An extract from Different Planet – a story about 5 days in an English office available here on Amazon.
Jon Wood and Albert Merton had arrived at Salmsberry Holdings after a journey of 30 minutes. The firm occupied a small site on the edge of a wooded area with views over the surrounding moors and a river valley. The air felt crisper even though the elevation gain had only been 100 metres.
Wood and Merton walked into the main brick building, dating from the 1930s, and spoke to Erica the receptionist. She sat on a large podium that elevated her two feet above the ground, so she had to lean forward to get a good view of the visitors.
“Is Barry Dingle about?” asked Wood.
“He’s at his desk, so you can go up and see him, but I should warn you he’s not in a good mood. He had another accident this morning; he hit a signpost on his way to work.”
“Another accident? How many’s he had?” asked Merton.
“Well, the signpost makes three this week,” said Erica, “I think it’s because of his medical complaint; it makes it uncomfortable for him to sit in his car for long periods of time, in fact for more than 20 minutes, which is why he’s speeding everywhere.”
“He’s got piles has he?” said Merton.
“Haemorrhoids, that’s right,” replied Erica, slightly embarrassed by Merton’s candour.
“I bet that’s Ted’s problem,” said Merton, “by way of explanation we have a colleague who also had an accident this morning, but I think it’s because he’s Welsh rather than because he has piles, but I will ask him about that.”
“Right, well let’s go and see Mr. Dingle, shall we?” said Wood, anxious to go before the conversation degenerated any further, “thank you for your help, Erica.”
“It’s a pleasure,” replied Erica, smiling nervously, “I will just let Barry know you’re on your way.”
Wood and Merton walked up the stairs and along a gallery that overlooked the main manufacturing works. Dingle and his employees had their desks along the outer wall of the gallery. Natural light came in through windows high in the walls. Wood and Merton could just see the tops of the trees swaying in the breeze. Dingle was at his desk.
“Hello, Barry,” said Wood, “I’ve brought my colleague along to see you – this is Albert Merton.”
“No need to get up,” said Merton, shaking Dingle’s hand, “we’ve heard about your problem.”
“Oh, have you now,” said Dingle, “and what problem might that be?”
“In this case, it’s your piles,” said Merton, “and not the problem you’re having with car accidents.”
“Someone has been talkative,” replied Dingle rubbing his beard.
“Well, let’s get on with what we came to see you about,” interjected Wood glaring at Merton, “we are going to need some more of those leading edges sending to us, in fact we’re going to need you to double your output for about the next three months.”