The Hatred of Minutiae…Part 1

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Just for a change of pace…here is a short story I wrote several years ago. I hope y’all enjoy it. I’ll post the second half tomorrow.

Oh…and for folks who’d like the audio version…here ya go. The audio version is the full story and it runs about 25 minutes long. (Don’t laugh at my narrating skills…plus…Bama…don’t berate me but I had to give the characters their own voices. It got confusing with just my own voice.)

Sorry, guys, after listening to my audio version of the story today…I decided to rescind my offer. It really sucks. You’ll just have to enjoy the story the old-fashion way…reading it.

Thanks.

The Hatred of Minutiae
by Shelley Powers

Part 1

I hate Dianne with every fiber of my being. I hate her bright red hair. I hate her gratingly sappy voice. I hate hearing her breathe through her unusually tiny nostrils. I hate the way she keeps all of her Bic fine ball-point pens in an old coffee mug that reads, “I’m always half full!”. But mostly, I hate how damn nice she acts.

As with many office hatreds, I took it under my wing when it first arrived, like a fallen baby vulture. I didn’t ask for it or want it, but I felt compelled to nurture it. And, as it grew, I took ownership of it. I fed it with my own ill will and complaints. I thought I had it under control. But I would have stopped it if I had actually realized that, just like that baby vulture, once it grew big enough it would tear me apart.

-#-

“Excuse me, Dianne. I’m sorry.” I had leaned too far back to stretch following a particularly irksome call and had inadvertently bumped her. Swiveling in my chair to survey the damage, I found Dianne straightening her rather large glasses. They had fallen down her slender nose with the jolt.

“Sure, Elizabeth. No problem. Actually, I could use a nudge to keep me going today. This headset’s driving me crazy; it keeps cutting out on me.” She flung the device onto the desk.

Conversation was usually limited due to the nature of our business, telemarketing. So, this was our first meaningful exchange of words after a week of working back-to-back in a shared cubicle. Dianne had joined the company the week prior and had inherited a chair that didn’t rock and my old headset.

“Yeah, I know, that headset used to be mine. It’s a piece of crap. I was so glad to get this new one.”

She gave careful inspection to the shiny new headset haloed around my head. “That sure is nice. What is that, the K-2000? I used one like that at my last job. It was great. Wanna trade?” She laughed.

“No way,” I said with a smile. “You should put in a request for an upgrade. I’m sure they’d get you one.”

“Do you really think they’d approved one for me?”

“Of course they would. Why not?”

Dianne looked down at the desk and kind of goosed her skinny neck out while shrugging her shoulders. “It’s just that, you know, being the new person, you hate to ask for stuff. I feel like I haven’t earned the right to beg yet.”

Is she insinuating that I begged for my headset? My spine stiffened a little, but I took a deep breath and tried to remember how I felt when I first came to work. Then I breathed out, blinked twice, and forced a sympathetic smile.

“Dianne, it’s not begging to ask for equipment that will help your job performance. All you have to do is fill out a purchase request form and submit it to Procurement. They’ll approve it, no problem.”

There, helped a co-worker in need. Good deed for the day? Done. I sat back in my chair and smiled.

“Is that what you did?” she asked.

Huh? What would make her ask that? I sat upright again in my chair.

“Well…no, I never made a formal written request but only because I’ve been here a couple of years and’ve gotten to know folks pretty well.”

“What do you mean?”

“See I was having lunch with my friend, Laurie, who works in Procurement, and I mentioned in passing that I’d lost some calls because my headset was giving out. Well, a day or two later I came in to work and found this one on my desk.” I tapped at the device on my noggin. “Maybe you could do the same thing. You know, just mention it to someone. Everyone’s real nice in that department.”

Ready to end the conversation now, please.

“Or maybe I’ll just fill out one of those request forms. I don’t think I’m smooth enough to get it your way.”

Well it wasn’t like I was using Jedi mind tricks. “You do that,” I said. I twisted my mouth into what was meant to be a smile as I turned back toward my desk. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but for some reason, I was getting so irritated with her.

“Um, Elizabeth, do you think you could you help me with the form…since you’re so good at wording things?”

Finger…dangerously close…to a reason.

I stopped mid-swivel and rolled my eyes at the cubicle wall. As much as I wanted to tell her to fill out her own stupid form, I couldn’t. How do you reject a request when the person asks nicely, the task isn’t a challenge, and you’d look like a total shit if you said no?

I clenched my jaw and sighed. “Sure. You get the form, and I’ll give you some pointers. But it’s really not a big deal, Dianne. I think you could do it on your own.”

She didn’t take the hint. “Oh, Elizabeth, you are soooo sweet,” she cooed. “I appreciate your help soooo much.”

-#-

I couldn’t wait to get home that evening and talk to Ted. As a chiropractor with his own practice, he was usually talked out at day’s end so he never minded just sitting and listening to my office gripes. It worked out well for both of us.

I got on my soapbox during dinner and whined clear through to dessert. “And then do you know what she did?” I put down my fork, too irritated to eat all of my pie.

“What did she do, babe?” Ted reached over to finish off what was left of my meringue.

“After I’d told her I’d help her if she got the form, she asked what it looked like and then who in Procurement she should talk with and then when it would be best to pick up a form and then who she should return it to.”

“Those sound like reasonable questions,” Ted said. He was looking over at the counter to see if any more pie was left and, when he became aware of my deafening silence, he turned and faced me. I glared just long enough to glean a more appropriate response from him.

“Then what happened?” he asked.

“Then, after all that, she waited until I got up for break and asked me if I wouldn’t mind picking up the form for her since I was heading that way.”

“So, did you?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I dunno. How do you say no to doing something that takes almost no effort?”

“You just say no.”

Thank you, Nancy Reagan. “I couldn’t say no; I’d have looked like a jerk.”

“So you’d have looked like a jerk, Lizzy. Who cares?”

I rolled my eyes. I hated it when he got so male with me. “Ted, you know you wouldn’t want your patients or your staff to think you were a jerk. And besides, that’s not even the real issue.”

“Okay, so what is?”

Tell me again, why had I been so eager to talk to him?

“It’s the principle of the thing, sweetie. She could’ve gotten the form herself; filled it out herself; taken care of the whole matter herself, just like every other working adult has to do. But, instead, she would rather manipulate me into doing it for her.”

I could tell his attention span was quickly dwindling. His eyes gave the briefest of glances to the clock. Three minutes ’til his television shows started. I took my cue and began clearing the table as he got up to get the last piece of pie.

“I guess the most frustrating thing is that she’s so nice in her manipulation that she makes it impossible for me to tell her no. Plus, everyone in the office seems to love her. I’m just irritated, that’s all.”

“It’ll be okay, babe,” said Ted, as he walked into the den. His mouth filled with pie. “I’m sure you’ll handle everything just fine. Besides, she probably doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.”

Thanks, sweetie. That helps a lot. But I took what sympathy I could, said “thanks”, and went to load the dishwasher.

-#-

The next morning, as I entered the cubicle, I heard a light, but steady, tink, tink, tink, tink noise at Dianne’s desk. I looked down to see her tapping her pen nervously against an empty coffee mug that featured a pink happy face and the words “Smiles are contagious.”

“You okay, Dianne?”

“Hmm?” She appeared preoccupied.

“Are you okay?” This time I pointed to her tapping pen.

She suddenly realized what she was doing. “Oh, sorry, Beth.”

Beth? No one ever calls me Beth. Should I say something? Nah, she’s upset. I’ll let it go for now. “That’s okay. Is something wrong?”

“I’m just frazzled because I was up late last night and this stupid headset’s driving me crazy.”

Great. The headset again. Try to change the subject. “Oh yeah? Why were you up late?” I took off my coat and put it and my purse in the bottom drawer of my desk.

“Well, a couple of weeks ago I enrolled at the community college…to take some business courses, you know? Anyway, I guess time got away from me last night while I was studying.”

She took off the headset and started fiddling with its cord. “The thing is now I can barely stay awake at work. I guess I’m just grumpy this morning and need some coffee.” She put the headset back on.

“I know. I can’t function without my daily dose of Java.”

She smiled, and I smiled back. Then she returned to her work, hitting auto dial on the computer and preparing to read from a script to sell some sap better car insurance. While she talked, I began my morning routine: turning on my computer; pulling my headset from the top drawer; and grabbing my own coffee cup to fill while my computer booted.

“Beth,” Dianne whispered, her hand over her mouthpiece, “While you’re up…” She held out her cup, that stupid pink smiley face staring right at me. “D’ya mind?”

I honestly tried to say something. But before I could even take a breath to tell her my name was neither Beth nor Flo, she started talking into her mouthpiece again.

“Yessir, Mr. Peterson, half the cost of your current provider.” She looked at me, mouthed “three sugars”, and put the cup in my hand so she could type.

Dammit.

I dolefully took the cup from her and headed down the hall to the snack room. There I found Laurie from Procurement heating up her morning croissant in the microwave. I was glad to see her.

“Mornin’, Liz.” She looked down at the two cups. “You ain’t plannin’ on gettin’ wasted are ya?” Laurie was a Texas girl who never realized she’d left the Lone Star state.

I managed a smile. “No. This one’s for Dianne.”

“Oh yeah. How are things workin’ out with her? She seems like a real sweetie.”

Well, she does take three sugars. “She’s okay, I guess.”

“Sounds like trouble’s a brewin’.”

“I don’t know. It may just be me, but she seems a little needy.” I poured both cups of coffee and added Dianne’s sugars.

“Hell, Liz, everyone’s needy.”

“Yeah, I guess. Like I said, it’s probably me.” I gave Dianne’s coffee a stir and picked up the cups. “I’ll lighten up. Thanks.”

Laurie threw me a wink and a big Texan grin then turned her attention to the microwave, which was signaling that her croissant was ready.

As I returned to the cubicle, I heard Dianne mumbling. I quietly set her cup down on her desk but before I could even walk to my chair, she had started pulling at her headset again.

“This thing’s a real pain. I just lost another caller.”

Don’t say anything. Just get to work.

“Hey, Beth, how did you manage this thing when it was yours?”

My name is not Beth, you twit. “Um, I guess I just learned how to position it right, or something.”

I put my cup on my desk and sat down. I couldn’t help but watch as she struggled with the piece of junk. I knew it really could be a true source of exasperation.

Ignore her. She can figure it out just like you did. But I couldn’t stand it, so I said, “Uh, Dianne, did you have time to look over that request form? Maybe you should go ahead and fill it out.”

“I looked at it but it was pretty confusing.” She set the headset down and pulled the form from her inbox. “Can you help me?”

I took the form from her and, remembering Laurie’s words, said, “I tell you what, I’ll fill it out for you and you can just sign it and turn it in. Okay?”

It feels pretty good to be a nice guy. God bless Texas.

“Thanks, Beth. That’s real decent of you. But I have a better idea, why don’t you fill it out and sign it for yourself and just give me your headset so I can get my work done?”

I stared at her in stunned silence. What the crap?

Then she started laughing with her syrupy little voice and patted my knee. “I’m just kidding, girl. Thanks for the help.”

“Um, sure.” And I began filling out the form.

-#-

After lunch that same day, things had settled down. Calls were pretty steady and both Dianne and I had made some sales. Then at about 2:45 p.m. it started again. Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink. I looked over and, sure enough, she was tapping her pen on the now-empty smiley face mug.

Give it a minute. Surely she’ll quit.

Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink.

You’re a nice guy. Nice guys are patient.

Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink.

Everyone’s needy; remember?

Tink. Tink. Tink. Tink.

“Time for more coffee I guess, huh, Dianne?”

“Gee Beth, aren’t you the sweetie, today?! Thanks. Three sugars.”

Dammit.

—-

to be continued…

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19 Responses to “The Hatred of Minutiae…Part 1”

  1. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Man your webblog has been ornery this week! I’m gonna try this again!

    K- I didn’t listen to the audio version as you know how much I love to read. I will, however, listen to it later just for fun.

    I can’t wait for the second installment!! What is gonna happen? Who knows!

    This is what I’d write: “I turned around in the cubicle and strangled Diane to death with the damned headset cord.” The End

    That’s why your the writer and I’m not!

    P.S. I don’t know whyyy you’d poke fun of us Texans! We’re good folk.

  2. TALK! Says:

    I know…once I reread this story (written before my close ties were established with you and Q)…I had to laugh. I thought y’all would get a kick out of it. 😉

  3. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Yeah. It’s actually kinda like a shout-out. Haha!

    Don’t you hate when movies or tv shows make Southerners seem really slow or stupid? That’s so annoying. (I’m not saying you did that in your story. I just thought about it.)

  4. TALK! Says:

    That’s one of my biggest pet peeves…actually.

    I especially hate it when actors use an “Old South” accent for any charactor below the Mason Dixon line…ridiculous.

    By the way…I just did some reading on the problems Blogger is having.

    They were bought by Google and are making a change over. I think that may be contributing to the problem. I know I’m not the only one pulling my hair out over it.

    I’d be willing to pay a small ($10 per month) fee if it meant improved service. But, I don’t think that’s an option.

    Oh…and about the switch over…it may mean the site will have a slightly different appearance or some new features. I won’t do anything too drastic…but I would like to improve functionality.

  5. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Dat’s cool about the site. I’m sure you will make it beautiful!

    Oh yeah, I wanted to make another comment about your story. I have a co-worker that is in the office right next to mine-like with a connecting door. She’s constantly clearing her throat. Most days I don’t notice, but on other days….It’s so annoying. I mean cough it up already! Gah!

  6. TALK! Says:

    Seriously…that would drive me insane.

    I used to work with this one girl who WOULDN’T clear her throat.

    She’d just keep talking…even with phlegm gurgling in the back of her throat. I wanted to grab her by the collar and shove a toilet brush down her trap (eww…that’s a gross image). Anyway…how do you tell someone that you can hear their phlegm? I mean, honestly, there’s no way to approach that in a friendly manner.

  7. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Ewww! How gross!

    I’m so glad I’m perfect and don’t do anything ever to annoy anyone. Except maybe when I’m playing around on the ‘net instead of doing “my part”. Or maybe when I talk and talk and talk my face off to my buddy that shares my office…(she actually thinks I’m pretty funny-I think). Or maybe when I’m obsessively reading your stuff and I’m not listening when other people are talking to me….Naaah! I’m not annoying at all!

  8. TALK! Says:

    Or when you practically make-out with Justin Timberlake in an blog.

    I kid. I kid.

    —-

    Seriously…I KNOW I’m annoying. I’m very anal retentive about stuff…very concrete sequential. I used to have this boyfriend (in another life) who would come to my apartment and, when I was out of the room, he would move something in my living room. I’d walk back in the room and stop about halfway in and say, “What’d you do? Something’s different.”

    And he would just sit on the couch and laugh as I gave a visual inspection to the room and then fixed whatever trinket was out of place.

    Can we say… Annie Wilkes?

  9. Bamaborntxbred Says:

    Okay-we have found our first major difference. I am soooo far to the opposite of anal retentive….so, hmmm…I guess that makes me anal expulsive. GROSS! Anyways. I would’ve done the same thing your ex did. Which would’ve annoyed the crap out of you…but would’ve been so freaking hilarious for me! Haha!

    I used to have a boyfriend that annoyed me by touching me. Yeah, that one didn’t last. (And he was my most signifigant relationship.)

    BTW-I know I get annoying when I saddle up and get on my high horse…but the passion you saw when I was defending JT is the same that I display every day to people that rag on me for loving Taylor. And the same that I would show for you or any other person I admire or care for.

  10. TALK! Says:

    I know you have passion. I actually went back and forth on whether or not to tease you about the JT thing and decided to take chance (love to test those boundaries). I honestly meant it as a joke. I truly hope I didn’t go too far. If I did…I sincerely apologize. 🙂

    Um…about being anal expulsive…LOL!

    You win the prize for the day (that and no one else has posted…oh well).

    The Official Word of the Day Prize

    Don’t worry about annoying the crap out of me…remember…I have three younger brothers. Being annoyed is practically my hobby. ;P

  11. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Oh my GAWWWWW! He could not be any freaking sexier than in that suit!! Thank you!

    No-you didn’t offend me. It was just something I had wanted to say since all that went down…and you gave me an opportunity to do it!

    For some reason, when I am comfortable with a person (and I mean really, very comfortable), I find it very fulfilling to be annoying, and to embarass them frequently in public. This is a warning for future reference.

  12. TALK! Says:

    Warning heeded.

    And, for the record, being anal doesn’t prevent me from being a total annoying ass myself (especially in public)! 😉

    Yeah…the suit picture. His thighs about killed me that week (the “You Send Me” week).

    Hawt…hawty…hawtness.

    Word Verification: gxtouyr…the clinical term for the phenomenon that is Taylor’s thighs.

  13. bamaborntxbred Says:

    We’d be terrifying in public together!

    I get to see Taylor’s thighs next Thursday. I’m purty excited about that. I’ve decided not to go to the LMBO show though…(please, no yelling.)

  14. TALK! Says:

    sorry. i have to yell.

    WHAT THE CRAP IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!!????!!!!!

    THE LMBO GIG WILL BE 1000 Xs BETTER THAN THE AI CONCERT!!!!!!!!

    Seriously…why are you missing it?

  15. NOLAgirl Says:

    Ok, today has been a rough day. I’ve been in a bit of a funk. BUT … the phlegm story in all honestly made me laugh out loud and SMILE! Thank you Shelley! And I can’t wait for part two so “Beth” can slap the shit outta Dianne. 😉

  16. Holeigh Says:

    I want there to be a bitch slap somewhere in this story!! 🙂

    Very entertaining Shell, I can’t wait to read the rest!

  17. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Shelley- I really want to go to the LMBO show, however, my best friend (who I’m dragging to AI) is broke, so I’m not making her pay for the AI ticket which was $180ish for both…the LMBO tickets with all the taxes etc. would be about $50 total. Which is not bad…but seriously, I’m not made of money either and I had to drop $450 on my pupper Magoo in the last two weeks.

    So, the fact that Taylor doesn’t always show up at these events, I’m feeling a monetary strain and my bff could care less about going to the after-show….makes me feel that it’s not a good decision to go.

    I know that Taylor is here to stay and there will be many more chances to see him and LMBO…so I’d rather wait until my mind is free and fully invested in the moment and not the money. Ya know?

  18. TALK! Says:

    I totally can understand.

    As a matter of fact, I was thinking this morning of how much I’m looking forward to when he tours on his own.

    Maybe then you and I can hit a concert together! Wouldn’t that be great. 🙂

  19. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Dat would be da bomb! (I’m such a dork!)

    I can’t wait to see him, unadulterated by all the others….

    I can’t wait for the album!!

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