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FuNnY OfFiCe: How to Trap a Bat
This story was written months ago, before the recent tragedies in Colorado and Washington D.C. I hope those who read it receive it in the spirit in which it was meant -- as a commentary on corporate America, particularly the security vulnerabilities of many office buildings.
In many workplaces, what I set forth as fiction is actually true -- employees must look out for one another, because their employers make little or no effort to ensure workplace security.
House of the Flying Bats
Acme was an old-fashioned corporation that hewed a little too much to the idea of individual responsibility.
The company had only two safety mottos:
- Run for your life, and
- the devil take the hindermost.
We held no fire drills and had no emergency evacuation training. We hadn't seen an OSHA inspector in over two years, probably because Mr. Acme had bribed him to stay away.
Acme had also endured more than its share of employee drama.
It seemed that we were averaging three mental health emergencies a month, most of them anger management crises.
How to Trap a Bat
We had expressed our concerns, but in an answering memo, management had replied that Acme employees were expected to "get out of harm's way in a timely fashion."
My supervisor was planning to retire on the Reckless Endangerment lawsuit she was building against Acme, but the rest of us had more short-term goals.
Every month the secretarial pool met in the basement after hours and conducted Freakout Drills, complete with football helmets, lacrosse sticks and catcher's vests.
Our manual, "How to Trap a Bat," was written by a secretary who had put in 20 years at Acme and had been instrumental in the capture of a dozen raging co-workers. It read:
Step 1. Surround the trapee in a loose circle. Make waving motions and confusing sounds to distract from capture attempt.
Step 2. Lead trapper and two assistants prepare the net while the others distract.
Step 3. Trappers release the net.
Step 4. Assistants secure the weighted ends.
"How to Trap a Bat" stressed that humane capture should always be attempted first, but if steps 1-4 failed, Step 5 read: Prepare Tazers.
I joined the Trap Team when my supervisor informed me that I had joined. The team was made up mostly of women and led by Hector Finch-Jones from Accounting.
Mr. Finch-Jones was an enthusiastic hunter.
During my time on the Trap Team, we successfully trapped five Acme employees in full freakout mode.
One of them had been convinced that his secretary's desk was the last rowboat on the Titanic, and threw her out onto the floor so that he could climb onto it. Two others had been convinced that the Mayan apocalypse was imminent and hired two priestesses to stand on the roof and wave feathers over the building as the afflicted employees wailed and threw dust on their heads.
We netted them all without incident, unless you counted Mr. Finch-Jones, who kept volunteering to bring his gun and had to be voted down repeatedly.
"It's lots of %&^##% work for nothing, running through the halls with all these heavy nets. I could bring the *%$8%%#s down in an instant with my .45
"What say we bring our guns next time?"
Our record of unbroken success might have made the Trap Team a tad complacent when a real emergency struck.
Or, it might have been that five overweight, mostly middle-aged desk clerks didn't run fast enough to keep up with an insane person. Everyone knows that a lunatic's zeal gives him the strength of ten and the ability to climb up the wall like a fly and to run ike an Olympic hurdle jumper.
The Trap Team learned this sad truth firsthand.
My supervisor burst into the secretarial pool one morning.
"Quick! Get the nets! There's a man downstairs who's screaming that he's going to kill Mr. Acme!"
She shoved me out into the hall, pushing the lacrosse stick into my hand. "I'm calling the others. He's heading toward the elevators!"
By the time we reached the elevators a knot of shaken bystanders told us that the man had been screaming threats and had just taken the elevator to the executive floor.
Mr. Finch-Jones arrived. "Trap team, hoist the nets! We're going to take that $%&^# down!"
I suggested that we call the police instead, but Mr. Finch-Jones wouldn't hear of such a chicken-hearted idea, and we took the elevator to the 50th floor.
When the doors opened at last Mr. Finch-Jones shouted: "There he is! Get him, get him, get him!"
We surged forward, unraveling the nets and huffing down the corridor as fast as we could run. The man was a twentysomething who looked wild-eyed even from a distance of 100 feet.
"I'm going to kill you, Acme! Prepare to die!"
Mr. Finch-Jones sprinted ahead and cornered the man against a wall. "Quick! The net!"
We tossed the net, but the man darted under Mr. Finch-Jones' arm and sped away down the corridor.
"Oh no, he's headed for Mr. Acme's office! Gather up the net, let's try again!"
Mr. Finch-Jones shouted a warning, but the young man reached Mr. Acme's office door and kicked it in.
"Hurry, hurry, he's gotten in!"
We ran full-tilt down the long hall as enraged shouts and the sounds of heavy fighting raged inside Mr. Acme's office.
A sudden, bloodcurdling shriek tore the air.
"Get him off of me! Help, help!"
We burst through the office door to be met by a shocking sight.
The young man, not Mr. Acme, was the one in danger. Our CEO was beating him smartly about the head and shoulders with a small baseball bat.
"I'll teach you to threaten me, boy! I'm going to beat the crazy right out of you, you little 8%&#@% &# &^#$@!"
The young man took to his heels and fled, followed closely by Mr. Acme.
The tables were so unexpectedly turned that some of us actually trailed out into the hall after them, protesting weakly, "No, Mr. Acme -- don't hit him again! Ooohh...Mr. Acme, think of the publicity...ummm...ouch...you don't want a murder on your conscience -- do you, Mr. Acme?"
Anyone who had studied him would tell you that self-reliance had always been the genius behind Mr. Acme's remarkable business success.
However, even those of us who'd worked with him for years were startled by how far he was willing to take the idea.
Still, I had to admit a sneaking admiration for his sand. Mr. Acme had defended himself with a zeal that proved fiercer even than the fires of insanity. He gave his would-be attacker such a whaling that the young man actually begged for the police to take him away.
The Trap Team was so impressed by the strength of Mr. Acme's aggression that we made him the head of our group. We decided, going forward, that if such a crisis should happen again, we will go into battle behind our excessively angry leader.
After all -- when trapping a bat -- it helps to have one with you.