On Saturday morning my old friend Trusty Goodguy phoned. We got chatting and Trusty was soon telling me about something that had unsettled him and left him struggling with a crisis of conscience.
Before I tell you about this I need to give some background information. Trusty is the manager of a charity, Shiny Happy People (SHP) , that runs workshops and provides life coaching for people in need. The charity leases office space in a building owned by Menace Corp and has a casual agreement to use a couple of Menace Corp’s parking spaces. SHP also use one parking space as the site for their soup kitchen which helps provide local homeless people with hot food. This agreement has run smoothly for as long as Trusty can remember. I’ve visited on a few occasions and parking has never been a problem.
But, at the end of last week, Menace Corp’s CEO Rex Crassman burst into Trusty’s office. He was, as Trusty put it, “in such a rage that I thought his eyeballs were going to pop out”. The cause of this anger? Apparently a minibus was dropping off some visually impaired, wheelchair using teenagers for a confidence building workshop and had accidentally blocked Crassman’s reserved parking space. Crassman had to park further away and, because of the unusually wet weather, his Panda fur loafers and sealskin briefcase were ruined. Crassman left Trusty in no doubt that things were going to change.
When Trusty cycled in to work on Friday the car park had been cordoned off and was being aggressively patrolled by Menace Corp’s head of security, Biff McNasty. After a confrontation with McNasty, who threatened to insert Trusty’s bicycle pump somewhere unpleasant, Trusty thought it best to leave his bicycle elsewhere. Trusty spent most of Friday morning dealing with SHP’s frightened staff and volunteers (plus one petrified teenager whose wheelchair tyres had been slashed by McNasty) and in making several unsuccessful attempts to talk to Crassman.
Trusty happens to know Crassman’s PA, Layla Downtrodden, and discretely met her for lunch to find out what was going on. As Layla sipped her cappuccino and kneaded her aching feet (apparently Crassman has introduced a uniform for all female employees and this includes a minimum heel height of five inches) she slipped Trusty a hand drawn sketch on a piece of paper. “Rex locked himself in his office on Thursday morning. There was lots of shouting and he was obviously throwing things around. When he eventually left his office he handed me this and told me to contact the builders.” Trusty emailed me a photo of the sketch which seems to show “before and after” plans for the car park.
It’s quite blurry but, as you can see, the existing car park is quite modest. The same cannot be said for the new plans.
According to Layla, Crassman had been mentioning these plans for some time and was “itching for an excuse to kick SHP out of the car park”. Apparently Crassman feels the new plans better reflect his status as CEO of an influential local organisation.
Trusty eventually spoke to Crassman on Friday afternoon and pleaded with him to reconsider his plans. I’ve heard Trusty’s secret recording of the conversation and, after Crassman seemed unsympathetic to the plight of SHP’s clients, Trusty threatened to contact the local MP and go to the press. At this point Crassman’s tone changed completely.
Crassman: Trusty… Trusty… you’re being far too idealistic about this. A man of my standing needs to know that he can park his car at the office. I need to know that it’s safe and won’t get scratched. A gold plated Rolls doesn’t come cheap you know.
Trusty: Rex, I’m serious. What about the…
Crassman: I’m serious too, Trusty. Very serious. (On intercom) Layla, send McNasty up will you.
Trusty (sounding scared): There’s no need for…
Crassman: Relax, Trusty. Relax. It’s time you thought of yourself for once, you do more than enough for that charity of yours. Listen, you can use my new parking space on the days I’m not in. I’ll even make sure that the ladies are there to clap you in. Everyone deserves to feel good first thing in the morning. How does that sound, Trusty?
Trusty: Erm, I’m really not sure that’s…
Crassman: Of course, what was I thinking. Your shabby old bike will look out of place. Why don’t we look at sorting you out a nice car. Mercedes? BMW?
Crassman: Don’t think twice Trusty, we need to look after each other don’t we? Ah, here’s McNasty. Biff, you know Trusty, don’t you?
McNasty: Yes, boss. We… had a little chat this morning.
Crassman: So I’ve heard. Ha ha, just a little misunderstanding, eh Trusty?
Trusty: It was a bit more than…
Crassman: Why don’t we let bygones be bygones, eh? Biff, have you got the folder?
McNasty: Yes boss, here it is.
Crassman: You see Trusty, I need to make sure we’re on the same side. Have a look at these…
Trusty (sounding really flustered): How did you…
Crassman: I know a lot of things, Trusty. Like how you don’t just take Layla out for lunch. You should have been more suspicious when someone as… talented… as Layla paid you so much attention. McNasty takes a good picture with a long lens, doesn’t he?
Trusty: Yes… I suppose he does… What…
Crassman: Don’t worry, Trusty, there’s absolutely no need for your girlfriend and kids to see these, is there?
Trusty (sounding completely defeated): No.
Crassman: Good. Very good. Now let’s talk about cars…
So, there we have it. Trusty now finds himself well and truly in Crassman’s pocket, but that seems to happen to everyone who gets close to him. After I hung up the phone I felt sorry for Trusty. He’d been well and truly stitched up by the sound of it. But then on Wednesday morning I felt a lot less sympathetic. Breakfast was disturbed by the sound of a car horn beeping and engine revving. Then the doorbell rang. I opened the door to see Trusty standing there with a grin on his face. He didn’t look nearly as troubled as he’d sounded on the phone just a few days earlier. “Fancy a spin in the Beemer?” he asked. “Erm, are you OK?” I hesitantly responded. “Fine, fine. Nothing to worry about,” he responded, looking down. I naturally looked down, too. “What on earth are those on your feet, Trusty?” I laughed, spotting his ridiculous footwear. “Koala fur, Tim. Koala…”