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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Doofing in the Dark

Some days, I don’t know why I bother to go into work. If there’s some stipulation in my contract that I have to meet a certain quota for public embarrassment, humiliation or severe flusterment, I hit that milestone long ago.

I could coast on accumulated office shame-to-date until well past retirement age. I assume that when I decide to leave my current job, they’ll pay me in back-embarrassment by hiring people to come to my house and spend their evenings hooting and mocking and pointing at me.

So I’ve got that going for me. Which is… ‘nice’.

Meanwhile, every day I make new contributions to my discomfort fund. My little nest egg of chagrin looks like it was laid by an ostrich. Or an elephant. Or a really fat tyrannosaurus.

Take yesterday, for example. Our group has a couple of open positions — “hey, come work with me; no lines, no waiitng! — and I was on the list in the afternoon to interview a prospective candidate.

“I covered all the bases I could possibly think of. I was like a base-smothering octopus out there.”

Now, I did everything right. I’m fully aware that ridiculous humbling nonsense is going to befall me, so I plan against all of the obvious goof-ups. I showed up on time — after checking for food in my teeth in the bathroom — and not running any water in the sink, for fear of accidentally soaking my pants — and making sure my fly was zipped, my shoes were tied, and my shirt was on the right way around. I covered all the bases I could possibly think of. I was like a base-smothering octopus out there.

When the interviewee wrapped up his previous appointment, I was the very picture of gracious hospitality. I shook his hand and chatted a bit, offered him water, and walked with him toward the conference room in which we were to talk, because the cardboard box I sit at in the janitor’s closet might sour him on might be a tad ‘unsettling’.

(Especially on a ‘Toilet Brush Air-Out Tuesday’. It’s like the fricking Hanging Gardens of Ty-D-Babylon in that place.)

So I walked into the darkened conference room and felt for the light switch. Which, I soon discovered, didn’t exist any longer. As part of an effort to ‘green up’ the building, the conference room light switch had been replaced with a sensor panel. The panel detects motion, and the lights come on. No motion for a few minutes, the lights go off. Electricity unwasted, money saved, switch-flicking finger injuries plummet wildly — good times all ’round.

At least, that’s how all of the other sensors in the building work. That’s how it’s supposed to work. That is, in fact, the very definition of ‘work’ in this instance — people move, the lights come on.

These lights? Didn’t work. I waved my hand around near the sensor for a bit — mostly still feeling for a light switch, until my eyes accustomed to the rather persistent pitch black of the room. Nothing.

I chuckled apologetically to our guest and took a step further into the room, enveloped in the inky shadows within. The inky shadows put their feet up on the desk and fiddled with their cell phones; they weren’t going anywhere.

I said, ‘Gee, I’m sorry. This has never happened before.

He looked at me with that same sad, disappointed look universally given to people who say, ‘gee, this has never happened before’. At least, I assume he did. I couldn’t actually see him at that point. Or anything else, for that matter.

I then decided — for reasons unknown — that this particular sensor was perhaps not sensitive — or sensor-y — enough, that probably its blind spot was just rather large, but it would eventually activate if I found the right spot. So I apologized again, and set off to walk the full circumference of the conference table.

That got me several angry bruises as I bumped blindly into chairs and walls and table edges. But no lights.

Maybe, the thought occurred, this sensor depends on speedier movements than most. So I walked faster. And the bruises got angrier. While the lights turned no lightier.

Ah, but what if the sensor is pointed too high, or it’s triggered by sound instead? I set to flapping my arms and leaping recklessly around the table, making high-pitched ‘yiiiip!‘s in a desperate attempt to illuminate the room.

Panic set in as I considered what to do next. It’s the only conference room on the floor; I had nowhere else to go for the interview. As I flapped and leapt and yiiiipped my way around the table, I searched furiously (in the dark) for a ‘Plan G’. Perhaps a series of mirrors to redirect light from outside? Maybe we had a Bunsen burner or old gas lantern lying around. I could always light the desk and work by firelight — but that would really put a tight squeeze on our timeframe before smoke inhalation set in. I might have to skip a few of the questions.

Meanwhile, I hadn’t noticed that the interviewee had excused himself, found our floor manager in the hallway, and was asking her about the lights. Apparently, there’s a little button below the sensor panel for when you want the lights really off.

He pressed the button. Light flooded the room. Mid-yiiiip and suddenly blinded, I crashed to the floor in a pile of cheap plastic office chairs. With the last tender sliver of dignity I had left, I dusted myself off, thanked our admin, took a seat across from our guest and began the interview.

Me: Ahem. So. Tell me why it is you want to work for us, then.

Him: Um… I’m sorry. But it’s time for me to see the next person.

Me: Ah. Right, so it is. Well. I’m glad we had a chance to chat. Hope to see you again soon!

And then I hid under my cardboard box for the rest of the afternoon, rocking back and forth and mumbling, ‘I’m a good interviewer… I’m a good interviewer… nobody needs to see me; I’m a good interviewer…

If the guy comes to join us, then he has a great sense of humor, the patience of a sedated nun, or he just figures that I’ll be fired before he’d start in the office, anyway. Or he’s a vampire, and actually prefers the dark. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, I’m going around to every ‘greened’ office I can find and pushing in those little buttons. Maybe somebody else didn’t know about them either, and I won’t be the only flapping idiot in the building.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my little retirement ‘Fool-01k’ plan, it’s that it’s important to share the wealth. And there’s plenty to go around.

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