Dead? He's dead? But what about the two o'clock meeting? - Middle management toadies everywhere

by RICK NOVY ©2021

It is incredible how one person can have so much influence over the success or failure of an organization. Electrical Widgets Corporation recently lost just such a fellow.

His name was Marcus Sedrik, and his contributions to the company were sorely missed. Marcus Sedrik had the ability to come through in a pinch. Marcus Sedrik had worked miracles. Marcus Sedrik could do anything. So they said. Oddly enough, he always did his work by hand.

I remember one project where the design ran weeks late. Marcus Sedrik just returned from one of his mandatory vacations. He took one look at the project and proclaimed that he knew the trouble, and the design would be finished by morning.

Of course, nobody openly admitted doubt that he could do in an evening what the entire team could not do in a month. Deep inside, however, nobody believed it.

The next morning, Marcus Sedrik arrived, sporting a few new lines on his face. He had completed the project, achieving the impossible yet again.

Another incident involved evaluation of some customer return samples. Like usual, the customer insisted upon an impossible timeline to analyze the parts. Like usual, our management agreed to the timeline. Unlike usual, this customer insisted upon the timely results, or we would lose the business.

In stepped Marcus Sedrik to save the day once again. Not only did he figure out what caused the parts to fail, he also worked out a way to guarantee the parts would never again fail in the same way. All in one evening. He came back the next morning with the results. Marcus Sedrik looked as though he aged years overnight. That obvious look of fatigue brought about another of his mandatory vacations.

His vacations were always mandatory. He never requested any. Said he didn't need them. Management forced him to take time off because, despite his cheerful disposition and apparent pleasure at being in the office, the workload seemed to take its toll.

By this time, he had only been with the company for two years. I remember his first day. He looked to be just a few short years out of engineering school. Over those two years, Marcus Sedrik appeared to age twenty. Nobody understood why, and nobody ever asked about it. But, that's why all the mandatory vacation time.

I spoke to Marcus Sedrik just yesterday morning. I had asked for his help on a particularly nasty problem--a customer return that I just couldn't figure out. I gave him the part the day before yesterday, and he disappeared with it. He returned the next morning with my customer return and the answer.

He looked like he had aged thirty years overnight, and he told me the problem had him stumped for months. Months, he said! That, when I'd seen him just the previous afternoon.

I mentioned that comment to one of my other colleagues, but she passed it off as another of Marcus Sedrik's eccentricities.

They found Marcus Sedrik dead in his cubicle a few hours later--died of old age, that's what I think.

After the paramedics left, I sat in front of my desk with my head in my hands, certain I killed Marcus Sedrik by asking for his help. Oh, the result pleased the customer to no end. It just didn't seem worth a man's life, particularly a man like Marcus Sedrik.

I got shocked out of my funk when my boss paid me a visit.

"Go over to Marcus Sedrik's office," he said, "Dig through his files. We need to learn as much as we can about what he did."

I grabbed my notebook and headed over to the now unoccupied office where Marcus Sedrik once sat. His office surprised me in its density. He had left a few files scattered about his desk, including the one he finished yesterday for my project. File drawers completely lined one wall, and more filled what would have been open walls in anyone else's office. All locked.

The cabinets being locked did not bother me in the least. The department secretary said that Facilities would bring her the keys in the morning.

His computer, that's where the real information would be. He had it password-protected, of course. Getting my hands on the password was as simple as a call placed to the IT department, followed by one placed by my boss, and another by his boss, and another by his boss, and another by the Vice President of our branch of the hierarchy.

A complete waste of time, it turned out. His hard drive contained virtually nothing. I shouldn't have been surprised. Marcus Sedrik always produced by hand. Could he have been a technophobe? Super-engineer Marcus Sedrik a luddite?

Five o'clock came and went. I went through what few files the hard drive did contain, but found nothing of consequence. The real discovery should come in the morning, when the keys arrived.

The secretary stopped me on my way in the next morning, and dropped the keys into my hand. Today would be the day. I dropped my lunchbox into the fridge, then threw my coat across the back of my chair before heading back to Marcus Sedrik's office.

I sat down in his office chair and tried to decide where his most valuable papers and other important items might be stored. My conclusion: whatever files he could reach from his chair without having to get up. I swiveled his chair around with my arm extended and decided that the lowest drawer in the cabinet on the left looked the most convenient, thus, promising.

I inserted the key, half-expecting the thing to explode, but it didn't. Instead, the weight of the file folders filling the drawer caused it to open under its own power. I looked in amazement at the files. He had something from just about every project the company had worked on since he started. It would take weeks to go through everything if all the other drawers were just as filled as this one.

After a few hours of digging through the open drawer, I realized most of it would be of interest to various engineers. I had started organizing them into piles when I came across a folder labeled only TSD. I pulled out the file and opened it to discover a small, black box with buttons, including a big red button inviting enough to set my finger in motion. It looked much like a remote control for a T.V.

I couldn't find any kind of brand logo or label on the remote. What could it be for? He had no T.V. in his office. No CD player either. Still, it must be worth something, or else, why would Marcus Sedrik keep it locked up?

I pressed the big red button at the top, but nothing happened. I pushed it again. Still, nothing happened. I pushed it one more time for the hell of it, then tossed it on the desk next to the computer.

Time for a break. That 32-ounce soda I bought on the way to work had finally made its way south, but first, I wanted to get a replacement. I walked down to the break room and dropped my coins into the slot. I pressed the button for my favorite soft drink, Snarky Cola, but nothing happened. Again and again, I pushed in that Snarky button, but again and again, nothing happened.

Perhaps something else? I tried every button on that machine and not one worked. The phone didn't work, either, when I tried to call the vending company. Weird.

Without hope of acquiring a can of Snarky, I went back to Marcus Sedrik's office. On the way, I stopped in the restroom. After all, I still held that 32-ouncer down south. In the restroom, I discovered Sam Balone washing his hands. Only, he wasn't moving. Not only wasn't Sam moving, the water falling from the socket seemed suspended in mid-air. It wasn't moving, either.

I reached out and touched the stream, and my finger got wet. Very odd. Did that remote in Marcus Sedrik's office have something to do with this?

Once I finished my original business in the restroom, I headed back upstairs. On the way back, I poked my head into several cubicles, and whenever occupied, the occupant was frozen just like Sam.

Then, it hit me. How did Marcus Sedrik do the things he did? He could stop time. I hurried back to Marcus Sedrik's office, scooped up that remote, and pressed the red button once more. Then, I dropped the remote into my pocket. With any luck, I could still get my Snarky Cola before somebody else noticed that I left money in the machine.

I saw Sam in the hall and waved as I walked past. I had this gut feeling I wouldn't see him, or anyone else, much over the next two years. I never did learn why Marcus Sedrik dedicated his life to something as fleeting as the success of the company. Me? I had no intention of following in his footsteps.

x x x

An interesting commentary on the world of corporate dedication? Or a study in life-wasting choices? You decide - and tell us about it on our BBS. -GM

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