The Copymax 5000 premiere office machine is a space-aged multifunction device without a doubt. Besides copying, scanning, collating, reducing, and other normal office features, it has a whole host of undocumented functionality. Some folks even claim the blueprints for it came from outer space. Of that rumor we may never know the real truth but I can tell you this. It has a strange port on the front that is not explained in the owners manual.
I was delighted to learn that the Copymax 5000 had a musical note equivalent on the input keypad. As an amateur musician, I began to experiment with the number keys by pressing them in a melodic fashion. One day my boss was berating me for wasting time when the machine began to violently shudder and pulsate. After pressing the initial notes from ‘Close encounters of the third kind’, a red beam of light shot out from the mystery port. It caught my boss right in the chest. In less than five seconds, he was reduced to a three inch version of himself! It happened so fast that he didn’t even realize it. From his perspective, everything just grew larger. I had to break the sour news to him that it was he who had shrunk down to a miniature version of himself. Needless to say he was quite ‘miffed’ and I got an earful. Luckily for me, he wasn’t nearly as intimidating as his newer, much more diminutive self.
“Hollis, fix this IMMEDIATELY!”; He shouted at the top of his mouse-sized lungs. “Undo this bewitchment or you’re fired!”
I picked him up and sat him on the nearest desktop so I could hear his furious squeaks better. I fumbled with the controls while he got angrier by the minute. There didn’t seem to be an ‘undo’ function in the menu items. I could see the look of fear and contorted rage on his tiny face.
“Can’t you work this contraption, Hollis? Just play the ‘Star Wars’ theme again. That ought to do it.”
I muttered that it wasn’t ‘Star Wars’; or ‘Star Trek’ for that matter. How a college-educated adult could confuse those two very distinctive things is beyond me but anyway, he was beside himself with fury. For all I knew, if I played the same melody again, it might reduce him down by the same ratio. Then there would be a very real threat of the cleaning woman accidentally vacuuming him up, Monday morning.
“Look in the owners manual, you bonehead! There’s gotta be an undo feature in there somewhere. I have tickets to the opera tonight. I can’t go like this. Get to it, man.”
I dug through the multilingual manual but there was nothing at all about how to resize a human being. The booklet didn’t even mention that curious selling feature. You’d think the manufacturer would want to tout technological advancements like that. Worse still, the Chinese tech support line had already closed for the weekend. Poor Mr. Wickers was in for more disappointment. I can tell you now, he didn’t take the news well. He demanded that I place him in my shirt pocket so he could go undercover. I reluctantly did as I was told. He was still my boss, after all.
“Anybody seen Old Mr. WHISKERS lately? How about you Hollis? Have you seen him? I bet he’ll ask us to come in this weekend to work on his stupid ‘pet’ project.”
I tried to subtly steer Randall to a less incriminating subject but he kept on running his mouth, oblivious to the hole he was digging for himself. He had no way to know that our boss was stewing my shirt pocket, and I had no way of clueing him in either. In the span of three minutes, he called him ‘Mr. Whiskers’ no less than five times! The only saving grace was that the old man couldn’t hold the unflattering nickname against him. At least not publicly. He had only witnessed the slight against him through trickery and deception.
“You know what? Mr. Wickers doesn’t deserve any mockery from you, Randall.”; I blustered in mock anger. “He’s done a lot to keep this company afloat and we owe him our jobs for it. It’s a pretty small price to pay to devote one Saturday afternoon to his special program. He told me personally that it will help to secure all our jobs during the market downturns that this quarter could bring. Consider it, insurance against unemployment.”
The mouths of my slacker peers drew agape like a synchronized swim team. They had no idea that the old man was literally eavesdropping from my shirt pocket. I’m sure he could tell from their reactions that it was unexpected support from me, too. Regardless, a strange thing happened. Coming from me, the rest of the department agreed to pitch in. I could almost imagine the smug smile on Wickers face as he listened to them agree to come to the office on a sacred Saturday.
Once out of earshot, he had me to dial his wife. He didn’t want her to know about the Copymax mishap so he explained that he had to go out of town, on ‘unexpected business’. Instead, I was to escort her to the opera in his place. I tried to protest but he was quick to point out how everything was my fault and that she shouldn’t have to suffer because of my screw up. He had me there. It was the least that I could do.
He never mentioned that I’d have to wear a tuxedo but I accepted it as just another ‘necessary evil’ of escorting his wife to the theater. Of course he was along for the ride in the breast pocket of my ‘penguin suit’. Every time I would nod off, he would pull one of my chest hairs to keep me from embarrassing his wife. By all appearances, she loved the high-strung performance.
Afterward, I escorted her to her front door like a gentleman. To my horror, she invited me inside. I didn’t know what to do. He was hanging on to her every word while she spilled her guts out to me. Once again I tried to steer her away from saying things that would embarrass or hurt him but she wouldn’t take the hint.
It seems that she was lonely and felt like he was ignoring her at home. I genuinely felt bad for the old man. It had to be painful to hear. She took his opera ‘absence’ as yet another deliberate avoidance, and he had no way to tell her otherwise. I tried to be sympathetic while still maintaining a safe emotional distance. All I needed was for her to make a pass at me while he was right there in my shirt pocket. Luckily, she just wanted to cry on my shoulder. I tried to do damage control by telling her that he talked about her all the time; and that he regretted how his job seemed to come between the two of them.
That really seemed to resonate with her. It perked up her mood immediately. I think she just wanted to know that she was still important to him. I wasn’t sure if I was conveying an unspoken truth, or if it was just comforting lies I had filled her with. Either way, that was personal between them. I bade her goodnight and left with my diminutive conspirator.
On the ride home he confessed that as they drew apart emotionally, he threw himself into his work as a distraction. With the benefit of overhearing what she confided in me, he saw how destructive that was. I think it was a wake-up call to spend more time at home. For the first time in a long time, he thanked me sincerely. We didn’t even discuss the possibility of him remaining miniaturized forever. The idea was just too uncomfortable for both of us to think about.
Saturday, the guys were already hard at work when the two of us arrived. I explained that old man Wickers had flown to our corporate office for a series of meetings but he had placed all responsibilities on me. Amazingly, no one grumbled at having to work on the weekend while he wasn’t there himself. I could almost ‘feel’ him listening to see who made that complaint.
The amusing thought occurred to me that perhaps they all thought I was one of ‘them’ now. Regardless, the team made excellent progress and I took everyone out for lunch. Amazingly, Whickers didn’t even pull any of my chest hairs when I used his corporate expense account. What could he say, right? They earned it.
That night we stayed up to discuss the best strategy to complete his project and how to reconnect with his wife. After giving him my best advice, I felt it was high time that he gave me back a little bit. We watched ‘Close encounters of the third kind’, ‘Star Wars: a new hope’; and even a couple episodes of the original Star Trek. Finally he seemed to get the science fiction world. At least enough to understand the difference between the three
Once again I dialed his home number and he had an earnest talk with his wife via ‘face time’. She had no idea how close he had to stand to the videocamera to appear normal sized. He told her that he was informing his superiors that he was turning over day-to-day operations to me. Starting immediately, he would only be operating at the company in a limited, supervisory capacity while transiting to retirement. From there he hoped to rebuild their distant relationship and have much more time for her. She sounded absolutely elated at the prospect and he looked relieved and genuinely happy.
Sunday night I put in a call to the Chinese tech support number. It was already Monday morning there and after being connected with an English speaking advisor, I spelled out the gist of the problem. The guy didn’t even sound surprised! As incredible as it may sound, it must be a fairly common occurrence. He reminded me of the scene in ‘Close Encounters’ where the aliens communicate back with a counter melody. That was apparently the secret ‘undo’.
Needless to say, Mr. Wickers and I went into the office early to counteract the reduction ray. Just as the tech support advisor said, the movie counter-melody scaled him right back to his original size. After all we’d been through over the weekend however, I wasn’t intimidated by him anymore. I knew exactly what it was like to have a boss in my front pocket.