Old man Sam sits in his 3×5 foot cubicle and hacks away at his plain off white key board, hen pecking the keys with the index fingers of each hand. Peck, peck, pecking the keys into submission. Sam never had proper keyboard training; the pecking is something he brought from his typewriter days. Sam O’Donald has been at Cran Co. as long as anyone can remember. He works just above entry level but below mid management in a corner cubicle on the second floor. His cube doesn’t stand out much from the next, a simple white coffee mug, a calendar of classic artwork, a few fake plants and a small brownish lamp. They say Old man Sam’s been here before the carpeting. The carpeting is a retro 1970’s disco ball of browns, greens, oranges and yellow. Sam has only had 2 promotions and 4 raises since being here. People whisper that he turns them down. The ultimate “company man” he is content with his little corner cube on the second floor.
I, on the other hand, just started here at Cran Co. about 4 months ago and still learning the ropes of this the 3rd largest distributor of bendy straws in the north west. The first and only thing I can remember Sam saying to me is, “New guy, you’re going to be fine, do your work, keep your head low, and stay out of trouble.” Pretty much your run of the mill advice I guess, that could be said for any job, in any field, anywhere. But we were the bendy straw kings, or dukes for that matter because we are in 3rd place, behind Bend Sip Inc., and Slurpaderp Co. My cubicle is on the 2nd floor a few behind Old man Sam’s bland workspace. I have some real plants, (they get excellent light because I’m near a window) a nice pottery barn coffee mug my mom gave me, a 49ers calendar, and rows of books in my cubicle…my days can get boring sometimes.
When I finally started making friends in the office, going out for happy hours, and participating in the always uplifting office place gossip I learned something. More than the usual who’s sleeping with who, who got drunk at the holiday party or whose breast are fake. I learn that Sam may not go home at night, might not have a home to go home to. I learn Old man Sam might LIVE in our office!
It’s all speculation of course. Just coworkers making assumptions. But being the sleuth I am I wanted to investigate. I started coming in early. The first week by a few minutes, and the next by a half hour. All the time I was beaten in by Old man Sam, sitting at his desk peck peck pecking away at his key board. One week I told the boss I’d be in at 6am just to get some extra work done, I didn’t even ask for overtime. When I came in Sam was there beating up those poor keys, and drinking his morning coffee from his plain white cup. If the early bird catches the worm, Sam should open up a bait shop. After ruining my sleep schedule and throwing off my internal clock I gave up on trying to out Sam as a cube sleeper, but then the rumors got worse.
Scott in the flex division, the group that test the bendiness of the straws told Amy who told me that he sees old man Sam in the bathroom every morning brushing his teeth. Could it be to get rid of his coffee breath, or could it be because he lives in our office. The detective in me had died and I figured I leave the man to his secrets, if he likes fresh midmorning breath who am I to judge.
But then I heard from Susan who heard from James in the suction division, the guys to test the vacuum power of our product, that James saw old man Sam changing in the bathroom stall. Sure we all know Sam goes for an afternoon run, but he always comes back to work. How many outfits does he have, where would he keep them? My inner Sherlock began screaming. I must know what’s up with Sam. So I begin studying the man, his movements, his whereabouts, his routine. I know he comes in before 6am, and Shaun, who leaves at 7pm, told me that he’s still here when he leaves.
This is more than just a “company man”; does Sam live here? On my daily walks to the bathroom I begin going the long way so that I can pass Sam’s desk. From my surveillance I see he has 4 pairs of shoes under his desk. Now who would keep four pairs of shoes at work I ask you, who? From further intel I gathered he doesn’t have car keys, so he doesn’t drive home, now that I think about it, he doesn’t have keys at all. Suspicious. One day John from the design department, the lovely people who decide on the color strips on the straws, came up with the idea we should search his desk when he’s out for his afternoon run. John, a 20 something from Eugene, was the Q to my James Bond with all the gadgets he had to snoop around. Or was he the devil on my shoulder nudging me down a path I probably shouldn’t down?
Whatever, I needed to know, and know now, what was up with Old man Sam O’Donald.
James, our look out, signals us that he’s in route for his afternoon run. We make our move. Slow and unassuming at first, but then we dart into the unadorned cube. We open draws, cubbies, go through filing cabinets and nothing. I notice his keyboard, all the letters have been removed from years of hen pecking away at it. John points to the overhead compartment of his desk, small black key still inside the lock. I turn it open to revile a closet full of business casual clothes so neat and clean any mother would be proud. Upon this discovery I became scared and erratic. I slammed the door shut. I had gone from super sleuth to super douche in less than 5 minutes. I slowly walked away from the cube with my head down staring at my light brown hush puppies. Not to be outdone John, still in spy mode, does a semi roll on the floor, bouncing up into some sort of gun wielding pose. John is always one for theatrics.
I sit down at my desk, a few rows back from old man Sam and get back to work. Our look out James gives us the signal that Sam is coming back. John and I are safe and we wave him off…a successful mission. Sam gets back to his desk leans down and switches his running shoes for his old faded black work ones. He begins peck peck pecking at his letter less keyboard. Suddenly he stops. He cocks his head to the side for a moment. I lean forward to see what he’s doing. He lifts his right hand and touches the key. Shit we forgot to lock it back. James Bond always leaves everything as he finds it, we are no James Bond, we are no spies, we are two bored employees of a bendy straw company. Old man Sam surveys the area around his desk, looking to see if anyone is looking at him. Everything is in slow motion. We catch eyes. I try to play it off and say, “Nice weather out Sam, good day for a run.” He knows. He can see right through my “nice weather huh” bull shit, he can see right into my snooping soul. I feel like shit. I sit down and rest my head on my hands. So much is going through my head I just sort of shut down, I shouldn’t have gone over there.
The next day I arrive early for our weekly meeting. I take a seat diagonal from Sam, it’s too soon for me to face him. The meeting goes smooth. I present my ideas about how to make our straws hip and cool and tap into the 18-32 male demographic. Scott has a ground breaking idea about how to make our straws bendier, which will certainly bring us into second place, over taking Slurpaderp as number 2 bendy straw company in the north west. Sam says nothing the whole meeting. Just sits and takes it all in. I guess he didn’t have much to say, or was waiting to explode on me.
“We’re number 2,” shouts James, pumping his fist.
We all exit and reconvene outside of the large meeting room, everyone decompressing from sitting for 2 hours. I look back through the streaky glass walls and see Old man Sam still perched in his seat. I creep back into the room as to not upset the man anymore, and say, “Sam I’m sorry about yesterday, I really didn’t mean any harm by it.”
Nothing, he was like a monolith looking through the wall in front of him. I inched closer. “Sam I’m sorry for rifling through your things, that wasn’t right of me I’m sorry” I say in a more assertive voice. He doesn’t flinch, budge or move. I approach him and place my hand on his shoulder, the old man slumps over to the side, hitting his head on the arm rest of the chair next to him. “Help, Help!” I scream. The pow wow outside the room dash in to assist me. The medics are called, the medics rush in, the medics pronounce him dead at 10:17am pst. They say his heart was old and just stopped. But I know better, I know what really happened. He died of embarrassment. I killed Old man Sam.
Just so happens Sam did in fact live at work and had for some time now, all the bosses knew too. They were okay with it. He was clean neat and it didn’t interfere with his work. They figure the money he turned down in raises can be seen now as rent. They never outted him to the underlings because they feared our childish reactions, like say ridiculing, or semi stalking an old man. I bet they never thought he’d die. Either way I feel like shit.