T H E__S E R V I C E__I N D U S T R Y:
(Note: The Service Industry is written by college students at Mount Solomon College, a two-year Catholic technical school located along the Bordeaux River in Cairo, Illinois. It has no basis whatsoever in reality. Or maybe it has some basis in reality. There is a chance, however remote, that it is based very closely on actual events and actual people, written by a consortium of suicidal tramontanes who know their subject matter, but cannot be trusted with the information. Either way, we ask you not to hold the makers of McSweeney's responsible for this or any other episode of The Service Industry. These words are sent to us, and we give them to you. We are a simple people. A peace-loving people. Our motto: "We Mean No Harm.")
- - - -
Raymond E. Harper, the editor-in-chief of Fanfare: The In-Flight Magazine of the Gulfstream Jet Set, was the very picture of prosperity. His Anderson & Shepherd suit, his Hilditch & Key shirt, his Turnbull & Asser tie, his New & Lingwood shoes -- all announced to the world that he was a Powerful & Important man. He was in Liz Smith only that morning, for Chrissakes. What was it she'd described him as? "A High Priest of the Global Parish?" Not bad for an 85-year-old spinster. At least she'd spelled his fucking name right. So why wasn't he happy?
By rights, he should have been luxuriating in the events of that afternoon. He'd just returned from the VH1 Magazine Awards, where Fanfare had picked up awards in three different categories: 'Airbrushing,' 'Celebrity Wrangling' and -- the one he was most proud of -- 'Least Hideous Annie Leibovitz Cover Shot.'
More importantly, that idiot Bartholomew Hooper had won bubkes. Men: The Magazine for Man had been nominated in five categories and Hooper, its editor-in-chief, had prepared five different acceptance speeches. Five! What a chump. Harper recalled with some satisfaction the little pile of scrunched-up balls of paper that had grown beneath Hooper's chair as the afternoon wore on. Damn, if that wasn't a Kodak moment, he didn't know what was.
Better yet was the surprise Zach Goldman had prepared for Harper when he returned to the office. The billionaire owner of Global Media, which published both Fanfare and Men, had snuck out of the award ceremony early and arranged for the magazine rack in the lobby of the Global Media building to be covered with copies of Fanfare. What a fitting tribute. Oh! My! God! When Hooper first set eyes on that concession stand, Harper thought he was going to stroke out.
"What the hell's going on here?" Hooper had screamed at the little old lady behind the counter. Before she could reply he had started clawing at the copies of Fanfare like some demented lunatic, tossing them this way and that. A full-blown tantrum, right there in the lobby, at four o'clock in the afternoon! Another Kodak moment! Harper had already got his assistant to place that story in tomorrow's Page Six. Perfect!
Yet somehow it wasn't enough. At the back of his mind, something else still rankled, a blemish that the afternoon's events, satisfying though they were, couldn't quite erase.
"Muffy," barked Harper, addressing his Radcliffe-educated assistant. "Fix up an appointment for me with Office Services. Urgent." He had an afterthought. "And when you're through with that, go get me one of them Iced Venti Lattés from Starbucks, would ya?" He paused for a second. "And half a dozen of them Krispy Kreme donuts."
He leaned back in his Eames chair and stroked his powerful, matinee-idol chin. He knitted his brow, as if contemplating the great affairs of state. He reached a decision.
"Muffy," he announced. "Better make that a dozen."
- - - -
"So, Ray, what can I do for you?"
Harper eyed the woman opposite him suspiciously. How could anyone let themselves get that fat? Marjorie Phipps, the head of Office Services at Global Media, must have weighed in at over 300 lbs. Where on earth did she get that red suit? Must have been at one of them special stores. What were they called? High and Mighty? Big and Tall? The Elephants on Parade, more like. He glanced at her right hand. Good God! She was married.
"It's my office, Marj," said Harper in what was supposed to be a world weary tone, but came out as more of a whine. "I can't deal with it. It's making me claustrophobic."
Suddenly, Phipps shut her eyes and her whole body started wobbling violently. What the hell was going on? Then Harper figured it out: She was laughing.
"Forgive me," she said, "it's just that every editor at Global Media wants a larger office. Claustrophobia? It's the second-largest office in the building if I recall. Can't you do better than that?" She started wobbling again.
"It's a goddamn closet, Marj," protested Harper. "How can I be expected to hold editorial meetings in there? By the time I've packed everyone in it's like Grand Central Station."
Phipps adopted a patient expression as if explaining something to a child.
"The only way we could make your office bigger is if we allocated more office space to Fanfare overall, and as soon as we do that you know as well as I do what'll happen -- every other magazine in the building will start clamoring for more space. Sorry Ray. No can do."
Harper thought about this.
"It's got to be possible," he said. "Isn't there some way of making my office larger without allocating more space to Fanfare per se?"
This is too much, thought Phipps.
"Look, Ray, the only way this could be done is if you redesigned Fanfare's offices within their existing boundaries and then made your office bigger and everyone else's smaller."
She leaned back and folded her arms. Surely that would put an end to it.
"Okay," said Harper. "Let's do that."
"What you said. Make everyone else's offices smaller and mine bigger."
She was shocked.
"You'd really be prepared to do that to your staff? Reduce the size of all their offices just so yours could be even larger?"
Harper paused. Just how much of his hand should he reveal? He decided to risk it.
"The thing is, Marj," he said, leaning forward, "I only want to expand my office by two square feet. The amount I'd need to take from everybody else's offices would be negligible. It wouldn't make any difference to them, but it would make a great deal of difference to me." He gave her a meaningful look.
Suddenly, the truth dawned on her. Phipps was flabbergasted. The effrontery of the man!
"D'you realize how much it would cost to redesign Fanfare's offices? We're talking millions of dollars."
Her words were lost on Harper. Apparently, he was under the impression he'd won the argument. He got up from his chair and prepared to leave.
"I'm going to take the matter up with Zach. He may well regard it as an appropriate reward for Fanfare's outstanding performance at the VH1 Magazine Awards."
"Well, good luck," said Phipps, trying to sound as skeptical as she possibly could. But in her gut she had an awful feeling that Harper was going to get away with it.
- - - -
Exactly a year later, Raymond E. Harper strode through the lobby of the Global Media building with the confident, purposeful gait of a young Senator. The fact that the concession stand was festooned with copies of Men: The Magazine for Man didn't bother him. True, Hooper had won only two VH1 Magazine Awards this year, not three, but after last year it was only fitting that he should have his own little tribute. Harper wasn't about to tear into the magazine rack like some spoiled child. God, what a moron.
Harper also has his new train set to play with. He loved everything about Fanfare's new offices -- it's wooden surfaces, it's tinted glass, it's cigar-bar ambience. Above all, he adored his own office. It didn't look any bigger, of course, but then it was the size of an in-line skating rink to begin with. In one crucial respect, though, it was one thousand percent better. His office was now the largest in the building. More importantly, it was exactly one square foot bigger that Bartholomew Hooper's. It had cost Global Media $3.6 million, but, man, had it been worth it.
Now then, he thought to himself. How exactly am I going to communicate this information to that ass Hooper?
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