“You’re here for the eleven o’clock interview?” she asks.
“That sounds about right,” I say, feeling lost. “Since I can’t seem to find my desk.” The receptionist squints a smile and makes a single-note hum, which I find unsettling. This musical acknowledgement isn’t new to me, in fact I’m quite familiar with the practice. Nicole from my office does the exact same thing–that curious tonal response, “Mm!” Thing is, it’s always been endearing when Nicole does it because it’s hers. Now, with this girl pulling the same schtick?
She’s caught me off guard, but once I’ve made the realization it’s obvious. Suspicion eclipses any sense of rapport. I have half a mind to call her on her infringement. “Nice hum you have there,” I could say. “Zat something you just came up with all on your own?” Then, like lightning, I grab her mouse and sprint back out the front door.
As the receptionist sends off an instant message, I study her profile. Amazing: she looks like Nicole, too, except that her cheekbones are shallower. Her hair is a touch lighter too, with a kinkier curl, and her eye color is all wrong. If I didn’t know Nicole I wouldn’t even recognize the inconsistencies, but there they are.
The thing that sticks in my craw is that there’s a Nicole-like person doing Nicole-like things, and everyone around her will just assume that she’s the original, when in plain fact this is a myth, and an easily dispelled one at that. Anyone who saw them side by side would understand that this receptionist entity is nothing more than a hastily-cobbled together knock-off; a puppet drone blandly mirroring the real deal.
Still, this receptionist, the impostor, sends me to the couch to wait for my appointment.
“Hey, Chet, howzit going?” she says moments later. I look up and see Chet easing on over to Nicole’s doppelganger. Chet’s just like our lead programmer Erskine, it turns out. He even saunters the same way, in spite of being pigeon-toed. Same floppy ears though, same steam shovel jaw. Chet’s the laid-back guy with a slow sense of humor, and that one sideways tooth. Only he’s duller than Erskine, like the mold got gummy after the first pressing. Secretly I hate them both for blatantly perpetuating this deception.
“Hey, Michele,” he says, and I can’t help but snort. Michele, is it? They both glance over at me for a moment, but I make like I’m working some gristle out from between my molars with my pinky, and they avert their eyes.
When I look back at them, Chet is leaning over Michelle’s desk and planting a peck on Michele’s cheek. Wait, so Chet and Nicole are an item? Michele, I mean. Chet’s obviously unaware that Erskine is gay. See, and that’s the show-stopper. If you’re going to impersonate someone then you can at least strive for accuracy.
A man who looks like Mike, my company’s CFO, walks in, only this man’s hair is ketchup-red. Like Mike, he’s always moving, and wears on his belt a Palm, two cell phones, a pager, and something that looks like a phaser pistol. “Hey, guys, book a meeting room, ha ha.” Mike also laughs at his jokes before anyone realizes they’re not funny.
These people aren’t just mocking my microcosm, they’re willfully violating my bestiary of archetypes. Michele is pointing at me. “That’s your man,” she says.
“Ah, thanks.” He grins and scrambles over to me, doing his fake fist-pumping Mike-like office-jog.
I stand to greet him. “Hey, Mike.”
He laughs. “It’s Stu, actually!” Only to me he’ll be Mike. “Actually I’m not interviewing you today because I’m full up on meetings. I’ll take you over to Rufus’ desk though. C’mon.”
Fucking Rufus? Now they’re just thumbing their noses at me. “Right-o, Mike,” I say, but Stu is already slip-sliding away. On the way we pass by a pretend Leonard, who is known for his gratuitous use of the term “automagically” when talking about any new server technology. He’s talking with a pretend Maya with her subdermal forehead bead implants who, in turn, is waving over a pretend Roxanne, the resident Hello Kitty office goth who is seven feet tall and squeezed into a purple lace-fringed corset.
I can’t wait to meet fucking Rufus.
“Knock knock,” says Stu, and leans around the frame of fucking Rufus’ office door, just like Mike does.
Fucking Rufus. I can’t even summon the words to describe the man. The whole time Stu is introducing us, the man has his eyes locked on mine, and the first thing he says when Stu leaves is, “Fuck you.”
“Fuck you,” I say. I have to say I’m impressed, even through the disgust. Same balding pate, same blue eyes, same hangnails. Same bird legs pale skin neck acne canine fangs–he has the act down. This man’s mere existence is a mockery to everything I am.
I ask him: “Eat lunch alone?”
He says: “The sound of other people chewing disgusts me.”
“Never completely serious?”
“I feel vulnerable when I’m honest.”
“Never look at people directly in the eyes?’
“I can’t risk them finding out.”
I consider him for a moment, weighing the consequences of unprovoked assault. Finally, I shake my head. “I don’t think I’m interested in the position,” I tell him.
“That’s okay,” he says. “We already have one.”
“I wasn’t even interviewing for the job,” I say. “I came into the office by accident and they mistook me for an interviewee. I just went with it.”
He laughs as he comes from around his desk, opens his office door, and gestures me back out into the hall. “I’ve already done that,” he says.
As I make my way out, I know he’s in his office writing blog entries. Idiot.