It wasn’t the usual time for his coffee, or his normal machine, but when he saw her approaching down the corridor he straightened his tie and flicked his quiff, no time for a quick comb.
“Good morning,” he said in his brightest tone.“Good morning,” she replied with a friendly smile.
How are you today?”
“Fine thank you, and you?”
“Fine, fine.” He moved the charm control into first gear. “Can I invite you for a cup of coffee?”
“Thank you very much. I still have to work out which one of these buttons to press.” She ran a well-manicured finger down the menu on the machine.
“New here are you?”
“Yes, first day.”
“I thought I hadn’t seen you before. You’ll soon get used to it. It’s not complicated. They even have the same machines for the girls on the factory floor and they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed.”
“Should be no problem for me then.”
“No. As I said, you’ll soon get the hang of it, if not you can always call me.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“All the drinks are the same price now. I think some of the girls had difficulties adding up when coffee, milk and sugar were priced separately with the old machines,” he said without a trace of humor.
“It’s made it easier for us then.”
“Yes, now, let me see…” He made sure what he called his ‘smouldering look’ was on his face as he eyed her from head to toe and back again, paying particular attention to the left hand: no ring.
“You look like a black without, right?”
“Close.” Again the friendly smile. “White with actually.”
They both laughed.
Fishing the tokens out of the pocket of his slim-hipped trousers did not go as smoothly as he would have liked. “You get these from the canteen.”
“That, I’ve already found out.” She held up a token.
“I usually get ten pounds worth at a time; lasts me a couple of days.” His laugh sounded and looked artificial.
“Drink a lot of coffee do you?”
“Goes with the job, I guess.”
“Yes, when the pressures on, which it is most of the time, coffee’s my drug I’m afraid. Can’t think without a cup of the old caffeine in my hand.”
“I find it’s too much of a diuretic myself.”
He pulled in his stomach and puffed out his chest. “I’ve never had the need to follow one of those dieting plans.”
She smiled. “Well, thanks for the coffee.” She turned on her heel and began to walk away.
“Nice,” he said, loud enough to be heard, but quiet enough to be denied.
“Sorry,” she said, half turning.
He held up his cup in a ‘cheers’ salute.
“Sorry, I thought you said something.”
He tried what he called his Robert Redford smile and eyebrow lift. When it didn’t seem to be having any effect on her, and he couldn’t hold it any longer he said, “Did I see you coming out of the Marketing Department just now?”
“Yes. Ooo this coffee’s hot.”
“Thought so. You must be the new secretary.” Eased into second gear. “That means we’ll be working together soon.”
“Yes. I’m Wayne by the way.”
“Nice to meet you Susan.” He offered his hand.
She stepped back towards him and took his hand if only to confirm that it felt like it looked, ‘wet fish’. “Nice to meet you also Wayne,” It did. “So, you’re in Marketing?”
“Well, not right at the moment.” He rested one hand against the wall and took a nonchalant drink of his black coffee. “Ooo, ah ah, you’re right, it is hot. Someone must have set the temperature wrong. I’ll have to get someone to look at it.
“You’re in maintenance at the moment then?”
“Maintenance?” He started his false laugh, but saw that there was no hint of humor on her face.
“Yes, ‘get someone to look at the coffee machine’ you said.”
“Oh, no, no.”
“You said you’re not in marketing at the moment.”
“ No, but I‘ll be moving into the department in the near future.”
“Oh good. Where are you working now?” Her dark eyes looked directly into his.
He tried his smouldering look again, but it was spoilt by the soreness in his mouth caused by the coffee. “They were desperately short of people in the Order Handling department, so I offered to help out for a while.”
“Sorry I’m new here, what’s Order Handling?”
He looked at the nails on his right hand, but resisted the strong temptation to polish them on his lapel. “I check all the customer orders against our stock lists.”
“Wow, sounds like a big job.”
“Oh it is.” Nudged into third gear. “One of the most vital parts of this company’s business.” He was aware of an approaching figure, and tried to avoid eye contact.
“What are you doing in this neck of the woods Wayne, a bit far from your loading dock aren’t you?”
“I’ve just been up to the finance department Mr Robbins.”
“All dressed up as well.”
He glanced at Susan and shook his head, too vigorously for a simple no. “Not particularly.”
“Suit and tie, very smart. Those young girls in the post room had better watch out.”
Wayne tried his laugh again; it didn’t work again.
“Who was that?” asked Susan.
“Mr Peter Robbins, the sales manager. I’ve known Pete for a long time. Yes, Robbo and I are always joking with each other.”
“I’m lucky, I’m meeting all the important people on my first day.“
“Yeah, you’ll soon get to know who’s who around here.”
“What did he mean by ‘loading dock’?”
“Your friend, Mr Robbins, said you were a bit far from your ‘loading dock’.”
“Oh it’s a technical term used in order handling, to do with putting documents into the correct file.”
“Probably too technical for me.”
“Probably. Yes, I can honestly say that without the Order Handling department this company would have no income.”
“But you’re moving to Marketing? Won’t you miss being on, what do they call it, the cutting edge?”
“They’ll just have to manage without me. It’s clear my future lies in marketing.”
“I don’t know much about marketing, what do they do?
“Travel around, entertain customers, that sort of thing.”
“Is that what I’ll be doing in marketing, traveling around and entertaining customers?”
He gave a little laugh. “No, I don’t think you’ll be doing that. That’s what the managers, your bosses, do.”
“And you’re going to join them?”
“Well, all that traveling and entertaining, it’s in my personality.”
“I can see that.”
“Yes, you’ve either got it or you haven’t.”
“And I’m sure you’ve got it Wayne.”
“You’d better believe it, darli … Susan.”
“I bet you can’t wait to get started.”
“Well, It’s been on the cards since I joined. Just a question of them finding the right slot.”
“And now they’ve found it?”
“Was only a matter of time really.”
“Of course. When are you moving?”
“Depends on the new VP of Marketing. The present one is a bit slow at making decisions, and, so I’ve heard, doesn’t like to employ anyone who might threaten his position, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh I do.”
“But I’ve heard the new one is a lot more open to different ideas” A dab on the accelerator put him into top gear. “I don’t know when he arrives but maybe you could make sure I get an appointment with him, like ASAP. You get in early here, create a good impression.”
“Oh I’m sure you’ll do that.”
“Too many people around here ready to muddy the waters, if you know what I mean.” He winked.
“Oh yes, yes.”
“Now I know he’ll be busy, but I’m available any time. Just give me a call on 381.”
“Well, I’ll see …”
“I’ll see you alright.” Again the wink.
“… what I can do.”
The Director of Personnel bustled down the corridor. “Ah Susan, there you are.”
“Mr Grade, the cavalry has arrived at last.”
“Good morning Mr… Mr…”
“Halten, Shipping, Mr Grade.” Wayne almost stood to attention.
“Ah yes, Mr Halten. Good morning.”
“Good morning, Sir.”
“Now, Susan, …”
“I was wondering, Sir, if I might have a word with you, Sir.”
“Can it wait, Mr …”
“Yes, can it wait Mr Halten? I’m rather busy at the moment.”
“Wait? Yes, Sir, it can wait. Yes, of course it can wait, Sir.”
“Good. Now, Susan, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. …
“Certainly it can wait, Sir. You just let me know when it’s convenient for you, Sir. Any time for me, Sir.”
“Yes, OK Mr …”
“Halten, Sir. Wayne Halten.”
“Yes, OK, Mr Halten, Wayne. Now, … now, Susan, I’ve been looking everywhere for you, I thought I’d managed to lose the new Vice President of Marketing on her first morning with us.”