As Scheduled

Gary looked again at the scheduler on his computer monitor. It seemed he had been looking at it for 10 minutes now. It had not changed. They were still the same scheduled appointments for this afternoon as they had been earlier this morning. He knew that and preferred it that way. He made sure that Linda, his assistant kept it that way. Interruptions and changes to his schedule were two things he despised.

Gary was a stickler for details. He planned for every contingency he could think of. His wife—ex-wife as of a week ago, he reminded himself—accused him of having to know the color of the toilet paper before buying tickets on an airline. Though not quite that bad, he knew there was some truth to those sentiments. He liked to be prepared.

His compulsive preparation and attention to all the details had served him well. He had rapidly moved up through the ranks at Digital World, “You. Connected”. His mind automatically added the company’s slogan to the name whether he wanted it to or not.

In just a few short years he had been promoted from part time sales associate (clerk, he thought derisively) to store manager and finally, district manager just last month. There had been brief stops along the way as floor lead, department head and three or four other titles he could no longer remember. His first wife had left him somewhere between his move to full time and his promotion to department head.

That’s two in ten years, he thought.

“Well, at least I’m batting 1000%. Beat that Ted Williams,” he said to the mirror, adding a final adjustment to the tie at his neck.

He hated Mondays. In the early days of his management career Monday’s were “Moanin’ Days”. Once a month on a Monday, before heading to his office he would point to an employee, seemingly at random.

“You’re fired.”

Of course, they had never been at random. He was always prepared. He always had numbers and reasons to back up his actions if it ever came to that. He was never asked for his reasons. Along the way he had out gunned, out guessed, out manuevered and out sold all his competition. He was good. He knew it and the company knew it.

Each new promotion, each new title, brought an upswing in luxury vehicles, bigger alimony checks, more expensive suits and better scotch. This last one included an ulcer. More stress, more unproductive meetings to attend. His blood pressure had gone up even though the numbers from his three stores had not.

His job and his enjoyment had also changed with this latest promotion. A position he had coveted, true, but it left him no time to sell anything. Instead he made buying decisions, scheduling decisions. Hiring, firing, meeting decisions. He had recently developed a hatred for flying. Ride the Super Shuttle. Stand in line. Wait. Fly with idiots! The whole rental car, hotel room, living out of a suitcase life was killing him. He had taken two cross country trips a week for the last four weeks for further district manager training. Some over-promoted jackass had decided that Tuesday and Saturday were good training days for the new district managers. Idiot!

This morning had been the worst he could remember in years. He had the kids this week, which meant the added hassle of getting two teenagers up in the morning, constantly reminding them to hurry so he could drop them off on his way into work. Today, not only had the dog shit on the floor but his daughter, a senior in high school who damn well ought to know better, had forgotten a notebook. The result? Having to turn around, search through the mess in her bedroom to locate the errant notebook. After finding it, he drove back to the school and had to stand in line at the office waiting for the secretary to get off the goddamn phone long enough to find out who he was delivering the notebook for. And why the hell did they need a goddamn student ID number?

He had wanted to shout “Just look up the name on the fucking computer and call her to come get the goddamned notebook! Lady, do I have to think for you, too?”

Somehow, he managed to spill his coffee in his lap on the way into work. His first scheduled appointment of the day had been a new hire that didn’t know shit from shinola about selling anything. The kid had looked like he hadn’t had a haircut in six months and obviously had never worn a tie.

“Get the hell out of my office,” Gary had said. “Go tell the store manager that hired you that I don’t think you’re qualifed to work here. Never mind. I’ll tell him. Get the hell out of my office.”

Now, here he was, ten minutes before his first appointment of the afternoon after a lunch that for some reason didn’t taste right. The scheduler showed six more interviews to get through before he had to leave for the day. Then there was a little league baseball game to attend for his son. After that, according to the scheduler, his oldest daughter and her idiot, no-good-for-nothing, north-end-of-a-south-going-jackass of a husband were meeting he and the other two kids for a late dinner.

An incessant, insistent light blinked on and off on the phone on his desk, an obvious indication there was a call waiting for him.

He jabbed a finger at the “Answer” button more to stop the flashing light than to answer the call.

“Reynolds”, he spat into speaker phone.

“This is Mr. Barnes’s office,” a bitchy voice answered from the echoing speaker. “Let me remind you that Mr. Barnes does not like speaker phones, Mr.Reynolds.”

Gary retrieved the handset and placed it at his ear.

“Yes, sir. Well, the numbers obviously aren’t where I’d like them to be.”

“Yes, sir. Saturday of this week is already scheduled for more training. I’ll be flying out Friday evening, sir.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll see you then.” He placed the receiver back on the cradle, making sure it was seated correctly and that the connection had been severed.

“Goddamn stupid asshole bosses! Can’t they understand I am doing the fuckin’ best that I can here?”

“‘Your numbers are down from last year'”, he says. Well no shitake mushroom Sherlock Holmes! We’ve got a recession on our hands here, bucko. Or didn’t you notice that in your cushy office with your guaranteed salary and nothing to do all day but sit on your ass on the phone hasselin’ us little guys?

He punched another button on the phone.

“Linda, I’m going downstairs for a cup of coffee. If the one o’clock shows up, tell him or her—or it— to just be patient and wait.”

He logged out without waiting for her response.

When he returned the scheduler still said ten minutes until 1:00. Impossible. Must’ve hung. Click.


Click. Click. clickclickclickclickclikclickclick. Dammit! Close. Clickclick.

Still the scheduler was opened. He looked for an open dialogue box, just to make sure he wasn’t missing something. Must be the whole machine has locked up. Time to reboot.


Thump! A body—his body—crashed back on the table as he watched, detached; floating; panic beginning to corrupt his senses.

“I’m calling it,” said a voice he didn’t recognize. “It’s been almost ten minutes. Mark it at 12:50 p.m., today’s date. Some of them just can’t be saved. Well, folks, Im outta here. Golf game scheduled in less than an hour.”

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