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by Anselmo Watkins
Freelance Writer

Tina loathed Walter but had no idea she would be in the running to replace him after he left.

When Walter Isaacson left the Office of External Communications at Blue Hills University near Hartford in early December, his departure created a void that no one within the office expected. It wasn’t his skills as a media liaison officer, which were considered mediocre at best and were easily replaced by a 19-year-old student intern. Rather, it was his role as “that guy in the office that everyone hated.”

“Everybody hated Walter,” said secretary Joyce Crouch. “He was too short, his nose was too big, he smelled a bit, he had blemishes, wore the last remaining light brown Members’ Only jacket in existence, his voice was annoying, he crunched carrots in his cubicle, talked too much about golf, had too many photos of his guinea pig Bruce on his desk, and drove an old Volvo. What was there to like?”

“Oh, and he had dandruff and a haircut that came straight from 1978. So glad he’s gone,” Crouch added.

But without Walter’s presence to serve as a focal point for the anger, derision and frustration caused by working for the state university system, the 20-person office began to turn on itself. Tempers shortened, cliques formed among the different work groups and salacious gossip flowed throughout the work day. In the meantime, office productivity dwindled to lows not seen since just after George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

“We really didn’t notice it at first, with the holidays and all. People were just too distracted and then the university was closed for a couple of weeks,” director Tim “Mac” Michelle said. “But since the first of the year, his absence was really apparent. The atmosphere here was pretty tense.”

“Every office needs its ‘Walter,'” said productivity expert Daniela Q. Rafocult of Considron Communications, whose company was called in to assess the productivity lull. “In every office, there is a person whose role is to be the person that everyone hates. The staff channel their bitterness and frustrations with their lives into hatred of this one person and in doing so it permits the office to function. When that person leaves, it just upsets the balance of the office. It takes time for the equilibrium to be restored.”

“It wasn’t something that was written in Walter’s job description, but it sure could have been. It might have been the most important thing he did in that office,” Rafocult added.

Michelle said that he sees four strong candidates to replace Issacson:

Tina Thomason – the incessantly perky and ridiculously loud administrative assistant whose shrill voice carries throughout the hallways of the Petersen Administration Building. Perhaps best known for standing in her director’s office and gossiping about her weekend, her perfect and precocious daughter, and how great her life is.

Edgar Blund – tall, morose, excessively quiet and generally considered to be “odd” by his fellow co-workers, this IT specialist always eats lunch alone and calls his computer by the name “Phyllis.” Cell phone ring tone is The Smiths’ “I Know It Is Over.”

Don Ernest – a relative newcomer to the staff, this born-again Christian and die-hard republican is fairly unique among his co-workers, whom he refers to as a “bunch of bleeding-heart liberals.” Ernest gained the reputation for subtly working in biblical references during business conversations. Frequently ends voice mails with “Have a blessed day!”

Jan Hooks – a 15-year veteran of the OEC, Hooks has made it clear that he wants to be the next director of the department and has sucked up to and brown nosed every administrator in his reporting line. Known for parroting the statements of the administrators above him, he is oblivious to the fact that he has no chance at the director’s job.

“I am not really worried,” Michelle said. “Daniela said that these things tend to solve themselves in a few weeks. Soon enough, someone will step up and the rest will begin to destroy them, Lord of the Flies style. It will be fun to watch.”