Do you think when they asked Thomas Jefferson for his ID, he just took out a nickel?
- from Musings of Hebert Flabeau
I can't, for the life of me, recall how I emerged from the haze of those days. But one (relatively) clear morning, I awoke to the aspiration of leaving substances behind, and a hankering to rejoin the establishment. In need of gainful employment, I applied for office work. As luck would have it, I submitted my dog-eared, coffee-stained resume to the winner of the annual Employer-from-Hell award.
Born and raised in Skinflint, Michigan, when Cuthbert M. Philbot read that you could feed a family of four in India for a hundred dollars a year, he sent his whole family there. During the previous week, there had been a slight problem at the office. Philbot had accidentally smiled and got a charley horse in his face. The company had a tough sick leave policy. There was no time off for illness or surgery. Death was accepted, but you had to give three weeks’ notice.
In the waiting room, I worked my way through an application. To, “Length of residence at present address?” I wrote, “About 30 feet, not counting the porch.” Where it said, “Tell us something about yourself,” I entered, “I like my coffee weak and my women strong.” At the bottom, where it said, “Sign here,” I scrawled, “Pisces.”
When I finished, I picked a copy of Jaws off the coffee table and began reading. Presently, a distraught employee came out of the boss’s office, and I could hear Philbot trailing on, “I’m sorry, but if you take two hours for lunch today, I’ll have to do the same for every man whose wife gives birth to triplets.”
I was in luck when, a few moments later, Philbot came out just in time to catch me off guard, nose in the book, rooting for the shark. He could see he'd found the right man for a position on his team.
“I want you to be happy here,” said Philbot, giving me a quick tour of the office. “If there’s anything you need, I’ll show you how to get along without it. Oh, and, until further notice, don’t use the suggestion box. The handle is broken and it won’t flush.”
I was given my own office. It was small, but private. Except when another employee barged in to ask for a broom.
The first day on the job, I came off as a real trendsetter. I was the first one in the office to wear purple and white shoes. Then I lost the white one. But clothes, to me, are easy come, easy go. Ever since I’d heard someone say, “Whenever I’m down in the dumps I buy new clothes,” I knew where I’d be doing most of my shopping.
Settling in, I hammered away on my computer keyboard. Within a few moments, I had to requisition a new keyboard, as the hammer had quickly rendered the first one to a collage of plastic art. This time, bowing to convention, I used my fingers. I entered data steadily through the day. Round about three o’clock, a colleague dropped by, saw what I was doing, and informed me that, while it was certainly energy efficient to work the way I was, it would be more productive to turn the power on first.
Thanking him for the tip, I once again modified my approach. I did not feel bad, however, about the lost time. Although I can produce about 90 words a minute - in my own language - if you’re going to be picky and ask me to type readable copy, then it falls to about seven words, tops. Had I been more adept, I would no doubt have felt devastated at the loss of significant production.
Changing horses, I spent the rest of the day filing. By five o’clock, with virtually no nails left, I punched out.
The second morning, I arrived fifteen minutes late for work. “Why are you late?” Philbot asked.
“I fell down a flight of steps,” I replied.
“It doesn’t take fifteen minutes to fall down a flight of steps, “ growled Philbot.
That day, in a bid to improve efficiency, I undertook a little research project of my own. It didn’t take long to verify my conjecture, that too many clients were creating a high level of stress, resulting in lower production. I took to the phone and by early afternoon had disposed of over 70% of the company’s clientele.
I waxed creative, informing some clients that we were going bankrupt, others that we were facing a class action suit and could no longer remain above ground with our operations. Still others learned from me that we were downsizing and had to drop the ballast.
By day’s end, a great sense of ease pervaded the office. With the workload drastically reduced, we now had some much needed breathing space. I prepared memos soliciting suggestions for our newly allotted recreation time, and recommended a shorter workweek, as well as significantly expanded vacations.
I damn near made it to the end of the week. Although I had carefully concealed my identity by signing all my outgoing memos with the handle of one of my altar-egos, “The Count of Bondaglio,”
I sensed the boss’s suspicion mount with the following little master-slave interchange:
Philbot: “I notice that you come to work late every morning.”
Me: “Yes, but you’ll also notice that I leave early every afternoon!”
That was enough to terminate my residency in Office City, Illinois, though I suppose I should also mention, in passing, that Philbott had discovered I had pawned my computer equipment, and replaced it with a mini-Jacuzzi.
View more of Hebert here
by Josef Graf from
the Earth Vision project
A humorous interlude excerpted from the adventures of Hebert Flabeau: