Written by Keta from Story BookI used to work for a government agency of the highest bureaucratic order; in the print shop, which was removed from the rest of the stale, bland institution in a separate building across the street. Most of the staff, as 'lifers', were pretty complacent. Just going through their days as if in a daze, counting the time until their next extensive holiday. Which is not to say they were ALL boring, just the vast majority.
A few of us would sometimes go to a cool nearby pub on Friday's. We would take over the deck -heated in winter- just for ourselves, to drink our beer in comfort and privacy.
This deck had those standard cheap plastic chairs and tables. My closest co-workers and I circled one together. Fiona was like me; small and full of energy, loud and obnoxious when she wanted to be, and with a good sense of humour. Gladys was the complete opposite; quite overweight, slow and pedantic, unadventurous in the extreme . . . the very embodiment of the bland bureaucrats that filled the institution.
We were having a joke with some of the boys; they were planning a trip to Vegas and wanted to cram all six of them into one room. Gladys and Fiona cooked up a scheme that we would invite ourselves along, as Gladys had a coupon for that same hotel. We really had the boys going! At first they didn't want us along, then the most ribald one, Adam, thought a better plan would be to get all raunchy so we would bow out. He demanded that, since it would be a Print Shop trip, we would ALL have to stay in the same room.
As Fiona and Gladys had carried the game so far I decided it was time for me to step in. "Sure! That's no problem. How much time do you actually spend in the room anyways? Right girls?", I winked. They caught on right away and agreed whole-heartedly.
That threw off Adam quite a bit. He was expecting us to squeal our objections! He gave me his best attempt at a smouldering look and asked, "Well, we have to sleep sometime in three days. How are we going to do that?" The other boys muttered agreement, beginning to feel themselves in over their heads. Boldly I stated, "That's easy. The whole room will be bed." I opened my arms wide, indicating that whatever blankets, bedspreads, towels etc. we could find would surely be comfortable enough.
The shocked silence was enough to send us girls into peels of laughter, pleased that for once we had 'got one over' on the boys. The evening progressed, the conversation moved to other subjects and a few of the staff
started to leave. The rest of us remained in a comfortable haze of alcohol. Suddenly Gladys let out a yelp, quickly putting her wine glass on the table. Everyone looked over, surprised.
Her chair had literally started to crumble below her! As she sank further and further into it, as if in slow motion, I had to stifle a laugh with some difficulty. I heard a few chuckles emitting from some of the less sensitive staff, then "shushes" from others. I was thinking of what to do; Gladys' butt was now almost touching the ground, the disintegrated frame of the chair locking her into a fully curled up position. Her arms were waving slightly, as she looked back at us helplessly. Really, it was not easy keeping that laugh inside!
That's when Fiona -never one to miss a chance to embarrass someone to the fullest extent- made a great show of jumping up to 'help' Gladys. Now these two had worked together for many years, been through a lot of the standard political nonsense, and knew each other really very well. Before I grasped the significance, Gladys was already voicing her objections to Fiona 'helping' her. Not really sure why, I stayed in my seat.
Fiona, who is only about five feet tall and couldn't have wieghed more than 110 pounds, stood before Gladys, planted her feet firmly, grasped both of Gladys' hands and HEAVED with a great demonstration of effort. All the while Gladys kept saying, "No, no it's Ok. I can get out myself", but Fiona would have none of it! At this point I realized what was happening; Fiona was playing it up as much as possible so they could all have something delicious to talk about at work for the next week or two.
By now Gladys was standing, but the troublesome chair was still attached to her behind. Everyone stood transfixed at the unfolding scene, the boys weren't even really trying to hide their chuckles anymore. Fiona took
several seconds to inquire if Gladys was OK before, very dramatically, circling around her and 'popping' the chair off her backside. Gladys turned around to thank Fiona, but I knew it was more to take a second to regain her composure.
I took the opportunity myself, to put my hand over my mouth and indulge in a smile because . . . really, I'm only human!
Another chair was brought for Gladys, who made some comment about how flimsy these plastic lawn chairs are, and everyone resumed their former seats.
Later in the evening the conversation returned to the Vegas trip, with Adam making some comment about how us girls would not be able to handle sharing a room with them. Gladys, unfortunately, chose this moment to try to get a little of her own back and said to him, "I broke that chair, I think I could break you." To which he just scoffed loudly and the rest of us exchanged glances of what an unsuccessful move that was for her.
Keta Kosman is Editor and Production Manager of
When not mired down with the intricate workings of the lumber industry, she
escapes to the beach to capture images of wild bald eagles in their daily