by Kevin Mercurio
“Melvin? What the devil are you doing over there?”
Edwards, the auspicious analyst, arrived at the office in the early hours of the morning. He was usually the first to arrive, so he was surprised to see his colleague had not only beaten him there, but was sitting in the middle of the lobby floor.
Melvin had just turned 26. He was not married, but had a girlfriend he would occasionally talk to, and take out for dinner and a movie when he had free time. In the modern sense, he loved her. “No children though,” Melvin once said during a conversation with Edwards about the future of his romantic affairs. He also didn’t want to be the father of any children.
Melvin was the strategic specialist for the company at the time. His responsibilities were significant, in that he had been given the special task to plan important strategies. As a specialist, he was the only one certified to devise, organize and finalize strategies for the company. Melvin was certainly a key figure among the staff. Yet, that day Melvin was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the lobby floor.
“I do say Melvin, I am certainly surprised to see you here at the crack of dawn.”
Melvin was not wearing his usual work attire at all. He wore a plain white T-shirt, a blue windbreaker, casual khakis and sneakers. He looked absurd compared to Edwards, who was wearing his usual work attire: a neatly buttoned shirt, matching tie, along with his typical work pants and shoes.
Edwards was in front of Melvin. The lights were dark when he arrived, since they had those sensors that turned on when movement was detected. This was re-programmed once regular company hours commenced. “Eeeep!” That was the first sound uttered by Edwards that morning. It surely added an additional shock value to Edwards’ discovery.
Edwards reached out his hand. “Let me help you up, old chap. The day will begin quite soon.”
“But I am staying here,” Melvin stated.
“My word, I beg your pardon?” Edwards looked on, curiously.
“But I am staying here,” Melvin repeated.
“That is preposterous! What reasoning do you have for such blatant disregard to Mr. Farage and the company?”
“I don’t think they pay us enough.”
“But what do you mean? Do you not have a car to drive, a home to live and a bed to sleep in?”
“Yes, but I don’t think they pay us enough,” Melvin explained.
“Surely they do!” Edwards was shouting in confusion. “I analyze company information, you plan company strategies. My word, Witless Wilson stamps company documents. We all certainly get by.”
“I want to get more than just by. At least try. It just doesn’t seem fair to me.”
“Well what do you hope to achieve with your actions? Do you not have other responsibilities outside of work?”
“I just want my actions to be seen. By sitting here, and taking a stand, hopefully Mr. Farage considers the point for my protest. Or rather, the protest for my point.”
“Suit yourself. And put some professional clothes on for heaven’s sake!”
Edwards ended the conversation and walked towards his office down the hall. He thought about his discussion with Melvin and what it all meant. However, when he arrived at his desk, he began analyzing company information.
On the next day, Edwards arrived early as usual and was greeted by Melvin and Witless Wilson, who were sitting cross-legged in the middle of the lobby floor.
“Oh Wilson! What the devil are you doing over there?” Edwards asked.
“I talked with Melvin,” Witless Wilson explained, “and I’m beginning to agree with what he was thinking.”
“What I am thinking,” Melvin corrected.
“Right, what he am thinking,” Witless Wilson rephrased.
“Oh Wilson! But he’s tricked you like a rabbit! Surely you must know that we are working honourably under Mr. Farage and his company.”
“I am starting to see that we are being underpaid for the work Melvin, the rest of the staff and I is doing.”
“The work you are doing,” Melvin corrected.
“Right, the work I are doing,” Witless Wilson rephrased.
“But Wilson, do you not have a phone to call your children, a fridge to store your food, and a computer to send your emails?”
“Yes, but I don’t think our value should be judged based on whether we have the necessities for modern life,” Witless Wilson explained.
“Wow Wilson, very well put!” Melvin exclaimed.
“Thank you, Melvin. I put words well when --”
“Haw! You two are such donkeys,” Edwards asserted. “What do you suppose two people sitting in the middle of the lobby can achieve?”
“We hope that, as our numbers grow larger, Mr. Farage will take our preposition more seriously.”
“Our proposition,” Melvin corrected.
“Right, our pro-position,” Witless Wilson rephrased.
“Less workers in the offices mean less progress for the company, that’s logic,” Melvin said.
“And sound logic at that!” Witless Wilson declared. “We will remain here until our logic is heard loud and clear!”
“Loud and clear,” Melvin articulated.
“Pfft! Fine by the company. And move your cars from the company lot for heaven’s sake! They’ve ticketed each of you three times already!”
Edwards shook his head, and with a slight wave, walked down the hall towards his office. He thought about his conversation with Melvin and Witless Wilson. Could there be others who would join their crusade? Edwards even thought about his own paycheck. Should he be getting more for the work he was doing? Nevertheless, once he reached his desk, he began analyzing company information.
On the next day, Edwards arrived at the crack of dawn, like he always did. He was relieved when he noticed that there were no cars in the parking lot. This indicated to him that his colleagues had given up on their quest for higher wages, and everything was back to normal. However, he was not relieved to see that not only were Melvin and Witless Wilson sitting cross-legged in the middle of the lobby floor, but they were joined by Sloan, Dale and his pet snail. This brought their party to a total of four.
“Sloan! Dale! What the devil are you doing over there?” Edwards asked.
Sloan was the secret secretary on the 7th floor. Elevators only go up to the 6th floor, and same with the staircases. To get to the 7th floor, one would have to open the janitorial closet and walk up the steps behind the wall of mops. This would lead to the real top floor of the building.
No one knew Sloan’s responsibilities because they were kept secret. Though occasionally she would accidentally hit the building intercom and announce, “Mr. Farage’s foot cream is to be delivered to company headquarters. Oops. Which button is it again? I can never get why being Mr. Farage’s secretary could be so diffi --.”
Dale was the current company custodian. He was current because Mr. Farage had recently fired the concurrent company custodians to cut costs. Dale was the sole person in charge of cleaning, changing, and chastising those who damaged company property. He was lonely when they fired his fellow custodians, so he bought a snail to keep him company at the company.
Sloan smiled. “We were talking with Melvin, and we agree that the work we contribute is worth more than what Mr. Farage has provided us.”
Dale stood, with his right fist in the air. “We will not stand for such injustice! Our wages must be increased!”
“My word! What has become of all of you?” Edwards exclaimed.
“Oh quiet, Edwards! You rotten, good for nothing, blurphenimerinah.”
“Take your foot out of your mouth Dale,” Melvin said, “we can’t hear you.”
“Do you see yourselves right now? Melvin! Look at what you started!”
“I have simply shown that there is some unhappiness among the staff. We are trying to show Mr. Farage and the company that we have hard feelings towards our low salaries,” Melvin stated.
“Sloan, do you not have clothes to wear, a stove to cook and a tub to bathe?” Edwards asked.
“Why yes, but these are simply necessary accessories for a practical life,” Sloan explained.
“And Dale, must you bring that animal into this? It does not require a satisfactory salary.”
“Shelly is our mission’s mascot!” Dale protested. “She describes our slow progression, yet unbreakable courage to break company policies. Isn’t that right, Shelly?”
They all took a moment to look at the snail. Shelly was quite a shy snail. With all the attention she was getting at that moment, she retracted into her body. A misconception with snails is that they do not retract into their shells when threatened, but into their soft, moist bodies.
“That’s okay Shelly, we’re proud of you,” Witless Wilson assured, as he picked her off from Dale’s shoulder.
“Bah! You’re all animals. This is just the same natural phenomenon that we see buffalos do in sub-Saharan Africa. You think the more of you that join, the better your chances of raising your wages. Any increase in your numbers will just add to your slippery slope. Mark my words!”
“That’s a fallacy, so I don’t think that applies in this case,” Melvin said.
“If you say so, be it,” Edwards muttered, though he specifically emphasized the be it, and before the others noticed his mistake, quickly left the lobby and walked towards his office. The protest was gaining more momentum than he had anticipated. Melvin had certainly convinced others that their wages were unfair, and Edwards was already seeing the effects of a reduced staff. Their work really was significant, and without them, the company would most definitely be a wasteland of null opportunity. Despite this new feeling of defiance manifesting inside, once he arrived at his desk, he began analyzing company information.
On the next day, and subsequent days, more and more people sat down to stand up against low wages for significant work. Soon, three more staff members greeted Edwards upon his morning arrival. There was Richardson, the anxious accountant, who was in charge of taking things into account prior to any decision made about allocating company profits. There was Smith, who had an advisory role for the bulletin board of directions, and what directions staff should take to better their work. Issac, the head of the I.T. department, was also protesting. Like Sloan’s responsibilities, no one really knew what I.T. stood for, including Issac. To ensure that Mr. Farage believed she had a significant role in the company, she would occasionally call staff members and ask if they had any problems with their office computer. If they did, she would recommend restarting their device. This simple, robust method solved most technical issues, and she remained head of I.T. during her employment.
Their numbers grew slow at first, then began increasing exponentially. After that day, five people joined the protest. Then, almost predictably, 8, 13, 21, and finally all but 2 of the 90 staff members were sitting cross-legged in the middle of the lobby floor.
“You are all out of control!” Edwards remarked.
“On the contrary, we have an abundance of control,” Melvin retorted. “We all believe Mr. Farage does the least around here, and yet benefits the most. Well, we’ll welcome how much he likes a taste of his own medicine!”
“Hmph!” Edwards left without another word. He walked down the hall towards his office, trying his best to avoid physical contact in the crowded lobby. He thought about how much support Melvin had for his protest. Was Melvin right? Was Edwards producing significant work for low wages? Still, when he arrived at his desk, he began analyzing company information.
However, there was a note on the stack of documents he was tasked to analyze. It read, “See me at my office. – Mr. F”.
Edwards began feeling uneasy. This certainly broke from his regular routine. Avoiding the growing population of protesters in the lobby was already exhausting for him.
Edwards took the elevator to the 6th floor. He jiggled the lock for the janitorial room, walked up the steps behind the wall of mops, and looked through the window of Mr. Farage’s office. They made eye contact and Edwards waved. As he began walking back towards the steps, Mr. Farage opened the door to his office and stepped into the room.
“Edwards, where the devil are you going?” Mr. Farage asked.
“I came to see you at your office, as you requested,” Edwards explained.
“But we haven’t had our discussion yet,” Mr. Farage said.
“We’re supposed to have a discussion?” Edwards asked.
“Well, that’s why I wrote you that note,” Mr. Farage explained.
“Well, that makes sense,” Edwards said.
The room had two facing lounge chairs and Sloan’s desk. It was empty, of course, since Sloan was sitting downstairs in the middle of the lobby floor.
Edwards pitched a topic. “I suppose you did not take it too kindly that Sloan has been absent for the past several days.”
“Who’s Sloan?” Mr. Farage asked.
“Your secretary,” Edwards stated.
“That was supposed to be a secret. In fact, how did you know how to get to my office without Sloan?”
“Dale’s been lonely ever since you fired the other custodians,” Edwards explained, “and he’s been revealing company secrets in exchange for some kind of acknowledgement.”
“If he wasn’t the current company custodian, he would have been fired as well.” Mr. Farage tried to get back on track. “I asked you to come see me today for two reasons. First, let me congratulate you on your new raise. You are the only staff member registering their hours, so more money should have been allocated to your account. Have you noticed this?”
“I don’t think so,” Edwards replied. “Richardson is also taking part in the protest downstairs. I don’t think he’s had the time to take his absence into account, and therefore pre-allocate the extra funds into my account.”
“Richardson eh. Mhmm, yes. He’s not the mastermind behind this debacle though, is he?”
“No, that honour goes to Melvin. He was the first to sit in the middle of the lobby floor.”
“Melvin… Melvin… Remind me, what is his role again?”
“He’s the company’s strategic specialist.”
“Strategic specialist… That sounds significant,” Mr. Farage said, disappointedly.
“Melvin is quite a key figure among the staff.”
“And what are your thoughts about this protest? Do you think there is some truth in their assertions?”
“Well, Mr. Farage, I was giving it some thought while analyzing company information. Ahem! After finishing analyzing company information, mind you. It seems as though the founder of the company, you, needs staff, like Melvin and I, to keep the company afloat. Melvin, myself, and the rest of the staff do a significant amount of significant work for the company, but yet profits mainly go towards you, the founder. Although you should probably have the highest salary among the staff, you, being the founder and all, but that doesn’t mean you, the founder, should have almost all of what the company makes. I thought the point of this protest was pointless when it first began with Melvin. He has no real responsibilities outside his work and does have the time to voice his opinions. Following it up with the support of Witless Wilson was not so much progress as it was companionship, since, as you may know, he isn’t the brightest banana in the bunch.”
“Apple?” Mr. Farage interrupted.
“No, thank you. Anyway, people started to see the power that they have over the company. The company is like a machine: without its parts, it’s useless. Mr. Farage, you may be making money now, but sooner or later profits will plunge.”
Mr. Farage looked distraught. “But I can just hire new staff that are satisfied with the low wages that I will provide them. There are plenty of people looking for work nowadays.”
“But you can’t do that! What about your current staff? They are good people who just want a fair salary. That’s simply unacceptable.”
“How about I hire an entire new staff and double your salary?” Mr. Farage suggested.
“Deal! Ah, the sweet smell of success.”
Edwards stood up and celebrated by taking a large bite of the apple he had declined earlier.
On the next day, the parking lot was filled with cars, and Edwards had some trouble finding a free space. Initially, he had assumed the protest somehow attracted more people outside of the company, due to the outcome of his discussion with Mr. Farage the day before. He assumed he would have trouble making his way through the crowd sitting cross-legged in the middle of the lobby floor.
To his relief, upon entry and activation of the lights, the lobby was empty. There was no Issac, no Smith, no Richardson, no Sloan, no Witless Wilson and no Melvin. Even Dale and his pet snail were nowhere to be seen. Above the hall entrance was a banner that read, “Welcome Staff Party, Up The Hall!”.
Edwards walked down the hall towards the noise. He had mixed feelings. He felt happy that his salary was raised, so that he could provide more for himself and his family. But he also felt guilty that he had a role in the termination of the previous staff.
“Don’t think so negatively,” Edwards muttered to himself. “Think of it as employing the once unemployed by unemploying the previously employed. It’s the circle of life.”
He walked into the space that held his office and was welcomed by the new staff. The new staff looked like average people, who wore professional clothing just like Edwards. Edwards strode towards the food table. He saw plates full of many fancy appetizers like mussels, oysters and escargot. He was hungry, so he began indulging until his cheeks swelled with food.
“Hello there!” A friendly voice bellowed from behind.
Edwards turned to his new colleague. “Rye, herro dere! Preasure… Ah, to meet you! My name is Edwards, I’m the auspicious analyst.”
“Why hello, Edwards! A pleasure to meet you too! My name is Edlards, I’m the new strategic specialist.”
“Neat!” Edwards said, enthusiastically.
Throughout the morning, he met the other members of the new staff. There was the new stamper, Edgards, and the new secret secretary, Edwalds. There was the new current company custodian, Edwarts, and the new anxious accountant, Edwords. There was the new advisory to the bulletin board of directions, Adwards, and the new head of I.T., Ebwards.
A few introductions later, Mr. Farage appeared. After some greetings and handshakes, he walked up to the front of the room and stood up on a desk.
“Can I have everyone’s attention please. Let me be the first to say, welcome to Synergy!” He paused as there was some shouting and applause. “You all play a significant role in my company’s mission. From day one, my message has been loud and clear, with no hard feelings, just the taste of victory and the sweet smell of success.” Mr. Farage pointed to a confused Edlards and winked. “So without further ado, let’s get our work done!”
There was more shouting and applause. Then everyone went back to work.
“The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”
– Wael Ghonim