I wake up early in the afternoon to a voicemail from Edgar, my boss at the museum, asking me to come in an hour early to discuss the events of last night. I’d filed a report before I got hustled off to the hospital, which is a good thing; by the time I got home it was the furthest thing from my mind. I bet I would’ve had a much more frantic voicemail if the morning shift showed up to find a crime scene with no warning.
I dawdle my way through breakfast, watch Netflix for a while, noodle around on my guitar and generally waste the afternoon. This is a pretty standard day for me, except that I enjoy it less than usual today with this sword of Damocles poised to drop when I get to work. I mean, it’s technically possible that they want to give me a commendation for my heroic actions and quick thinking which saved all of the exhibits, but I know full well that a reprimand is more likely than a raise.
So I screw around until it’s a little past when I should be leaving, then get my act together and head out. I hobble my way out the front door and suddenly realize two things: my car’s still at the museum, and there’s no way I could work the pedals with a cast on my right foot anyway. No legal way, anyway. I could probably manage it. Stick my foot off to the side, use my left foot on the pedals, and I bet I could swing it. Of course, if I get into an accident, I’m gonna have a really ugly encounter with the shifter, and that’ll be a fun one to explain to whoever shows up at the crash.
This line of thinking is not helping me, because even if I am stupid enough to try driving with my left foot, my car’s still not here. So I crutch my way down the sidewalk for three blocks until I find a bus stop, then try to manage my phone without losing my crutches to figure out if any of the buses that come here will go anywhere near where I’m going. In the end, I get to work about a half an hour before my shift starts.
The place is pretty nicely cleaned up; there’s a “Please Use Other Door” sign up over a piece of plywood where the main door was last night, and the back half of the desk in the main lobby has been replaced with a sign reading “WE’RE RENAVATING! PARDON OUR DUST.” It’s a lot less concerning for the patrons than the “Police Line: Do Not Cross” tape that was up last night, and is probably a good call. The misspelling bothers me, though. We’re a museum; we’re supposed to be educating people. Physician, heal thyself!
Edgar greets me by looking pointedly at his watch. Edgar does a lot of things pointedly. He’s a very angular sort of guy. He’s thin, bony and dour. He’s in his fifties, probably been balding since his twenties, and is definitely unhappy about it. Both the balding and being in his fifties, I mean. Edgar likes things organized, and what I left him last night was anything but.
“I asked you to be here half an hour ago,” he says.
“Yeah, but I’m not supposed to be here for another half an hour, so let’s just call it even,” I say. This attempt at humor goes over about as well as you’d expect; Edgar just gives me a lizard stare before motioning me to follow him to his office.
Once there, I get read the riot act. Edgar has reviewed the tapes, and I have apparently done everything wrong. I should have been more alert and noticed the man outside; I should have called the police immediately, instead of attempting to resolve the problem on my own. I should have used verbal commands to tell him to stop, and used the company-approved pacification techniques – seriously, he said “company-approved pacification techniques”; the guy’s a walking training video – instead of brawling.
Against my better judgment, I interrupt at this point. “I wasn’t ‘brawling,’ Ed. I was fighting for my life.”
“Please don’t call me Ed. If you cannot remember my entire first name, please call me Mr. Dobson.”
Another lizard stare, while I consider needling him with a “Sure, Ed.” I decide that discretion is the better part of valor and simply nod.
Satisfied, Edgar continues listing my misdeeds, ending with, “And please don’t consider filing for worker’s compensation for your foot injury; it’s clear on the tape that that was sustained outside of your standard duties. Had you not been clowning around with the marble, your foot would be fine.”
He’s got me there, dead to rights, so I don’t even argue. I can see a tiny muscle twitch in the corner of his left eye, going in sync with his heartbeat, that relaxes when he realizes I’m not going to argue the point. He swivels his chair away from me and says, “That’s all. You can go.”
“You got it, Ed gar,” I say, with just the briefest pause between the syllables of his name. He’s in profile to me as I stand up, but I can see that twitch start up again, and all of a sudden I feel lousy. A quick glance around this guy’s office tells you that he’s not in control of his life, and he makes up for it by compulsively straightening the small things that he can control. And here’s me, making things just a little bit worse for him, day after day. I’m a symbol of the uncaring life that’s crushing him; no wonder he’s such a jerk to me.
I walk out of Edgar’s office, wondering exactly when I got so insightful, and see that stupid “RENAVATING” sign again. In the last ten minutes before I go on-shift, I track down a marker and scrawl a thick O over the offending A. If Edgar notices when he leaves, he doesn’t say anything about it.