Episode 1 The PFY is feeling a little unappreciated. APPARENTLY I’m not supporting him in his role very well and he feels a bit like a scapegoat.
Not that he’s mentioned it but the Boss’s PA, Rita, has been giving me a rundown on office gossip that she picked up from the smoking gang who meet in the bus shelter across the road from the building.
In due course, whatever the Boss has been doing is over and she points me in the direction of his office. “Simon – you know David from accounts?” the Boss asks, pointing at a particularly gelatinous land mass with a tie that occupies a desk at Beancounter Central. “I don’t think so, no.”
“Listen, I’ve called you in today because David has a complaint about the way he’s been treated.”
“Really? I don’t believe I’ve even MET David, so I fail to see…”
“Not you – your assistant!” David snaps.
“The PFY?” I ask.
“Yes” the Boss says. “Apparently he said a very unkind thing about David.”
“What?” I ask. “Did he say he looked like he was poured into his clothes and forgot to say when?”
“Did he say he was male model for clarified butter?”
“No – he sai..”
“Did he say he bases his clothing choice on TV test patterns?”
“NO!” the Boss says. “He… implied that David couldn’t count his buttocks and come up with the same number twice.”
“Did he?” I ask.
“Yes,” David says. “In front of the whole office.”
“Really – pity I missed that. For evidential reasons obviously."
“And….?” I repeat.
“AND I WANT HIM TO APOLOGISE.”
“Oh yes. Yes of course. Totally see where you’re coming from. Though…”
“Though what?” the Boss asks.
“Well I assume that you’re suggesting that this claim of the PFY’s is a falsehood.”
“?!” the Boss gags.
“I mean has anyone actually WITNESSED David counting his arse cheeks and getting the same number twice?”
“WHAT?” the Boss and David shout simultaneously.
“Look, I ASSUME that David is quite capable of this, but I mean to say – are we expected to take this on blind faith?”
“What are you suggesting?”
“I’m suggesting that David should be able to do this – in front of witnesses. And by witnesses I mean you as the complaint receiver,” I say, pointing at the Boss, “me, as the PFY’s supervisor, and some independent third party – say your PA.”
“I’m not doing that!” David snaps.
“So there’s the problem, you see. If you’re not capable of doing it…”
“Of course I’m capable of doing it!” David snaps. “An IDIOT could do it!”
“Then if you want an apology…”
…Two minutes later…
“So anyway, Rita,” the Boss says, “all you’re here for is just to witness David… um…”
“Counting his arse cheeks,” I interject. “Twice.”
“And getting the same number, as it were, both times,” The Boss concludes.
“In your own time,” I say helpfully to David. “Do you need some time to prepare – do a bit of revision?”
“Of course I don’t!” David snaps “TWO. TWO. There, done.”
“So it appears the PFY was correct,” I say to Rita.. “He can’t in fact count his arse che..”
“What the hell are you talking about?” the Boss says. “He did it.”
“No, he didn’t count. He just said the number two twice. Didn’t he Rita?”
“I don’t need to count them!” David says.
“Don’t need to, or can’t?” I ask. “You could have got someone to help you, and then memorised the numbers. Obviously I don’t think that’s the case, but we didn’t actually see you COUNT. Did we Rita?”
Rita shakes her head.
“Alright, if it will clear things up, I’ll bloody count!” David seethes.
“Excellent. Take your time.”
“One..” David says.
“No pressure,” I say. “Just think of it like something you could do any time. Any time at all.”
“Two,” David says.
“So the first answer is Two,” I say to Rita.
“One..” David says, slapping his left buttock.
“Oh, hang on a minute!” I blurt. “I realise now what I did.”
“What did you do?” the Boss asks.
“I interrupted him,” I say. “I assumed he had two buttocks and I interrupted him. He might have been about to say three.”
“I wasn’t about to say three at all!” David snaps angrily.
“Well, of course you’d say that now that I’ve given you the answer,” I say. “But actually, the number of buttocks you have – or think you have – is immaterial, as the question is more about getting the same number twice. So I think, maybe, in the interests of fairness, we should start over.”
“Right,” David says.
“So in your own time,” I say. “No pressure at all, just a walk in the Park – whenever you’re ready; we’re all on your side here and there are no wrong answers.”
“Unless you get two different numbers,” Rita adds helpfully. Lovely woman.
“Look, how about you all just shut up and we do this?!” David says. “One… Two. One… Two. There!”
“EXCELLENT!” I gasp. “We KNEW you could do it, didn’t we Rita?”
“So I think perhaps I should just send the PFY up here to apologise to you, David. No need to make a big production about it – just between us four. Okay?”
“I… don’t think so. He insulted me in front of my department so he should apologise to me in front of the department.”
“I don’t think we need to go that far,” I counter.
“I think we do…”
…The next day, in Beancounter Central…
“..and so Stephen has something to say,” David says, milking the sarcasm for all its worth.
“I… implied that David.. was unable to count his buttocks and get the same number on two occasions. This is not the case, and I apologise.”
“Thank you,” David says. “I think we’ve all learnt something here today.”
“Yes,” I add. “And I would like to apologise to you all as well, as Stephen’s supervisor. David proved to me, our manager here and our manager’s PA that he is perfectly able to count his arse cheeks and come up with the same number twice. There were a couple of false starts – true – but he got there in the end. I mean he did need total silence to complete the task, but I put that down to the pressures of the job and maybe just an off day.
"Meantime this has highlighted an area of concern about the way we treat people and their perceptions of how they feel have been treated. A Johari service window, if you will.
"So I would like to say now, that if you, or any of your co-workers, friends, colleagues, guests or just thin-skinned people you run into on the street have at ANY time felt that the PFY or I have treated you in any way with disrespect we’d like to know about it.
"We’ve set up an email address of email@example.com and we’d like you to email us today. The PFY and I will pick one out randomly each week and meet with you here in a public forum to address it with you. You will be heard. Thank you.”
…The next day…
“I didn’t imply that it was an intensely challenging exercise for him to count his arse cheeks and get the same number twice,” I say to the Director. “I simply pointed out what happened when he tried to do it. Rita can back me up on that!”
“I think you’ll need to apologise,” The Director says.
“Yes, but do we actually KNOW he can do it easily?” the PFY says. “I mean he might get it right, once or twice, but for a truly conclusive result as to whether it’s difficult or not we’d probably have to see him doing it – what, a hundred times?”
“Two hundred,” I add. “To be on the safe side.”