....because it's the little things that reveal all those terrible things that the big events are designed to hide.
Take Larry, for example. He thought nothing of it. Walking down the hallway, he had torn the three copies from the spine that held them together, and distributed the three copies to the three people for whom they were destined. This left him with the three-part spine in his hands, wondering how to dispose of it.
Well, folks, Larry came up with a great idea: throw it out. Still walking down the hallway he passed a doorway that opened into an office, where a waste paper basket sat not two feet from the open door. So he rolled up the spine, a small strip of paper in triplicate, and tossed it into the waste basket.
The occupant of the office, DeMille, was seated not two feet beyond the waste basket and had witnessed the whole thing -- the contempt, the disrespect, the personal nastiness. His outrage was immediate. He even raised his voice.
"Excuse me, sir, I am not here to receive your waste products nor to put up with this unmitigated show of disrespect for another human being and that human being's space."
"Aw, come on, guy -- a waste basket, man. You want me to..."
"I want an apolog..."
"Oh, man, come on, an apology. How about a shoe shine?"
Their voices lowered somewhat.
"You owe me an apology. You invaded my space without my permission."
"Awright, I'm sorry, but I think you're kinda touchy."
"I'm also kinda feely, mister," he said, making a fist with a smile.
Neither wanted this little spat to come to the attention of a supervisor. That would have meant a Grievance Meeting and a report to HR that would go on both their records.
Instead they tried to answer the question as to whose space it really was, DeMille's or the company's. They also discussed what an acceptable apology would be in the circumstances. And then something happened that I'm sure will someday start a real war. The "feeling" of hatred, baseless, personal, casual, deep, evanescent, eternal. The "feeling" arose between them. One day it will erupt into a real battle, sometime when the issue will not be abstract and/or psychological, but be directly related to the next raise.
But I don't have the stomach to go into this any deeper just now. Later, when they tangle over the real issue there will be something to talk about. Do you have the patience to wait? I do.
I mean, look, if DeMille had jumped up and pushed Larry, or, better, had reached down into the waste basket real quick, picked up the little wad of paper, and thrown it BACK at Larry -- well, just imagine!
See, I've only heard about these two guys, I've never met them, never heard them speak, never even seen them. I mean, maybe Larry is a big fat white guy, too big by far to get and keep one of those slim, sexy women he always flirts with, and DeMille is a witty, bisexual, just-out-of-reach black guy who's been waiting a couple of months for just this sort of disrespect from one his new associate colleagues at this new company he fought hard to land this new job at -- maybe not exactly big, maybe not exactly bi. Maybe Larry is the witty one, maybe DeMille is the slob. Maybe both are black or white. Or maybe they're two bulls who have finally spotted one another across the fence, which either of them could take down with a breath. Who knows? So I can't tell the story because -- and I'm real sorry about this -- it hasn't happened yet.
See, I can only begin with "what if" or "maybe." And that's not enough to make a story. To make a story you have to have real people doing real things, right? Wrong, all you need is a couple of characters and an idea, or a plot, or a result, or a first step (which is what we have here). Because we're not actually dealing with real people, just a couple of made-up guys in a made-up situation that has happened a million times.
As a matter of fact I remember overhearing just such an event, occurrence , scene -- whatever you want to call it. I wish I could remember where it was. Wait -- it was in an office, I remember that, and I remember the guy in the office saying something in remonstrance to the offending party, the wise guy passing by in the hallway or corridor or aisle -- it was an open aisle in a large room with a high ceiling where lots of people were, in cubicles, though not the kind you're probably thinking about now, the kind you see these days in the early years of the twenty-first century. No, this big room was a part of a factory that had been redesigned on the fly to hold office workers and machines and computer cables. This was the very early 1980s. It was a factory that had poured out tanks for the army during the war years -- no, idiot, not Vietnam, not Korea, but the real war, World War II. The factory, at the time of this story, was making fire extinguishers of world renown. You got that? The beginning of the last hurrah.
It all went off very genteely (I don't know how to spell that and I'm not looking it up). The person passing in the aisle crumpled up a piece of paper and, just as he passed by the open door, spotted a waste basket, stopped quickly, and tossed his crummy wad of crumpled up paper into the waste basket, just like you do a long shot from mid-court. The reaction was quick and fierce. The conversation between the two was heated and unusually loud for those men, and then it subsided with no apparent "residue." The fellow in the office could not imagine anyone doing what the other had done. The fellow passing by in the aisle had a hard time seeing the insult, but he apologized loudly, and joviality reigned. I think they all went out to lunch together -- had planned to from before the incident.
Okay? Get the point?