2: Jim and the Elevator

Jim thought in that quiet, secluded, safe moment about what it would mean for him to leave his job, to walk away from everything. There was nothing on his desk he really needed, some nice pens, office supplies, the charging cable for his phone, but nothing he couldn’t live without.

He wished the elevator ride could have actually lasted a bit longer. It had tacky reflective gold-colored walls, at least from the railing up, and the bottom was made of some kind of failed art deco attempt. It was tacky, but there was a security in it, like what he imagined it would be like to spend the night in an empty bank vault, which would only really be worthwhile if it had amenities. That aside, elevators are statistically the safest form of transportation, even if the distance it’s traveling is vertical rather than horizontal.


Jim stepped out of the elevator, free, but also exposed to the real world again, aside from whoever might have been watching the security camera on the elevator, if anyone.

Jim walked over to the front desk, the reception for the entire building, and gave that “eek, I need a favor” look to the receptionist.

He wasn’t quitting his job, even if for a few moments he pretended like he was. The lobby of the building they were in, and every other building in the complex, was glass along all three exterior walls, and it looked like it couldn’t support any but barely its own weight. There was exposed, smooth concrete, some steel work, and it was modern and clean looking, but it was still an office building. A chain of office buildings. It’s kind of like being in a nice-ish hotel, but realizing that everything is manufactured, that there are books and corporate people who have written those books to describe the mostly nice experience you’ll have within reasonable financial bounds, which means it’s nice but still feels a bit.. hokey.

That was what these offices were like. There was something perfunctory about the whole thing.

All that aside, they had a nice fast copier, with a USB slot. The receptionist was a nice young lady, younger than Jim, but she’d been there a while, and while she didn’t ‘run the place’, she was a representative of the management in the building, and helped things run smoothly.

Her name was Sandy, likely short for Sandra, which was an awful name for someone her age to have, completely out of the 20-30 year naming cycle with which old names come back. Think of a Barbara. Do you know an 18 year old Barbara? I don’t think you do.

“Mr. Gillis is in a pinch and the new girl is printing copies of Anna Karenina for the whole office or something.” Jim wasn’t pleading his case. By this time, he was already choosing the file to be printed. He didn’t pull this card with her very often, but there was an unspoken understanding of the lower-level employees to look out for their brethren in times of need, so Sandy just nodded and went about her business.

In no time at all, ten copies of the 17 page document had been printed, and headed back to the golden art deco chamber that would take him back to the sixth floor, except on the return trip it wasn’t as pleasant, leading back to the fluorescent-lit hell that some people pretended to enjoy.

Today was a blue shirt, tucked in, because of some meeting or something, very ‘American Eagle’ belt, khakis and boots, the kind that look like they aspire to be ‘rugged’ or ‘all terrain’ but are just dress shoes in denial.


Buzzword, Mr. Gillis himself, rounded a corner talking about the crest of some figurative wave. He himself was almost always late for meetings, so the five minute warning given only two minutes before noon wasn’t as impending as it might seem.

Jim walked into the meeting room and put the collated stack of reports on the corner of the table. No one was in the room.

Back at his desk, Jim wondered what would occupy his time for the next hour or two. He’d brought a sub sandwich and went to retrieve it from the fridge, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sad lives that most people in the office left.

Anyone who didn’t care about how they spent their money or their time went out to lunch, to the ‘recession’-era version of the two-martini lunch from the Boomer generation, usually a posh fusion cuisine restaurant or a chain Italian restaurant that masquerades as being ‘from the old country.’ Everyone with food in the fridge had varying levels of self-respect or vegan/gluten/kosher/keto diet torches to wield, but Jim’s mashed, slightly flattened, mildly soggy but still delicious sub from the deli in the grocery store the previous evening might have just expressed that he liked the idea of fast food that at least made an effort to be healthy, and some degree of not really caring about the small stuff.

Some of it was still crisp.

The afternoon came and went, like they all do. A watched pot indeed does not ever seem to boil.

“Frank or Billy’s” name was actually Jeff, and Jeff needed to print something off for a whatever it was that Buzzword called a meeting where you stand over someone’s desk and describe something rather than “getting a room”, a meeting room. This is also known as a conversation, but Jeff was new and/or marginally lazy, and didn’t have printing capabilities.

It was now after 4 pm, and Jim had spent the greater part of the afternoon doing things that he could have done in his early years of high school. That was the overall takeaway. But now there was excitement. Jeff needs help printing.

It’s kind of like another more exciting activity, or what precedes that exciting activity, isn’t it? The doing of it is enjoyable, but we can’t get so excited about having something to do that we do it too quickly. They discussed the procedure of getting access to the printer, what you might have to sign, who to talk to, and the recent political history of the IT department.

“Send it to me, and I’ll print it out for you.”

Anna Karenina was gone, but there was a collated stack of papers on the tray when Jim walked over to pick up the single chart that Jeff/Frank/Billy needed for his conversation. Jim picked them both up, and sighed, but smiled.

He handed Jeff the paper in question and placed the 170 sheets of collated paper on his desk. He stared at them briefly, thinking of all the things he could think, like how it’s a representation of the futility of so much of what we do in the office, or were this paper, converted back to wood, how much actual tree-age did it take to make? There was also the corporate policy of shredding whatever their fancy term was for business info, instead of leaving it around the office to use for scrap paper or a placemat for your drippy seitan burrito, and that meant it had to be shredded.

Who doesn’t love the shredder? It’s like the upgraded, professional version of popping bubble wrap. It’s loud and disruptive to others, satisfying to the user, repetitive, and kind of hypnotic. The switch also had a clean, hearty click to it when it turned on.



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