Heard it Through the Grapevine

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“… opening another office,” said one of the employees she hadn’t met yet. A smallish woman with a bit of gray in her hair who looked to be in her mid-forties.

Another employee, a bit younger than the former, she also did not yet know, who was standing at the water cooler said, “Really? I hadn’t heard that.”

“Yes,” said the first employee, “and they are planning on hiring the manager for it from within the ranks.”

She, Nancy (a fairly new hire), stopped in her tracks on her way to get a drink and get away from her desk for a while. The fake potted fig shielded her from the view of the other two employees while her mind worked furiously. She backed quietly away and went back to her desk.

It’s not that Nancy wasn’t grateful for her job. In these lean times, jobs … good paying jobs … are really hard to find. But she always figured that her talents were wasted sitting at a desk all day. And frankly that crappy little task chair they gave her was making her back cranky. And the man, Tim, who worked in the next cubicle wore way too much cologne and she had a headache every day. An office of her own, away from the noise, and a nice cushy executive chair would be wonderful. Nancy started thinking furiously.

“I’ve just got to get that managerial position,” she thought to herself, “I’ve never really enjoyed being bossed around by others. It would be nice to do the bossing instead.” She set about getting her days duties finished so that she could go home, have a glass of wine and plan her attack.

Later at home, glass of wine in hand and dinner warming in the microwave oven, Nancy came a bit to her senses and the doubts started flooding in. There were probably a dozen people with more seniority than her. Maybe some of them had actually been managers in the past. But she had a lot of experience in the field. Admittedly it was all in the bottom end of it, but that shouldn’t really be an impediment. After all, she’d had lots of managers and knew how they had handled things. Surely she could do as well if not better.

The ding of the microwave interrupted her thoughts and she went to retrieve her meal. Maybe the best thing to do would be to watch a little television while eating, take a nice hot bath and go to bed early. Well rested and refreshed in the morning, she might be better able to create a plan for landing that position.

The next day at work was really busy and Nancy despaired of ever finding any time to give her plan some thought. When lunch was still about an hour away, her back was starting to give her fits, so she got up to walk to the water cooler. When she arrived, the same two women were standing there and talking.

“They’re moving really fast on it. I’m surprised at how fast. Usually these things take forever,” said the first woman.

“But that’s a good thing right? I mean, too much delay and before you know it a month has gone by and nothing has been accomplished,” remarked the second woman.

“Yes, but things are in such disarray. It’s a real mess all of a sudden.”

“It will be over soon and you’ll be much happier and wonder what all the fuss was about.”

Nancy was starting to wonder if she would ever get another drink of water as she backed quietly away once again. She wondered if the first woman was in Human Resources and that is how she had this “inside” information. She was going to have to get on the ball and make her bid for the position as soon as possible. Darn! She really wished she had more time.

Nancy decided to skip eating lunch and use her break to craft a letter to Human Resources and turn it in that very day. She put together what she considered to be a slick proposal explaining her qualifications (some a bit exaggerated) and reasons for wanting the promotion (though none of the real reasons). She sent it to the central printer and hurried over to pull it out so that no one would see it. Then she put it into an envelope and dropped it on the mail cart to be delivered. She considered it well worth missing lunch not to miss out on this opportunity.

Nancy finished her shift with a light heart and optimism and went home to another microwave meal and a glass of wine. She was so keyed up by the prospect and was so bound up in imagining herself in her new job that she had trouble going to sleep. But she finally did sleep and woke up the next morning a bit bleary eyed and not quite all there mentally. Most likely skipping a meal the previous day had something to do with it as well.

When Nancy arrived at her desk, she saw that there was a larger than average number of orders to be processed and so she got right to work. All thoughts of her letter and the job vanished under the onslaught. So she was mildly surprised when she got a call from Tricia, the Human Resources woman who had hired her. Tricia asked that Nancy come to her office for a chat. Nancy’s heart started to beat wildly in her chest and she thought, “This is it! If it was a turn down, she’d just send a memo. This is it!”

Nancy finished processing the order she was working on and headed for Tricia’s office. She was fairly skipping down the hallways and smiled at everyone she passed. When she arrived, Tricia was on the phone and waved Nancy into a seat and made little wait a moment movements with her free hand.

When Tricia hung up the phone, she looked at Nancy and said, “Good morning, Nancy. Thank you for coming. How are you feeling today?” The fact that Tricia was not smiling and had a small frown on her face gave Nancy a few momentary misgivings.

“I’m fine,” said Nancy, “but I didn’t sleep all that well last night. Still I’m doing okay.”

Tricia said, “I’ll get right to it then. I got your letter at the end of the day yesterday and I have a few questions and things I would like to clear up.”

“Yes?”

“Yes. I’ve looked into your productivity and you are clearing orders at a fairly average pace. But your quality of work and lack of errors is considerably above average. Since you have been here almost three months, I went ahead and did your three-month evaluation a little early and I can tell you that you would be receiving a one dollar an hour raise in your next paycheck. I hope that is good news to you.”

Nancy replied with a rather tentative tone, “Oh, it is. Really. It is.”

“Good,” said Tricia, “So, do you feel you are settling in well? Are you getting a good sense of how the company operates and a feel for the company dynamic?”

Nancy had to think about that for a moment. This wasn’t really going at all how she had imagined it might. She would have to answer those questions carefully and in such a way that she could show she was ready to be a manager. After all, at 27 years old, she was certainly old enough to take on a management position.

“Yes, I have settled in well. I get along well with my fellow employees and I’ve learned a lot in a very short time about how the company operates. Of course, there is always more to learn and I look forward to learning new things.” There that should do it.

Then Tricia surprised her by asking, “Nancy, are you happy in your job?”

“I’m not sure I understand the question,” was Nancy’s reply. And again some doubts started to creep in and a small frown furrowed her brow.

“I mean just that. Are you happy in your job? I don’t know how else to put it. Do you like your working conditions? Does the work bore you? Do you dread coming to work?”

Nancy decided to seize upon the boring aspect and said, “Well, it is a bit boring and while each order is different, the processing of them is always the same.” She paused momentarily and then decided to continue. “And truth is that the cubicle doesn’t really cut out a lot of the noise. And Tim who works next to me wears so much cologne that it gives me a headache every day. Also, my chair is making my back ache.”

Tricia thought for a moment and said, “Hmm. Well these are mostly all issues that can be easily addressed. You should have come to me much sooner with them instead of suffering. I can speak to Tim or move him further away. And we can get you a better chair. Or if you would like, you should go purchase one that suits you and the company will reimburse you for it. As for the noise, there isn’t much that we can do about that, I’m afraid. We would really hate to lose you. You are always on time and you do your work well.”

Now Nancy was really confused and said, “Lose me? I don’t understand.”

“Well, there is the letter that you sent to me. It’s a bit confusing and it seems like you might be considering leaving the company. We would be very sorry to lose you.”

“I’m very confused,” said Nancy, “I thought I made it clear that I was applying to be the new manager of the new office that we are opening.”

Tricia’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and she said, “Whatever gave you the idea that we were opening another office?”

“Well, I uh overheard a conversation at the water cooler about it on two occasions. I assumed that one of the women, whom I have not yet met, worked in Human Resources and that she had some inside information.”

Tricia thought about this for a moment and then said, “Nancy, as you know, our company is relatively small and so is our Human Resources Department. The entire department is just William and me. I don’t know what you heard or why you interpreted it as you did. So do you wish to continue your employment with us?”

Nancy could feel the heat of embarrassment starting in her face. As the redness slowly made its way down her neck and onto her chest, she said, “Yes, I do wish to continue working here.” Nancy dropped her head and looked at her hands which were wringing themselves in her lap. Thankfully out of sight of Tricia.

With a great deal of relief, Tricia said, “Oh good! I’ll get right on the cologne issue. Would you like to purchase a chair for yourself or shall I see what I can do?”

Nancy was still having trouble meeting Tricia’s gaze when she said, “Thank you. I’ll go get a chair myself. I should be getting back to work now.”

“Excellent. Be sure to keep your receipt and bring it directly to me. I’ll see that you are reimbursed. I really am glad that you are staying with us. Have a good day, Nancy.”

With that, Nancy headed back to her cubicle. She couldn’t understand why she had been so mistaken. The conversations of those two women were pretty clear. Then a thought occurred to her. Maybe they had known she was behind the fig and were having a little joke at her expense. Or maybe they had been hazing the newbie. Suddenly she felt a little righteous anger building up. There they had gone and made her look like a fool.

The water cooler was on her way to her cubicle and those same two women were standing there gossiping about something. As Nancy was walking passed she heard, “… and so she got a dressing down.” And then they both laughed.

Well, that did it! Lack of sleep. Calorie deficit. Embarrassing encounter with Tricia. It was all too much and she turned around and confronted to the two women saying, “I bet you think it’s all pretty funny!”

One of the women said, “Excuse me? We haven’t met. I’m Anne and this is Margie. And you are …?”

“Yeah. Right. Does it matter?”

Anne said, “Oh wait, you’re that new hire in my processing department, right? Nancy? Right?”

“Well, I guess you certainly know who I am. And it’s really not funny hazing the new employee. That’s just totally sophomoric.”

Margie looked inquiringly at Anne who shrugged her shoulders and then said, “Nancy, we have no idea what you are talking about.”

Then Nancy just went off, “You most certainly do. Monday you were talking about the company opening a new office and hiring a manager from within while at the water cooler. Then on Tuesday you were talking about how they were going ahead with it really fast. And just now you were laughing about me being called into Tricia’s office. You deliberately set out to make me think that there was an opening and that I should go for it!”

Anne and Margie were completely taken aback by her outburst. So much so that they actually took a couple of steps back. Nancy had been so loud and sounded so angry that they had drawn a small crowd. Finally, a look of understanding came to Margie’s face.

“Golly Nancy, it was nothing like that. Monday, Anne and I were discussing a mutual friend and his bid for a manager’s position at his company. Tuesday, Anne was telling me about how the remodel of her kitchen was going. And the very last thing I said before you accosted us was the punch line to a joke that is a pun.”

Nancy was mortified. She didn’t know what to do and blurted out, “I’m sorry! Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” And she fled to her cubicle. What a day! She didn’t know how she would ever live it down. She finished her days work without any more idiotic mistakes (thankfully) and went home to have two glasses of wine and some macaroni with cheese. Mac and cheese always could make her feel better.

The next day walking to her cubicle, she stared resolutely at her feet. She glanced up briefly as she passed Tim’s cubicle, but he wasn’t sitting there. Anne was sitting there. “Oh my God,” Nancy thought, “I’m being punished.”

A couple more steps brought her to her cubicle. There was a box of chocolates sitting on her desk with a note on top. Her head went to the side and she looked at the floor for a while and took a few deep breaths. She decided she’d had way too much confusion for a while and simply opened the note. It read “No hard feelings. Anne and Margie.”

Nancy couldn’t believe her good fortune and poking her head around the corner and into Anne’s cubicle she said, “Good morning, Anne. Thanks. Want some chocolate?” And she offered her the box.

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Anne. And they enjoyed a few sweet bites together before settling down to work.

I was reminded about this short story I once wrote in response to an assignment titled, “Eavesdropper.” What reminded me was a short story by one of the writers here on WordPress. He’s always making me think about things differently. Thanks!

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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