The elevator doors opened. Maya Morano stepped out, nearly overwhelmed by a single thought: The world is mine.
“Morning, Ms. Morano,” the receptionist said. “Congratulations on your award Friday night.”
Triumph sang an aria in her soul. She wanted to pump her arm and shout, “Yes!” like an NBA player after a perfect three pointer, but she knew better than to let loose. Reining herself in to a proper corporate humility, she gave a slight nod and said, “Thanks.” There was a time and a place . . .
She spotted her boss chatting with another employee outside an office nearby. She paused in the reception area, pretending to need something from her briefcase. But as she opened it, she mishandled the case.
It fell with a thud. Files scattered everywhere. Her ploy to get attention had succeeded—far beyond her wildest dreams.
“Why I am such a klutz?” she said, a little louder than necessary. She didn’t have to fake her reaction. The embarrassment that turned her cheeks pink was all too real.
“Let me help—” the receptionist said.
“Thanks.” She said out loud, but inside she was thinking No! Not you . . .
She sensed her boss approaching. She looked up, offering him the smile that had been so instrumental in earning Friday’s award. “Good morning, sir. If you don’t mind, I thought I’d work from here this morning.” She waved her arms above the mess on the floor. “I do like to spread out.”
“I’ve heard of employees wanting a bigger office, but this . . .” He knelt beside her to help, “is taking that urge to new heights.” He winked. “I think we can do better than this.”
Game. Set. Match.
She gathered her things with the help of her boss and the receptionist, then saw they had an audience. Other workers had noticed. She could see what they were thinking by the looks in their eyes.
Being on the receiving end of envy was very satisfying.
Maya leaned the “Top Seller” award plaque against the wall of her cubicle. She hoped it was a temporary measure. An award like this should be hung on the wall of a proper office, not tucked away in an anonymous, gray-paneled cubicle, leaning.
Soon. The boss indicated you deserved a real office. Be patient.
She set her briefcase under the desk and shoved it out of the way with a kick of her foot, nearly toppling the trash can. She sighed. She really was a klutz. But she was working on it, getting better. Every day she got closer to being the person she wanted to be. With a quarter-turn of her chair, she focused her attention on her computer screen. With a touch of her cursor, it came to life. Today’s schedule glowed with multi-colors: green tabs for inter-office meetings, orange tabs for prospective client meetings, blue tabs for personal appointments, and red tabs for any HTDs—her personal shorthand for Hate To Dos.
She needed that code, her own warning system, stern orders to herself that on this day, at this particular time, she had to do something she disliked. The content of HTDs varied, but usually involved babying some existing clients who needed reassurance that the office equipment they’d ordered from her was right for them, and that Maya had given them the best price. She hated this part of her job. She was lousy at pasting on a smile, pretending to care. “Service after the sale” may have made a grand motto for the company, but in reality it was tedious work that Maya believed took time and energy away from getting that next big sale.
A coworker peered over the cubicle. “Hey, Maya. I would say congrats on the award, but both you and I know . . .”
“Leave me alone, Brian.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
Another coworker approached. “Congratulations, Maya. Way to go on the award.”
Brian shook his head and walked away.
“What’s with him?” Susan asked.
Maya shrugged. “I don’t know. Sour grapes, maybe?”
Then she put a hand on the award, hoping Susan would bite.
She did. “Is that it? Let me see.”
Maya held it close to her face like a game show cutie showing off a prize. She did not let Susan touch it. “Work hard, and you too can get one of these someday,” she teased.
“Fat chance,” Susan said. “I turned forty today. You youngsters have too much spring in your step for me to catch up.”
Young? Hardly. At thirty-three, Maya felt the years rushing by.
A delivery person appeared, carrying a bunch of balloons. “I’m looking for Susan Bates?”
At the sound of her name, Susan looked up. “Hey, that’s me.” She took the balloons. “Thanks.”
Maya examined the silvery globes bobbing above Susan’s head. They were kind of hokey, but nice, in a weird sort of way. “Who’re they from? Look at the card,” Maya said.
“Doesn’t seem to be one,” Susan replied.
“Well, enjoy the gift from your secret admirer. Meanwhile, we’d better get back to work.”
“Work. On my birthday.” Susan looked at the balloons wistfully, then sighed. ”I don’t know where you come up with your clients, Maya, but if you have any extra, send a few my way, all right?”
Not in this lifetime.
Susan headed back to her workspace. A few seconds later Maya overheard their boss say, “Happy birthday, Susan.”
“Thank you, sir. People are being so nice. Joyce brought a cake. It’s in the break room. Make sure you get a piece.”
“I’ll do that.”
During the exchange, Maya set the award aside, flipped open a file, fanned a few papers out on the work surface, and picked up a pen. She leaned forward over the work, jotted some random numbers on the margins of a page, then moved her calculator close, adding something to anything as she waited.
“Busy at work I see,” her boss said, on cue.
She pushed her chair back and tossed the pen on the desk. “Always.” She pointed at her daily schedule glowing on the monitor. “I’m clearing up the backlog so that I can visit a client who has some issues about some damage on his last order. I know he should just call claims to handle it, but—“
“But you want to give him personal service.”
Not really. If he hadn’t insisted on the meeting I wouldn’t be going. But since I’m going, he’s going to be eating out of my hand before I’m through with him.
“That’s commendable, Maya. That’s the way we do things here at Efficient.”
“I aim to please.” You. I aim to please you.
“It’s not just about sales. I wish more salespeople realized that.”
“Carry on.” He walked away.
Maya looked at her award. Her boss was wrong. It was all about sales.
Her future depended on sales.