Thomas reminds me of a certain long-winded CEO from a deal long since past who I used to call "The Dirigible." This owing to the way he floated around, his massive inertia rendering him unable to operate without dozens of men hanging from ropes guiding him in and out of his hangar, at the mercy of the prevailing winds, filled with hot air, or at least some lighter than air gas, the fact that he occupied an unduly amount of space, was prone to sudden, fiery explosions and was highly annoying to the other, faster air traffic trying to navigate in the airspace in order to actually get somewhere.
True, it also just tickles me to picture a certain movie scene with Ken McMillan ("Bring in that floating fat man, the Baron.") when I remember the inflated CEO, but really my analogy lends a bit too much importance to Thomas' description. News announcers would ignore, I think, his spontaneous combustion. Or, at least, none of them would be compelled to cry, "Oh, the humanity!" Come to think of it, they would have ignored the CEO's spontaneous combustion too, well, aside, perhaps, from firing up "Bang the Drum All Day," by Todd Rundgren on the PA speakers throughout the office.
Thomas turns out not, in fact, to be the head of Human Resources. He is the Chief Operating Officer and CFO. I take this to mean that he manages the company's employment issues and payroll. The Debt Bitch later explains it to me when I tell her his title: "Yeah, he's the head of Human Resources."
The Blond calls Thomas and starts to explain the situation. She gets about as far as, "...and so, like, we found that none of them," and here she is interrupted in the background by The Other Blond ("Not none of them!") before correcting herself with "...practically none of them are, like, signed. And so we have been trying to..." At this point even I, standing halfway across the room, can hear the "Fuck!" and the click of Thomas hanging up on The Blond. Somehow, though, she keeps talking. And keeps talking. And keeps talking. In fact, from the initial click to the point where I can hear approaching the loud, heavy footfalls of what must be a very corpulent man in shoes with bad heels, is about 18 seconds. They grow in intensity, like a scene out of a bad horror film, until, finally, right as The Blond is starting in with "Hello? Hello? Are you there?" around the corner rounds Thomas "Many of our clients find pants confining so we offer a range of alternatives for the ample gentleman" Falder, CFO and COO of Challenge, Inc. All 380 pounds of him.
And then, the moment that will always remain with me, The Blond starts in with inane chatter and Thomas, with surprising agility for a man of his gravity well, presents her with an open palm in the best, "talk to the hand because the face ain't listening" execution I have ever seen performed live. He doesn't even add a vocalization. It occurs to me, just then, that Thomas' mastery of The Blonds could be a clue that it is not just his mass that is substantive. They sit up and shut right up.
As if he weren't already an imposing figure, the floating fat man then produces a green laser pointer and wordlessly directs it at the file in The Blond's hand. In stark contrast to the frantic and nervous tenor of her previous drivel, she now recites things in a methodical, fact-based litany that any auditor would appreciate. "Well, Mr. Falder," no "Thomas" anymore apparently, "there are 600 employee files with employee contracts in each folder. There are non-disclosure agreements separate on all of the files before last year, when we re-wrote non-disclosures into the employment agreement itself. At least 530 of these and the employment agreements have never been countersigned by the company." The word "like" is never uttered.
I blink again.
The dirigible is a fucking hypnotist. Or maybe more accurately, a dog trainer. I have to get a green laser pointer. I just have to. He is silent for a moment, the laser temporarily extinguished. He turns, scratches his chin, furrows his brow and then turns back. The laser pointer shifts to the file cabinets. The Blond jumps to respond. "All the files are here, Mr. Falder. These are the only copies." How the hell did she know the question?
Finally, he speaks. "Besides the people in this room, who knows about this?"
Now, dear readers, whenever you hear this phrase, be exceptionally careful. Do not, under any circumstances, make the mistake I proceed immediately, by sheer force of habit, to commit. "Just the people in this room," I reply.
Falder turns to look at me, someone he never noticed in the room before now. I realize my mistake. I failed to use either the hypnotized monotone, or the frantic "Blond Panic" (tm) voice. The "Blond Panic" voice would also have been a mistake, but Falder would probably have just pointed the green laser pointer at my mouth and I would have fallen into a trance-like silence and he would have, after furrowing his brow and looking curiously at his laser pointer- had the batteries weakened?- been comforted enough to forget the incident. From the look on his face it is deadly obvious that I am no Blond (literally or figuratively). He has detected something like intelligence in me, and that this is both unexpected, and threatening.
I am suddenly in the glare of the Gorgon.