After they emerged from the executive vice president’s office, Emma banked left, causing Amanda Brotz to frown. “The temps are located this way, Emma,” she reminded her, “in the spare conference room.”
“I’m not in the conference room,” Emma said.
Amanda smacked her forehead. “Of course. You’re in a cubicle. You told me you’re missing a desk, and there’s only a big table in the conference room, and besides, you’re doing daily tasks, and they’re doing a software conversion.”
“I’m not in a cubicle.”
“You can’t be in an office. We would never give you an office, because you’re not really an employee here, and we don’t even give the chief actuary his own…” She smacked her forehead again. “Unless you’re one of the long-terms, and Steve told me he put you guys in the smoking closet, I’m so sorry about that.”
That settled, Emma led her in the proper direction. “You learn to–“
“I guess you learn to live with it, don’t you? I am sorry, though.” Amanda shrugged. “Of course, it kind of works out, because if it didn’t smell, we’d probably put the–” As soon as they entered the room, Amanda froze and blinked. “Where the fuck is your desk?”
Mike shook the swear jar.
“That’s a very good question,” Emma said.
Amanda dug a dollar bill out of her jeans and handed it to Mike while she asked, “Do you think this has anything to do with Esther’s tape dispenser? You do know it went missing, right?”
“I’ve heard,” Emma replied.
“That’s crazy,” Amanda said. “It had her name on it and everything. Did your desk have your name on it?”
This would have been a great opportunity for her officemate to make a remark, but given Amanda’s unrelenting verbal assault, he probably would have choked as badly as she did. “No.”
“Good, because you don’t really work here.” She laughed through her nose again. “You know I was kidding, right? About your name on the desk, I mean.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“And you definitely talked to Steve?” Amanda asked.
“And he sent you to me?”
She nodded again.
“He said you could handle it more efficiently than anyone else,” Emma told her, although she now considered Steve Harmon a big liar.
“If you had gone to HR yourself, they would have blown you off, and you would have had to come back to him, and he would have probably had to call me anyway, because they don’t take him seriously, and I can’t say I blame them.” She poked her head out the door and looked both ways before returning with a lowered voice. “I’m not in charge of promoting people, but between you and I, if I were, he’d still be a junior VP, tops. I mean, there’s a reason I put him in charge of the temps, if you know what I mean. No offense.”
“None taken,” said Mike.
Amanda looked at her wrist, recognized that there was no watch there, and scanned the wall for a clock. “I have a meeting at eleven, and I have to look at reports about fifteen minutes before that, but I think I can talk to HR and at least get some answers before then. Can you sit tight for about twenty or thirty minutes?”
“Not–” Emma tried to reply.
“You said it was time sensitive didn’t you? Why did you say it was time sensitive?”
“I’m the one who does those reports.”
“Fuck,” Amanda snapped.
Mike shook the jar, and Amanda dropped another dollar inside.
Emma told her, “I’m running late.”
“And you probably don’t have a sign-in for the server, because you’re only a temp; although if Steve really had any common sense whatsoever–which is doubtful–he would have given one to the long-term workers, especially the one who runs the morning reports, which are really fucking important, you have no idea–” She paid Mike. “–and you’re really good at it, I’ve been meaning to tell you, although I didn’t know who you were until just now. Do you have a sign-in?”
“Steve got that part right at least,” Emma replied.
“First time for everything,” she muttered. “To be fair, he’s really not that bad–just lazy and unmotivated. That’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it? Anyway, I’m hard on him because I spend so much time cleaning up his oversights.”
By this point, Emma had concluded that Amanda didn’t have so much a train as a bumper-car of thought. There was no controlling it, but maybe it could be nudged here and there: “Since I have sign-in…”
“That doesn’t really help much. We don’t actually have any extra work stations because the president–not the president of the United States–but that should be obvious,” she explained with a nasal laugh, “wanted to cut costs, and it was either reduce the furniture and computers or the staff, and we don’t have enough staff as it is, so I sold everything we weren’t using, except for a couple of spares, like the ones you and Mike are using, and the other temps in the conference room, of course, so there’s no place to put you.”
“So…?” Emma prompted.
“So I told them that this kind of thing would happen, especially with the software conversion that we’re using all of the other six temps for, and with the IT department being stoned all the time. I mean, no one ever anticipated a desk going missing, but who would–Esther’s tape dispenser, maybe, because Brenda in HR is an office-supply fascist, even to me. She won’t even let me have a box of highlighters. I have to sign them out one at a time, which I do at least twice a week.”
Emma moaned. Hubris would be her downfall; she actually believed she had the strength of will to guide this woman to a useful conclusion. It was now time to be direct: “Where can I work?”
“I don’t know,” Amanda replied. “But if you start making copies, I promise I’ll have something figured out the next time you see me.”
“Fuck,” she sighed.
“Swear jar,” Amanda reminded her.
“No,” Emma said. “Absolutely not.”