The function room is modest in size, stark and somberly lit. A low hum from the air conditioner can be heard. Douglas sits at a small conference table with his arms crossed. He has a defiant expression on his face as he looks past the table at another man sitting across from him.
“I must have thought I put them there,” he answers.
Wedged in between paperwork and a laptop, Eric is seated opposite Douglas, fiercely staring at him. “I asked you to place the tongs on the food eleven minutes prior.”
Douglas raises his voice, “You told me to do something else at the time.”
“Regardless,” snaps Eric, “It would have taken two seconds to do it. How else are people gonna eat? With their hands?”
Douglas shrugs his shoulders with attitude.
Eric is taken aback. “What is that supposed to mean?” Eric mimics the shrugging of the shoulders with a deformed twisted angry face. “What is that?” He again reenacts the mockery of shrugging shoulders.
Eric’s face relaxes into calm. “So Douglas, you don’t want to work here is that it?”
Douglas straightens up from his insolent posture. “Yes, I do.”
Eric glares at him, then shouts, “No you don’t!” Once composed, he continues. “Do me a favour, can you check my forehead? Have I got fucking idiot written on it because I can’t tell? Check properly.”
Douglas stares back at Eric not moving an inch.
Eric insists, “Is it in invisible ink that only other people can see? Who the fuck do you think you are? All you seem to do is walk around the entire day with your head up your arse.”
He stops and lets the silence linger.
“How old are you?”
Douglas refrains from answering.
Eric perseveres, “How old are you, Douglas?”
Douglas is reluctant to respond, but offers, “Twenty-three.”
“How old do you think I am?”
Douglas shrugs and answers, “Thirty.”
“Forty-one. What do you reckon, pretty good for my age?”
“Well, I think I do. Anyway, I digress. Every single day, Douglas, I have to deal with customers from all walks of life. Different cultures, and backgrounds. I have people complaining, arguing, fighting and stealing things.”
Douglas looks away.
Eric is up in his chair and continues, “Every single day I have managers increasingly shedding their responsibilities over to me. colleagues who are colluding against me, who are constantly campaigning to get rid of me. I have hours and hours’ worth of meaningless paperwork to do. Every single day.”
Eric stands and rests his hands on the table. “And on top of all that I get…” He mimics derisively, “I must have thought I put them there.” He then yells, “Can you tell me what that is?” Eric reenacts the shrugging of the shoulders, exaggerating the facial expression. “Are you some kind of moron? I don’t get paid enough to cop this rebel without a cause crap from a twenty-three-year-old punk like you.”
Eric sits back in his chair. Douglas is still, hardly breathing.
“I’ve been watching you, Douglas, for weeks. It pains me to the depth of my stomach to watch you walk. It’s not humanly possible to walk as slow as you. You’d never catch a train on time because you would be too slow to get to it.” He gets up and simulates walking very slowly, again exaggerating every move. “It is excruciating, watching you walk from one end of the lounge to the other. I have to look away to avoid getting heartburn.” Eric stops for a moment and studies Douglas who appears dazed and stunned.
“I know that you’re going to think that I’m some fuck wit as soon as you walk out of this office. You know what?
Eric waits for an answer. He gets none.
“I couldn’t care less, because if you do not improve a hundred and fifty per cent from the moment you walk out of that door you won’t be here for much longer. When I see you next I want you to be walking as fast as in the end credits on the Benny Hill show.”
Douglas snaps out of his stupor. “What’s that?”
“Benny Hill?” Eric smiles pleasantly, “70’s British comedy show, quite funny and very popular at the time. At the end of every episode, there’s a sped-up chase scene. Get it out on DVD, the best of Benny Hill, you’ll see what I’m talking about. From now on that is how I want to see you walk and work. So I’ll be watching you. I’ll be looking when you least expect it. I’ll be around monitoring everything you do. Now get out of here and give it a hundred and fifty per cent.”
Douglas stands up and sullenly walks towards the door. Just as he’s shutting the door… Eric restates, “And remember … Benny Hill.”
The door shuts.
Eric exhales and sits for a long moment in his chair. After a minute spent being distant and meditative, he shifts behind the table, exhales once more and shakes his head. Eric reaches over to his laptop, pulls it closer and begins typing into it.
He types into the keyboard… I am forwarding my resignation…
Douglas enters the bathroom. He appears distressed as he fights back tears as he stands alone with his arms crossed and looking down at his feet.
He starts to cry.
At that point, Eric also enters the bathroom to find Douglas standing there brooding. Douglas wipes his eyes with his hand but avoids looking in Eric’s direction. Eric watches Douglas for a brief moment and then goes to leave. He stops and points to Douglas. “Don’t forget, Benny Hill.”
Josh and Timothy, both in their early twenties are sitting behind the table looking insolent and defiant.
Douglas, older and much more mature, hovers above them, his anger palpable. “You can at least look at me when I’m speaking to you.”
They both instantly look up to the responsible, overworked and intimidating young manager.
“You two guys don’t want to work here is that it?”
Josh and Timothy become alert.
“Yeah,” says Josh.
“We do,” says Timothy”
Douglas glares at them and shouts, “NO, YOU DON’T.” He then composes himself, “Do me a favour, can you check my forehead? Have I got fucking idiot written on it because I can’t tell? Check properly.”
Josh and Timothy look at each other.
Douglas yells, “CHECK PROPERLY!