Friday, 22 July 2011

Strange but True 2

Here’s another 'strange but true' report that attracted my attention:

Worker dead at desk for 5 days
Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for FIVE DAYS before anyone asked if he was feeling okay.
George Turklebaum, 51, who had been employed as a proof-reader at a New York firm for 30 years, had a heart attack in the open-plan office he shared with 23 other workers. He quietly passed away on Monday, but nobody noticed until Saturday morning when an office cleaner asked why he was still working during the weekend.
His boss Elliot Wachiaski said "George was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didn't say anything. He was always absorbed in his work and kept much to himself."
A post mortem examination revealed that he had been dead for five days after suffering a coronary. Ironically, George was proofreading manuscripts of medical textbooks when he died.
 .... You may want to give your co-workers a nudge occasionally.

Here’s the start of something I wrote after reading that report. It’s an unfinished first draft, and I’m not entirely sure where it’s going – perhaps a short story, perhaps the first chapter of something…

The Stamp Collector

        When Matthew Anderson died I lost my job and so began a very dark time for me. It wasn’t as if I’d even been directly responsible for his death. It was a heart attack for God’s sake. It could have happened at any time. The trouble was it happened while he was at work, in my section of the trading floor, and no-one noticed for four days.
        The unfortunate Matthew remained at his wretched desk for four days and nights, his computer screen still reporting the most up to date information on the stock market. No-one even commented on the hours he was putting in. That was totally normal for someone in derivatives. Only, for some reason, I was the one who got called into the office for an inquisition. I tried to open that final meeting with some sort of defence of my position.
       “Look, I know things have got pretty bad. I’ve been depressed. I’m not trying to get sympathy or justify anything, but I honestly don’t think this is my fault. Ok, I’ve stopped noticing a few things. I admit my eye’s been off the ball.”
        “He was dead for four days, Johnson.” The CEO’s face was taking on that thunderous look I recognised so well.
        “But no-one else thought it was odd. Anderson always worked long hours.”
        “He was one of your team for Christ’s sake. Don’t you even speak to your own people?”
        “We have motivational meetings every Monday morning, sir.”
        “Such a shame he inconveniently died on a Tuesday then. Look Johnson, the truth is you’ve become a liability. You’ve lost us money and now you’ve lost us a trader.”
        I stood looking at him with my mouth gaping open. The CEO went on to make further allegations about my performance. He mentioned the two warning letters that I’d already received. He brought up the matter of the unauthorised trading which had lost the bank thirty-five million. It was only luck that he hadn’t found out about my affair with Corinne, since romantic associations on the trading floor were strictly off limits in case the couple engaged in fraud along with their other activities. His parting words hit me in the gut.
        “Just hand your security pass over, Johnson.”

        And that was it. I was briskly escorted out by the security guard and chucked unceremoniously into the underground car park. I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to my team, though what happened next let me know that Corinne, for one, wasn’t going to be much bothered by my departure. As I heard the lift doors open I turned to look back and there she was, with a cardboard box in her arms. She must have been clearing out my desk while I was being hauled over the coals.
        “Don’t even think about getting in touch, Simon.” She stared at me with eyes like cold, blue steel.
        “But I thought we were going somewhere, Corinne. All those nights we’ve shared.”
        “All those nights where you’ve pawed me over you mean, the whole time refusing to take off your stupid white vest.”
        I flushed at her jibe. I could never let any woman see me fully naked. Not since the tattoo. How I had paid for getting drunk that night with the Crewe Collector’s Club. Their idea of a great joke was to get a penny black tattooed on my left shoulder. The thought of anyone finding out about my hobby filled me with revulsion, so I kept my back covered at all times.
        “Corinne, please…” I was not above pleading. I needed her.
        “Face it Simon, we’re over. We’ve been over since you lost your Midas touch. I don’t want to be shackled to some burnt out trader. I’m going places where you can no longer follow.” And she walked coolly back into the bank’s headquarters, leaving me to carry the contents of my desk to the nearest Metro station.

        The Midas touch. It had been true. Every deal I was involved in had flourished and grown and made Barnabus Credit a fortune. Yet here I was, 32 and out of the game, and it was all down to my hobby.
        The truth is I’m addicted to the unlikely passion of stamp collecting. It began as an extension of my stock portfolio, then turned into a way of making social contacts who were outside the aggressive world of stock trading. I made some good mates in stamp circles, though some, like the Crewe crowd, could be a bit mad. I’d also made some enemies. Serge, for one. He’d dogged my bidding footsteps since I’d first started going to auctions here in Paris. He took great pleasure in taunting me from across a crowded hall and raising the stakes ever higher until I had to bow out. That’s what made me take risks at work, I guess - the desire to build up enough in my bank account to blow Serge out of the water. I’d nearly done it too, except I crashed and burned before all deals were closed, and now I had to think of something else to do. My name was blacklisted across the whole of the financial world and all doors there would be forever closed to me.
        I walked down Rue Neil clutching the groceries I’d bought at my local Monoprix. They mainly consisted of cheap red wine, but I’d thrown in a baguette and some goat’s cheese to line my stomach. I’d also bought the local rag and planned to spend tomorrow searching the jobs page, but tonight I was going to get spectacularly drunk. 

So there you go. Try it yourself. If nothing else, you’ll have some fun reading some of the many the strange but trues that are out there, and you never know, it could be the start of your next bestseller.

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