Incentives–Part 2

That Monday after Step-gate, I find a cookie on my desk. Chocolate chunk, gooey, still warm in the plastic.

Kurt’s version of an apology.

I eat the cookie, but I’m still pissed. It’s all his fault that we got thirty hours of WEDT—which isn’t a classic rock station, but Workplace Ethics and Diversity Training.

It makes no sense. We’re liars, not racists. But considering Kurt nearly got us both canned, I figure I’ll take my lumps.

If I was a prideful sort, I would have been mortified, sitting with Kurt in the tiny HR office Friday, flat out busted after I’d lent himmy FitBit so that he could cheat the Step into A New You! Challenge.

Was it wrong? Sure, but Kurt has a way of talking me into all things juvenile. Like on Halloween, when he tossed me a tweed jacket then convinced me to stroll around campus until two perky undergrads invited us to a party. He introduced himself as Professor Boozer, I was his nontenured colleague, Professor Smuck. He was the life of the party until he dinged his head doing a keg stand and I had to drive him to the hospital to get stitches.

Sure, Kurt’s a fun guy. Fun in the way a roller coaster is fun. You reach a certain age and you can do without all the loops and dizziness and would rather hit the lazy river. Anyway, he’d pumped me full of beer and promised me one of the two tickets to the Bahamas in exchange for the Fitbit scheme.

It hadn’t taken long for them to get wise. Especially when a mere hundred steps in, Kurt sprained his ankle, spilling to the curb where he’d sat for an hour, wailing along to a Randy Newman song only he could hear. Then they matched my Fitbit to his wrist and that was that.

We found ourselves under the incredulous stare of Tina, who handed us forms to sign, explaining the procedures and standards for problematic practices and tolerance levels. I wondered what in Tina’s training might have prepared her for dealing with the likes of Kurt–a man who tried to cheat a Steps Challenge then asked her if she was free for drinks on Thursday night.

She might have fired him on the spot, but just as she started in on misconduct and unethical behavior, Kurt lolled his bowling ball head back with a howl. Tina jumped. I rolled my eyes. Kurt sobbed like a millennial, about how since Sue left him and even took the dog. He was an empty soul—he said empty soul—straight laced.

When Tina let him go with a warning, he came in for a hug. Kept the act up all the way until the elevator doors shut and his face snapped out of it. Bragged about how he said “empty soul” three times without a crack.

So cookie or no cookie, I’m done with Kurt. I’m through with his games and dead-end hope. No more Thursday night beers and Friday morning hangovers. I’m flying straight.

The next day another cookie. I eat that one—gooier than the first—for breakfast, trying not to think about sedentary lifestyles and healthy lifestyle choices.

Cookie. Cookie Cookie. But Kurt’s calls and texts go unanswered. I don’t hit the food trucks with him at lunch. I don’t sit with him at diversity training two mornings a week, or laugh when the instructor nods along with Kurt’s incessant foolishness about how his man-boobs soften his masculinity and offer him a duel gender perspective.

Not me. No more. On Thursday, I call my ex, just to check in. Her boyfriend answers and I hang up in his face. Kurt would be proud.

It’s a long week. And on Friday I get to my desk, secretly looking forward to an early morning sugar rush. But there’s no cookie on my desk. Only a single airline ticket to the Bahamas.

Kurt really is a swell guy.



–Pete Fanning/2016


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