Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Just Another Day at the Office

 “Good morning, Duct Works. This is Tamatha”
“Hey, Tamatha,  this is Ed over at The Building. I’ve scheduled your technicians to come out this week to repair the dryer vents at The Building but I have two different days written down in two different places. Are your people coming on Wednesday or Friday?”
“So, you need to schedule service on your dryer vents?”
Ed calmly hangs up the phone, turns out the lights, and locks up the office.  He leaves The Building and walks next door to the Other Building. Entering the garage, he makes note that the cleaning lady has done a good job sweeping all the leaves that blew in last night. As he gets in his car, Ed makes a note to mention that to her. Encouragement is part of management.
Out on the road, Ed is amazed at how easy it is to get around some parts of Los Angeles in the late morning.  But he doesn’t have far to go. Duct Works is just a few blocks away.

The office is 70’s typical: Baby shit green walls, Infection Yellow™ couches, false ceiling, florescent lights. The kind of place crazy people walk into and go berserk.

Ed walks in and goes berserk. Tamatha is alone in the office.  Ed leaps across her desk and beats Tamatha with her phone receiver until she cries. Ed pushes over the filing cabinet and throws a stack of purchase orders out the window.  He then rips all the phones from the walls and piles them together in the middle of the floor.  Producing a small can of lighter fluid, Ed douses the phones and strikes a match. “It’s a tool! If you don’t have the skills to use it, you should leave it alone!” He drops the match. But a little lighter fluid isn’t going to set a pile of phones on fire.  It is, however, going to create enough toxic smoke to both make everybody nauseous and set off the fire alarm.  So far today, Ed had made a number of mistakes. Some big, some small.  But this was the one that would prove his undoing as Tamatha was legally blind and illegally stupid. She could never have identified him in court.
But the attending firemen sure could.

“Mr. Goodman.” The judge’s thick Southern accent is out of place in the downtown courthouse in Los Angeles. But narratives like these need a little grease. And that’s exactly what Southern accents provide. “Before I find you guilty of assault and attempted arson, do you have anything you’d like to say to the court?”  Ed stands. His aqua blue prison pantsuit is tastefully accessorized with shiny new cast iron manacles.  Somebody in county wardrobe really knew what they were doing.

“Yes, your honor, I do. Without clear, concise communication, we’re nothing more than a bunch of over-smart monkeys looking for new ways to masturbate our time away until it’s time to become dirt again. Conversation is a skill. It’s a skill that needs to be learned. Cogent thought, the well placed word, the intelligent consideration of the matter at hand. Nobody’s born with these skills. You learn them. Or you don’t . Just like some days you make it home without having somebody try to beat you to death with a phone. And some days you don’t.  I’m on the right side of this one, your honor. And you know it.“
“MmHm. I see. You all done?”
“I believe I am.”
“I believe you are too.“

And it was ED who went to prison, not Tamatha. Ed was the one who had to endure the attacks in the showers, the perpetual beatings, and the constant talk of recording contracts and clothing lines.  And yes, it was Ed who had to join the black club because the white club wasn’t accepting new members at the time. Finally, it was Ed who, having gone to prison for communicating with his fists, learned how to really communicate with his fists. He also learned he wasn’t the great communicator he thought he was.

But Ed died knowing that he was right: Communication is a skill. It has to be learned. In prison.


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