Permission Granted, a short story by Rico.Viejo. Date added: 2012-07-21. Times viewed: 559.
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- Intro: All some people need is the boss's permission.
- "Floor Three, Floor Three," said the tall, young, oriental man at the floor buttons. The people crowding into the elevator, including me, mostly said: "Four." There were a few "Five, please'es" and a "Six" and a "Two." As the elevator glided past the second floor, the two-person yelled: "Hey!" When we stopped at the third floor, only the two-person got out, hissing mad. There were calls for "Four." One man tried to reach past the Operator to press the 4-button and got a karate-chop on his forearm. "Everybody out!" commanded the Operator. He grabbed people by their arms and twisted them out the door, he got behind people and pushed them out so violently that one girl had to grab someone waiting to keep from falling.When all the passengers were out, the Operator said to the people waiting to go down: "Stairs." Then he abruptly closed the door in their faces.I lingered for a moment and saw this operation repeated, with the next arriving elevator, this time by a Hispanic guy. He had a smug smile on his face as the doors slid shut. I then went up the filthy, littered stairs to the widely-advertised, completely-unintelligible exhibit on the fourth floor, where the exhibit guides were unable to answer any questions other than where the stairs and the bathrooms ("You'll have to go up a floor and ask.") were.I steamed with indignity all night, then got up extra-early and returned to the Hospital.I went to the Hospital Welcoming Desk. I joined two other people patiently standing there. I cleared my throat to get the attention of the receptionists, who were chatting together, laughing over some cute thing a cat did on YouTube. They turned and looked angrily at me. "Are you first?" one said to me. Then I waited while they disposed of the others, who had been urgently called to the Hospital to make last visits to dying loved-ones.When I finally got their attention and explained I wanted to complain about a surly employee, one grabbed a stapled booklet, which fell open to the page she wanted, and said: "You'll have to talk to Mr. Schmidt, our Public Relations Director, but he's out on Thursdays.""This is Monday!" I said.She looked at me as if I'd said: "This is a hold-up!""He's out on Mondays, too," she said. "Come back tomorrow. Maybe he'll see you then."Despite two people standing behind me, she turned to the other receptionist and said: "And wasn't it cute how he ..."I rushed out of there: didn't want to be late to work. Would catch Hell.The next morning, after several misdirections, I found Mr. Schmidt's office. He was in there, sitting at his desk, talking on the phone. A glance from him was all I got before he swiveled in his chair to look away from me at some crude crayon-drawings of houses and stick-figure people taped to the wall. From what I overheard, he was talking to one of his children—maybe a five-year-old? He must have talked baby-talk to the kid for ten minutes before saying: "Oh, Mama says it's bath time? Give Mama a big, soapy kiss for me. Bye-bye, Sweetie." He put down the phone, chuckling, then turned to me. "What the $&@ do you want?" he growled. "I'm a very busy man!"I tried to explain the problem with the elevator operators. "There was a special event on the third floor yesterday," he said, pointing at a red piece of paper on his desk. "The Qperators were instructed by me, personally, to take people directly to the third floor," he snarled."Fourth floor," I said, pointing at the sheet.He looked at the sheet, grabbed it, crumpled it up, and lofted it at the waste can. "Smart guy, hah? Read other people's memos upside down?""The fourth floor," I repeated."You got there, didn't you? There are stairs.""Yes, but ...""No 'buts'! Did you get there?""No," I yelled, in frustration."You just said 'Yes'!" he screamed.The door to Mr. Schmidt's office burst open and two burly men rushed in. "We been watching at the Security Station, Sir. Out?""Out," said Mr. Schmidt, with a smirk on his face.The uniformed guards wrestled me into handcuffs and forcibly rushed me to the loading dock on the ground floor. Staffers we passed on the way looked at me with evident hatred. Out on the loading platform, the air redolent of rotting garbage in a nearby dumpster, I was uncuffed and pushed off the diamond-plate steel platform, to fall on my hands and knees on the grease-stained concrete the trailers backed up on. "Out of here!" yelled a guard."And we have you on tape, from Mr. Schmidt's office all the way down here and out the Deliveries Entrance a half-mile behind you," said the other.I had to move fast to avoid being crushed under the wheels of a backing-in semi-trailer.When I arrived at work, my supervisor, Mr. Daley, was typically furious. (Other workers on my team had said his volatility was why he got the job.) "Late again!" he yelled. "What's your excuse this time?" There was dead silence in the team area as he waited, red-faced, foot-tapping, for my answer."I was at the Hospital," I said. "I went with plenty of time to get to work on time, but when they threw me out, my clothes got ripped and I had to go home to change. We have to be clean and neatly dressed."There was a murmur of agreement from the other team members.Mr. Daley put both hands on my workstation desk and glared down at me. "What were you doing at the Hospital?" he demanded to know, spitting with fury."Complaining," I said."About their services?" he screamed.I nodded 'yes'."Wait here!" he yelled. "And the rest of you get back to work. You have quotas to fill and Heaven help you if you don't meet them."About fifteen minutes later, Loralee, the big, big boss's hot little administrative assistant, came to my cubicle and said: "You're to see Mr. Prentiss. Don't keep him waiting." She clattered off, at a brisk pace, on her spike heels, hips in short, tight skirt, waving.I hurried after her, more to know where to go than to enjoy the sight of her, rushing along.Whether it was lust or fear that had me panting when we arrived in the large carpeted room, I didn't know. There were huge windows all across one wall. The other walls were painted stark white and hung with huge, unframed canvases of modern art. The ceiling glistened with white lacquer. In one wall was the door we came in by. In another, was an open door through which I could see, if gossip had it right, the satin-covered, heart-shaped, waterbed. In the fourth wall was a huge, paneled mahogany door which Loralee was holding open for me."Hurry," she said, looking stern.She closed the door behind me when I stepped into Mr. Prentiss's office. The room must be fifty by fifty with twenty-foot ceilings. The floor was dark wood. The windowless walls and the ceiling were elaborately paneled in dark wood. Thin oriental-looking rugs were scattered around on the floor. There was the scent of incense: I could see smoke rising straight up, then abruptly fanning out, from an incense burner by a wall. A huge dog rushed up to me, his uncut toenails clicking on the bare floor, a few smaller rugs going flying. Behind a huge, completely bare, mahogany desk sat a movie-star-handsome, silver-haired man. "Bill, Bill," he said. "Come over here. Fix the rugs on the way."The suspicious dog—who looked as if one word of permission was all he wanted to rip out my throat—and I went to Mr. Prentiss's desk. Mr. Prentiss stood, smiling. I figure he's more than six feet tall and his suit must have cost more than six thousand. There was no guest chair. "I understand you had a problem," he said, sympathetically.I told him my whole sorry tale of abuse.When I finished, he said: "We'll come up with something." He reached a finger down and pressed a button on his desk. At the soft buzz, the dog, evidently disappointed, skulked to a corner of the room and lay down. Loralee opened the door and waited for me. As I left, Mr. Prentiss called after me: "Justice will be ours, Bill."When she closed the door, Loralee looked at me sympathetically and said: "I'm so sorry, Bill. I heard the whole thing." She nodded at a painting, which had slid up to reveal a huge flat-screen TV. "Everything is recorded, for training and quality-control purposes," she said.It was clear she didn't want me to linger. As I opened the door to leave, she said: "Follow the blue dashed line on the floor back to your team area.""Some setup for the President of a local beer-distributor," I thought. "Is this business a front for something else?" I wondered.I was in my cubicle, back to scanning vendor bills into the computer. Mr. Daley walked in and smiled and nodded at me approvingly. He set three small packages on my workstation desk. They were identical, about three inches by three inches by four inches, wrapped in brown paper, taped with strapping tape. Each had a spot about an inch in diameter, marked in black."These are time-bombs. Press the black spot and they'll explode after sixty seconds. Mr. Prentiss has authorized you to use them. You have been granted his permission. Ah, you understand. Good! We suggest you return to the Hospital—after you finish work or in the morning before work—and seek out the elevator operator and Mr. Schmidt and the guardroom and apologize for any inconvenience you have caused them. Press the spot and leave a package behind. Oh, and this conversation has been recorded by the camera there. For training purposes only."It was truly delightful to wait, smiling, after stepping out of the elevator, to hear the last explosion, to see some people in a panic, others as if it was an everyday experience. I went to work, satisfied, fully at peace again with myself. Some people had been killed, assuredly, but I did it with granted permission.
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