Tag Archives: fiction

Are Bosses Struggling with Their Remote Employees?

Remote work has caused a dramatic shift in how companies operate and their ability to manage their remote workers. We conducted an interview with a boss whose hands-on approach to management isn’t as effective as it once was.

How has working from home changed your team’s environment?

“How has it changed? (sigh) How has it not changed? In the office, I was able to run a tight ship. I would circle the block of cubicles like a shark, letting everyone know that eyes were on them. The ‘big man’, me, was watching what they were doing. Not a single person was on their phone. No one was talking. Just pure work. Without my presence over their shoulder, what’s to stop them from slacking off?”

Without your… let’s say ‘intimidation’ to keep them in line, how has your team’s performance been impacted?

“Well, you can’t really get a good read on performance through numbers and metrics and all that. Sometimes performance can look good just by pure luck.”

And your team’s performance has been having some good luck?

“Well, yeah. But that’s probably due to the leftover discipline from me running a tight ship in the office. What happens when that wears off? Huh? You know how hard it is to be intimidating through a tiny computer screen. I can’t tower over them from 30 miles down the road, sitting at my kitchen table.”

You think the dropoff in your team’s performance is inevitable if they continue to work from home?

“Without a doubt. I would stake my name on it. It’s not just about me cracking the whip either. I also can’t be as motivational through a screen.”

How did you motivate your employees before?

“Just in little ways to show they’re doing a good job. The men of course didn’t need much motivation, they always did a good job. But the women, you’d be surprised how far a little attention can go. You know what I mean? A casual wink or a firm pat on the bottom can brighten their whole day, even more so if I can find something about their appearance to compliment.”

Has that kind of, uh, ‘motivation’ ever resulted in any complaints?

“There have been a few ungrateful people who tried to complain, yeah. But that’s okay, I know how to run my team.”

You say “tried” to complain. You mean they weren’t successful?

“Hah, how can they be? I’m not doing anything wrong. Besides, the “anonymous” complaint email address just goes to my inbox anyway. People think they’re telling on me, but really I just find out who the snitches are.”

I see… As we wrap up here, I have one final question: Is there anything you think your company can do to make workers want to come back to the office?

“Funny you mention it, I just proposed last week that we cut salaries by 25% for people that work from home. That way you have to show up to get your full paycheck. It’s only fair. And that ought to motivate ‘em, huh?”

End of Interview.

Editor’s note: The comments, behavior, and actions of the interviewed boss do not represent this publication’s views or opinions. 

Update: The boss in question has been fired since the publication of this interview. We have reached out for further comment and he responded with a lengthy rant against certain demographics. The rant will not be featured in our publication as we feel it does not belong in print.

My Wife, The Bartender

Our little girl is 6 months old now, so it’s time for my wife to go back to work. To make sure one of us is always home, I work days and she has decided to go back to working nights as a bartender. Part time starting off, until she gets back into the groove.

Like most people, she was nervous going back to work after such a long break. She wasn’t sure if she would still be able to remember all the complicated drink mixtures or deal with all the tipsy weirdos touching her rear end every night (myself excluded). 

To help ingratiate herself to the friends on the staff, she decided to come up with a hit new drink that would knock everyone’s socks off. She obsessed over it. During the past week she has had me taste a number of concoctions. Some of them were okay, a lot of them weren’t—but the worst was yet to come. 

Earlier this afternoon she had been working on her masterpiece. “Come in here!” she yelled from across the house.

I came in there, hoping I wasn’t in trouble for something I had long forgotten. “Try this,” she said, passing me a suspicious looking mixture.

“What’s in it?” I ask, giving the red solo cup a little swirl.

“My own special blend. I decided to create a drink that no one else can! I call it” (pause for effect) “the ‘Naughty Mommy.’”

Huh, ‘The Naughty Mommy’ I thought to myself as I brought the cup to my lips. A familiar smell that I couldn’t quite place found its way into my nostrils as I took a big gulp. I swallowed quickly, then immediately regretted it. “What the—” I couldn’t finish my sentence through all the gagging.

“No good?” she said, wincing a little apologetically.

“No! What was in it?” I said, pouring the rest of it down the sink, and then rinsing out every last drop.

“Vodka and breast milk… Get it? The ‘Naughty Mommy?’” She said it with a cute smile that almost made me forgive her.

Yeah… clever.

The Personal Trainer

“Listen, Jessica, I know having Lupus can be hard, but you got to stay on your grind, you know?” said her personal trainer Chaz, half shouting over the thumping techno music. “Gains don’t come cheap, you’ve got to recommit yourself every. Single. Day. Can you do that for me?”

“I… I don’t know.” Jessica says between sobs, still clutching her phone in her shaking hand from the now ended conversation with her doctor. “I’m just going to call my husband real quick, okay? He’s going crazy waiting to find out the diagnosis.”

With a deep sigh, Chaz reaches out a buff arm and places it on her shoulder. “You already answered your phone in between sets—don’t you think that’s enough of a break for one day? And I mean, it’s not like your condition is going to change between now and the end of your workout, right?”

“No,” she says before sniffing quickly, making an unpleasant snotty sound. “I guess not.” The relentless music nearly drowning her out completely.

“Good! That’s the spirit! Now let’s get you back in that squat rack. Remember—Ass to grass!”

Fifth of July

July 5th was always an abysmal day in our household growing up. My father so loved the Fourth of July that he would attempt to out-do himself year after year. The summer I was nine years old I distinctly remember hearing him argue with my mother through the thin walls of the house that we could barely afford (mostly due to the exorbitant firework and flag budget). 

My mother had been trying to reason with him, telling him that things had gotten out of hand. He called her a communist and told her to move back to Russia (my mother was Canadian, by the way). She got so angry that she stormed onto the back patio and took to cutting up his favorite apron—an American flag patterned one that said “Kiss me, I’m a Patriot.” We were soon to find out, however, that he had about six more of these in his gun safe. 

That was the same year that our neighbor, old one-eyed Janice, had come into our backyard screaming at my father about the inappropriateness of the all-night firework display on a Tuesday night. My father muttered a comment about her being a treasonous prude as he lit the fireworks he was holding in his hand. Then he removed his cap and started singing the star-spangled banner while launching the fireworks directly at Janice, who had been known as two-eyed Janice before this particular incident.

I still remember how hard my dad laughed, holding his hand over one eye and mocking her wales of pain. But no matter how good of a time he had on the Fourth, and he usually had quite a good time, the Fifth of July brought with it a freedom hangover that would rival the most dismal opioid withdrawals. 

My dad would shuffle from his bedroom, his brown hair knotted and tangled in a strange nest on his head, his bloodshot eyes wincing at even the dimmest of lights, and wearing nothing but his favorite apron, holding a warm half-finished beer from the night before in his shaky hand. I was young, but even then I remember knowing that the beer smelled cheap.

He sat at the breakfast table, simmering in his barely contained fury and disappointment. If his coffee, newspaper, and hearty breakfast didn’t appear within a few moments, his wrath would be uncontained. 

Of course, it didn’t take long of him looking at the newspaper to find something or other to curse the world over. He seemed incredulous and angry that his celebration of America had not fixed the turmoil, strife, and conflict across the nation. He could never understand why people refused to honor his country like he did every Fourth of July. He would look as though he’d never be happy again.

Maybe he never was. Less than a week later he had a heart attack while berating his doctor. The poor doctor was new to the clinic and didn’t read the note in my dad’s chart that said “Offering medical opinions will send him into a blind rage.” 

His last will and testament stated that he was to be buried on the Fourth of July. That his tombstone should be in the shape of a steely-eyed eagle, and the firework display should last from mid-afternoon until the next day. 

My mom refused to do any of those things (for obvious reasons). Within 24 hours he was cremated and his ashes were spread over the gun counter at his favorite Walmart Superstore. All in all, I think he would have been fine with that.

Stuffed Animals – AITA

So, I’ve got a situation and I just want to know if I’m the A-hole here: My son is two years old and loves animals, and naturally, wants stuffed animals. My wife and I have never really bought him any stuffed animals before. He had a couple when he was a baby, but they got so slobbered on and grimy that we tossed them. Well, now he really wants some stuffed animals.

I didn’t see why not, and my wife agreed. She was out of town for work though, so it was my job to pick out some cute stuffed animals. Which I did. Well, she’s back from her little work trip and is Furious (capital ‘F’) with me about the animals I chose.

I got my son 3 stuffed animals: A dog (Dachshund), a cat (orange), and a squirrel. I even went the extra mile to make sure I wasn’t buying them from some terrible corporate oligarch, or from a company that outsources their work to sweatshops. I also went organic, all-natural stuffed animals to produce the smallest carbon footprint I could (because I care about the environment!). 

AND I got a discount because my friend was the taxidermist (See, I’m even financially responsible! But again, decide for yourself who is right).

Long story short, my wife wants to get rid of my child’s treasured stuffed animals because they used to be alive (or something like that). I think she’s making a mountain out of a mole-hill, much like how my friend once made a lamp out of a platypus. And also, my son already fell in love with them! He says they smell kinda funny, but insists on sleeping with them anyway.

So, there’s the situation. Am I the A-hole??

If you liked this story, check out more here!

Interrogating a Mime

Sarge: Alright Jake, bring him in.

Jake: Here he is sarge, uh, but you should now—he, well… he won’t say anything.

Sarge: Ah, so he wants to lawyer-up does he? I knew you looked like a coward, you scumbag.

Jake: Well, no. He didn’t exactly ask for a lawyer. He appears to be a street performer.

Sarge: Street performer? You mean like a prostitute?

Jake: What? No. No, He’s a mime.

Sarge: I see. So that explains all of this eccentric make-up. I assumed he was some weird clown that only wore black and white.

Jake: I mean, that’s kind of exactly what he is.

Sarge: Listen up clown boy! I’m not here for games. You better tell us everything you know about the murder in the alley.

Jake: He appears to be pretending that he’s an obnoxious teen causing mischief in the street.

Sarge: That must be the murderee. We already know who was killed. Get on with the story, what happened to him?

Jake: Okay, he’s leaning against a wall holding his mouth like he’s causally whistling. Now he’s looking side to side like he’s about to commit a crime. Wait, what? Oh! He threw someone down and is now stepping on him with his boot.

Sarge: So that’s how it happened, huh? Some guy on the street attacks a teen and you don’t say anything! 

Jake: Not saying anything is kind of his thing, sarge.

Sarge: How about I grab you by the collar, scumbag, huh? Wanna get roughed up a bit, will that get ya talking?

Jake: Hold on, sarge. He’s writing something down.

Sarge: A confession perhaps?

Jake: It says that he was born mute. He literally can’t talk.

Sarge: Mighty convenient, wouldn’t you say? Oh, that’s right, you can’t “say” anything.

Jake: Do you think he has any proof? Like do they carry a card around or something that says they can’t talk?

Sarge: If they could, this scumbag would probably forge one. Stand up, mime-y, show me a trick. Let’s see if you’re even a mime.

Jake: Oh wow! That’s pretty impressive. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was actually in a box. Can you do the thing where you pretend to pull a rope?

Sarge: Yeah, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say that was a confession! A box? That’s where you deserve to be, right? In a jail cell.

Jake: Look, sarge. This guy may be guilty, but we literally have nothing to hold him on, and I don’t think he’s gonna talk.

Sarge: Alright, alright. But don’t think I’m done with you mime-y. This ain’t over. Now get your butt out of my precinct! Oh yeah… and don’t leave town.

Jake: That guy sure was a weird one, huh?

Sarge: Yeah, he certainly was… Dammit Jake! Did you step in the crime scene? There’s a bloody footprint by the door.

Jake: No, no I wouldn’t. My shoes are clean, see?

Sarge: Mine too… that means—

Jake: Sarge! There’s a note here. ”What’s black and white, and red all over.” A newspaper, right, sarge?

Sarge: …Flip it over.

Jake: ”Answer: A mime who just got away with murder”

Sarge: After that mime!


In my prime, I was the best in the business. No one could run down dealers and addicts like me. Between the two of us, my partner and I received numerous accolades, made dozens of newspaper appearances, and were even asked to participate in photoshoots with various elected officials. He got promotions and bonuses; I got belly rubs and treats. Life was good.

I say ‘was’ because just as you think life is going to be all tail wags and Beggin’ Strips, you get a reality check. I became the very thing that I was so good at hunting, an addict. 

In the business, you see it a lot. Many good boys suddenly have a hard time coping with all the action. It starts slowly: first, you just need it once in a while to clear your mind and feel better. Then, you find yourself skulking around, looking to get more of that sweet relief from anyone you can. 

I suppose I should properly introduce myself. My name is Duke, and I’m addicted to walks.

Not long after my habit started, it began to affect my work. If I didn’t get a nice big walk at least twice a day, I became fidgety and irritable. Not only that, I became ruthless. I once bit a suspect’s ear off on an undercover sting operation when he said he quote “wanted to walk away from the deal,” and then I didn’t get a walk. But fortunately, he was a cokehead and I had a long and distinguished record, so the paperwork got ‘lost’. Everyone in the department looked at me differently though.

At my lowest, I was licking peanut butter from anywhere I needed to just to be taken for a quarter-mile stroll. In the end however, it brought me no satisfaction. I always expected it to be as thrilling as I remember my first walk being, but it never was. Recovering walkaholics call this craving and letdown cycle “Chasing the squirrel.” 

Within a month I was pressured into an early retirement from the force, so my working days are behind me now. I still remember the chuckles from others in the office when someone joked that I was being given my “walking” papers. Real funny fellas, hope you enjoy the turds I left in your desk drawers. 

Since retirement, I have been taking it easy and trying to enjoy some much-needed R & R. It can be hard to do when you’re used to the daily grind like me, and also when you’re battling a pretty severe walking addiction. But hey, one day at a time, right? 

I’m often reminded of something my father used to tell me: “You can’t always be in a race around the track, sometimes you need to stop and smell the hydrants.” He was a wise dog. I miss him, but he’s in a better place now—A farm upstate. A tapeworm got stuck inside his intestines and required expensive surgery to fix it. Luckily, his retirement benefits kicked in so he was sent for surgery at the farm (from the best surgeon around they say!) and he will be recovering for many years. Although the surgery sounds quite serious, I’m glad he gets to spend all that time at a farm because he loves barking at chickens.

As for me, I will be sitting in the shade and taking long, cool sips of water from my bowl as I think about the glory days. I may have done some shameful things, but the good outweighed the bad by a mile. Who’s still a good boy? Me... that’s who.

Madden ’07

“Gooood morning sports fans, this is John here, along with my longtime partner in the booth, Pat. Pat, we have quite the match-up here today, truly a clash of the titans.”

“That’s right, John. The two best players in the household, 14-year-old Dennis and his brother Christopher, who is a few years older, are going to face off in a classic Madden 2007 showdown on the XBOX 360.”

“Pat, isn’t that the system with constant skipping disk errors that can sometimes completely ruin a game by giving the disk a long, circular scratch?”

“That’s right again, John. Some games for the XBOX 360 only make it a week before becoming functionally useless. $70 well spent indeed. Now to focus on the game at hand. Dennis has had a string of bad luck; he’s currently on a losing streak that pre-dates our records. However, I expect to see Dennis finally put together that underdog victory here today.”

“Now that’s where I disagree with you, Pat; once a loser, always a loser in my book. Look for Christopher to once again mop the floor with his younger brother. And here go, they are picking their teams.”

“Fans will remember that Dennis has often suggested that they use the ‘random’ feature to allow each of their teams to be picked at random, evidently hoping that one day he will get the Falcons and his brother will get one of NFL-Europe teams that are for some reason available.”

“Unquestionably. And of course, per their agreement, The D&C pact of 2003, ‘No player, neither Dennis, nor Christopher, can willingly choose the Atlanta Falcons as their team (Or whatever team Michael Vick happens to be on in a given year).’ A fair rule, Pat.”

“As we know, however, Christopher has never agreed to use the ‘random’ feature because he could always see right through Dennis’s ill intent. Rather he prefers to let Dennis choose a team first, and then strategically picks a team that would be best suited to dominate that opponent. A strategy Dennis could neither replicate, nor understand. Isn’t that right, John?”

“Without question. Alright, looks like the teams are set. We have a selection of the Indianapolis Colts for Dennis, no shocker there, but we have a pick far out of left field for Christopher, the Detroit Lions. Now, I don’t need to tell you that no matter what year of football this is, the Lions are never a smart pick, Pat.

“Well, John, would you like to switch your pick for today’s winner now? (haha) It appears that after such a long and illustrious win-streak, Christopher is getting pretty cocky, thinking even with a team such as the Lions that he can still beat his younger brother.”

“I’ll keep my pick, Pat, although this should be an interesting game to watch. Dennis is laughing hard as we head to kickoff, apparently unaware of how insulting Christopher’s decision actually is… And we’re off!”

“There’s the ball soaring through the air, landing in the hands of number 88, the kick-return expert for the Detroit Lions. He’s running, easily dodges a tackle and is brought down around the 35. But wait! The ball appears to be loose. Dennis is jumping up and down on the verge of joyous tears as the Colts recover the ball.”

“Now that’s what we call a big mistake, Pat. In the game of football, when you have the ball, you want to make sure that you don’t drop it at any point while the play is still going on.”

“Well said, John.”

End of 1st QTR:

Detroit Lions – 0

Indianapolis Colts – 3

“Well, John, here we are at the end of quarter one, and a surprising turn of events as the perennial underdog Dennis has the lead.”

“That’s right. Dennis appears to be playing a little smarter today, rather than using his typical strategy of always going for it on 4th down, he is actually allowing his punting unit on the field. As we all know, his ‘Touchdown-or-bust’ offense has seldom paid off in the past.”

“Right you are, John. I wonder if he will be able to contain Christopher’s offense in the second quarter as well as he was able to in the first. Christopher starts the second quarter on his own 20.”

(Seconds Later)

Detroit Lions – 7

Indianapolis Colts -3

“Boom! I guess that answers your question, Pat. First play of the quarter is an 80-yard pass for a touchdown, and the extra point is good. Dennis can’t believe, he’s swearing like a sailor at the tiny computerized cornerback on the screen. (haha) They can’t hear you, Dennis!”

“Right again, John! It’s hard to imagine Dennis winning this game if he can’t get a grip on those emotions.”

“He’s passionate, Pat. Passion is an important thing in a game of football, although this might be a little too much passion for a virtual game of football.”

End of Half:

Detroit Lions – 10

Indianapolis Colts – 3

“Well, John, things aren’t looking too terrible for Dennis. It’s halftime and he hasn’t cried or turned off the game just yet, so he must still think he has a chance.”

“Yes, indeed Pat. With just a little luck and a level head, he could be right back in this game.”

“Dennis steps back with Manning, he has all his receivers going deep, a favorite call of Dennis’s that has never paid off, but there’s a first time for everything.”

“He launches the ball, it has a chance… and it’s picked off. Intercepted by the defense. Well, you have to— Wait! The defender fumbled the ball! Scooped up by Colts and he ran it in for a touchdown. Can you believe it!?

“And the extra point should be—what’s this!? It’s a fake… And the two-point conversion is good! Oh my!”

“Now that’s football!”

“It’s hard to imagine any better luck than that. Christopher can’t believe it! He is slamming his fists down on his thighs, letting loose some expletives of his own.”

“I’ve never seen Dennis smile so big, he’s right back in this one! Let’s see how the rest of the quarter goes, Pat.”

“Here’s the kickoff… and Christopher starts off the return— and another fumbled! Dennis scoops it up for a score! Christopher is beside himself!”

“Dennis is now air-thrusting and biting his bottom lip. It’s hard to imagine this is true, but it looks as though this is the best moment of his life! Have you ever seen anything like it, Pat?

“I can’t say that I have, John. But thankfully Dennis has settled down long enough to get the game started up again and is now wearing a look of moronic determination. He thinks he’s gonna win!”

“Boy, Pat, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Christopher this red. If he loses this game, I don’t think he’ll be able to handle it.”

End of 3rd QTR:

Detroit Lions – 10

Indianapolis Colts – 18

“Here we go, Pat. One quarter of football left, and Dennis is entering with the only fourth quarter lead of this years-long rivalry. Can he hang on to it?”

2:00 Left in 4th QTR:

Detroit Lions – 10

Indianapolis Colts – 18

“It’s been a slow quarter so far, with Dennis unable to add to his lead, he punted to Christopher for one last drive. Two minutes left, Chris is out of time-outs. I tell you, Pat, Christopher needs to do something now if he has any chance of winning this and saving himself from the insufferable victory-dance of his little brother.”

“Well, here we go, two quick completions over the middle and Christopher is past midfield. He’s not giving up yet, John!

“And a trick play! A flea-flicker way down field… it’s caught and he’s all alone! He’s at the 20! …the 10! …still at the 10. What the heck is he waiting for, Pat?”

“Well, John, the screen says ‘controller disconnected’, the batteries must have died. And he is tackled at the 10 with the clock running down low. Maybe just enough time for one more play.”

“You see, Pat, that’s why I’m a fan of the old school. With a wire, the controller stays connected until someone disconnects it. You know what I mean?”

“Yes, of course, John. Oh my! Christopher has had it. He threw the controller to the ground in frustration. It has bounced over and smacked the side of the fragile gaming system.”

“The game has cut off! The game has cut off! Can you believe it! They are checking the disk now and… oh no, it’s all scratched up. The whole game is ruined now!

“No one could have predicted this at the beginning of the day, John. There’s sure to be some conflict due to the ending of this one!


Strangers will often surprise you. That’s one of their worst qualities. I enjoy predictable strangers, who will stand quietly as we ride an elevator together, sit quietly next to me on a plane, or in general, never acknowledge my existence in any way. That would be ideal. I try to be this type of stranger to others. A glaring violator of my preferences is the man who ate at the table near mine during lunchtime yesterday at my favorite Chili’s.

I was there with a co-worker who admittedly is irrelevant to this story, but important to the image I am portraying because I don’t want to be seen as a man who eats alone. We had just received our meals when a man approached our table while his lady-companion took a seat at the table next to ours. I will call the man Jeff because that is what I heard his annoyed companion call him a short time afterward (A saint of a woman if you ask me).

“How much did that cost?” Jeff asked me, gesturing at my bacon cheeseburger and fries in a plastic basket. The fact that he spoke to me at all nearly ruined my meal, but his tone made it worse. He asked the question like he had just walked up to the hotel clerk and asked the wi-fi password. I don’t work here (in case I haven’t made that clear).

I looked up at him and collapsed my eyebrows down further on my face, and then glanced back at my meal as if considering how much it had cost. I knew how much it cost. The prices were right there on the menu, $12.95. “Nine bucks,” I said. You may wonder why I chose to lie, but I don’t see it as a lie. If you ask me a question that you have no right to ask me, it’s not a lie if I tell you the wrong answer. Misleading you is an appropriate response to your rude behavior. You don’t deserve a correct answer.

Now, due to this forced interaction, I can’t help but to keep tabs on Jeff through various sideways glances in his direction. He’s got shaggy hair, in badly need of a cut, but has decided to wear a tattered baseball hat instead. He must be married to the unfortunate woman across the table, because no self-respecting single woman would be seen with a man who puts so little effort into his appearance. My critique is broken by the vibrating phone in my pocket —my brother Josh is calling.

I ignore it, but not just because I’m at dinner. I wouldn’t have answered anyway, even if I wasn’t busy. I don’t have a strained relationship with my brother, but he is the one who wants to talk to me. I’m not going to make myself available just because someone has something to say. Your phone call is just a request to talk. I will respond to your request at a convenient time for me since I’m doing you the favor by making time for whatever crap you want to talk about. Ignoring phone calls isn’t rude at all if you actually think about it. Who are you to dictate 1) that I have to talk to you, and 2) that I have to do it right this instant? You think you can decide those things just because you happen to have my phone number? Get over yourself, a lot of people have my number.

But anyway, making great points about phone etiquette is not the point of this story. The point is, Jeff opened himself up to being judged and I will continue to judge him. I now notice that he has on a Turkey Trot 5K T-shirt (it’s June by the way). But for the sake of expediency, I will ignore the season discrepancy of his attire. A 5K shirt? really? Does everyone you interact with need to know that seven months ago you walked 5K? Is that part of your identity? Between the stupid T-shirt and aforementioned head aesthetics, I determine he’s a shlub. Or maybe, he’s just cheap. I mean, it is a free T-shirt, and he did have the audacity to ask the price of my meal.

As the afternoon rolled on, I picked up more evidence that Jeff is, in fact, one cheap bastard. He suggests some bottom-tier menu options to his wife and then allowed her to order first. A gentleman? Far from it. After she orders, he then quickly slaps his menu shut and says to the waiter, “We’ll be splitting that.” The woman shot him a look that made it clear to me, and anyone else that was as absorbed with that table as I was, that they had not discussed this decision beforehand.

But alright, maybe they are just not very wealthy. Fair point, me. I decided that I would do further research. I look across that table at a clearly annoyed co-worker, so I decide to let him into the investigation, “What do you think?” I say to him, “Is that guy cheap or poor?”

“What guy?” he says, oblivious as a child.

“What guy?” I repeat, incredulous that I work with such a dullard, “the guy that asked me how much this food costs.”

“Oh,” he says dumbly, “That was like… 10 minutes ago. Have you been thinking about him this whole time?”

I shrug and go back to silently eating my food and subtly watching Jeff be insufferable. With most of his food gone, he calls the waiter over to show him something, a hair in his food. Jeff got angry and really animated after the waiter politely suggested that it could be his (Jeff’s) hair in the food. Upon further examination that is a quite reasonable suggestion since its length, waviness, and color all exactly match the hair of the person eating the meal. After some back and forth and one-sided politeness on behalf of the waiter, I see this poor servile man apologize and excuse himself.

Jeff quickly became in good spirits and gave his wife a nod and smile as if to say, “See? It worked.” I know Jeff so well at this point that he hardly feels like a stranger; he now feels more like an awful acquaintance. I finish my meal and see my eating companion is distracted by his phone. That feels rude, but I choose to ignore it since the waiter was heading back to Jeff’s table with the check. Jeff seemed confused that the meal wasn’t free, and then started to pat the pockets of his jeans and the imaginary pockets on his tacky 5K t-shirt before giving his wife an unconvincing look of shock. This show is clearly for the benefit of the waiter who needs to believe that Jeff accidentally forgot his wallet in the car. Jeff left for his car and never came back.

For fifteen minutes I watched his unfortunate wife(?) become more flushed and embarrassed, constantly checking her watch for the time. Finally, I see her look around and then covered her face with one hand as she took hurried steps out of the restaurant and into the parking lot. Jeff then pulled up in a newer model sports car and apologized to his wife until she finally got in. I knew it, a damn cheapskate.

Moments later the bill arrived for my and my co-worker’s meal. “You got this?” I say as I turned to leave. I was already late getting back to work.