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Everyone else gets this email, but not you. Sure, it’s happened to the distant cousins and high school friends you follow on social media, but not to you. You’re scrolling past Starbucks promotions and obvious spam emails when you see it—the email that stops your mouse in its electronic tracks.

What could possibly have gone wrong this time? You’re used to getting emails from Martin, but this subject line looks like it’s been copied and pasted from the company handbook. Okay, all Martin’s emails have copy-and-paste subject lines. Your weekly progress report, the monthly office updates, the quarterly company portfolio—all carefully canned. You’ve been refusing to buy into canning, especially because he knows the whole operation can fit in one room, but this form email falls into a new category.

He must have found out something. Charging all that coffee to office expenses must have finally appeared on his radar. Maybe he got Alyson to tell him—as sweet as she is, she couldn’t keep anything from him. But it’s Stacey you’ve been buying coffee for, isn’t it? Alyson just gets the muffins. You know, buy a coffee and get a muffin half off? Anyway, you haven’t bought coffee on the office expenses for at least a month. No, it must be something else.

Maybe he found out that you watch Star Wars in meetings. When he gets talking, he never notices you. With the sound off and the subtitles on, it’s almost like having your own silent movie theater. At least Brent’s happy that you’re back up-to-date on his favorite films. But Martin doesn’t care. You watched all eight (or is it nine?) at least twice, and Martin never noticed. Besides, he couldn’t send you an email like this for doing something like—whatever he must think you did.

Okay, just take a minute and check surroundings. Martin’s door is closed, but you can see him in the glass panel, on the phone and looking annoyed. Alyson’s at the desk nearest the door, paid to be on the phone that she almost never uses. Stacey’s at her desk, industrious as usual. In fact, everything is as usual, so why this email?

Hang on, wait another minute. You’re not in the office, are you? This is your room—the walls that need paint and the desk that creaks and the spiderweb cracks that show on the window when it’s sunny. You’re sitting at the desk, staring at a screen that’s slowly fading. Of all the times to fail—you need to see that email. You scramble under the desk for the plug and almost force it into the outlet, but memories of you and Jared with forks slow you down. Double-checking to make sure the computer’s committed to battery failure, you ease the plug back into the wall socket. The other end isn’t quite connected to your computer, so you click that in as well.

No instant response from your computer, so you rock back in your chair and wait. The sun glints on the spiderweb cracks, making the numbers on your ancient alarm clock impossible to read. Well, it’s not quite ancient—it still has digital numbers—but it’s definitely old. Three minutes, seven minutes, eleven minutes—still nothing from the computer. You almost forget that Martin emailed you at all. What could be so terrible? You haven’t done anything that bad. Have you?

Around the thirty-minute mark, your computer finally whirrs to life. Of course, reloading email takes an eternity and a half. Then the dang thing decides it needs an immediate update in order to function, which drains most of the higher-quality Wi-Fi in your quota. If you tiptoe around the right programs, you can get one look at that email before migration to the coffee shop becomes a necessity. Oh, wait—the coffee shops aren’t open. That’s why you’re at home in the first place, remember? Essential office work is theoretically doable at home. So, two clicks and one look.

First click, reopen email. Risk a quick scroll to find Martin’s email. Wait for the screen to actually scroll, even after you’ve been rotating the mouse wheel like an overactive hamster. Keep waiting for the screen to actually scroll. Oops, you’ve gone too far. Scroll back up past yesterday’s junk. Jared still wants you to come to the family reunion, but there’s Martin’s email. Second click, open Martin’s email. Immediately skip the fancy header stuff. Stacey was right—slime green should not be the company’s color. Skip the header, skip your name, the usual.

Finally, something that sounds a bit less canned. “It is my pleasure to inform you—” Wait, what? Why would Martin be happy about anything? Unless he’s happy to get rid of you. That’s probably it. But he wouldn’t say that in an email, would he? No, there’s no way he’d let his professional etiquette expertise go to waste. Hang on, focus.

“It is my pleasure to inform you that—” Predictably, your computer is starting to fade again. You triple-check the plugs and the battery life. Oh, it must be battery-saver mode or something. The email’s still readable, but you have to slide your computer right next to the window. Now read it before the circuits crash for good, okay?

“It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected by—” Hah, probably selected by the higher powers as a potential cut. Martin’s been looking for that anyway, and in the current situation—but you’re distracted again. “It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected by upper management for promotion into—” Promotion? Martin wouldn’t give you a promotion if you paid him. This makes as much sense as a square circle.

You should probably just read the whole thing—your computer won’t hold out forever. “It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been selected by upper management for promotion into the exclusively online sector of our parent company. Please—” Wait, a parent company? Martin’s not watching, so you type a familiar phrase into Google—and it looks like he isn’t making this up. You were sure he was going to—but he didn’t.

Just as you raise a victory fist, your computer sputters out. Looks like you’ll have to call Martin for once, to make sure this canned email isn’t spam. You can’t help a chuckle. The last time you called Martin—but that’s not important. You’re more than ready to make this call.

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6 comments

Roshna Rusiniya
13:34 Jun 26, 2020

Great story. I really loved the subtle humour in it. Well done!

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13:43 Jun 26, 2020

Thanks!

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Mehak Aneja
05:30 Jun 26, 2020

Fab work!! Loved it. Was tired of reading my story so decided to look for something to read and this one is the best and the most different of all. Could see the passion of narrative. Would you mind to read my story too and share your opinions on it??

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13:09 Jun 26, 2020

Thanks! Sure, I'll give yours a read

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02:22 Jul 02, 2020

Different...fun... loved the irony!

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02:24 Jul 02, 2020

Thanks, I’m glad you liked it!

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