Another day at work
Herbert strolled into the office to start another workday. He sat down at his usual place before sighing. He logged on to his computer, ready to begin another long shift. Today was particularly busy.
The office was silent as everyone was hard at work. Today was his birthday.
A colleague Grace came up to him, “How’s your family taking it?”
“You know, the news about having the possible unexploded World War 2 bomb underneath your front garden. It must be a worrying time for you all.”
“They don’t believe me.”
“Why you ever thought it was a good idea to wait until April Fool’s Day to tell them, I’ll never know. You could have at least informed them after midday. I have to say though that your timing has never been any good. I mean who goes around organising a funeral on Christmas Day? The person had already been dead for two months.”
“Yeah, yeah, you can cut out the slack. It’s not been an easy time.”
The conversation was immediately cut short by the boss who told off their co-worker, Tessa. “You better have said ‘shed’ just then! Otherwise I’ll have to give you a warning for using inappropriate language in the workplace.”
“I did say ‘shed’ boss,” said Tessa shuddering.
“Good! I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time,” replied the boss.
Grace called out to her boss. “Mrs Singleton?”
“Yes? What do you want?”
“An ex-employee called Norbert has just called our office asking for a reference. Can you provide them with one?” asked Grace.
“Norbert? Just tell him he’s really great at making a cup of tea. Really brilliant at it,” said Mrs Singleton.
“OK. Anything else?”
“His punctuality is pretty much spot on. I’ll get back to you if I can think of anything else.”
Before he could hear any more of the conversation, Herbert felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned round to find another colleague, Opia pointing to the walls which had been redecorated at the weekend. “I like. You like?”
Herbert replied, “We like.”
Opia smiled before walking to another colleague, where she pointed to the ceiling. “I like. You like?”
Before Herbert could hear the response, Grace butted in, “Has Opia been annoying you then?”
“No, not at all. She’s a nice person, just slightly one dimensional. That’s all.”
“I know. I think I just upset her, because she wanted to know if I liked a screwed up piece of paper on the floor, and I said that I didn’t.”
“Yeah, Opia seems to take it badly whenever someone doesn’t like something. Does she actually get any work done?”
“I don’t think so now you’ve come to mention it.”
During the lunch hour, Mrs Singleton took a bite into some chicken wings which she had bought from a fast food takeaway. She gave a disapproving look as one of the workers, Tessa bought a salad into the office.
“There’s no need to be snobby about salad. Salad has been my saviour for the last few months. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve lost weight. I’m now 10 stone.”
“I read about that somewhere,” said Grace thoughtfully.
“Yeah, when you were looking at the scales while I was standing on them,” replied Tessa.
“Oh yeah, that was it.”
As the afternoon wore on, Mrs Singleton was preparing to interview some candidates regarding a new job vacancy.
It wasn’t long until the first candidate had arrived. In the middle of the interview, Opia appeared and pointed to the candidate. “I like. You like?”
Mrs Singleton smiled. “We like.”
The candidate looked confused.
“You’ve got the job,” elaborated Mrs Singleton.
“Thank you both so much. I’m glad I’ve got a colleague who likes me already.”
“You mean Opia? That doesn’t mean anything. Opia would give her seal of approval to a skunk rolling around in bat droppings. Not that I’m saying you’re on that level, but you get the general idea.”
Herbert had just finished his lunch, only to be greeted by his colleague Johan.
“Look, this coin always lands on heads,” said Johan
“It lands on tails too,” reasoned Herbert.
“I’ll prove it to you.” The coin landed on tails. “Look, that was just luck. See, I’ll just throw it again.” The coin landed on tails for a second time. “That doesn’t count. That was down to the way I threw it.” The coin was thrown again and landed on heads. “See. It always lands on heads.”
“I just hope that you never become a politician,” remarked Herbert as he got up and hurriedly left.
The rest of the day dragged on as Herbert counted down the hours until his workday was over. After a few minutes of having nothing to do, Herbert decided to venture towards his boss’s desk, as curiosity got the better of him. She had been interviewing many candidates over the course of the afternoon. Herbert was now near enough to decipher what Mrs Singleton was saying, “One day you will realise that the workplace can be a very tough environment, and that it is full of selfish egos who want you to fail at everything. However that day will not be today as you’ve got the job!”
Across the other side of the room, another colleague Dustin was hiding a book under the table which he had bought for Herbert’s birthday.
“I like. You like?”
Dustin ignored Opia’s voice, however she wasn’t fazed and repeated the question.
Dustin hid the item from her.
Grace came over, “Why don’t you answer her at least? What’s that you’re hiding?”
“Nothing,” said Dustin.
“Come on now. Have you taken something?”
“No I haven’t,” snapped Dustin.
The two arguing colleagues failed to notice as Opia traipsed away from the conversation.
“You can tell me what it is then,” said Grace.
“Stop this at once. You’re disrupting the workplace,” snapped Mrs Singleton wading in on the argument.
“What day is it today?” said Dustin lowering his voice.
“A bloody awful workday.”
“It’s Herbert’s birthday! And the thing I am hiding is his present. It’s meant to be a surprise.”
Grace didn’t reply as she stormed off.
“How is it even possible that the most inoffensive person in this office manages to be responsible for most of the arguments that take place here,” said Dustin whilst glancing over at Opia. “You know what? I’m done with today. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. I mean, the stapler thinks it’s a hole punch, and I had a cup of coffee thrown at me in a case of mistaken identity. Not to mention that the computer sounds like a hyena.”
“My day’s not been much better,” said Herbert.
Suddenly, their colleague Wilfred marched over to Herbert and pointed an accusatory finger at him. “I’ve just been to see your filing system and I am absolutely appalled. How dare you disrespect the alphabet! Put everything back into alphabetical order now!”
“Come on now,” replied Mrs Singleton. “We’ve all had a long day, there’s no need to get all upset now.”
“Yes there is. If the alphabet is messed with, all sorts of unimaginable disasters could take place. What if someone comes in looking for a file that has a surname beginning with ‘D’, but it’s with the files that have surnames beginning with U? Then that person spends so long looking for that file that they end up dehydrated and they have to be taken to hospital? How would you all feel then?”
“You know your problem? You’ve got an overactive imagination,” replied Mrs Singleton.
Wilfred retorted, “You’re just saying that because you see me as a threat. You’re using dirty underhand tactics so that I can look bad, and then you’re going to sack me. Then you’re going to send spies round my place because you have a clear personal vendetta against me. And if the spies aren’t successful in giving me a breakdown, I’m sure you’re going to send elephants to trample on my property…”
“Just listen to yourself,” replied Mrs Singleton.
“Oh my god. I’m been such a hypocrite,” gasped Wilfred before fleeing from the group.
“I think I’m going to leave now before any more calamities take place,” remarked Herbert.
“Here, before you go, I’ve got you a present,” said Dustin.
“Thanks, I wasn’t expecting anything,” replied Herbert as he unwrapped his gift. It was a piece of paper containing an email. “From Aunty Liza. The email’s dated from last week though. Why didn’t I see it before?”
Dustin replied, “Well, you are correct in that the email did arrive last week. We knew you were expecting an email for her, but we wanted to keep it as a surprise for your birthday, so we hacked into your email account, and kept logging into your account until the email arrived. We were lucky that you didn’t get there first. We then printed the email before deleting it.”
“You went to all that trouble for me? That is so lovely of you, thank you so much. It’s a great present. I was starting to think that she was ignoring me or something. I haven’t heard from her in ages so it’s a nice surprise.”
Once Herbert left his work, he headed straight to the park where he had agreed to meet his grandparents. Shortly after arriving at the park, he spotted them. Ray quickly felt inside his bag to turn his MP3 player off, but he was unsuccessful.
“Hello grandson. It’s nice to see you,” said his grandparent Phoenix.
Robin Thicke’s tune, Blurred Lines started playing and could be clearly heard.
“We do hope that you’re doing well. How is your work going? We’re so proud of you that you’ve found somewhere,” said Phoenix’s partner Charlie.
“Thanks. It’s not too bad at the moment,” said Herbert as he made another unsuccessful attempt to switch off his MP3 player. The music had now inadvertently been turned up to full volume. Herbert knew that he had to keep his possessions with him at all times in the park so he had to put up with the unideal circumstances.
Phoenix smiled awkwardly as he raised his voice so he could be heard over the music, “I don’t want to put a downer on today, but I’m afraid that I had my wallet stolen this morning.”
Robin Thicke’s voice continued to drown out the conversation as Herbert hoped the song would quickly end. The song was not at all representative of the rest of his playlist.
“I’m sorry to hear about your wallet,” replied Herbert.
After the song ended, there was a few seconds of quiet. Herbert’s heart sank as Blurred Lines started up again.
By the time his grandparents had left two hours later, Herbert had lost count of the amount of times Blurred Lines had been played.
Herbert sighed. Nothing on his birthday had turned out the way he had wanted it to. The only thing left to do was to meet a tax advisor at a coffee shop. “Why at a coffee shop?” he muttered to himself. As he walked inside he heard a crowd of people going “SURPRISE!” Many of his friends and relatives were gathered round a table in the centre of the room.
“Where’s the tax advisor?” asked Herbert.
“There’s no tax advisor,” shouted his friend Dustin. “We didn’t want to ruin the nice surprise.”
“That is such a relief. Thank you all so much to going to so much trouble,” replied Herbert. “Now I can finally start to enjoy my birthday.”