By R. John Quisenberry
Wednesday morning, at 7:50 am, Stephen was still charged up with hope and imagined success. Bleary eyed but freshly shaved, he pulled into the parking lot of the office park. All around were the sterile and abandoned buildings. The office fronts stared at him as he passed, their vacant windows watching like the eye sockets of a bleached skull. He kept expecting a tumbleweed to roll past.
The building he was headed to was the largest in the park. The polymer smell told how recently the sign had been installed. Plastic film masking still peeked from beneath the gold tone lettering of the sign. Subtle marks on the cement of the sidewalks revealed the past antics of skate punks. A few of the railings showed fresh grind marks, but it was too early for their invasion. Stephen remembered his own days on his board. This was just the kind of place he used to love to thrash at.
The lobby just past the smoked glass doors was empty of anything but a large plastic potted plant. And a large, heavy door with a buzzer. The plant was a pretty good one, but the illusion was ruined by the excess plastic just visible along one of the shiny leaves.
Stephen rang the buzzer. The button seemed too stiff, almost as if it had not been used much. A puzzled sounding female voice issued from a hidden speaker somewhere above him. “Can I help you?”
“I’m here to submit my resume. May I come in and speak to someone in HR?”
“Come right in sir.” the disembodied voice said from the unseen speaker. The lock buzzed and Stephen entered.
He came into a spartan lobby with more of the high quality faux foliage. Oak-like chairs with dark green cloth cushions were arranged in square groupings like the reading areas in a large chain bookstore. Dead ahead was an almost frighteningly cheerful blond woman with an impressive amount of makeup on. “I’ll take your resume and call our HR manager. I’m sure he will be by shortly.” she said with a slightly absurd breathiness to her voice.
She quickly ran his resume through a small sheet-fed scanner on her desk and hit a few keys. As she was doing this, Stephen almost failed to hear a muffled thump that seemed to come from the entrance to the room. ‘Must be a paper delivery or something.’ he told himself.
“Please be seated. Would you like some coffee sir?”
Selecting one of the nearest chairs, he sat down. “Yes, I would love a cup. Black, no sugar please.”
She got up and went through a passage that he had not noticed behind her desk. The beige walls had disguised it well. The chair was not nearly as comfortable as it looked. In fact, he had rarely sat on a bus bench that was less comfortable.