Herman is a man of regular habits. That love of routine propelled him to get this job in the first place, where he can grind it out from 9 to 5 like steady clockwork. He easily slid into his routine like a comfortable blanket right from the first day he took on his job as an administrative assistant.
Even as a man who wanted to be left alone most of the time, he felt severely ignored three days into the job. And then he noticed that that wasn't quite accurate, for everyone ignored everyone. There were bits of conversation here and there, but they were mostly necessitated by the tasks involved in their respective jobs. Everyone seemed intent to stick with their own solitary schedules. He imagined himself a cog in a complex machine that spins its wheels with unwavering regularity. This unhinged him. He felt compelled to do something that would throw them off a bit on more than one occasion, like, say, inviting everybody for a couple of beers at a small bar nearby. But Herman didn’t. He’s the new guy, after all. Even if he’s been busting his ass in that same office for eight years and counting.
Yesterday, a coffee mug with the word ‘DAD’ printed on it changed everything. It was just a small, inconsequential thing by itself, but it felt to Herman like a small ripple from the center of a pond about to move outward.
The hours before lunchtime went on their usual dull routine. Herman was on a tight deadline so he punched away at his keyboard to finish the weekly report for a big client the company acquired last Friday, all the while giving Delores’s coffee mug a couple of glances every half hour or so. This annoyed him, but the more he tried to look away, the more he was compelled to give the mug a cursory glance.
Lunchtime passed by quickly with no untoward incident, just the way he liked it. After a quick visit to the restroom, he walked towards his desk in his usual absent-minded way. Without warning, Delores’s coffee mug came into his field of vision. Delores was not on her desk at the time. Without him meaning to, he stopped walking and just stood on the spot staring at it. He snapped out of his momentary lapse a second later and was about to go back to his own desk when he heard Delores’s voice at his back.
“”How may I help you?”
Time seemed to stop for a nanosecond. A tumbleweed moment.
“Um… that’s a really nice cup you have there,” he stammered.
Herman realized how stupid his remark sounded as soon as it came
out of his mouth. He suddenly heard the shuffling of chairs around him and noticed that everyone in the office are standing and looking at him and Delores.
In all the eight years that Herman worked in this office, he realized that he has never felt more like the “new guy” as he has now.