Arriving at the office so early in the morning is a strange experience. Nobody is here. Instead of a constant background noise of steps, conversations and ringing phones you can only hear the hum of machines that have spent the night turned on. No copiers spewing identical pieces of paper with a periodic high-frequency hiss. The kitchen is clean. There is no burned coffee in the coffeemaker. I could be at Peace for a while, but I need to hurry. I want to get some ideas about Action Plan B, whatever that is, before anybody arrives. Specially before my manager arrives.

So much to do, so little time.

I enter my cubicle and turn on the computer. I wait. The screen lights up. I wait. The machine counts its megabytes of memory. I pat the monitor. Good, good machine. Never trusts anybody. After the memory-counting comes the everpresent Windows logo, attempting to be a modern-day vitreaux, judging by the glass panes of different colors. The drawing of the window in the logo is moving, maybe flying. It's appropriate I think.

Before something can crash, it has to be in motion first.

More time passes. Now I have to login. I type in my username, my password.

Wrong username or password, the machine admonishes. Please try again.

Now this is productivity.

I type again.

ENTER.

There we go.

The bazillion icons in my desktop begin appear, but I can't do anything yet. There are all sorts of things happening beyond my control. A dialog box appears.

No privileges to connect to this server. Ok? the box says.

Just a single button for me to press. It says, Accept.

Choice is good.

But what was that about? Anyway, no time for that now. I load the email program. Please wait, says the machine.

The company's email system dates back to approximately 1928, judging by its speed and capabilities. I read somewhere that it's run by a bunch of drunken little elves that run through the cables from one end of the company to the other, carrying letters, commas, dots and such. The little elves don't like four letter words. They don't like images. Too heavy to carry, you see. Sometimes the little elves go on strike and nobody can send a message for days. Things get lost. Work is delayed. The way I see it, the little elves run the company. They behave randomly. People are angry, and there are frequent rumors that the little elves will be replaced by a new system based on Sumerian tablets and cuneiform writing, which apparently will reduce costs and improve the company's environmental record. Most people are in favor of that, but not me.

I like the little elves.

Finally the email program loads. I scan the subjects from recent messages. Nothing noteworthy... wait a minute. One from a week ago is interesting. It says:

From: smeyer
Subject: strategic plan

have you ever heard of strategic plan b? My manager is driving me nuts over it. They say it originated in ITSRG last year so that would put it in your backyard no? call me if you know anything.

later

sally

Okay. So this has been going on for a while. So she was still looking for it when she talked to me on IM yesterday. Which later seemed to never have happened. What is going on here? Is the edifice of reality breaking down? Or is it something more sinister, like an explanation for the price of a Bologna sandwich at different shops over the city?

Questions, questions.

I have to talk to Sally.

I look at my watch. Almost eight. Sally should be here soon. I have some time to relax before that. Coffee. I can make coffee, just the way I like it. Really, really dark. Plus, it will give the everyone a topic for conversation later, trying to find out who was the bastard who prepared like that.

The kitchen awaits.