"Just a cup of coffee will be fine, thank you."
"Are you sure? There's plenty. Oh, look, cheese danish! I just love cheese danish, don't you?"
Lulu piled three of the enticing sweets onto her plate.
Mandy suddenly felt nauseated. Lulu continued to talk with her mouth full. Mandy had no
idea what she was saying. She nodded her head politely and threw in an occasional "yes" and
"that's interesting." Lulu glanced up at the clock, which read 10:14. She swallowed all that was
in her mouth in one big gulp.
"Gotta go, dear. Nice meeting you."
She waddled off to the f ront of the room. What happened next was permanently etched into
Mandy's memory. Lulu suddenly started to choke. She began gasping for air, turning blue, and
not one person seemed to notice. Mandy and Gary popped out of their seats and ran to help her.
They both put their arms around her, trying to give her the Heimlich maneuver, which was not
easy on a person so large. Everyone else in the room was staring at them. No one called 911. No
one moved. Finally, what appeared to be all three of those cheese pastries were dislodged and
landed with a thud at Lulu's feet. A wave of muted chuckles and concealed laughter rippled
through the room.
As Mandy helped Lulu to a chair, Gary yelled over the ruckus, "The meeting is over, go
back to work." The stampede began once again.
"Lulu, are you all right? Can I get you some water?" Mandy was unsure how to comfort her
in this situation. It was probably more embarrassing than anything else.
"Water would be nice, dear."
Lulu was breathing heavily. Her voice seemed deeper—not so shrill—and her hands were
"I think we should call the paramedics to check you out at least."
This was Gary's contribution.
"Oh no, dear, I'm fine. I just need to sit for a few minutes." "Gary and I will stay here with
you." Mandy winked at him. "You are both so sweet to come to my rescue." In a very gruff, deep
voice she followed, "None of the rest of those ingrates even bothered to lift a finger." The color
was returning to her face.
"Lulu, let me drive you home." Gary offered the ride before he realized what Lulu's size
might do to the family minivan.
"Oh no, dear, I'm fine, really. I only live across the street. No long commute for me! Maybe
I'll start walking. It might help me take off a few pounds," she giggled. "But you're right, I think
I'll go home."
She stood up and glared toward the back of the room. "Oh, Gary, would you be a dear and
put a couple of those fabulous blueberry muffins on a plate for me? I hate to see all that food go
to waste. What a feast the team will have today at the three o'clock break!"
"Can I get you anything else, Lulu?" He wrapped several pastries in a napkin.
"I need to get my purse from my office." "I'll get it for you," Mandy offered.
"Oh, you are such a dear, but I can't let you do that for me." "Well, then let me walk with
"Oh no, dear. You go back to work. I can find my way to my office by myself."
"Really, Lulu, I'll be happy to get you whatever you need."
Her voice changed tone again and became quite stern. "No, dear, you cannot go to my
office. I appreciate your help, but you have done more than enough. Now go back to work."
Mandy and Gary were both stunned by Lulu's refusal of their assistance. They gathered their
things and headed back up to their offices, leaving her alone in the meeting room.
"What was that all about? Why was she so mean?"
"Mandy, no one has ever seen her office."
"What do you mean?" "It's off-limits. Period."
"No one knows for sure. I'm not sure I could even find it if I had to. If you ever get invited
there, watch out," he warned.
"You know, this place gets stranger by the minute. I think they should charge admission
every morning when we come to work. It's like the carnival freak show around here."
As soon as she said this they came to the holiday cube, which had every inch covered with
brightly colored beads in every shape and size. A mannequin posing as a king was dressed in
full regalia, a lavish purple robe with an ermine collar, and a bejeweled crown and enough beads
around his neck to strangle him. His mask was made of gold and red feathers that stood at least a
foot over the top of his head.
"That's why we love it here so much. It must be Mardi Gras."
A few weeks later, Mandy returned from a business trip on which she had done some field
sales training. This was her first venture out into the world of circus sales. It was a whirlwind trip
through New York City, Miami, and Chicago. In each city she got a different glimpse of the Big
Top sales staff.
In Miami, they all marched into training class with red clown noses and hand buzzers. After
the third jolt, Mandy stopped shaking hands. This group could not sit still. Paper airplanes and
the fake noses were flying around the room throughout the four-hour training session. She
doubted they retained much about the new popcorn machine or the clown pie soap mix that
were being highlighted.
In New York the group was only slightly more subdued. They at least all had nice suits on.
And in Chicago, only two salesmen even bothered to show up. She was told, off the record of
course, that the rest of the team went to play golf. The last sales trainer had never turned them
It was an interesting trip, to say the least. Mandy was happy to have not had to stare at the
pink walls for a few days.
"Hey, Gary!" She called him on the phone from her office. "Mandy, welcome back. This
place was insane without you here."
It was good to hear his cheerful voice.
"The toilet in the ladies room wouldn't stop flushing. It flushed nonstop for hours."
She began to laugh. "Isn't there such a thing as a plumber around here?"
"I guess not. I finally went in there and put all my weight on the handle until it stopped. I
refused to retrieve Violet's BlackBerry until the flushing had stopped. I was afraid of losing my
hand, it was flushing so furiously. My wife wanted to know why I would choose to fix a toilet at
work, while I won't lift a finger at home."
"There's never that kind of excitement in the men's room, is there?"
"No, and I hope there never is. The women were all going crazy over it. Some woman tried
to keep me out of there until she could go home and get her crystals. Something about spiritual
"Hey, how do I file an expense report around here?" "You're in for a real treat. You need to
go see Bozo." "Bozo? Is that his real name?"
"Yep. No one believes it. This is the only company that would hire him. You've probably
seen him during afternoon break. He always wears obnoxious plaid pants. His cube is over there
by the copy machine in accounts payable."
"Thanks for the info."