What Happened at the Office

The office building was modern. It was made of a lot of metal and glass, with a little of the native limestone thrown in, perhaps to make it look as if it belonged in the medium-sized Midwestern town. The building’s interior was modern as well. The high ceilings featured exposed beams, pipes, and ducts. The walls were white and the floor plan open- no cubicles; although people with the term “manager” behind their names sat in glass enclosed offices.

150 people or so worked on each of the four floors; each of them involved in some kind of knowledge work. What they did at this company is not important. They were ordinary office workers, doing the type of tasks that people did in the year 2012. It was an ordinary office except for one rather strange thing.

Every day at precisely 10:17 a.m., the pig emerged from the east wall on the first floor and ran the length of the building. Upon arriving at the west wall, he turned around and began racing down each of the desk-lined rows. He would squeal joyously when passing groups of workers having an ad-hoc water cooler meeting, interrupting their attempts at casual collaboration. He would grunt disgustedly at the women who appeared to be afraid of him, or those whom he suspected had thoughts of knitting him a sweater. Those who were on the phone would be forced to end their conversations and tell the other party they would call back in a few minutes. It would only be a few minutes because the pig would disappear into the east wall at exactly 10:23. Everyone in the office would then go back to what they were doing.

One day, a Tuesday, the pig didn’t come out. 10:17 arrived, and all was quiet. The people who sat closest to where the pig normally entered were the first to notice its absence.

Bob Jordan said something to Shelly Hawkins who sat to the right of him. “Something’s not right,” he said.

Shelly turned to him and said “what’s not right?”

Bob scratched his head. “I don’t know. Something just doesn’t seem right.”

Shelly shrugged and continued her work, but she was somehow distracted.

At the other end of the floor, Jim Tracy and Doug Barnett were conversing at the water cooler.

Jim said, “If we wait until September we could…” but then he just stared into the distance. Something was off, he thought.

5:00  came and the workers on the second, third, and fourth floors shut down their computers, boarded the elevators or descended the staircases, climbed into their cars and went home. For them, it had been an ordinary day. The people on the first floor sat at their desks and stared at their computer screens. Night came; all was quiet.

At 9:00, Bob Jordan looked over at Shelly Hawkins and whispered to himself, “A pig.”

Shelly looked at Bob. She had heard him say something, but hadn’t really understood. Something compelled her to stand up. She slapped the top of her desk as she stood. She gasped and shouted “The pig! The pig didn’t come out!”

Everyone in the office awoke from their collective stupor and began speaking to each other about the pig that had emerged from the wall and ran around the office every morning at 10:17 for as long as any of them could remember.

“How could we have forgotten that?” People asked incredulously. They started laughing.

One woman asked the group, “What if the pig doesn’t come back?” She began to sob. She remembered wanting to knit a sweater for the pig.

This was a sobering thought for everyone. The room fell silent. The co-workers looked at each other, and then looked at the east wall, secretly willing the pig to appear. It did not appear, so one-by-one they turned off their  computers, picked up their bags and purses, and headed out the door.

Everyone went home, not knowing what would happen the next day.

Smiling pig

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