some new field he requested that’s not there, a graph with outdated data. Something, I don’t know. And he’ll need it done by end of day, which means the CR will need to be submitted by three, giving me about oh, thirty minutes to push through a process that’s designed to take two days. But it will have to get done, just like it does every other month.”

Herb’s computer screen chimed with a new message notification; he glanced at the screen, smirked, then stared back at Fen. “And you know what Mesnick will really be saying to me, with every curse and threat?”

Fen shook her head, not so much to acknowledge her ignorance as to indicate she wasn’t sure she was even supposed to know the answer.

Herb’s right arm swiveled forward, pointed at Fen. “I need you. That’s what Mesnick’s saying. And it’ll be one of the few times today that he, or anyone else here will mean it. Seventy, eighty percent of the time we’re here, we’re just talking, about what needs to be done and when we’ll do it, or what we did and why it didn’t work out like we’d talked about. We really don’t do that much, and most of that is pure bullshit — change requests, approvals, creating documents nobody’s ever going to read. And when we’re doing all that, everyone’s nice and polite. No need to rattle anyone’s cage.”

The large man with the receding hairline shifted his weight forward, forearms landing on the beige desktop. “But when you get that call, hear that anger coming from the other end of the line — that’s when you know you’re dealing with something important, that what you need to do really matters. And you know they wouldn’t be dumping this all in your lap, if they didn’t trust you to do what’s necessary. Annoying? Sure. But I’d rather be annoyed and considered important, than be comfortably ignored.”

Fen left Herb’s cubicle a few minutes later, wondering if she had just had an epiphany or needed a shower.

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