Thursday, July 14, 2011

120: What do you want from me?

He sighed when the beeping started.  He shouldn't have really been surprised.  He couldn't see how he'd triggered it.  Was it a delayed reaction to him walking through the gate, or was there a motion detector of some kind on the path?

He retraced his steps to the gate.  Opened, walked through, closed.  He pulled out his phone, paused his workout and waited, the stupid beeping continue.  Who would believe he was just out for his lunchtime walk and wanted to say "hello" to the chickens? Or that he had done this just last week with his boss?  Only things were slightly different, now that he thought about it.  There hadn't been a gate.  There had been a couple of chickens, but some of the holding pens were still under construction - fencing incomplete, newly poured concrete foundations.  'What have you stepped in this time, bud?' he asked himself.

There was a breeze on the ridge and he wondered just how long he'd have to wait.  Finally, he could see some dust and eventually he could see a small cluster of people coming towards him - guys with sunglasses on motorcycles and several women, each with an obscene number of mall store bags on Segways rolled across the dusty dried grass to where he stood, waiting.

She motioned for him to have a seat at her desk and she walked past to stare at the large whiteboard.  She sighed and pulled it from the side.  It hinged down, covering the worksurface below.  He'd only caught a glimpse of the beakers and burners and other things he'd not seen before, having never taken a chemistry class.  The outer walls were higher, so the whiteboard formed a lid, hiding it all from view.

She sat down at the desk and turned her attention to him briefly before looking at the stack of papers on her desk and slowly sifting through them.  "Now, to talk about who you are and why you're here," she said, leveling a gaze at him.  "There are three things I want to know... I don't understand why you're here, what you were looking for.  And you're not a runner.  I find that puzzling."  She seemed distracted.  He waited, but there was no more.

He took in a deep breath.  "It sounds like you're asking who I am and why I was there.  But I'm sorry, what was the third thing?"  He figured it was best to just play it straight, but seriously, what was she getting at?  He often was a runner, just today he felt like taking a walk instead.

She dropped the papers and stared at him.  "Let's start with why you're here, since you so artfully tried to dodge that," she said testily.

And there it was, or so he thought.  Had the line been crossed?

"That is a good question," he responded.  "Why am I here? I don't even know where here is.  You're obviously not part of the security detail, you've not threatened me with trespass.  You didn't even check my backpack.  To be honest, I find this all extremely sloppy."

She stared at him in disbelief.

"I don't know what you mean by 'not a runner' - I often run at lunch but today I felt like taking a walk.  And as stupid as this sounds, I thought I would stop and say 'hi' to the chickens as I walked past.  But I'm guessing you must actually be talking about how I didn't run away when the alarm sounded.  Why I waited patiently for you guys to show up."

She said nothing, but color began to rise in her neck.

"So I waited, you guys showed up, obviously back from a lunch break at the mall, march me back down the hill to this building with no name on it, bring me in through the side door on one of the guy's keycards, deposit me in this office.  I can see your whiteboard with your equations, your table with all that chemistry stuff on it.  Frankly, I was expecting to get sweated in some windowless office underground by someone from security.  You're obviously not from security.  You haven't threatened me with the actual police.  This is all a stupid misunderstanding, but I went along because I figured it was the easiest way to get this over and done with.  But now, I'm starting to get curious."

She began to stammer as he rose to his feet.

"No, no, it's cool.  For all you know, I've got a bomb or some kind of recording device in this backpack.  But you didn't bother to check.  I'm going to save you the trouble."  He hefted the back onto the table and began unloading its contents.  An iPad, the latest issue of Fast Company (in print, of course), pens, pencils, a notepad, some post-its, a charger for a Dell laptop (but no laptop), an extension cord, a long ethernet cable, a small wireless router, some gum.  By now, the myriad pockets were all unzipped and he forcefully upended the back, showing how light it now was, shook it over the table and nothing but a few packets of Splenda and some crumbs fell out.

He slowly began placing everything back in the back.  She sat there silently watching him.

"Futhermore," he said, "here's my ID badge.  I work for the small start-up down the street.  We write computer software to help people organize their lives.  All day long I try to keep the bad guys from gaining access to our systems.  Whatever you're doing here," he waved his hand broadly at her office and behind him at the open cubicles a level below them and the natural light from the ceiling made of windows three floors above that central core, "whatever all of this is -- I have no idea.  I have no interest.  I was just out exercising on my lunch break and I went somewhere I shouldn't have.  And now I really, really need to get back to work."

Oddly, she was now smiling.  "Please," she motioned, "have a seat."  She pressed a button on the phone on her desk as he nervously sank back into his seat.  "You're right," she said calmly, "you don't need to know what we do here.  But your observations are correct.  In terms of security, we lack," she paused for effect, "a certain level of discipline.  We have the patrols, the perimeter alarms - we knew about you 10 minutes before you knew we knew - but it's all come together organically, ad hoc, as needed."

And the next thing he knew, those jerks at Park Pharmaceuticals had stolen another one of the employees from the small start-up down the road as he agreed to fill the newly created role of Vice President of Security and Access Controls.
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