Versus

Ten consecutive one-on-one confrontations that escalate from petty to pretty heavy.

Man vs. Backpack Zipper

“C’mon you stupid thing,” the zipper was snagged on the fabric surrounding the zipper tracks, “c’mon c’mon c’mon,” it wouldn’t budge and every motion the man made caused the zipper to tighten its grip. The man tried to resolve his situation, but eventually gave up and threw around some spit-laced obscenities. He tossed the backpack on the ground.

A Storn’s employee, busy politely patrolling the floor, heard the slight commotion and headed over to assist the man.

Man vs. Retail Employee

“Oh sir, please let me help you out there,” she said, grabbing the backpack from the ground and returning it to its rack with the other backpacks. The employee finessed the zipper and freed the fabric from the zipper’s teeth.

“I guess this is your first time using a zipper, huh?” the employee teased. The man rolled his eyes, not taking the comment lightly, and knocked over the backpack display.

The employee gasped and immediately walkie talkied her boss.

Man vs. Retail Authority Figure

“He knocked it over so violently I thought I was going to fall over,” the employee cried.

“Sir,” the manager clasped his hands in front of his IZOD suit and plastic-shielded name tag, “when you knocked over those bags, you endangered a valued employee, scared other customers, and ruined the integrity of our merchandise. I kindly ask that you leave the store at once.”

The man went from irritated to irate. He stared the manager right in the eye. The manager looked away. The man knew he made Mike Tyson proud with that skullduggery.

“Sir, please leave,” the manager whimpered. The man felt a tinge of regret in the pit of his stomach yet knocked over every single store display on his way out. Purses, jewelry, children’s books made from thick cardboard, not-quite-new-not-quite-old-and-definitely-not-popular DVD’s, wallets, and nose trimmers littered the reflective floor tiles.

Retail Authority Figure vs. Corporate Team Player

“Matt, how many times have we been through this?”

“Chet, the training we received doesn’t cover how to handle a deranged man ransacking the store. We were terrorized.”

“Matt, our training materials for emergency and unpredictable situations are field-tested and foolproof. We must adhere to our policies and trust in our materials. When a customer lets loose and endangers our merchandise, they make our stores look like disaster areas, which reflects poorly on our brand image. The bottom line is: it’s bad for business, which is why you need to follow the guidelines and contact security the moment you suspect a customer is a threat.”

“I didn’t have time to call security.”

“Matt, our training materials for emergency and unpredictable situations are field-tested and foolproof. We must adhere to our policies and trust in our materials. When a customer lets loose and endangers our merchandise, they make our stores look like disaster areas, which reflects poorly on our brand image. The bottom line is: it’s bad for business, which is why you need to follow the guidelines and contact security the moment you suspect a customer is a threat.”

“Did…did you just repeat the same thing?”

“Matt, our training materials for emergency and unpredictable situations are field-tested and foolproof. We must adhere to our policies and trust in our materials. When a customer lets loose and endangers our merchandise, they make our stores look like disaster areas, which reflects poorly on our brand image. The bottom line is: it’s bad for business, which is why you need to follow the guidelines and contact security the moment you suspect a customer is a threat.”

“Is this a recording?” Matt said as he removed his name tag.

“Matt, our training materials for-”

Matt hung up the phone. He got onto the computer and typed an email with two words then sent it to everybody who could be considered his boss or supervisor.

Corporate Team Player vs. His Own Sense of Worth

Chet Peterson returned from lunch and saw a button on his phone blinking red. His office had installed a program that allowed employees to record automated responses.

He sat at his desk, jiggled his mouse, and saw an email from Matt Baker – Clifton, NJ. It read, “I quit.” Chet closed his email and stared out the window. This was the sixth store manager to quit within two years. He didn’t understand why. Storn’s does everything in their power to ensure each and every manager runs a successful chain. His team developed, tested, re-tested, and refined training models and supporting materials.

He swigged the remainder of his bottled iced tea and paced around his 44th-floor home away from home.

Chet wondered to himself; maybe these materials aren’t suitable. Maybe the policies are inadequate. Maybe he needed to change the wording of the automated response machine.

Maybe he’s inadequate.

Corporate Team Player’s Sense of Worth vs. His Wife’s Dream of Finishing Her Doctorate

Chet tossed his keys on the Sonoma entryway console table, slipped off his Chap’s dress shoes, and slipped on his IZOD clogs.

He walked to a kitchen table covered in large textbooks, coffee cups encrusted with layers of caffeinated sediment, legal pads, cans of mixed nuts, and half a dozen pens.

“Hi honey,” Chet left a reasonable kiss on his wife’s cheek, “why aren’t you using the new MacBook I bought you?”

“I needed to get away from it; my eyes were turning into mashed potatoes. I’m sorry hun, but I have more work to do than hours to do it in, so I can’t really talk now.”

“Of course.”

Chet walked to the freezer and pulled out a Healthy Choice microwavable dinner. He punctured the plastic casing with a fork and tossed it in for the recommended time. He desperately wanted to tell his wife what was on his mind, his feelings of inadequacy, but he knew her mind was too full for him.

He ate his meal in silence.

Corporate Team Player’s Wife’s Dream vs. Her Institution’s Obligation to Their Largest Donor

“How do I look?” Mrs. Peterson asked.

“Like a prepared student ready to defend her thesis,” Chet pecked her on the forehead and rested an assuring hand on her shoulder.

Mrs. Peterson smiled, clutched her binder, and then left the house. After a short ride to campus, she arrived at Feldman Hall, home to anthropology and archeology students alike.

She walked to Dr. L’s office, and stopped outside of his imposing mahogany doors. When she arrived, she saw him scurrying around the office gathering papers.

“Melanie, dear, I didn’t have time to email or call, but we need to postpone today’s defense.”

Melanie’s whole body wobbled and she almost fell over. Postpone?

“The Watterson’s have made a ‘surprise’ visit to campus today and Kim requested that I be there to discuss our planned expansion. I’m terribly sorry about this, but this is out of my control.”

Dr. L shuffled through the doorway in a gray blur of apologies and last-minute paper gathering and promises of further discussion and explanation. Melanie remained motionless in the doorway.

Melanie’s Institution’s Obligation to Their Largest Donor vs. Filthy Protestors

“Bill, Harriet, it is always a pleasure to have you on campus! You picked a great time to visit. I’ve asked Deans Marino, Langston, and Hernandez to join our meeting so we can share some of our biggest news and most exciting projects,” President Cullen informed her visitors.

“Mmm,” Bill hummed, looking over President Cullen’s shoulder to see the cluster of tie-dyed students holding up hand-painted hate on campus-store-purchased poster board.

“Those shrubs could use a trimming. And those little protestors could use a hosing,” Harriet said, removing her sunglasses.

“What do we want?”
“More transparency!”
“When do we want it?”
“Now!”
“What do we want!”
“An explanation!”
“Who do we want it from?”
“Cullen!”

The chants hit a president in denial. Cullen clutched, but was losing grip on her smile. It wavered enough to cause Bill and Harriet to share an extended, judgmental conversation with their eyes.

Filthy Protestors vs. Militarized Police Department

The ringleader, a man with a beardtail and filthy Birkenstocks, held up a backpack. He opened his mouth, breath freshly-minted from an e-cigarette, to outline the indictment.

“A few days ago, the Campus Tellier revealed that our dear president has restructured the engineering department to serve as a lean manufacturing plant for Storn’s, Kohls, Target, and JCPenny. These students are no longer expected to learn, or expand their minds, or find innovative solutions to some large global problems, but are instead whipped to be zipper-producing robots. These students used to be able to compete in national robotics and go-kart competitions and now they’re factory workers! We demand, we deserve, an explanation! You can’t charge these students this much money to force them to serve as cheap labor!”

The crowd of protestors hurrahed. As soon as the celebration finished, each student found themselves surrounded by police officers in riot gear. The students were outnumbered 3-1. The police chief, clad in a futuristic viperskin suit, ripped the ringleader down from the podium and got on his megaphone.

“Go to your dorms, and study. Your parents, or the state, are paying a lot of money for you to be here, and they expect you to get jobs. Not arrested.”

Filthy Protestors vs. Retail Store Terrorist

“Fuck those zippers!” shouted a plum-faced man storming through the crowd, “I was at a Storn’s earlier today and the goddamn zipper got stuck!”

“Sir, what exactly do you think you’re doing?” the police chief asked.

The man, a head taller than the police chief and two arms bulkier, got up to the authority’s nose, at a defiant near-eskimo kiss.

“Fuck…those…zippers,” the man snarled, spitting on the chief’s face. The police chief hit a button on the back of his suit, igniting a deafening siren that incapacitated the crowd and sent the police officers running away. The button was a terrorist alert speed dial. A special agent arrived in seconds. He tackled the man to the ground, cuffed his hands, and tossed a black bag over his head.

“Got it from here,” the agent assured. He darted off into a van and tossed the man inside, along with the broken backpack.

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