The story – part 8

“I doubt it.” said Betts turning and walking towards the parking lot. “I own the building and the company.”

“Aha!” shouted George, following after him, “You do need the report. Its your company so you have the report whether I give it to you on paper or not. Even though you throw it away, you need it.”
“Not exactly.” Betts answered, continuing towards his car. “True, I do need the end product, that being the report. But more important is what goes into making the report.

Betts stopped at his car and turned to lean against it facing George. “Any idea what that would be, George?”
George thought for a moment. “Office supplies?” It was all he could come up with quickly.

“Did you eat lunch today?” Betts was frowning.
“The lunchroom food?” George attempted.
“That was a joke.” said Betts. “Go back a step. More important to me than the final product, is the means by which it is generated.”
“The computer!” George blurted out.
“More precisely, the software. The data analysis algorithm that is used to analyze the data that I send is more than just a pretty number cruncher. It’s a learning program. Every time you run a data set through it, it compares it to the last set, determines how you used the analysis the last time and uses the same analysis method on the new set.”
“So it thinks for itself?”
“Something like that. Machine learning doesn’t mean it decides that it likes icecream better than cake, but it does learn from mistakes and past experience, to become more efficient. When you change the analysis results to fit the data better, the software remembers what you did and uses that method the next time.”

“So what is the big secret about that? Why not just tell us and be done with it?” asked George.
“Because people cheat!” said Betts leaning forward, “When people know about the test, they meddle with it, try to fool it, try to cheat. It spoils the analysis.”
“You told me though.”
“I did, but that was because you already cheated.”
“How?”
“The misspellings. You put one in by accident, I think, but when you put in the second one, the program remembered the last one and somehow linked the two, and thought that it was no accident.”
“A typo threw your software into a tailspin?” George grinned a little at that.
“Sounds silly doesn’t it? Something about the two errors in sequence that just hit a soft spot. Its being corrected.”

“So nobody knows? Not even my boss?” asked George.
“He doesn’t know either. Even my ownership of the company is not widely known by most employess in there. I’m quite certain your boss has no clue about it either.” replied Betts.

“What happens now? I mean now that I know.” asked George.
“Now you decide what you really want to do. You can go back to your job and do what you have always done, or you can move on to something a stone’s throw away.” Betts grinned.
“Quit?”
“Do you like your job?”
“Not really. Not any more.”
“Do you want to do something different? Something more?” Betts asked folding his arms, almost impatiently.
“I do.”
“Good. I have other companies with other positions that would suit you better. You just need to say the words.”
“Which words?” asked George.
“I quit.” Betts said in a whisper as George heard footsteps coming up behind him.

“George!”
George turned to see his boss standing behind him.

“Mr. Stanton! I thought you were out today?” said George looking startled.
“I was, but I came by after my meetings to pick up some things. Hello, Elliot.” he said turning to Betts.
“Good to see you.” said Betts reaching out his hand and shaking Stanton’s. “George here has something he wants to tell you.”

George could feel the heat welling up in his face.

“Oh? What’s up, George.” his boss asked.
“Uh, I need to…I mean…maybe we should talk about it inside.”
“No, its ok, we can talk here.” his boss assured him.
“I’d much rather we went inside.” George insisted.
“Why inside?” his boss looked a little annoyed. “Just out with it George.”
“No, I really think that-“
“Just tell me, George, I don’t have all day!” his boss interrupted.

“I quit!”

The Story – part 7

Betts bent down and picked up a rock about the size of his fist off the ground and, turning towards the parking lot, hurled it directly into the lot full of parked cars.

“What are you-“ George was cut off by the metallic thunk of the rock bouncing off the roof of a car in the lot. “You hit someone’s car!” he finally got out.
“Maybe it was my car.” said Betts, almost to himself. “Do you know what that is the sound of, George?” he continued more loudly, still facing the lot.
“A car. You hit someone else’s car!”
“That,” continued Betts, seemingly oblivious to George’s frantic response, “is the sound of a rock hitting someone I created.”
“Cars. You make cars?”
Betts let out a laugh. “No, not cars.” he said squatting down and selecting a slightly smaller rock. “Line workers in factories make cars.”

Betts turned towards George again and hurled the rock over his head towards the building. George winced and hunched his shoulders at the sharp ricochet sound the rock made as it bounced off a glass window.
“And windows? You make cars and windows?”
Betts laughed again. “You’re not getting this, George.” and he bent down and selected yet a third rock.
“Wait!” pleaded George, “You don’t make cars and you don’t make windows, so how do you say the rock hit something you created?”
Betts weighed the stone in one hand and tossed it to the other. “You see things in such macroscopic terms, George.” he said tossing the stone back and forth between his hands. “A car, a window, most things made by man are less than the sum of their parts.”
“You mean greater than.” corrected George.
“Are you certain? Look at a car in the parking lot. It is one car. You sit in it, you drive it, you park it. One car. One purpose. One function. Think for a moment of the energy poured into building it. Melting steel, molding plastic. The wiring, paint, electronics, and the labor to put all the pieces together. All that you get out of that energy, is something that drives you to work.”

George thought about this while Betts inspected the stone momentarily.

“More than just the energy needed to build a machine, is the energy consumed in creating it. The hours of labor, the materials, the testing, the hundreds of prototype machines built before it, all consumed to make that one final product. A single product with one function. Once the technology is created, building the machine based on that technology is a forgone conclusion. The sum of the parts, the sum of the labor, is so much more than the final product, that actually building it almost seems a waste of time entirely. Trivial compared to the science that brought you to that point. Given that, George, what do you think it is that I do make?” Betts held the stone in one hand now.
“The parts?” George guessed.
“Warmer.” said Betts with a slight grin.
“The technology that creates the parts?”
“Exactly.” said Betts tossing the stone up between them and catching it again.

“How much technology can there be in a window?” said George doubtfully.
“You tell me, George. How do you think you make a smooth, flat 6 foot by 8 foot sheet of glass? Roll it on the counter with a little flour and a really hot rolling pin maybe? Mix in a little paprika to give it that nice dark tint? Then paint it with a big can of silver spray paint to make it reflective?”
“I’m sure its something a little more technical than that.” said George defensively.
“No, its a lot more technical, George.” said Betts, pointing his finger at George. “And the part of it that makes it more technical is precisely what makes it so much more important than just a window on a building.”

“I’m trying to understand the point here.” George was starting to get annoyed with Betts, customer or not.
“That’s where we starting this conversation isn’t it?” said Betts tilting his head.

George had lost track in all the discussion and rock throwing.

Betts continued. “You asked me what the point was of preparing reports if they were just being thrown away. I say, you spend all that time, effort and energy, only to generate something that is essentially worthless in comparison to the work put into it. Would you agree?”

George nodded.

“George,” said Betts pointing behind himself at the parking lot. “I can throw a rock in almost any direction and hit something I created. How far do you need to throw a rock to hit something you created?”

George looked down at the report in the trashcan next to him.

“Yes.” said Betts. “That is the point.”

Betts turned and threw the rock up at the light on the end of the lamppost near them. The rock hit the glass globe squarely, shattering it and sending the shards of glass tumbling to the ground.

“You make street lights too?” asked George grimacing at the sound of the glass breaking.
“No. That was for fun.” said Betts grinning broadly.
“Eventually security will be out to talk to you about that.” said George folding his arms, having had about all he could stand of this.
“Probably not.” said Betts turning and walking towards the parking lot. “I own the building and the company.”

to be continued…

The Story – part 6

Betts stared up at him for a moment and then lifted his hand, holding up the report, and tossed it into the trashcan without breaking eye contact with George.

George sat down in his chair, sulking. His head was spinning. He kept trying to remind himself that it was just a report and it didn’t matter what Betts did with them after they were out of George’s hands. It wasn’t his report. It wasn’t even his place to care about it.

Yet, it felt wrong to watch it be thrown away. He knew his work was important. Why else would they pay for the reports? He knew they had to be done correctly. Something wasn’t right, obviously, but it seemed to George that it was more than just the reports being thrown away. Somehow there had to be important information missing that would make it all make sense to him. Betts didn’t seem to the type do things mindlessly. There must be a real reason for all of this.

The next day, George worked on his report at usual. He gathered the data, analyzed it all, and compiled his report. It was a good report, as always, but he wasn’t very happy about it, knowing where it was going to end up. It made him angry just to think about it.

As George leaned back in his chair scowling at the ceiling about the report, his phone rang.
“Yes?” he said into the speaker.
“George, Mr. Stanton is not in this afternoon. He wanted you to give the report to the client for him.”
“What?” George stammered leaning forward in his chair.
“The report, George. Give it to the client?” she said slightly condescendingly.
“Uh, ok.”

George sat back in his chair again after hanging up the phone. He supposed now he would get to see Betts’ reaction in person, which made him a little bit nervous.

When it was time to meet Betts, George printed his report out and headed down the hall. When he reached the lobby, he found Betts waiting there for him.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Betts.” said George holding out his hand.
“Hello, George.” said Betts shaking George’s hand firmly.
“Here’s today’s report.”
“Thank you.” said Betts taking the report and stuffing into his coat pocket.
“Uh, did you want to look it over?” George was more than a little disappointed at Betts not even glancing at it.
“Oh, I’m sure its fine. I’ll have a look at it later.” said Betts, winking at him.
“When you throw it out!” George was shocked at his own outburst, like someone else was shouting out of his mouth for him. Betts only grinned.
“Perhaps.” he said “Is there something on your mind, George?”
“There is. What is the point of preparing those reports if you are just throwing them away? It’s a useless waste of time and money!” George blurted out. Betts continued to grin.
“It sounds to me, George, as though that is really something you should be asking of yourself.” and he turned his head ever so slightly to one side, and blinked both eyes in an exaggerated slow motion.

George was a little taken aback at Betts’ reply as well as the annoying facial gesture, and he there stood staring blankly at Betts.

“Come with me, George, I want to show you something.” George followed Betts out the front door to the edge of the parking next to the trash can. Betts pulled the report from his pocket and tossed it in as he stopped and turned around to face George. George started to speak, pointing at the report in the trash as Betts interrupted him.

“George, tell me what you do all day.”
“I analyze the data you send, put it in a report, and you throw it in the trash.” George replied rather testily.
“Excellent.” said Betts grinning again “Now, do you know what I do all day?”
“Generate data?” said George, grasping at straws and failing.
“Wrong!” said Betts loudly. “Let me show you.”

Betts bent down and picked up a rock about the size of his fist off the ground and, turning towards the parking lot, hurled it overhand directly into the lot full of parked cars.

to be continued…

The Story – part 5

Then, his brow began to wrinkle a bit, a look of puzzlement came across his face, and his mouth dropped into a small frown as he looked up at George.

“What is this you’ve written here, George? This doesn’t make sense.”
“Uh, what’s that, sir?” said George, feeling the color draining from his face.
“Right here.” George’s boss pointed his fat finger at a spot on the page, and he leaned the papers across the table towards George.

George looked down and scanned the page. He spotted the error and put his finger on it, and tried not to let his finger tremble.
“Ah, you see,” he started, “I’m thinking that maybe this-”
“What? No, not up there.” his boss interrupted, “Down here!” George’s boss was pointing to a paragraph farther down the page.
“Oh. Uh. Um. Yes, that’s the technology transfer assessment. I used quarterly summaries instead of annual accumulations. It looks unusual in the cost correction table, but the coefficients are easier to process when its merged with delta discrepencies.”
George’s boss sat back in his chair and thought for a moment.
“Brilliant!” he finally blurted out, “Another fine job, George.” He got up from the chair and took the report with him as he left the office.

George stood there, still facing the empty chair. He had sweat on his upper lip. He still felt all shaky about his Boss looking at the error. It took him a few minutes to collect himself again, to get his head thinking calmly again. What an incredibly stupid idea that was, he thought to himself. Not only did he feel as though he had barely gotten away with it, but the pressure was far more than liked to deal with in his job. Worse than that, now that his boss had let it go, he would have to make the change before it went…to the customer!

George’s alertness went from stunned shock to overload in a flash as he realized where his boss was heading. Once again, he found himself racing down the hall after his boss, trying to head him off before reaching the customer. Like before, George was too late to stop his boss before meeting the customer, but unlike before George did not stop when he rounded the corner, and came running right up to his boss as he spoke with the man in the dark coat.

“George!” his boss said, looked a bit startled. “I was just showing your report to Mr. Betts. George, I would like you to meet Mr. Eliot Betts. Mr. Betts, this is George Stapleton. He’s been preparing your reports for many years now. I’m surprised you haven’t met before now.”

George was still out of breath from the running and a bit embarrassed at looking so disheveled. “Good to meet you, Mr. Betts.” he stammered out, “Uh, about that report, I wanted to talk about the-”

“No need George.” his boss interrupted. “I was just pointing out the technology transfer assessment to Mr. Betts already.”
“Fine work, George.” said Betts slowly. He had the slightest of grins on his face as he said this, and stared at George with the most peculiar look, as though he were expecting George to say something funny.

“Uh, thank you, Mr. Betts. I’m glad it meets with your approval.”
“Oh yes, definitely. You can’t imagine how important these reports are to our company.” The grin was there again.
“That’s probably true. I guess that you need them for…?” George left the question hanging in the air, hoping Betts would answer, but George’s boss broke in.
“For business!” and he let out a big laugh. George and Betts each gave small chuckle, but George was certain that Betts looked as though he was pleased at not having to answer the question.

“Well, Mr. Betts, if you are satisfied with the report, we won’t detain you any further.” said George’s boss, stretching out his hand to Betts.
“Thank you again for your good work,” Betts said as he took George’s boss’s hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you George.” and he extending his hand to George.

“I’m glad we had a chance to meet, Mr. Betts.”
“As am I, George.” he said with the grin.

Betts turned and walked out the lobby door, and George and his boss headed back to their offices. George had forgotten all about the error he had put into the report. Apparently, it was not a concern to Betts. And there was something very peculiar about Betts’ behavior. Something about the funny grin. It was almost as if there was a joke running in his head and he was still going over the punchline.

George walked to the window as he thought. He looked out the window at the parking lot. His gaze drifted downward to the trashcan, and there stood Betts, looking up at him! George got a chill down his back when he realized Betts was looking directly at him. Betts stared up at him for a moment and then lifted his hand, holding up the report, and tossed it into the trashcan without breaking eye contact with George.

to be continued…

The Story – part 4

Then George saw his boss hand the report to the man with the dark coat.

He watched as the man read the flipped the cover page and read through the first pages. George grimaced waiting for the man to mention the error. He couldn’t imagine how embarrassed his boss was about to be. His boss had never yelled at him before, but being embarrassed in front of the customer may be just the thing that pushes him that far.

The man continued reading for a bit and then a broad smile came across his face. He looked up at George’s boss and they exchanged a few words. George couldn’t hear them clearly, but he could see the man mouth the word “excellent”. The man and his boss shook hands and turned and walked in opposite directions.

George almost fell over himself trying jump back out of view before his boss saw him. He ran down the hallway to his office again and looked out the window at the parking lot, trying to spot the man going out to his car. Shortly, the man emerged from the building and headed for the gate – and the trash can. George watched as he approached the can.

The man stopped right next to the can and held the report out as if he was going to drop it in, but froze in that position for a moment, as if he were reconsidering. Then he flipped the cover page over again and briefly scanned the first page which contained the error. George watched curiously, wondering why the man was hesitating. Eventually, the man flipped the cover page back over and tossed the report into the trash, just like before, and headed into the parking lot.

George sat back down in his seat and thought about all that had just happened. The report clearly had a glaring error, yet neither his boss nor the customer had made any comment about it. If the customer had indeed seen the error, he didn’t say anything to George’s boss. If his boss had seen the error, he would not have handed it to the customer. Yet, it did not seem likely that they would miss an error like that.

The entire situation set George’s mind to thinking for the rest of the week. At first, he went back and checked his previous reports for the past 3 months to see if other errors had gotten past him, but he found none. He even reread his most recent report to see if perhaps he had read it wrong, which of course he had not. This still left him with the question of why nobody noticed the error.

George decided he would do a test. It was risky, but the results would be worth seeing. He would intentionally put a mistake in the next report and see if his boss catches it. If his boss does not, he can simply stop him before he gives the report to the customer, since George will be standing right there. If he does catch it, George will simply make the correction and no harm will be done. It seemed harmless enough, but George still felt a slight twinge of guilt. Slight.

The next day, after he had finished his report, George searched for the best place to put the error. He didn’t want it so subtle that it would be easily missed, but didn’t want it to be so overt that it raised suspicions. Finally, he found a place which read “column 35 clearly indicates…” which George changed to read “column 35 dearly indicates…”. George was pretty pleased with his choice and even grinned a bit to himself as he printed out the pages.

He gathered up the report and walked down the hall to his boss’s office.

“Here’s today’s report.” he said, setting it down lightly on the desk.

His boss picked it up and scanned through it. George waited nervously as his boss read through the page with the implanted error. He seemed to be scanning over one section more than once. Then, his brow began to wrinkle a bit, a look of puzzlement came across his face, and his mouth dropped into a small frown as he looked up at George.

to be continued…

The Story – part 3

George rolled over and closed his eyes. Tomorrow would be a very different day.

Over the next few weeks, George continued to work as diligently as ever. He prepared his report each day as always, and his boss always gave him the same approving review of his work. For a while, he was bothered by the thought of the report ending up in the trash when he was done, but he tried to focus on the fact that it was only important that the report was prepared and given to the customer. Whatever happens after that, is not important. Sometimes it was hard to keep that in his mind.

At the end of the day, George often looked out the window, wondering the man whom he had seen throwing his report away would come back. He wondered what the man thought about when he read the report. He wondered if he was ever curious about who exactly wrote that report.

Once, when it was raining, George was certain he saw the man standing in the parking lot. The rain on the windows may it hard to see outside as it twisted and distorted the images of the cars in the parking lot under the dark rain clouds. George squinted looking through the dirty glass, but eventually decided it was one of the lamp posts.

George sat back down at his desk and finished up the changes to his report. He printed it and stapled the pages together and slid it into a folder for his boss. The entire routine of preparing the report was very mechanical for him now. After years of practice, it was almost like he was running on auto-pilot. Type, print, prepare, and finish. Just like clockwork.

George walked to his boss’s office and handed him the report. His boss thanked and praised him as usual upon reading through it. Just like clockwork.

George returned to his office and cleaned up from the day’s work. His papers tended to get strewn about the room as he progressed through preparing the report. It wasn’t that he was messy, just that the work required a lot of printing and revising and as he worked he needed to spread it out to see it all. When the work was done, he could clean it all up.

As he was finishing, he noticed he had left the report open on the computer. He leaned over the keyboard to close the document, but as he did he happened to glance at the very first line of the report, which read:

“The accumulated data, for the mouth of October, conclusively demonstrates that…”

The mouth of October? How could he have written that? He read it over again to make sure he saw that right. It was definitely there. George had never handed in a report with a mistake on it like that before. Maybe years ago, and certainly not one recently that would reach his customer.

George ran from his office and down the hall to his boss’s office. He wanted to stop him from giving that report to the customer with a typographical error in it. Especially in the first line!

George skidded to a halt in front of his boss’s empty office. He stood for a moment and then ran down the hall to the meeting room where he was certain his boss was meeting with the customer. He stopped outside the door and listened. But there wasn’t a sound coming from inside. He opened the door slowly and looked in, but there was nobody inside.

Then he heard his boss’s voice down the hall. He ran down the hall and slowed as he came to the corner at the far end. He peered around it to see his boss talking with the tall man in the dark coat! The same one who had thrown that report in the garbage. His boss had his back to George and it was hard to hear what they were saying.

Then George saw his boss hand the report to the man with the dark coat.

to be continued…

The Story – part 2

George grabbed his coat and ran downstairs and out the door to the trash can. The man had already left the parking lot by the time George came outside. George looked around to see if anyone was nearby, and then reached into the trash can.

The trash can was about half filled with papers, old food, bottles, and all kinds of rubbish that people had been throwing in it all day. However, it only took a moment for George to spot the packet of paper off to one side, which he immediately recognized. It was indeed his report. He pulled it out of the can and stared at it, not believing what he was seeing. He could not figure out why it had been thrown away.

He took the report and walked back into the building. Once inside, he stood against the wall in the lobby, wondering what he should do. Maybe he should throw it back in the trash and forget about it. Maybe this was all a mistake.

Just then, as George stood and thought, his boss came by as he was leaving for home. George quickly stuffed the packet of paper in his pocket.

“Goodnight, George!” his boss said.
“Uh…um…yes…goodnight!” stammered George.
“Is something wrong, George?” asked his boss, stopping in front of him. “You look upset.”
“Something terrible has happened, sir.”
“What?”
“Its hard to say.” He pulled the crumpled report from his pocket to show his boss. “It was in the trash can outside.”

George’s boss took the report from George and looked at it briefly. Then said “Come upstairs with me. We need to talk about this.”

They both walked up to his boss’s office and sat down. George’s boss sat in his big chair behind his desk and George slumped himself into the cushioned chair in front of the desk.

“George,” his boss started “this must make you feel awful.” He held the report up in the air. “I know you worked hard on this and to see it discarded must make you feel pretty badly.”

“Yes.” said George looking down at the floor.
“I want you to know George, that your reports are stellar. Our customer is very pleased with your work and pays us well for it, which is why I can pay you well.” George had heard his boss tell him this many times and he knew it to be true. His boss continued.

“Let me ask you something, George. Do you remember those steaks you grilled last week?”
“Yes, sir.” George recalled telling his boss about them and how they had come out just perfect.
“As I recall, you like yours medium well, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“So, how did you explain that to Carl at the meat counter.” George was confused.
“I don’t understand.”
“Well,” said his boss leaning back in his chair “you bought those steaks from Carl, and he cut them just for you. Certainly you let him know that you would be cooking them medium well and you asked him if that was ok, didn’t you?”
“Well, no, why would I do that? He’s just selling steaks.”
“Really? But didn’t he work on them? Didn’t he do a good job?” George was starting to see where this was going.
“Sir, steaks are not the same thing as reports.”
“Aren’t they? You work just as hard as Carl, you make a product for your customer, and you are paid for your work.”

George was sure that there was a difference, but just couldn’t figure out what it was.

“George,” his boss continued, “our job here is please our customers. They need a well-written report and we provide that report to them. Whether they save it or throw it away after receiving it, is not our concern – no more than it is Carl’s concern how you cooked that steak he sold you. For whatever purpose our customer needs his report, our job is to get it to him.”

His boss was starting to make sense. Maybe George had become too attached to his work and forgot that it really was something he was making for a customer. Maybe he was being selfish in expecting the customer to revere his work as something more than what it was. A report.

“Let me say again, George, that your work is outstanding. I hope this has cleared up any confusion you have about what happened today.”

George left his boss’s office feeling a lot better than he had going in. He still was unhappy to see his report thrown in the trash, but maybe that was the problem. It wasn’t his report at all. It was the customer’s report. Just like those were his steaks, not Carl’s.

That night, George lay in bed thinking about all that had happened that day. He thought about his report in the trash and what his boss had told him. He thought about the steaks. He decided he had been looking at his job wrong for years. He had been viewing the reports as a creation of his, to be admired, but it was actually a product to sell to a customer, nothing more. He realized that pride in one’s work had to come from within.

George rolled over and closed his eyes. Tomorrow would be a very different day.

(to be continued…)

The Story – part 1

Once upon a time, there was a man named George. George had a very important job. Every morning George would get up and hurry to work. He would wear his best suit and his best shoes. He knew that part of his important job was to look important too.

At work, George would sit at his desk and write important reports. Every day, someone would give him the important information and then George would prepare his report based on the information. George knew that the customers depended on him to prepare the very best report that he could, and so he worked hard.

At the end of each day, he gave his report to his boss. The boss would smile and say “George, this is the best damn report I have ever read. You can be certain our customers will be very happy. Here is a large pile of money for your work today.” The boss would then hand George a bundle of money. And George was happy.

So it was, every day, day after day, year after year, with George creating a report and his boss giving him money. But one day, something happened that changed George’s life forever.

At the end of one day, George brought his report to his boss. Like always, his boss told him what a great job he had done and gave him some money. But then his boss added “Today, our customer is here. I will give this to them personally.” George was excited. A customer! Although he was not allowed to meet them himself, he was excited to hear what they had to say. So, while his boss was meeting with the customer, George crept up to the door and listened to their conversation.

“This is our report for you.” his boss said. Then there was a rustling of papers.
“This is excellent!” said a man’s voice. There was more paper rustling as the man flipped through the pages of the report. “I hope you are rewarding the person who wrote this.” the man added.
“Oh yes,” said George’s boss “and he is our very best employee.”

George was beaming. The customer was happy and George’s boss had said such wonderful things about him. He walked back to his desk grinning from ear to ear. He sat at his desk for a bit, thinking about all he had heard. He wondered if his boss might tell him about the conversation, and thought about how he would have to appear surprised (and thankful), as if he had no idea about what had transpired in the room.

George stood up to get his coat and happened to look out the window. Down below he saw a man walking out of the building with his boss. The customer! It had to be! George leaned on the glass, trying to see him clearly. He was a tall man in a dark coat and he was wearing glasses. George could see a packet of papers in his hand. The report. George’s report! The man stood there and talked to George’s boss briefly, then they shook hands, and each turned to walk away. George’s boss walked into the building and the man walked towards the cars in the parking lot. Then the man did something unexpected.

As the man passed a trash can, he dropped the report into the trash. George was stunned. Maybe he had seen it wrong. It was a long way down to where the man stood and there was a bit of dirt on the window. Yet, he was certain that there had indeed been a paper in the man’s hand and it was quite clear that now there was not. Maybe he put the paper in his pocket and actually threw out a tissue, George reasoned. He wasn’t certain.

George grabbed his coat and ran downstairs and out the door to the trash can. The man had already left the parking lot by the time George arrived outside. George looked around to see if anyone was nearby, and then he reached into the trash can.

(to be continued…)