Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, Use its Hash Algorithm
One Week Before Valentine’s Day
Stepping into the office, a cloud of “hurry up and pay attention to me” floated in behind him. Adjusting his tie and rolling his head back and forth as if he was preparing for a fight, the man cleared his throat and looked purposefully at Helen. Helen raised her eyebrows but did nothing to acknowledge his presence. She was checking her lottery ticket numbers.
Taking pity on him, I set down the boxes I was carrying and stepped towards the front desk. Lex grabbed my arm and shook his head, a devilish grin playing on his lips.
“That’s our new manager, Ron” he said gleefully “Let Helen put him in his place a little bit!”
“That sounds like a great idea! Let’s make him hate us right off the bat!” I sighed picking up the box of parts I was carrying to the warehouse.
Shrugging, Lex trailed behind me.
“It doesn’t matter, he will hate us all soon enough.”
I opened my mouth to argue but thought better of it, Lex was probably right.
“So what’s your Valentine’s Day plans?” he asked.
“Uh probably eating ice cream with my cat?” I replied, kicking the swinging warehouse doors open with my foot.
“Oh sweety, no, no, no!” Lex waggled his finger at me “Ill fix this!”
“Lex there is nothing to fix, I don’t want to –” Lex plugged his fingers with his ears.
“Don’t you tune me out!” I demanded, but Lex had already turned to leave. It was no use arguing with him anyway.
Lipstick, Camaros, and Valentine’s Day
I checked my lipstick for the tenth time that hour, he was late. What if he never showed up? Why did I wear stupid lipstick anyway? I never wore lipstick, what if it got all over my teeth? Lex had somehow convinced me to go on a blind date with one of his gym buddies for Valentine ’s Day. Using persuasion along the lines of “Stop being a boring cat lady and go out for a change!”
The buzzer sounded for my apartment’s front door, I shrieked and grabbed my bag. Puddin, my fat tabby, jumped at the sudden noise. Shooting me daggers, she curled back into a ball on the couch and watched in amusement as I rushed around my apartment.
The blind date, Jim, was leaning up against a 1969 Camaro when I arrived breathless at the bottom of the stairs. At least he had good taste in cars, maybe this night wouldn’t be so bad after all.
This was the first and only optimistic thought I had all night.
Whipping away from his parking space as soon as my door was closed, I was thrown against the back of the seat. “So where we going?” I squeaked, trying to pull on my seat belt.
“I figured we could ditch the typical Valentines date and do something exciting. Lex told me you were big into thrills.”
I cursed Lex silently.
Excitement? My idea of excitement was coffee and an anime marathon…I had a sneaking suspicion that this was not the Camaro driving, leather jacket wearing man’s idea of excitement.
I watched the speedometer climbing past 80.
“Gosh were going awful fast…”
His response was to turn the volume up on the radio, my knuckles turned white as I clutched my seat.
The speedometer was up to 95 now.
I saw flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
Oh thank goodness, now he has to slow down, I thought.
Instead of slowing down, I watched him pop on a pair of sunglasses and press down harder on the gas.
Oh no, no, no.
I turned the music off, “Uh maybe you didn’t notice, but there seems to be a policeman behind us…”
“Yeah I’m gonna shake them here in a minute, once I lose them I need you to get in the driver’s seat. I can’t get caught speeding again, I got a record!”
“Wait…you want me to do what?” I squeaked.
He couldn’t be serious…. I looked over at him…he was.
Whipping into an alley he jumped out of the car, “Get in the driver’s seat!” he roared.
One moment police cars were surrounding us and the next I found myself face down in the pavement next to Jim, with my wrists in cuffs.
One of the cops squatted down next to me, “You ok?”
I looked up and saw my reflection in her Ray-Bans. I had red lipstick smeared all over my face.
“Happy Valentine’s Day?” I offered.
I let my face sink back to the pavement, I was never going to wear red lipstick ever again.
The Day After Valentines
The servers roared around me
I rested my chin in my hands, the hum lulling me into a doze.
The comforting whir of the server room was just what I needed after the humiliation of last night.
Ron poked his head around the corner, “Should it be making that sound in here?”
I cocked my head to the side, my mouth opening before my filter could catch up with me, “Why yes! That’s exactly the noise 10 juggernaut sized servers should be making, thank you for the concern!”
Lex looked up from his screen, his eyes darting back and forth between Ron and I, sizing up the situation.
Ron shrugged and left the room.
“No need to be witchy to the new guy, Gosh!” Lex loud whispered.
He looked at me sideways when I didn’t respond, “Happy Valentine’s day…”
I glared and swiveled my chair the other way.
He snorted, “So I’m guessing that means last night went well?”
I pretended to click through my emails.
He grabbed the back of my chair and spun me around
“We can do this the easy way or I can just ask Jim how it went when I see him at the gym!”
My shoulders slumped.
“Why did I ever agree to your mad schemes?” I grumbled.
“But really though, what happened? He seemed so normal in my spin class!” Lex said adamantly.
“That’s why you can’t judge a book by it’s cover!” Robbie said walking into the room, pointing his soda bottle at us sagely. He plopped down beside me, “what are we talking about?”
“Alice’s apparent disaster date last night!” Lex cackled.
“We are not talking about this!” I growled.
“Did he pull the ol’ dollar menu hot date routine?” Robbie asked.
Boss walked in, dark circles standing out under his eyes.
Robbie and Lex stopped short when they saw him. Pulling on serious faces, they both sat up straight.
Ron trailed in behind boss holding a clipboard, looking as nervous as the rest of us.
“Mandatory training after work tonight team, be sure to pass the word along.”
Boss swiveled around to leave before we had a chance to respond, “Wipe that smile off your face Robbie!” He barked over his shoulder.
Robbie jumped in his seat, the flight for life instinct showing in his posture
Ever since the flying server incident, Robbie looked like a bunny ready to flee whenever boss was around.
“Mandatory training again? How many nights in a row is he planning on keeping us late?” Robbie groaned, kicking the back of my chair.
“Uh… probably until his divorce is finalized” Lex said in a hushed tone.
I nodded, it made sense. Boss had been staying late (and thinking of ways to keep us all late) ever since Nancy sent pictures of her jumblies’ to Rodger.
“New guy just follows him around like a kicked puppy! Why don’t he say something to boss for us?” Robbie said.
I wasn’t fond of the new manager either but I still bristled, “Uh why don’t you untuck your tail and say something to boss yourself?”
Lex chortled in delight.
Security Training and Hangman
Ron fidgeted with his clipboard, his mouth opening and shutting.
Boss was making Robbie give a presentation about network security, I tuned out, watching Ron’s face twitch.
He was nervous as hell. Guilt settled uneasily onto my shoulders.
It couldn’t be easy trying to manage us heathens, or even be in the same room as boss, for that matter.
Scribbling a hang man and seven dashes on the napkin in front of me, I slowly passed the napkin down to Ron who looked up at me at first with a confused expression. His face widened into a smile when he realized what it was. We spent the next hour playing hangman. Sliding the napkin back and forth across the table whenever the bosses head was turned.
Lex yawned, looking pointedly at his watch when Robbie finished his presentation.
Boss glared down the table at him, “Don’t plan on going anywhere, you’re next!”
I watched Ron square his shoulders.
No no, don’t stand up to him, hell eat you alive! I mentally screamed at Ron.
“What’s our budget for overtime? I’m pretty sure mandatory training would fall under overtime code.”
Boss grunted a non-coherent reply.
“Soooo I personally think that was plenty of overtime for one day!” Ron continued. “Maybe we head out and get a beer?”
Lex and Robbie both nodded, shooting furtive glances between boss and Ron.
Much to our amazement, boss shrugged, “Yeah, I could go for a beer.”
My jaw was still stuck to the floor as we stood up to leave.
Wisdom of Ones and Zeroes
The moon glowed overhead as we stepped out into the crisp February night. The group’s mood lifted as car keys were pulled out of pockets.
Lex caught Ron’s arm as soon as boss was out of hearing distance, “You’re good people man, we misjudged you. Welcome aboard!”
Ron smiled, “Oh good it wasn’t my imagination that you all hated me”
“Hates a strong word…” I trailed off.
“We just haven’t had the best experience with authority figures…” Lex explained
Ron nodded, glancing over at boss.
Robbie trotted up behind us, blowing cigarette smoke out his nose. “See! That’s what I was trying to tell y’all, you can’t judge a book by its cover, you gotta’ use its uh…its hash algorithm!” he finished looking proud of himself.
Lex rolled his eyes, “OK Plato, get in the car!”
Robbie looked offended, “No really! People’s actions show who they really are! Just like data’s hash algorithm, man!”
“You’ve spent too many hours in front of a computer young man” Ron said, patting his shoulder.
Laughing, we piled into Lex’s rust bucket car, letting the tension off the day roll off our shoulders.
Lex looked over at me as we sped along the freeway, “I’m taking a Zumba class next week, want me to find you another blind date?”
I shook my head, trying to clear the embarrassing memories from last night, “Eyes on the road! I think I’ll stick to the hash algorithms for my ones and zeroes this week, thank you very much!”
© 2017 HANNAH MCALLEN ALL RIGHTS RESERVED