[Reddit Writing Prompt] Everyone hates Stan. However, you are the new guy and no one will tell you why they hate Stan. You decide to talk to Stan. It's been 3 months and now you are telling the new guy why everyone hates Stan.
Everybody Hates Stan
It was my first day and as dictated by company policy, my first stop was the HR department for a brief orientation. As I entered the closet-like office space, void of anything reflecting personality (except that one circa 1970 "Hang in There" cat poster...thumb-tacked just above the desk) a sandy haired 40-something-year-old man rose slightly, as a courtesy, from his armless rolling task chair to introduce himself.
“I am Toby,” he stated with a worn smile. “Go ahead and take a seat.” He gestured to a drab chair, located to one side of his wall-facing desk, fated to forever stare at the cat poster, then sank back down into his squeaky chair. Glancing down at a folder, he continued, “I see here that we met you at the job fair and you are a recent high school graduate. This your first intern position?” I nodded. “As the new office floater, you will be at the beck and call of our sales team. They may ask you to do various tasks to ensure their sales go smoothly."
"The guy you are replacing only stuck it out for three months before he quit. The guy before him only stuck it out three months before he quit. Do you see a pattern here?” I gulped, looking him square in the eyes and said, “Yes sir.”
“This has been on-going; through a cycle of six new interns who were also recent high school graduates."
"We scheduled an emergency conference call between corporate and the HR department at some of our other branches and collectively came to the conclusion that there was one common factor. Each intern had been doing an errand for a senior sales associate by the name of Stan the day before they quit."
"This is truly a mystery to our company and especially our human resources division as Stan is a personable guy and has been the number one salesman for the past 18 months. Before that he was kind of a cynical loner and barely met his numbers each month. There was even some talk of firing him. He was the least productive and the least liked person in the office, well Hell, the whole company, if I am being truthful."
"The previous six interns didn't even bother to give a two week notice...this is company policy, by the way. They just quit coming to work.”
I bucked up, intending to tell him that I had thick skin. I was a mathlete and played in the marching band; afterall, and I’d had my fair share of bullying and pranks. Nothing got to me...even that one time I got pantsed just as I was walking into the gym at the Friday morning pep rally. I was carrying my tuba and beginning to play my short rift in “Smoke on the Water'' when...WOOOOSH...pants down around my ankles. I never even missed a beat as I lifted one leg after the other, still in perfect marching synchronization, leaving a sweaty little pile of trousers behind. Sure, the whole student body broke out in rip roaring laughter and called me tighty whities until I graduated, but did I quit school? No! I didn't even quit band when, from the bleachers, it rained tighty whities on me at our final home game performance.
These thoughts all ran through my mind in an instant, kind of like when your life flashes before your eyes right before you get hit by a train…but I simply said, “I have thick skin. I'm your man.”
So I set out with a purpose, my goal to outlast the obviously subpar, weaker other guys and find out the mystery behind Stan and his complete turn around just 18 months...six interns...earlier. My plan was to get close to Stan; see what made him tick. Kill him with kindness and brown nose him if I had to. Stan would be my new best friend. Then maybe I would find out why three months, to the day, seemed to be the interns’ breaking points.
Things were going pretty well, overall. Nothing too major in the way of being the designated go-fer. Running out to get fancy coffees and deli sandwiches here and there. Getting a feel for the job and even though I didn't agree with the humor, I threw out a few “That’s what she said's,” at choice times to the chagrin of the bumbling office manager.
Paying extra special attention to get Stan's lunch orders just right, was my main focus. He and I even exchanged a few words in the break room one morning. He seemed pleasant enough on the outside but there was something weird about him.
I often caught him just staring into space, a Mona Lisa smile on his lips; then noticing me hovering, he would pick up his phone and start dialing numbers. There was something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Like one of those transformative portraits that looks perfectly lovely from one angle; but as you move, the painting changes until you may eventually find yourself staring at a monster.
HR Toby checked up on me from time to time, as I was coming up on the three month mark, but everything seemed cool. I felt like I was one of the guys now. Running errands, keeping the team happy and the sales numbers were definitely rising with Stan leading the way. On the morning of the three-month mark, Stan called me into his cubicle and congratulated me on the three-month anniversary.
He motioned me over, just a little closer to his desk and began to softly whisper so that I had to lean in to hear the stream of words flowing from his mouth. As I comprehended what his words meant, my eyes widened in surprise and I left that day and never went back.
I drove...no...sped home after that conversation and immediately planted myself at my compact kitchen table and opened my laptop. As Stan had instructed, I read then deleted the email he had sent.
The next morning I started making the phone calls. I called nonstop from 8 [am] until 5 [pm] Monday through Friday. My mind wandered briefly to the previous six interns: the “other guys” that I had, just a few months earlier, smugly called subpar and weak and I whispered a quick Hail Mary, praying for mercy on our souls.
My phone rang for days but I wouldn't answer. I was too busy making my own calls. When I finally listened to my voicemail, I had over 20 calls from HR Toby. He wanted to know what happened to my thick skin. What did Stan say to make me walk away without even collecting my small intern reimbursement?
I briefly considered letting HR Toby in on the terrible secret that was Stan but quickly changed my mind. I picked up my cell and continued making cold calls. Cold calls on behalf of a man named Stan...sometimes Stanley. Making the sales that I knew Stan could not make himself.
The lives of seven mothers, all kept deep in a cavernous basement below Stan's suburban home, depended on it. I looked at my calendar and knew that soon there would be an eighth caller, helping us keep Stan's sales at number one.
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by a Reddit writing prompt
["Writer's Block" by lisa]