Mandy looked down at the box and then back at Ronnie's bright red face.
"You better take a rest. Let me get you some water. You don't look good at all."
"No, no, don't worry about me. I have four more stops and then I'll hang out in my secret
hiding place for a couple hours. I've got a little fridge in there, so I'll be fine. And I have some
other extra special treats to help me relax—trust me." He smiled and winked. Off he went,
struggling to push the heavy cart.
"Secret hiding place," Mandy thought. "Have these people no pride? Why would he tell me
he had a secret hiding place to begin with? Or is that another clue to the riddle, ‘Things are not as
they appear?' The shock factor never goes away here." Mandy tried to move the box off her desk
but couldn't. It was that heavy. She sliced it open to look at the pins.
The pins were absolutely gorgeous. Each pin was about three inches across, in the shape of
a circus tent. The tent was multi-colored with the ringmaster in the center. At the bottom were
the words "Ringmaster Extraordinaire at Big Top Supplies." No wonder the box weighed so
much. She turned around to find a crowd of people at her door, all waving their nomination
"We're here for our pins! Look, Cassie already has five." Cassie proudly stuck out her chest
to display her collection.
"Wow, Cassie, that's terrific. Line up—one pin for one form." Mandy handed out so many
pins that, once she took care of the last person in line, she could finally lift the box and move it
off her desk. Suddenly Gary appeared showing off two pins on his collar. "Where are yours?"
"No one has seen fit to nominate me for anything yet."
"Nomination, shnomination. I took these out of my box. No one will know the difference.
Notice there are no instructions for recording all these forms anywhere."
"You're getting to be as bad as the rest of them. Ronnie told me he was going to rest in his
secret hiding place for a while after making all the pin deliveries."
"He told you that?"
"Yes, he did. He also told me that things are not as they appear. What do you think that
"Well, Mandy, you got me. But why mess with a good thing?" "Don't you ever want to do
the right thing—for once in your life,
Gary?" She was getting angry.
"Get off your high horse. You're doing the same thing I am by working here. Taking the
fabulous salary and benefits and putting up with all this crap, even though it irritates the hell out
of you."
"You're right, you're right, I apologize. I don't know how much longer I can take this,
"Start putting your feelers out again. It'll make you feel better. That's what I'm doing."
"I don't have any high hopes for that working out. Been there, done that. I chose not to
move to India—that's how I ended up here in the first place. All the good jobs are moving
offshore these days."
"I've got some connections. I'll see what I can do for you."
Just then, two more people showed up at her door looking for pins. Mandy sent them away
with the pins and closed her door, and then broke down and cried. She was disheartened by their
blatant lack of respect for doing the right thing. No one seemed to care as much as she did about
doing what was right and about working hard to earn a reward. It was all just handed out on a
platter for the taking. Her team was competent but lazy. They laughed when she tried to counsel
them on how to improve.
"Why," they would say. "I get a ten-percent raise no matter what, so why bother trying to
push the envelope?" How did this happen? Who created these monsters?
It took only a week for Mandy to dispense all of the Ringmaster Extraordinaire pins in her
twenty-five-pound box. People displayed all of their pins in every imaginable way. They were
worn as earrings, strung on necklaces, attached to barrettes and worn in their hair—you name it,
and it said "Ringmaster Extraordinaire." Mandy wondered how long it took some of them to get
dressed each morning. The pins were everywhere. It gave the appearance that everyone in the
company did such an extraordinary job, and it was so heartwarming—Ha! Cassie had two of her
pins made into earrings, which were so heavy Mandy thought they would pull her ears off.
"Mandy, go see Bozo. He has more pins than all of us put together."
This was announced at her weekly staff meeting after the discussion turned to when a new
supply of pins would arrive at her door. She tried to brush this off. She had purposely not
ordered a fresh box, since it was so annoying to her that they had become a status symbol
instead of a reward for a job well done.
"Really. Bozo's entire shirt, front and back, is covered with pins. He has so much mail at his
desk, it's hard to even find him in there. He's starting to put them on his pants."
"OK, OK. I'll see what I can do." She had fought the battle long enough.
She was caving in to their demands for more pins. She did have a new expense report to
turn in, so, just for fun, she thought she'd check out the infamous Bozo. Sure enough, the mail
was stacked all around his desk. When he saw Mandy coming he stood up to display his pins.
"Bozo, don't you look fantastic! Thanks for doing such a great job for the company." One
thing she knew about Bozo was that he loved to be stroked
He grinned from ear to ear. He had even started to display some pins on the cardboard
"Thanks, Mandy. Don't you just love my new look? I get compliments all day long now."
This was the most conversation she'd ever gotten from him. Well, if it helped bring this guy
out of his shell, then maybe she should ease up.
"That's terrific, Bozo. You look very fashionable. Here's my latest expense report. Thanks as
always for taking care of it for me."
"My pleasure. I haven't gotten a pin from you yet, though. I'll have to process the reports
with pins first."
Oh, here we go.
"I'm sorry, Bozo, but I've run out of pins. I'm waiting for my refill."
"As long as I know it's coming, I can go ahead and cut your check."
"The minute I get them, I'll bring some over."
Shortly after she returned to her office, Mandy heard a fire truck siren. She didn't think
much of it, since it was a daily occurrence for the paramedics to retrieve someone out of the call
center downstairs. Someone faked heart pain down there on a regular basis to get out of doing
an honest day's work. She walked the aisles of her own area to make sure no one was passed out
on the floor. No one was.
About an hour later, the local salesman, Pete, knocked on Mandy's door. His face was
ashen, his hands were shaking, and he could barely stand.
"Pete, what's wrong?" She rushed to help him into a chair. "Let me get you some water."
"No, I'm OK. Just let me sit here for a few minutes."
"What happened?" Mandy sat beside him and held his hand. Tears welled up in his eyes.
"I went to see Bozo, to drop off an expense report." His voice began to crack. "I shook his
hand like I always do. I gave him a shock of static electricity. All those pins!" He held his head in
his hands and began to cry. Mandy's mouth fell open.
"He was electrocuted. Lulu just told me he died in the ambulance on the way to the
hospital. They couldn't get all the metal off in time to revive him. Mandy, it was so horrible."
Mandy tried to hide her shock. "Don't blame yourself. It was an accident. A very tragic
accident." She hugged him. She handed him some tissues. Inside her heart was pounding and her
thoughts were racing.