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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

SOMETIMES YOU JUST SHOULDN'T ANSWER

Occassionaly, we have vendors come visit the office for the day. You can usually spot them by their clothes. Suits and ties are not the norm, so when a natty 50-something in a charcoal wool three-button with a spring in his step and a glint in his eye bounds by you in the hall, you tend to take notice and make a mental note, "Not one of us."

Haresh stepped away from the urinal prompting the now routine honking from the toilet. He approached the sink to wash up as an unfamiliar and short, well-groomed gentleman stepped into the adjacent stall and shut the door behind himself. Haresh heard the faint clinking of metal recognizable as a belt buckle being undone, the quick zip of the zipper, the muffled rumple of trou being dropped, all commonplace sounds appropriate for the circumstance.

But then something not so appropriate. From inside the stall came a series of rapid electronic beeps roughly approximating "The Flight of the Bumblebee." What would poor Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) think of his composition being used as the means to interrupt someone's bladder evacuation?

Hold on. This is where it gets weird.

"George Rendell. Yes. Yes, Rich. I'm good, I'm good. How are you?"

Haresh's indifference toward his restroom-mate took a turn for the worse. Does nothing supersede the cell phone call in life's order of priorities? Isn't it bad enough that people have these frickin' devices firing off in restaurants, in movies, while they're parallel parking, putting on makeup and smoking a cigarette all at once? Now even the bathroom stall isn't a beep free zone? Of all the...

Haresh wrung his soapy hands under the faucet when the swinging stall door in the mirror caught his eye. He looked up to see Mr. George Rendell casually leaning on one elbow against the inside of the stall, propping the phone against his jaw, hip out, utterly comfortable with the fact that his dress pants were gathered in graceful folds around his tassled loafers, exposing swaths of pale thigh, jutting patellae, veiny shins, and the beginnings of the dreaded cankles, ankles that have widened to the same width as the calves to which they're joined. Tight, royal blue jockey shorts with white piping peeked out from beneath his shirt tails. And of course, short, wiry, auburn hairs curled out from under every inch of his dermis in random, directionless bursts.

Haresh's face reddened and he froze momentarily, mouth agape, unresponsive the way plane crash survivors are as they huddle beneath their blankets. After a second or two, the "flight or fight" mechanism set his course.

"Look away, grab two paper towels and get the hell out of here," his mind told him. "No time to dry your hands; do that as you rush back to the safety of your desk. Now move! Move!"

Haresh reached for the towel dispenser but sensed that things were escalating behind him. Mr. George Rendell was now emerging from the stall, shuffling toward Haresh. Sometimes when you're on the phone you'll slowly pace around the room as you talk. That's what this was like, accept that Mr. George Rendell was doing so while half naked in front of a complete stranger in a men's room in a place of business.

"No, no. I'm taking the 8:45 tomorrow back to Arkansas. I want to discuss some ideas I had about using the cross-sell commission as a way to incent the agents."

Panicked, Haresh pulled a wad of towels all at once from the dispenser and turned sharply toward the exit. But like a guard setting the pick, there was Mr. George Rendell severely blocking Haresh's egress. The resulting collision knocked the slighter man with the phone against the corner of the stall. His loafers did a quick, muffled side step to regain his balance.

Burning with discomfort, a nervous Haresh offered, "Sorry," to which Mr. George Rendell responded with a sneer, one that formed on his small face with such ease and speed that one can only assume that he uses the expression quite frequently, most likely as his default response to all human contact. His eyes narrowed and his left brow descended and his lips pursed.

"Pfff," he said, looking Haresh up and down.

Haresh rushed back to his desk, flustered by the combination of shock, embarrassment, and incredulity throbbing in his head. He went over the exchange in his mind, eventually calmed by the thoughtful reduction of the encounter it to its bare essence.

"Mr. George Rendell. What an asshole."



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