“Mr. Lomax, I have Susanne on the line as requested.”
I recoil slightly when I hear my secretary’s voice. There is something about the disruption of my stream of consciousness, my thought processes, that a single interruption can ruin my day. I will accept the call because I requested it no more than thirty seconds ago. Was it that long? It’s strange how quickly I can move on from things sometimes. I should probably look into that more, maybe get a second opinion on it. Maybe I just need the motivation or lack of pride to initiate my own calls. Though I think funneling them through a secretary to my employees adds a certain mystery or fear. The truth is they’ve all seen me around the office and I know for sure they haven’t thought much based on my physical appearance. I’m just below average in height, a little overweight, and unattractive in a way that makes me fade easily into the scenery. I’m not ugly, just ambiguous, which I suppose is a good thing. I like that my persona is divorced from my person. It’s like the separation people have in their private and work lives, each distinct in their own way, with limited overlap of friends and acquaintances. It’s like having two lives. I think it’s fun.
“Hello Mr. Lomax. How can I help you?”
I stare at Susanne tapping her foot nervously under her desk. She doesn’t know that I have every inch of her office surveilled. Not just with usual video. I have some of the advanced extras as well – body temp sensors, real-time attitude assessment, lie detection, the works really. Susanne and my other managers know of most of this tech and use it to monitor their subjects. They’ve also been told I don’t use it on them; that they have more autonomy. I find it’s best to let people know as little as possible about how they are manipulated or tracked. They tend to get upset if they find out.
“Susanne, I know we usually meet on Thursday afternoons and this is obviously a Wednesday.” I know it’s actually Tuesday. I like to test how devout my people are to my authority and information. There is no right answer. Some days I like obsequiousness and others I like honesty. It’s about my mood on a given day. I’ve fired people over that. Yet, another thing I need to look into. Whenever I have some free time I suppose. Or maybe I won’t. I’m not sure if I care.
Susanne stops tapping her foot and looks around the room, probably at her desktop calendar, confused for a moment: “It’s okay. What can I do for you?”
“It’s about your pupil there. A man named C. Your little pride and joy.”
“Yes,” Susanne replies.
“Yes, he’s your pride and joy or yes you know who I’m talking about or yes in the general way people talk on the phone and acknowledge the other with a series of yeses.”
Susanne breaks into a little sweat, her heat register gets a little darker red. I like seeing her squirm a little bit. I don’t need to be harsh, but I have to keep in character and I just like it. She manages to say: “Sorry I wasn’t more specific sir. I know exactly who you’re referring and it’s a case I’ve been developing and was hoping to bring to you in our next status meeting, Thursday, tomorrow as it were.”
Susanne adds, “I think he’s ready for the Cognitive Bias Test, the CBT. I know I’ve never had someone take it, and it’s not part of my job to develop the skill in my people, but I saw the opportunity in the way they consumed the first phase materials and processes and thought it was a great opportunity.”
“For you or the subject?”
“Oh, the subject of course, Mr. Lomax.” Susanne begins to beam with a sense of pride. “I think this is a potentially great achievement for our organization. I’ve only heard passing reference to anyone that could pass the CBT, and if he does, we’ll have the personality drivers and correct cadence of materials on file to get someone with his model type to the desired end point, which I’ve never done before.”
“What do you know about it, huh? You’re supposed to get your crew to pass the Basic Bias Test. The easy shit we pay you for and for which you have all the materials and support you need. Now I’m seeing that you’re off the reservation here, out on a limb, putting your neck on the line. I didn’t ask for this and I can’t protect you if this doesn’t sit well with our clients. You know that right?”
“Of course, I’m sorry sir. I was just trying to do my best,” Susanne said.
“What if I told you the CBT is a myth, huh? That your little project is nonsense. Where did you hear about it?”
Susanne tenses up, I have her on edge again, “People talk sometimes and I know how you hate that. I’ll send you a list of everyone that I can remember ever mentioning it to me, even in passing. I’m sorry for all of this. I’ll do better.”
“Good.” I watch her vacillate from nervousness to terror and back again, probably fearing that she’ll lose her job, or worse get demoted, so I stop talking for an inordinate amount of time. I put my line on mute, then toggle through the surveillance of my other staff. After I don’t know how long, a little bored now, I turn back to Susanne’s surveillance, still nervous and scared – “Actually you were right and that’s why I called. I want C to take the test on Thursday. Would you let him know that I’ll be reaching out to him for that?”
Relieved now, Susanne says “Yes, I will absolutely do that.”
“Good work. And be sure to send me that list of people you spoke with about CBT in the next hour.”
I hang up the phone immediately and watch her smile and bask in positive reinforcement for the exact amount of time that it will take her to realize that she doesn’t know if I meant tomorrow, Wednesday, or the real Thursday. She’ll have to prep the guy twice I guess. I have to keep everyone on their toes around here.
Now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of my morning. I could always call Susanne later and act like we never had this conversation just to see her reaction or I could call one of my other employees and interrogate them a little bit. That could be fun or not. It’ll depend on how I feel after breakfast. Meal quality makes me act weird, both positive and negative.
[To Be Continued…]