Trained, he was escorted down an aisle exposing tiny office pods. Each had a chair, a shelf and a computer, that’s it. No drawers or waste-paper basket. His supervisor, a robust woman, paused at each station and said, “This is Oscar.” and moved on. Almost all of the employees, females, didn’t bother to look. A few mumbled something.
The last pod, next to his, a girl turned and said, “Hi Oscar, I’m Mary,” and was shown his office, 4 feet by 4 feet. One had to be careful or the back of your chair, non-ergonomic’, would stick out into the aisle and be wacked. The supervisor said, “OK Oscar, you know what to do, get to it.” To it, was chat over the internet solving customer problems. He was a Tech Supporter. So was the girl next to him; not the prettiest, certainly the friendliest and intelligent. Her penetrating blue eyes and vibrant voice projected that, instantly.
Noon sharp, Mary stood in the aisle behind the newbie’s chair. “Going to lunch Oscar? Our row has this hour off.”
“Yes, suppose so, down to the cafeteria, are you going there Mary?”
“Never, it’s a dump. I’m having lunch in Italy.”
“I thought lunch was only an hour.”
“It is, however if one brown-bags it, can have lunch in a different country every day. Knew you were starting today, packed an extra ham and cheese on rye if you would like to join me.” Mary and Oscar were off.
Rushing, she said, “Not that elevator, down the stairs one flight and we’ll catch an express.” Zoom, the first floor.
Do you have 75 cents?
“I think so, why?”
“Buy a box of cracker-jacks.”
“Pigeons amuse me. Before I forget, I tracked some of your chats. Your answers were according to the manual. I’ve written down some faster and better responses. Hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, thanks, anytime,”
“Well, not anytime or too often. I don’t want to lose my rank as ‘Best Tech’ to someone named Oscar.”
“Oscar is no match for Mary. Say, how far is it, to Italy?”
She gestured across the street to a red awning with green letters, ‘Little Italy Pizza.’ They crossed and entered. Mary spurt out a few lines of Italian to a man and woman behind a counter, who responded in Italian. Oscar understood only one word, his name. Outside he asked, “What was that all about?”
“Practiced my Italian and introduced you. Now, you’ll receive a discount whenever you buy a pizza.”
They walked back across the street, sat on a bench with a view of “Little Italy.’ Fed the pigeons. She told him all about the owners, Mama, Papa and their son, who now delivers, the best job, receiving tips and how they migrated from Italy and worked so hard to open their own store. He thanked her for the ham sandwich it was delicious. She said, “Tomorrow bring your own brown paper bag and we will travel to France.”
After work Oscar saw Mary leaving her pod, called to her, “Where are you going?”
“French classes, see you.” Gone.
Next day, noon sharp, with their paper bags, bought cracker-jacks, walked a couple of blocks and entered the shop ‘Ooh La La’. Mary greeted everyone in French, mentioned his name and told him he would receive a discount on lingerie.
He said, “Good, I don’t wear it, maybe you do.”
“Not as yet, however someday I would like to try it.”
He smiled, “In a month I’m off trial and get a raise.”
Sitting in the park he asked, “What do you do when it rains, eat in the cafeteria?”
“God no, I have a large golf umbrella, keep it in my pod. Still take my trips.”
“Perhaps I should buy one.”
“No need, mine is large enough for both of us, two can fit under it.”
“We would have to sit close. Hope it rains soon.”
“Me too, let’s practice.”
The day it rained the two travelled to Germany. A week later – out of one paper bag, Oscar and Mary had dinner in Romania.