Looking from the outside. Part 1

Looking from the outside
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Laura, the character


Laura was checking the package brought to her by a secretary. She was searching for a calendar for the new year. The box she received was big, but the content was not. She found two BIC pens, a cube of Post-Its and a new two-hole punch. The previous one she took home, because, well, she needs to keep her sheets together at home, too. What else could this vampiric company could give her?

It has been sucking all the energy from her. Coming here every day, enduring communication with all these people, answering dozens of emails per day. The office is located in an industrial area, so there are no restaurants or nice cafes around. What a shame! And coffee. They have a coffee machine, but they do not order Italian coffee in grains, because it is “out of our budget limits for employees’ needs”.

When Laura heard that for the first time, she was so outraged! It is unbelievable! Every day, regardless of the weather, she has to get up at half past six and go to this god-forgotten place to answer stupid questions, carry out silly monotonous tasks or – what’s worse – to meet another deadline in a rush and what for? She is a creative person, no doubt. She could be a…

What could she be? A singer! Ok, a singer, surely a superstar, because if only she would want to pursue this career no doubts she would reach the top. With her talent to rhyme (like for that corporate party she wrote a verse something like “we all appreciate our boss, because you know, he could be worse”, luckily she had drunk a bit too much of wine by the point of declaration, and no one took it seriously (except for that boss, of course). With her nice voice (not everyone at the karaoke bar goes for when she starts singing, some still stay to listen to her, that is a good sign)! What a waste of a talent.

So, Laura was thinking, she deserves compensation for all these daily struggles of hers. Especially with the prices for stationary, why would she spend her own money, if for a big company, like hers, it is nothing? But what a meanie is the secretary! Laura asked for a nice big calendar for this year, with relaxing landscapes of Scotland and Ireland. It would help her fight the stress she has at work and give a bit of color to this grey and dull room.

Laura found no calendar inside the box. It was the second time she ordered it, and this time Laura was not going to let it go so easily. She threw the box on the floor and went to the reception room.

Melanie, the secretary, was talking to a visitor: a tall handsome man in a good suit. It was clear that he comes from a rich company that has no problems giving some pleasant little things to their employees. Like this leather-covered branded notebook that he’s holding. And a Parker pen with a logo on it. And, of course, a luxury car with a driver waiting for him at the parking lot.

The man was talking to Melanie about his next visit, smiling and seemingly flirting with her. The secretary was behaving politely and professionally, but somehow her engagement ring disappeared from her finger.

Laura went behind the reception desk, saw the ring on the table, unnoticeably threw the ring on the floor and then used all her artistic skills (which according to Laura she had a lot) to play a little scene as a revenge for the missing calendar.

‘Melanie! Look! It’s your engagement ring!’ – she pointed at the little piece of jewelry art shining on the floor.

Melanie glanced at Laura with a surprise and a bunch of mixed feelings. Apparently she was not so grateful for Laura’s finding, but a few seconds later she already managed to put on her mask of a professional, smiled and picked up the ring.

‘Thank you, Laura. It would be a pity to have it lost’ – she looked at Laura with her icy-cold blue eyes that conveyed much more context to her colleague than what Melanie’s professional ethic would allow.

The handsome visitor got a bit disappointed, but the incident didn’t upset him too much. He seemed to be one of those successful guys, eternal optimists, always seeing opportunities for themselves.

‘Your boyfriend must be a really lucky guy!’ – he smiled with irresistible charm. ‘If you are searching for a photographer, my wife could help you. She is a professional photographer. Works with weddings, engagements, love stories and anything else you want to commemorate’.

Melanie smiled politely and said ‘Indeed, we are searching for a photographer. There are way too many of them now, it is hard to choose. Does your wife have a portfolio? Or a website where I could see her photos?’

The visitor smiled again and said ‘Yes, she has. I can send a link to you by WhatsApp, if you’d like it’.

“Amazing!” – was thinking Laura. “Now he has an official reason to get her number”.

Melanie smiled back and replied ‘Oh, that would be lovely.’

The man gave her phone and asked to add her phone number in his contacts. A short and chubby man dropped by and called Laura to talk for a second. She didn’t really want to follow, but it would be bad to ignore it. They were working together on one big project.

Laura discussed some details with him and right before they finished, she saw the handsome visitor leaving reception and heading to one of their top-managers for a short conversation.

A bit later she came back to reception to clear the air and let Melanie know what she thinks about her. When Laura entered the reception room Melanie was talking on the phone with a client. The ring was back on her finger.

Laura waited until she finished conversation, studying Melanie’s workplace. She hasn’t found any big calendars or posters or paintings. This room could use some. It looked too strict, too empty. And this light.. It is too bright. In a combination with white walls it looked like a surgery.

Melanie finished the conversation, hung up the phone and came back to her work with emails.

Laura was determined to convey her message.

‘Melanie’ – she started.

Melanie answered with a cold and professional voice:

‘How can I help you, Laura?’ – she continued typing a message.

‘Today I’ve got my package with stationary’ – she was speaking slowly. ‘The content unpleasantly surprised me’ – she looked at Melanie who continued working with her email box. ‘Do you have an idea why I was surprised?’

‘I don’t’ – the secretary didn’t look at Laura, she was typing another message.

‘I ordered a new calendar for my wall. The second time. And guess what? I haven’t got it. Again. Can you explain to me why I haven’t got it again?’ – she looked at the secretary reprovingly.

Melanie left her email, lifted her head up and looked at Laura as if she were a little and capricious girl.

‘Laura, I have already explained to you the previous time, that such items as a huge calendar with natural sceneries as their cost exceeds the budget for the whole department where you work. We included corporative calendars for each room of the office, so everyone can have unified items that maintain corporate spirit. Not to say about the price of the product, since we ordered them in bulk. If you are not happy with it, you can order something smaller. A desk calendar, for example. With a design, available at our supplier and not exceeding the budget limit’.

After finishing her little speech, Melanie smiled coldly and came back to her email.

‘How can it be that in such a rich company like ours there is no money to buy a damn calendar? How often do I ask for something?!’ – Laura raised her voice.

With patience Melanie replied:

‘If you have time, I can give you a list of things you ordered throughout the year’ – she looked at Laura with her icy-cold blue eyes again. ‘Starting with expensive pens, differently shaped paper clips, a high-quality paper and a color printer that was seen at the office the last time two years ago, but still you order cartridges for it every three months. What do you print on it? Where? I guess your collection of photos printed and put on your wall at home would explain it. No one here has the same level of insolence to demand something else after all this. So,’- she stopped to take a breath, ‘if you want a colorful calendar, print one at home. At least, made with a corporate’s machine, it will stay within the office’.

Laura wanted to reply with something, but the thing with the printer was right spot-on. She always wondered why no one ever asked her about it. She indeed took the printer home and, well, for fairness’ sake she printed a couple of presentations with it. But again, she is a valuable employee who has a right to have some bonus from the company, isn’t she?

The phone on Melanie’s desk rang and she picked it up. Laura stayed for another moment processing everything that was said.

‘Wait a second, please’ – Melanie looked at Laura and asked her ‘’Is there anything else I can help you with?’ – she was smirking.

Laura looked at her angrily, turned around and left the reception.

‘Madam, he is at the office. I am putting you through…’ – the last words Laura heard heading towards the kitchen to get some not-Italian coffee.

In the corridor Laura recognized voices of her colleagues with whom she was friends. She was glad that she could share her annoyance and outrage with likeminded people. There were only 3 people in the room. Laura’ two friends and a manager of another department: a usually nice and polite person who always had enough patience to deal with any kind of employees. Laura always thought that he must be a robot or something, because some of their colleagues are absolutely out of their mind and unbelievably annoying.

Two women, Rachel and Norma were drinking coffee and discussing an online shop they recently discovered (right before their coffee break, at the desk at office hours, of course, because at home they have too much to do). Laura interrupted their conversation with her angry speech:

‘Our secretary thinks too much of herself!’ – she put a cup in the coffee machine and pushed “Double espresso” button. ‘She thinks she can actually decide what I am allowed to order and what I am not. Can you imagine?’

‘Don’t tell me she didn’t order you that calendar’ – Norma said with her eyes wide open. She knew the story about the calendar. In fact, half of the office knew, because Laura was very angry when she hadn’t got it the first time.

‘Exactly! Can you imagine?! I clearly stated that I need this calendar for the sake of stress-resistance and improvement of the working environment, and she said’ – Laura made a grimace copying Melanie’s voice – ‘that “it is out of your department’s budget”. Our department and me personally. She hates me, for sure.’

‘She behaves like if it were her own money’ – said Rachel, chewing a donut and sipping coffee.

‘Exactly’ – Laura took her cup of coffee, took a sip and made a wry face. – ‘This coffee is awful! And once again, why? Because Melanie decided that THIS is a’ – she made a grimace again – ‘”good combination of price and quality”. Well, price maybe, it is hard to find a cheaper coffee. But quality!’

‘Yes, it is awful’ – said both Rachel and Norma looking at their mugs, almost empty.

Laura poured her coffee out in the sink and said:

‘I think we should boycott Melanie until she gets us a drinkable coffee and not these bags with shit. We do a big favor to this vampiric company coming here every day and spending our best years for the sake of its profit. They owe us some respect! And some little bonus to make our dull days here endurable. What else can we get from here?!’

‘Yes, exactly! Well said!’ – encouraged her colleagues.

Suddenly Laura and her friends Shuddered of a sound of a spoon thrown on the table behind Laura’s back. She turned back to see what happened. Her always polite colleague was looking at her with annoyance and incomprehension. He told her:

‘For God’s sake, Laura, what can this company give you?! You are paid to come here every day! And your salary is higher than the average salary in our city!’ – he turned red. ‘If you would do a favor to the whole office and be occupied with your duties a bit more often, then maybe your salary would even pay off.’ – he stopped for a second to get a deep breath. Laura was looking at him speechless and stunned. ‘And if you dislike your job so much, then do us an even bigger favor and quit for a better place. If you don’t want to quit, then stop whining and go work on your project.’

Laura wanted to reply with something mean, but words were not coming to her mind. While she was thinking in a rush what to say, she saw the handsome visitor passing by on his way to the exit. He saw her, shot her with his charming smile and left to his perfect world leaving Laura here, offended and humiliated. At the exit the visitor’s phone rang, he picked it up and answered:

‘Hello honey, how are you?’

“He has not only a perfect appearance, a perfect job and a perfect suit,” – Laura was thinking, – “he also has a perfect wife.”

She forgot about the incident with her now not always polite colleague and got lost in her bitter thoughts about unfairness of this life.

The next part of the story is here:
Looking from the outside. Part 2

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