Lisa Criss Griffin: Fixing the Screwed

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Fixing The Screwed

by Lisa Criss Griffin

“Oh, no…I’m totally SCREWED!” Kendra whispered to herself guiltily. She stared at the small screwdriver wrapped in a tiny red bow resting on the computer keyboard in her cubicle. She was completely humiliated! Kendra fervently wished the floor would suddenly open up and suck her down into the anonymity of total darkness for the rest of her workday.

It was the latest fad going around the office at BotTech. Ever since the recent H.R. policy was implemented to change accountability to workgroups instead of individuals, the actual offenders were being revealed by the subversive gift of a decorative screwdriver from unknown sources! 

Kendra knew she should have taken care of making the arrangements for the conference room for this morning’s meeting a week ago. Unfortunately, she had completely forgotten about arranging for the conference room until yesterday and had spent a good part of her day scrambling to find an appropriate place for the meeting. She had finally wrangled a room in the basement from the Safety Committee, who were not thrilled to be relocated to a corner in the cafeteria across the hall. The tone of the nasty email they sent her regarding the change was still burning in her brain.

She reached out and snatched up the little screwdriver, hurriedly hiding it in the unfathomable depths of her fashionably large purse. Kendra looked furtively around the office to see if anyone else had noticed it. Multiple heads instantly popped down behind the sea of beige cubicle walls, reminding her of the game of “whack a mole” she used to play as a kid. A chorus of muted murmurs drifted by her cubicle as she put her purse away and turned on her computer. At least it was a minor offense, and thus a tiny screwdriver. Unlike the screwdriver, poor Lance Bastian had received a week ago.

To be fair, Lance had really screwed up. He was about to leave on vacation and in his haste to wrap things up, he sent the wrong file to his team. His file was a big part of a major project and his team had panicked. Fortunately, he had been able to access and send the correct file the next morning when he came back in to work for his remaining half day. 

Lance had not gone on a vacation in two years. It had taken him that long to recover financially from the vitriolic divorce he had barely survived. In the end, he had given her almost everything in order to put a stop to the pain. It had been worth it to him, even if he had to start over financially, to get the vindictive woman out of his life. Thankfully, there were no kids involved, and he was truly free of her once the divorce was final. The sad part was that he had really loved her, tried to make her happy, and he never cheated on her. She decided he had cheated though, and nothing he said or did could change her mind.

Lance had walked into his cubicle at BotTech the morning before his vacation was to begin and found the large screwdriver with a big red bow propped up against the side of his monitor screen. Poor guy…somebody had even downloaded a new screensaver to his computer. Shortly after turning on his computer, multiple screwdrivers slowly rotated in unison as they scrolled across the computer screen. Lance promptly rectified his error, deleted the screensaver and hid in his cubicle until he could escape at noon. He could not wait to get on the plane for Florida so he could spend the next two weeks on a beach with no one to answer to! 

Nobody was sure what Lance did with the large screwdriver since it was nowhere to be found after he bolted out the door at precisely twelve o’clock. Some of Lance’s teammates were sorry they had taken it so far, and they hoped they would have the chance to make it up to him when he returned. Lance was a good guy and very well liked among his coworkers. They knew the hell he had been through and now regretted causing him any further angst.

Some of the more pragmatic employees seemed safe from the public humiliation of the dreaded screwdriver, but not always. The highly efficient receptionist who fielded and directed all the business calls within the company had accidentally transferred an incoming call from the V.P. of one of BotTech’s best customers to Sanitation. The guys in Sanitation were convinced they were being pranked, and the whole conversation had easily and predictably devolved into a highly inappropriate verbal carnival. The Sanitation Department was a separate entity from BotTech, so beyond lodging a complaint with a faceless voice in another state, the kerfuffle was out of BotTech’s hands. 

Except for Judy the receptionist. It really had been an honest mistake; the two extensions only being different by one digit, but Judy found the dreaded screwdriver tied to her phone the next morning by a festive red ribbon. Fortunately, Judy was known for her exceptional sense of humor, and she simply found the whole thing amusing. She even made a little sign for her desk that she propped up behind the decorative screwdriver, announcing:

“Excellence comes with smidgens of imperfection!” 

Of course, the story of the whole debacle had made the rounds throughout the company by then, and various people stopped by to chat about their common human imperfections with Judy over the course of the day. Moments of spontaneous laughter filled her workday, including guffaws over imaginative scenarios involving several of the irrepressible pranksters within the Sanitation department. Judy went home giggling and feeling somewhat vindicated. 

The reaction to Judy’s screwdriver turned out to be the pivot point in everyone’s view of the dreaded tool. People began to acknowledge the fact that everybody screwed up sometimes and usually tried to fix their mistakes. Subsequent decorative screwdrivers began showing up along with small notes of encouragement!

Ted drug his feet as he entered the office area, convinced he had a freakin’ screwdriver waiting for him in his cubicle. He sighed as he trudged between the endless rows of beige cubicle walls toward his workspace. His twin brother was dying of cancer and he had been distracted and preoccupied lately. He recently miscalculated some figures that had thrown off the specs for his team’s project, putting them behind schedule. 

He had stayed late yesterday to fix the error, but now he was barely functioning on a couple hours of sleep. Ted had gone directly to visit his beloved brother after fixing his mistake. He spent most of the night sitting next to his brother’s bed, holding his hand and reminiscing about their lives together. Ted felt the hot sting of tears in his eyes once again as he turned the corner and entered his cubicle.

Sure enough, there was a dang screwdriver wrapped in a red bow resting at the base of his monitor. But there was something else. An envelope with his name on it was taped to the screwdriver under the red bow. Ted wiped his eyes, wondering what kind of fresh hell he was in for now. 

He sat down and removed the envelope from the screwdriver, pulling out a small card. Ted took a deep, rather shaky breath and opened the card, steeling himself for further humiliation. His face relaxed in surprise as he read it.

“Ted, thank you for taking your valuable time to help us get our project back on schedule. We know your time with your brother is precious and we wanted you to know how much we appreciate you. You did a good job fixing the problem for us.”

The card was unsigned, but it didn’t matter. Suddenly, the screwdriver was a symbol of appreciation for something he had fixed for his work family! Ted put the decorative screwdriver beside his monitor along with the card of encouragement. He folded the card open so he could read it during his workday. Ted found himself smiling the rest of the day, and there was a spring in his step when it was time to leave. 

Melanie watched Ted leave, wondering what had caused such a difference in his behavior. She hurriedly shut down her computer and almost ran out the door. She was a single mother and her schedule left little wiggle room for unexpected surprises. Melanie glanced at her cell phone, noting the time. She had to pick up her kids from the babysitter on time, or she was afraid the sitter would quit. 

Melanie was developing a new marketing strategy with Brian and Kelly for BotTech, and she could not afford to fall behind. She had downloaded some of the most promising ideas to Dropbox so she could work on them at home after the kids went to bed. 

Melanie pulled up to the babysitter’s house with five minutes to spare. She hopped out of the car and knocked on the front door. The door swung open, and two excited little boys piled into her waiting arms. 

“Mommie! Mommie!” they cried as they covered her face with boyish kisses.

Melanie hugged them close, aware that moments like this were why she worked so hard to be able to take care of the little fellas. She helped the boys into their car seats and buckled them in for the ride home. Both children were already sleepy as she pulled into the garage. She turned off the car as the garage door shut behind them.

She fed them, gave them their baths and read them a bedtime story as they both nodded off. Melanie tucked both of them in, kissing their sweet-smelling foreheads gently. She turned off the light and barely closed the door, making sure to leave a crack so she could hear them if they needed her. 

Melanie pulled out her laptop and began working on an idea she had for the company’s marketing proposals. Her eyelids grew heavy as the hours passed, and she finally fell asleep on the couch, the bluish glow of the computer illuminating the faint lines of exhaustion in her youthful face.

Morning came before she knew it. Two bouncy little boys woke her up, clamoring for some breakfast. She immediately fixed them some oatmeal and juice, laid out their clothes and turned on their favorite cartoon. She hurriedly dressed for her workday. She had a meeting with Brian and Kelly this morning to go over their ideas and she had overslept. She tried to text Kelly that she was running late as the garage door slowly opened, but her cell phone was dead.

Melanie dropped her little ones off at the babysitter and quickly drove to BotTech. She was already thirty minutes late for the meeting and she was a bundle of nerves. They had allotted an hour for the meeting, so she hoped it wouldn’t be a total loss. Melanie rushed directly to the meeting room. It was empty. 

A wave of fear washed over her as she reluctantly made her way through the endless beige cubicle walls to her work station. Would she even get a chance to share the innovative marketing idea she had come up with at home? Was her job in jeopardy? She had never been late like this before, and had never missed a meeting. She wondered how pissed Brian and Kelly were right now. She was afraid she was about to find out as she neared her cubicle.

Melanie plopped down in her office chair, staring in dismay at the ominous screwdriver resting by her mouse. It was adorned with a curly red bow…and something else. She reached out hesitantly and picked up the envelope lying under the screwdriver. This was the stuff of her worst nightmares. She could not afford to lose her job! Tears welled up in her eyes as she pulled the card out of the envelope. Melanie felt her throat tighten in apprehension as she slowly opened the card.

“Melanie, we have rescheduled our meeting for one o’clock. After noticing the information you placed in Dropbox yesterday evening, we realized you must have worked at home late last night after getting your boys to bed, and most likely overslept this morning. We appreciate the extra effort you are making for our new marketing campaign. We are excited to hear what you have come up with!”

Melanie exhaled slowly, realizing she had been holding her breath while she read the note. Relief flooded her entire being as she had an aha moment. Her coworkers knew her situation. They valued her enough to extend her some much-needed grace. It was wonderful to be acknowledged as a person rather than just a company resource! Melanie smiled as she moved the ribboned screwdriver and the card to the side of her desk…out of the way, but where she could still see them. She needed reminders of her intrinsic value in this world. No, not just her, everybody needed them!

The evening of the company Christmas party finally arrived. There was real excitement among the BotTech employees about attending the festivities this year. The atmosphere in the office had changed dramatically since the decorative screwdrivers began to appear with the notes of encouragement. People had decorated their cubicles and everybody was much more cheerful. The usual sea of beige had been transformed into a riot of festive colors, and someone had started a very popular Christmas treat table. Spontaneous bursts of laughter aptly described the mood in the workplace, especially since the guys from Sanitation had discovered their penchant for humor was appreciated by the office personnel.

Walter Fox, the Human Resources manager, leaned back in his chair as he twirled a pen through his fingers thoughtfully. He had been quite concerned how his folks would react to the new policy mandated by corporate a couple of months ago. It had not been well received at other BotTech plants, and people had been losing their jobs. Walter was worried when the screwdrivers began to appear. He was pretty sure that type of accountability was illegal, but he had been unable to catch the perpetrators. 

Walter Fox had decided not to interfere after the notes of encouragement began to accompany the decorative screwdrivers. Walter could understand the backlash against the new corporate policy. He didn’t care much for it either, but his hands were tied. Sure, there were always people who could, and would, find something to gripe about. But this had been different, and he could relate to the frustration his employees felt over the policy change.

Then, something wonderful and unexpected happened. His employees chose to encourage those who were making mistakes instead of simply condemning them. The decorative screwdrivers were now visible testimonies of support by fellow staffers. People were actually displaying them on their desks as evidence of goodwill and peer validation. The whole attitude in the office had shifted and he reveled in the sounds of merriment outside his office. 

Walter chuckled at the audacious nerve of whoever had dared to dream up the crazy screwdriver protest idea. The beauty of it was that it had morphed from a petty protest into a unique way to encourage and validate fellow coworkers who were struggling. 

Walter stood up, cleared his throat and stepped out of his office into an atmosphere of frivolity flavored with a hint of freshly baked sugar cookies. He looked around the expanse of colorful cubicles and smiled enigmatically. It would be an extremely cold day in hell before Walter Fox revealed that he personally…had been the very first recipient of the dreaded and by far the largest, decorative screwdriver at BotTech!

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