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Friday, May 6, 2011

Midvale, School for the Gifted

It was quitting time.  My watch read five after five when I closed my laptop and stuffed it into my messenger bag.  I slung it over my shoulder and headed downstairs.  Across the lobby, a man I'd never met with short -cropped hair (nearly buzz cut) and a sun-crimsoned neck wearing a navy blue company-logo polo shirt and khaki pants was striding purposefully for the lobby exit, preceeding me at a brisk pace that suggested hurried departure, or at minimim very clear objectives that opening the door would satisfy. 

That I didn't recognize him didn't come as much of a surprise.  The salesmen are almost never at the corporate office, and this man was clad in standard issue salesman-at-training attire.

At the door now, he strode forward, pushing the bar of the door to open it.  There was an echoing metallic crash as he pushed the bar, then his momentum carried him into the door, which remained stubbornly closed.  He stopped short, not quite bouncing his head off the glass of the door, but clearly not expecting it to remain closed.

I continued to walk forward, closing the gap as he struggled internally.  He pushed again.  The door bar clashed but the door itself remained closed.  My mind summoned up the image of an old Gary Larson "Farside" cartoon.  There is a brick building with a large door in the center.  To the right is a sign that reads "Midvale, School for the Gifted".  A boy with short red hair is pushing hard against the door with his right hand, holding a school book in his left.  He is leaning against the door.  In the center of the door is a sign that says "Pull".  I stifled a grin.

I glanced to the right of the door as I neared him in his exertions.  A small bulb on a security pad linked to the door lit red, signifying the door was still locked.  I knew that when i came abreast of it, it would twinkle green and red, accompanied by a barely audible click, signifying the door was unlocked .  It would remain so for about 15 seconds before timing out and relocking, the light returning to steady red. 

Before I could reach the door, the man turned and, looking up, registered there was a witness to his impotent attempts at egress.  I opened my mouth to tell him I'd let him out, but before I could do so, he finished his turn, striding back the way he'd come, and quickly sputtered, "I gotta go find Rohan," as if in answer to my unspoken question regarding his about-face.

I wanted to answer, "Were you looking for him outside?  Cause what it LOOKED like you were doing. . . is trying to leave the building."  But i didn't.  I didn't really acknowledge his comment one way or the other.  I didn't know the guy.  Why did he feel it was necessary to cover his thwarted door attempts by making an excuse about having to go see someone (or he'd TOTALLY have kicked that door's ass) to me?  I didn't know, but it made me want to laugh anyway.

The red light twinkled green and red and I pushed the door bar.  It crashed internally, again echoing hollowly in the lobby before the door smoothly opened and I was outside in the sunshine.  The door clicked shut behind me and I chuckled aloud.

The man was too ashamed of his own failure to use the open door I offered to effect his own escape.  Perhaps if he hadn't dropped the Rohan-alibi he could still have walked out the door behind me without losing face.  But he had.  Leaving the building right behind me would no doubt have required ANOTHER lie like. . . "They said he's outside by my car," or worse.  He may have spent the night in the building.  I'm not sure.

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