Stan Albright was a simple man, with simple tastes… if not just a touch peculiar. He was the kind of man who was apt to make a quick evaluation of each and every thing he encountered, and once that evaluation was made it would never change… ever. Some would call him stubborn, or bull-headed. He liked to think of it as knowing what was what. After spending 62 years on this earth he thought he had earned that right. So when Stan received the memo stating he would now be required to come in to the office to do his work, rather than submit it by mail as he had always done, Stan was not amused, not in the slightest.
Taking a huge sip from the giant cherry-flavored Icee that was always nearby; Stan slammed the memo down and grabbed the phone. Mumbling to himself as he dialed, “Come in to the office; we’ll just see about this…can you believe this nonsense, Bert? Absolute lunacy, I tell ya. If I had my way, the whole operation would be completely overhauled, you can bet that much. I know you’re not a betting man Bert, but that would be safe money, take it from me.”
Bert- your common garden-variety cardinal- tilted his head at this and then went back to sucking the guts out of a particularly large sunflower seed. In the recent months Bert had discovered and taken a liking to the feeder Stan had placed outside of his kitchen window. Bert’s visits had become more and more frequent and Stan was convinced that the two shared some sort of unexplainable bond. If one were to ask Bert his feelings on the subject, I dare say we might receive a slightly different answer, but that’s not really important.
Receiving no answer from the party he had dialed, Stan hung up the phone in a huff. “I’m to report on Monday… Monday! Pfffft…. And you’ll never guess at what time, either. Yes Bert, how did you know? 9:00am on the dot. Unbelievable. I can’t work like that, are they completely insane???”
Now many of us who work the 9 to 5 shift everyday may be thinking, “What on earth is so strange about that? Seems perfectly acceptable…what’s the big whoop?” Well, you obviously don’t know Stan very well so let me properly introduce you.
Stan Albright was born Stanley Duncan Albright to two upstanding, if not slightly boring, jammers in October of 1950. Now when I say jammers, I mean people whose occupation was to make, can and distribute all sorts of jams and jellies. Incidentally, Stan’s favorite is apricot. Growing up in a house of jammers, where most of the work took place between twilight and dawn, Stan had never been able adapt to what we would consider “normal working hours”.
After returning from the war as a young man, Stan soon found a post working for the city roads and highways department and quickly found his niche in the profession, as a majority of the job responsibilities took place at night- once commuters were safely in their homes and off the streets. After several years, Stan moved up the ranks and to this day remains the Senior Street Name Assigner for all city streets and new developments within the county. With this position came a certain amount of flexibility that allowed Stan to flourish, including the option of working from home, which he soon found to be necessary.
It wasn’t that Stan didn’t like other people, quite the opposite. Stan had come to believe that other people, particularly his coworkers, didn’t like him. This belief was confirmed after Stan’s first and last attempt to throw a house party in 1982 (I believe it was a Cinco de Mayo theme). All of his 47 coworkers were invited, and not one of them had shown. Following this incident, Stan requested to work from home indefinitely… and swore off of Pina Coladas for good.
Now, almost 30 years later, they wanted him back in the office. The humiliation would be unbearable. I feel it’s important to note here reader, that Stan’s coworkers should not be condemned in your mind for not attending the Cinco de Mayo party of ’82. In fact, the entire incident can be attributed to Stan’s tendency to refer to all streets by the date on which they were named rather than the actual name assigned to it. For example, instead of telling his guests to take Anderson Street 2 miles and then take a left on Quintana Blvd. and then the next right onto Cherry lane, he would write:
Take 01.09.83 2.0 mi. Turn left on 03.22.90. Next right onto 04.20.81. House is white with grey shutters.
You can see the problem, I’m sure.
In addition to Stan’s belief that all of his coworkers despised him, he had another reason for not wanting to work from the office. After more than 30 years of naming streets, avenues, boulevards, alleys, circles, and roads, Stan had become almost phobic of traveling on them. It was a fear he couldn’t explain, but it was very real and over the years he had been forced to work around it as much as he could. This included purchasing a golf cart as means of transportation. When it was necessary to leave his residence, Stan would simply jump in his golf cart and use the sidewalks to get where he needed to go.
“Well if it’s going to be a requirement, I suppose I could use my cart to get to the office… how far do you think that drive is, Bert? Four miles, really? That’s it? Well, I think that can be done, what do you think Bert?” Stan apparently took Bert’s silence for concurrence and continued to share his inner dialog with the bird, “I believe this might not be so bad. Heck, there’s a QuickMart on the corner of 07.03.99 that always has Cherry Icee, I could pick up a few on the way!” And with that it was settled. Stan would work from the office. he would adjust to the unusual hours, after all, an old dog could learn new tricks, right?
Several weeks of Stan being back at the office, things were going great. Many of Stan’s old coworkers had moved on or retired and he found their replacements to be warm and enthusiastic people. Making friends quickly, Stan was so encouraged he decided to throw a party. Handing out the invitations, Stan began to feel a little nervous and wondered if this was a good idea after all… what if no one came? Panic began to rise in his throat and just as he was about to snatch all of the invites back, Douglas from the mailroom asked, “Hey Stan the Man, what’s with these directions?”
“Huh? What do you mean?” Stan looked over the invitation in his hand and couldn’t find a thing out of place.
“The directions, man. They don’t make any sense! Your printer must be messed up or something, it printed all these weird numbers where the street names should be… see?” Douglas pointed to the directions section of the invitation and Stan couldn’t believe his eyes. Of course! Comprehension and relief washed over Stan in such waves he had to sit down. “All this time… it was the directions!”
“What was that, Stan? Are you alright, man?” Douglas was peering down at him with a look of slight concern. Looking up, Stan almost let a tear slide before collecting himself and replied, “Oh yeah, I’m great. Thanks Douglas. I’ll reprint them and get you a fresh one. Oh, and can you bring a batch of your famous Pina Coladas to my shindig? I hear they’re awesome.”
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
Ok, sorry folks, this one ran a little long. Thanks for hanging in there!
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Today, as many Saturdays seem to be, was a day dedicated to errand running. Driving down one of the busiest (and scariest) roads in Orlando, I began noticing all the street names and some of them seemed like whoever came up with their name was either really tired, or high as a kite. This, of course kicked off my daydream tendency and I began to imagine what it would be like to be the one person responsible for naming every street. I would think there would be a lot of pressure, but it could also be a lot of fun (talk about leaving a namesake!). The road in question is also the road I have to take every day to work. It’s about an 8 mile commute that takes me about 25 minutes in the summer semester (I work at a large university) and more than 40 minutes during the fall semester, really annoying seeing how I’m on the same road from start to finish. Additionally, from years of research and very scientific data collection, I have concluded that the percentage of encountering some sort of accident or vehicular breakdown every day is approximately 100%. The dread I feel when driving on this road, surrounded by would-be kamikaze motorists, lent itself to Stan’s manifestation of a phobia of roads.
TWO: I had to have a Cherry Icee today. HAD TO. Understand, children? As a result of this emergency, all errands were put on a back burner as we made for our local Target for my delicious treat. Now that my mouth is the color of a stop sign, and my craving satisfied, I thought it appropriate to include the Icce in the story for today.
THREE: Hanging outside of my kitchen window is a lovely brass and glass birdfeeder that I was convinced would attract all types of beautiful and lovely birds. After waiting a few weeks, with no results I was beginning to get a little bummed, and then there he was. A bright cherry-red papa cardinal! He has visited the feeder just about every day now, and I have dubbed him Bert. I have a tendency to name just about everything I grow fond of, and Bert just seemed to fit. He’s sitting in the feeder even now, quizzically looking at me through the window as I type. Hi Bert!
FOUR: During my travels around town today, I noticed a golf cart for sale on the side of the road. Not in the market for a golf cart, myself (I can’t even putt-putt) I really didn’t give the vehicle much thought until my driver (sounds fancy huh? Read: my boyfriend) had to slam on the breaks because some jack-wagon decided he just had to pull out in front of us at that moment and then slow down. And yes, this is still on the same road I mentioned above. After ensuring that I did not in fact wet myself, I started thinking about that golf cart a little more seriously and wondering if I could just drive that all the way to work on the sidewalks. It would in all honestly cut down my commute time and probably save my sanity in the process. I’m still considering it.
Love & Squirrels.