It has been two months into the new year. Balloons have come and gone, with the neigbouring department celebrating its ‘best ever sales’ again this month, by putting a troika of balloons in colours of white, blue and sea green all around the floor.
There a lot of ‘attendants’ in the floor. They are mostly males, with the exception of one lady who sits and eats a lot and sometimes ferries celebratory snacks around. The lone lady attendant also has a gruff and husky voice which she uses to express great discomfort when someone so much as touches the scanner and photocopier. These attendants are unoccupied for the greater part of the day. In the morning, they wheel a tray around and put water bottles on all the desks, and in the course of the day they take care of such urgent needs as shortage of milk in the coffee machine, stock-out of tea-bags, people wanting tea made by hand et cetera. In the pecking order of the honour roll, attendants come after associates, who follow officers. The category ‘officers’ comprises people who work the most, and also drink the most amount of beverages. So the work load of the officers has a resultant strong correlation with the work load of the attendants. The associates work under the protection of an invisible and powerful body called the ‘Union’ and might be shielded from fluctuations in workload of the officers.
Officers are mostly dull- most of them being people who look at dry numbers and tasteless mails throughout the day. As you can understand, I happen to belong to this group. But it is the creed of attendants and that of the associates which make the floor an interesting place.
There sits, two cubicles from mine, an unusually loud associate named Mr. B. We will call him Mr. B for the rest of the article, to protect his privacy and also because his surname does start with the letter ‘b’. Now, Mr. B is loud in every possible way someone can be. His loudness comes in a complete package of sensory assaults. He often dresses, despite his age, in bright colours like canary yellow and blood red. He has a softness for floral prints. I am no one to talk about fashion, or what colour suits what skin tone, but Mr. B, nearing retirement, wrinkled in face and throat and hands and whatever little of him can be seen behind the horrendous curtain of clothes, does not seem to be able to carry off whatever he wears. Visitors to the floor, who have been a little weak of heart, have been unable to conceal the cringe that would show up on their faces. We, on the floor, have become used to this and tend to pass him off as an aberration in the colour scheme of the Universe.
Mr. B is a hearty talker. He talks a lot, and makes sure that the person sitting at the farthest end of the rather long floor can hear him clearly. Blessed that he is with a natural sub-woofer and a volume button that refuses to go low, Mr. B can often be found regaling even those who do not want to hear him, with stories. The subjects of his stories are very real, like the difficulties he had to face while boarding a bus, how some technology surprised the living daylights out of him, how the cat in the neigbourhood cried all night long and other interesting things. There is another gentleman who sits beside Mr. B, named Mr. D, the two separated by the wall of the cubicle. As it is Mr. B’s voice refuses to be bound by the physical boundaries of cubicles, departments or even buildings, but Mr. D, who is a fan of Mr. B’s stories, stands up whenever Mr. B starts talking, and resting his arms on the barrier that keeps them apart, listens with animated and great interest to the tales of Mr. B.
Mr. B recently discovered, to his great delight, sachets of soup and chocolate-shake kept in our mini-kitchen. These are new entrants. Mr. B, who normally drinks coffee, was naturally tempted to try something else. He managed to get hold of a packet with some difficulty, for good resources are always scarce. A spring in his step, gleam in his eyes, he approached the machine, pressed the button for hot water and then placed his cup beneath the spout for milk and coffee. He watched as the water poured down the neigbouring spout while he stood and stared, nose up, eyes looking at the machine with great distrust.
I told him that he should have placed his cup beneath the right spout. M. B reacted to this with a short “Oh!” and seemed rather hurt by the chap trick the machine had pulled on him. Then sipping his soup after he finally had the water in his cup, he went back to his chair.
Mr. D, on the other hand, is hardly there at his desk, when Mr. B is not talking. If Mr. B happens to be occupied with some work and Mr. D is not, the latter invariably gravitates to the one place that holds as much allure for him as Mr. B does- the washroom.
Several people have noticed that no matter when they go to the washroom they find Mr. D there. He is either looking out through the window or into the mirror. Sometimes he is seen fiddling with his phone and smiling to himself. These reported sightings of Mr. D in the washroom are susceptible to changes in weather as well. It has been observed Mr. D is sighted in the washroom more in colder weather. So in winter, if you ever wish to go to the washroom, be assured that you will not find yourself alone. Mr. D will be there, standing, looking, smiling.
Unless, of course, Mr. B is talking, in which case you will be deprived of Mr. D’s companionship in the washroom.
**To be continued in the Episode 6