Down and about

By a stroke of luck

Down and about

I had just started my own company, manufacturing devices that allowed people to remotely control everything: the garden sprinkler, the garage door, the telephone and the dog feeder and much more in one little thing, the Pepper. It was an instant success and after a short time I had to hire staff. I found two nice guys who would work at a cheap rate. One was good at maths and the other liked to work with his hands. That gave me peace of mind. I did have to keep a close eye on them, though, because you never know with these youngsters and I couldn’t afford any losses.

The hands-on boy designed machines for me allowing us to produce so many devices in one day, that we couldn’t put them all in boxes to ship them out in time. Yes, ship them, because soon the orders came from all over. So I employed more young people. Young people are of course cheaper to employ and you can teach them something. But they are also bolder, I noticed, and there were some who tended to cut off corners.

Now there were quite a few trees on the site, and when I walked around them during an inspection, I thought it would be much easier if I could see the whole working site from above. With a small step, I could reach the lowest branch and if I climbed one branch higher, I would be completely hidden in the leaves. What an idea! But then I had to make sure that they wouldn’t find out that I was there. I waited until everyone had gone home and fetched the step. Yes, you had a good overview here.

The next morning, I went to work early and climbed up with the help of the step, armed with a pen and a notebook. The step fitted nicely over the branch and could be used as a writing table. Ideal! I had a rucksack with a thermos flask with coffee and I could sit with my back against the trunk to see one side and look around the trunk to inspect the other side.

The people below first looked for me and I heard them asking each other where I was, but soon they were all working. But, were they all working? The guy at the grinding shop was talking to the tall woman for a suspiciously long time. Oh, bother! How could I get him back to his spot? CALL TO ORDER, I thought with a hint of humour, but that wasn’t a good idea. If they knew I was there, they could hide so I wouldn’t see them. Suddenly I knew: a megaphone! When you speak through a megaphone, it is very difficult to detect where the sound is coming from.

So I bought a megaphone and gave the whole place a fright the next morning when I suddenly shouted, ‘Hey you, get to work!’ The person in question just about stumbled to his spot. Now everyone was in an uproar. I heard them say that it was my voice and that I was clearly above them. Funnily enough, after my shout, more people hurried to their places, so I realised that many more had been loafing about.

I liked the situation very much and production went up of course, with everyone working hard. I had to take on staff again and it got to the point where I couldn’t see the whole worksite. I climbed a few branches higher and yes, then it continued on again. My people soon got used to my shouting and after a while I hardly had to do it anymore. But with every extension the story started all over again and by now I had climbed so high that my voice, despite a larger megaphone, no longer reached far enough. In the meantime, I had devised a plan to remedy this. There was an absurdly high tree right in the middle of the terrain and I intended to climb it.

I called my two original co-workers, who were very surprised to see me down there, and they were not the only ones. People were shooing me away, so I could talk quietly to those two. I hadn’t had to shout at them for years. I made them swear to secrecy first and told my whole story. I said that they would now be placed higher, too, and put the two of them in the nearest trees, but visible to everyone, with a small megaphone. That went very well. They were happy with the promotion and sat in their lower trees in full view of me, so that I could check whether they were doing their job properly.

That was not disappointing. A few harsh indications were enough. Naturally, I kept an eye on them. This method worked so well that with each enlargement I was able to have more trees manned by chiefs. In the end, they were very far away and that was difficult. I had to be able to see. My megaphone and binoculars had by now become so heavy that I ordered one of the chiefs to install a pulley. 

Every morning, before anyone could come in, I lifted the heavy gear, climbed up the rope ladder and pulled it up, as well as the cable of the pulley. From this high position, I could oversee the whole site and I saw that it was very good. An excellent system, but on the sixth day something terrible happened. I lifted the megaphone, as usual, but when it was almost at the top, the cable of the pulley broke and the megaphone fell on top of me. Unfortunately, I did not pass out. The pain was terrible and not only that: in a flash I saw my whole success collapse. I was bleeding heavily and my leg had a funny twist to it, I saw, so I did not dare move. Horrified, I saw a character coming towards me who I always had to keep an extra eye on, because he was chumming up with everyone and, whenever possible, smiling, kept other employees from their work. Just him! I wanted to turn my face away from him but cringed in pain. He knelt down next to me, looked at me from all sides and asked if I could hear and see him. Yes, unfortunately, I heard and saw him. To my surprise, he suddenly stroked my hair very gently with one of his big dirty hands. ‘You must be shocked,’ he said kindly, ‘what happened?’ Horrified, I felt a tear coming to my eye. I couldn’t afford to be so weak, so I said harshly that someone had dropped something heavy on me and shouldn’t he be working. The man smiled and stroked my hair again. A colleague of his came with a pair of folded overalls and asked, ‘Shall I put this under his head?’

I started to feel quite strange. What was this? What did they expect to achieve with this? Again the soft voice: ‘I think your leg is broken, so please lie down and we’ll get the company doctor.’ He did indeed arrive a little later with a young woman in his wake, or so I thought. It turned out to be the other way round. The young woman also smiled and I became rather weak inside. What kind of people are these, I wondered, that they are suddenly so nice. ‘We’ve never seen each other, but I recognise your voice,’ said the doctor, who had a dimple in her cheek when she smiled. ‘I’ve worked here for ten years and I remember you always keeping everyone working.’

She put it incredibly kindly, I now thought somewhat embarrassed. When the ambulance arrived, I began to wonder if it was because of the blow to my head, or had I been wrong all along? As the ambulance drove away across the grounds, I saw men and women waving and some even bowing to me. While I had always considered this the utmost pinnacle, when people bowed to you, I started to feel ashamed, so much so that the paramedic sitting next to me was startled because I was turning so red. ‘We’ll be there soon,’ he said comfortingly, taking my blood pressure again, ‘and you’ll be up and about in no time.’

‘Up and about,’ I mumbled vaguely. I sensed that from now on I would rather be down and about. This process took some time. I discovered more and more, and not only beautiful things, but I noticed that I had not really seen anything all that time. For example, after talking to the man who had approached me immediately after the accident, it turned out that he was a supervisor and was always encouraging people to go to work with pleasure. I didn’t see that from my tree. The tall woman, who I also kept an eye on, was the bookkeeper, who checked everything that didn’t add up. I still didn’t like her, but I appreciated her accuracy and correctness.

What I had thought was ‘high’ all this time was much less interesting than life here on the ground floor. And so nice, people started calling me by my first name and greeting me when I passed by. Not as the boss, but more as a friend. In the past, I would have found it unbearable for people to shout ‘Hey, hello!’ at me; now I waved back happily. And yet I was glad that I had sat so high up because I felt the difference. If I met someone who was still high up in the tree, I could sometimes, with a single word, pull down one of those rope ladders a bit and entice that man or woman to take a step towards me. I succeeded precisely because I knew their position from my own experience.

It was a stroke of luck. By the way, the doorman’s name is John. I had never known that. Every morning, I stand next to John for a while to hear how he is doing and how things are going at home. I never skip that. Afterwards, I always pass by the tallest tree to thank it for carrying me. The megaphone that injured me so badly is in a display case in my office, next to a piece of the broken cable. The caption reads: divine instrument.

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Date: January 16, 2022
Author: Amun (Netherlands)
Photo: Austin Distel on Unsplash CCO

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