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Thursday, July 23, 1998
By Paul Ford
It was one of those uncomfortable days. I had a four hour meeting with a client. We're writing his bank's corporate history, then creating a corporate history web site.
He was a nice looking man in a dark suit with gray hair. His fingernails were pink and clean. We spoke for three hours; the tape recorder ran. I understood his approach; he babbled, but I could figure out his vision for the project. The bank is 250 years old and started out selling as many lottery tickets as stocks, like most banks in Colonial America. Now they're worth more than any but the top 20 countries. "To give you a sense of scale, our bank could buy everything in Texas, oil, buildings, cars, land, except for Austin--and who wants Austin?" I had trouble internalizing this, and many of my friends have moved to Austin, but I just nodded.
People kept popping their head in to see if they could use the conference room, then popping out. I put a sign up that said "Occupied until 5 PM."
At around four, he dropped a mechanical pencil on the ground and it rolled by my feet. We both went under the wooden conference table to grab the pencil. I'm clumsy, and I kicked a support, and the table came crashing down.
It was strange, because it fell exactly the right way so that I wasn't hurt. The client, however, had been struck directly on the head by 200 lbs of oak. I tried to pull the table away but only succeeded in picking it up, then dropping it even harder. His head looked strange, like a ripe apple, and his mouth hung open. I checked his pulse, but couldn't find one.
I felt awful, and immediately went out to the office proper to find someone senior. I finally found Mary.
"How are you going with that very chatty banker?" she asked.
"I killed him," I said. "He's dead."
She laughed. "Great. You have to tell me how we explain that to the home office."
"No, Mary, I mean it. I killed him. The table fell on his head."
She giggled. "You're a little weird for me, there, Paul."
I gave up and kept looking for other senior management. They were all in meeting, and I didn't want to interrupt. Finally, I ran into the janitor.
"Doug, could you have a look in Conference Room D?" He looked at me in silence for several seconds, then nodded.
I was by the elevators, so I hit the button and went down. Sooner or later I'll have to go back, but I want to give it a while. As I said, it was an uncomfortable day.