It was a Friday about as ordinary as any other. Fridays have a way of feeling like mini-holidays. You’re celebrating the weekend, and you don’t have to take things as seriously on Friday. On this particular one, several of my coworkers had taken the day off, so the atmosphere was even more lax with their absence. I enjoyed being the only one in my cubicle corner, I had more freedom. Freedom to do my work just like I did every other day, but freedom nonetheless.
My day was perfectly fine until just before lunch, when I discovered during a team meeting that the assignment I had been working all morning I was doing wrong. Completely, flat-out wrong. I would have to go back and redo everything.
I was sitting at my desk stewing about my screw-up when I noticed a crumb. I usually don’t pay the crumbs much mind, they are small and they show up sometimes. But for some reason this particular crumb held my attention for several seconds. I was gazing intently at it when my focus was abruptly interrupted by taking notice of another crumb, right next to the first. Was that there before? Then I saw another. Then another. Where were all these crumbs coming from? Surely I wasn’t that messy. I swept them all into the garbage can under my desk and continued with my work.
A few minutes later I glanced down just to the left of my keyboard – and five more crumbs. Just behind those five, another pile of six. From absolutely nowhere! I glanced over to my mouse, and three more piles of crumbs! I scanned the top of my whole desk and I saw little piles of crumbs everywhere. These were definitely not here before. At that moment a slight panic set in. What was going on? Was someone in the office pranking me?
As I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, I caught the slightest glimpse of movement from my desk. I didn’t want to look back. Slowly I turned my head around, and I saw thousands of crumbs. No longer sitting in little piles, they were in packs – and they were moving.
I watched in shock and horror as the horde of crumbs moved this way and that, rearranging and assembling itself. What I first thought was random motion I soon realized was organization. These crumbs weren’t just mindlessly moving about, they were mobilizing.
When you think of a horde of crumbs attacking you, you imagine a shapeless blob that converges on you at erratic intervals. You would be wrong to think that. Crumbs position themselves into companies, precise and disciplined. Once they are perfectly lined up, then they launch their attack. The first line of crumbs, the infantry, sprung themselves on me. They came at me, troop after troop, they didn’t stop. I was very quickly covered in these combatant crumbs, more quickly than I expected. I tried brushing them off, but my haphazard, frantic defense was no match for the advance of their civilized ranks.
I thought all was lost and I was reminiscing on my sweet, short life, waiting for the end, when I heard the cavalry. A cavalry of dusters, coming to my rescue. They rode in and swept the crumbs off of me almost instantly, bearing down on them and forcing them into the garbage can at my feet. All around me and all over my body was a flurry of activity, the dusters sweeping rapidly at the attacking crumbs.
As quickly as the crumbs had advanced, the dusters had pushed them back. The crumbs’ general was formally admitting defeat to the dusters, and the battle was being wrapped up neatly when one of the duster lieutenants addressed me.
“Ma’am, everything alright here now?” I stared, wide-eyed, at the duster and slowly nodded my head. “Those guys won’t be causing any more trouble here, you can count on that.” I continued to gape at the lieutenant a minute longer, and when he thought I wasn’t going to say anything, he started to move away. But then I asked him,
“Where did they come from?” He looked surprised but then quickly composed himself and replied,
“The crumbs, ma’am? They are nefarious little creeps, that’s for sure. They act like they’re all sophisticated with their formations and their uniforms, but they’re just pretentious little assholes that like to cause trouble.” If I was surprised before now I was downright astounded. Those little pieces of dust and matter had been wearing uniforms? The lieutenant took no notice and continued, “They like to show up when you’re having a bad day – maybe things aren’t going right, maybe you didn’t get enough sleep last night, maybe you just fought with a coworker…you’re vulnerable and the crumbs show up to pick on you. Knock you when you’re down. Just the lousiest kind of thing to do to someone right?” I could tell it wasn’t a rhetorical question and the lieutenant expected me to answer.
“That is pretty awful,” was all I could manage. “I guess I was having a bad day before they showed up.”
“Well lucky for you, we were monitoring your situation all week so as soon as the crumbs starting moving to attack we got our people ready.” I was rendered speechless again and I think the lieutenant had had enough of my awkward silences. “We’ll be here for you, whenever you need us. But it’ll help if you try not to let them get to you in the first place – then you can handle it on your own.” That last statement struck me as odd but before I could ask if the ‘them’ he referred to was the crumbs or the bad days, he was gathering up his troops and moving out.
I watched them march out, back to wherever they came from. When they were completely out of view, I turned back to my desk and thought about what the lieutenant had said. I shouldn’t let them get to me. I shouldn’t let a well-dressed army of crumbs get to me, or I shouldn’t let a bad day get to me? I guess I’ll be more on the lookout now, so that neither of those things can come back.