another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
Pass-Through Paradox by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | Sept. 2017
by Mike Bozart
© 2017 Mike Bozart
Front Range International University (FRIU) had decided to move its universal waste storage area from a leased warehouse near downtown Denver (Colorado, USA) to the basement of its new IT (Information Technology) Building in Arvada (11 miles – 17.7 km – northwest). Donald, a 36-year-old Caucasian, eight-year veteran in the Facilities Services Department, had been assigned the task of preparing the vacated 409-square-foot (38-square-meter) storeroom for incoming blown fluorescent lamps of various lengths and types, burned-out incandescent light bulbs, used batteries, empty aerosol spray cans, unused/recalled pesticides, and spent printer cartridges.
After working on the project for the better of three days, blonde-hair-receding Donald had all of the metal shelving assembled, the forklift pallets strategically placed, and the cardboard boxes made. His supervisor then inspected it, and was satisfied. After the boss left, he thought to himself: Mission accomplished. All done. Well, this sure is a nice place to disappear and take a nap. Or, have a sip. Or, something else. I’m the only one – with the exception of Ted in Maintenance and Campus Security – who can open the door. Will definitely make the most of this private space.
Two weeks later on a crisp October Monday in 2016, Donald was in the new universal waste storeroom sorting through a box of assorted batteries that had just come in. After placing the lithium-ion ones safely in their designated box, Donald’s eyes noticed a ventilation pass-through duct high on the far wall. He could tell by the glow that the light was on in the adjacent bunker: the e-waste (outdated/broken tower computers, laptops, tablets, printers, scanners, etc.) storage room. Hmmm … Never noticed that before. Wonder who works over there. Probably some IT nerd.
He walked towards the pass-through vent. Donald then began to hear noises that sounded like items being placed on pallets. I guess some Dell desktops finally bit the dust. I guess he – or she? – hears me knocking around in here, too. Glad I haven’t done any of my bad singing.
Due to the labyrinthine layout of the basement, Donald and the employee who worked in the e-waste storeroom never crossed paths; their respective entrances were on different corridors.
As the weeks went by, Donald noticed a pattern: The light in the e-waste storeroom would be switched off around 3:00 PM. After that time he would sometimes hear noises in there, like someone was bumping into things due to the darkness. And then, eight to ten minutes later, the door would slam shut. It was perplexing. Why in the world is he or she working in the dark in the late afternoon? Working? I sincerely doubt that.
The very next day, Donald decided to do a little experiment. After hearing the worker in the e-waste storeroom at 2:54 PM, he turned off the overhead lights in the universal waste storeroom and exited. Then he very quietly re-entered the storage room at 3:03 PM, but didn’t switch on any lights. He sat down on his makeshift chair of crates. Donald noticed that the pass-through vent was dark; the light in the next room was off again per the usual routine. Then two short minutes later, he caught a whiff of an unmistakable odor: marijuana smoke. It was wafting through the open vent in the wall. Ah, so my fellow coworker on the other side of this four-inch [10 cm] sheetrock wall is a burner. [marijuana smoker] Well then, I guess it’s ok to fire up my little bowl, [marijuana pipe] too.
While marijuana was now legal in Colorado, it was against college policy to smoke it on the job, whether on or off the clock on campus.
Then at 3:12 PM, Donald heard the sound of an aerosol spray can being discharged in the e-waste storeroom. The light came on. But, it was switched off just three seconds later. Then he heard the door shut. I smell a pine scent. Must have been an odor neutralizer. Damn! I don’t have an odor neutralizer in here. What to do? Lucky for me, no one will be dropping off anything. Oh, let’s just get the hell out of here. It was a dumb idea to smoke weed in this room. Dumb – very dumb. Mustn’t do it again. Need to buy some odor killer and come in early tomorrow morning – before anyone can smell this room. No, wrong; must go right NOW and buy some. Just can’t chance it. Can’t afford to lose this job.
At 4:44 PM, Tim, the 27-year-old Amerasian e-waste coordinator, returned to his storeroom to make sure that the weed odor was gone. He still smelled marijuana smoke. What the hell?! This room still reeks! It’s like I didn’t even spray in here. I used the last half of the can. Damn! Now I need to go out and buy some more. And, pronto!
Tim then headed to a nearby Walmart – the same one that Donald was already in. They would actually pass each other in the store, mutually oblivious, as Broncos-jacket-clad Tim was looking down and winter-coat-covered Donald was looking up.
Donald would arrive at the IT Building first. He quickly sprayed the universal waste storeroom with a store-brand odor neutralizer that had a citrusy scent. Soon the storage room smelled like a ripe Florida lemon. Perfect. Weed odor completely masked. If anyone asks, I can just say it was the scent from a floor cleaner. But, what if someone asks to see the cleaner? Why would anyone ask that? Man, I’m still high.
Tim would arrive at the e-waste storeroom at 5:25 PM, seven minutes after Donald had left the employee parking lot. He immediately noticed that the marijuana odor was gone, and had been replaced with a lemon-like odor. That’s not the air freshener that I use. What the hell is going on here? Did someone discover the smell and spray the room down (for me)? Obviously. But, who? Who knows about the weed odor that was in here? Did James [an IT coworker] cover my ass? Was it reported to the higher-ups by someone else? Crap! Probably so. The shit is going to hit the fan tomorrow. Time to tune up the résumé tonight. I bet I get canned tomorrow morning.
The next cold morning, Donald arrived in the universal waste storeroom at a quarter to seven. The lemon fragrance had dissipated. And, there wasn’t a hint of marijuana smoke odor. Good deal. I think I got away with that one.
Donald soon began boxing up some blown 4-foot-long fluorescent tubes. Then at 8:14 AM, he heard someone in the e-waste storeroom. Wonder if he or she is going to get high again. The marijuana smoke could come in here again, and I’d look like the culprit. Don’t want to get them fired, but I don’t want to get fired, either. Would be nice to just close off that vent. Yeah, just tape some cardboard over it.
Donald then laid a pallet up against the wall on a 61-degree angle. He carefully climbed up to the pass-through with a roll of duct tape in his left hand and a 7” x 13” (18 × 33 cm) piece of cardboard in his right hand. Soon his hands were at the level of the pass-through. I’d really like to see who works over there. Just one more slat up. Just one more step.
Donald soon saw the blue glow of a computer screen and the back of a black-haired 20-something man. Ah-ha! So, that’s my next-door weedhead. [marijuana smoker]
Suddenly the forklift pallet started to slide. Donald jumped backwards. The wooden pallet kicked out from the wall and came to rest flat on the floor just before his work boots landed on – and cracked – a wide slat, resulting in a loud double slam. Fortunately for Donald, he had only slightly sprained his right ankle. Jesus H. Christ! That could have been a lot worse. Sure made a lot of noise. Wonder what that guy over there is thinking now? Is he going to call Security and have them check on me? / That dude over there sure is clumsy. Wonder if he got hurt. Time to get out of here.
The e-waste storeroom door closed. Tim promptly exited the basement area. His mind was racing. I think that I’ve been spied upon. For how long? That employee knows that I smoke weed. Will he turn me in? Why hasn’t he already? Is he just some voyeuristic weirdo? This college sure has quite a few of them. Time to look Mr. Universal Waste up on the college’s e-directory.
Tim got out his smartphone and quickly found him on the university’s organization chart. Donald Rossingtone. Looks like this white dude smokes. [marijuana] Did he spray that lemon-scented odor neutralizer through that wall vent after smelling the weed odor? Was he looking out for me? Or, just himself? Such a strange situation: our presences are known; but, motives are unclear.
Eleven minutes later, Donald reset the pallet against the wall, but this time at a steeper – and safer – angle of 72 degrees. He also placed some no-skid rubber strips on the floor-contacting edge. The former Wyomingite had the pass-through covered and taped-off in a mere 83 seconds. All done. No more marijuana odor entering my space. Wonder what Mr. IT will think. ‘That guy over there is uptight and skittish’ ‘Whatever, man.’ Don’t want to get him fired, but I’ve got to protect my job. Hard to get these benefits anymore in the private sector.
The next week, on a chilly Wednesday morning, Tim was sitting in the e-waste storeroom when he turned and looked at the pass-through vent. He heard Donald working in the neighboring storage room. [_ We’re both headed for obscurity. No one will remember either of us in 100 years; strike that – make it 50. Must use those lines. Yes, type them into this chapter right now – lest me [sic] forget. [Tim was writing a dystopian novel with the working title of ‘Oblivion +1’.] _]
Tim then got up to get some more piping hot coffee in the upstairs lounge. But, just as he flipped the light switch and turned the door handle, he noticed that the pass-through vent was dark. He paused. Then he quietly stepped back into the room and gently closed the door, leaving the light off. That’s odd. Is that guy now working in the dark? No way. Something’s up.
Then Tim switched the overhead light back on. He walked over to the pass-through vent, which was about nine feet (2.74 meters) high on the white-primer-painted wall. Why, look at that! Mr. Rossingtone has covered his side of the vent. Neighbors these days. Well, that’s fine and dandy. Actually, it’s ideal. Issue solved. So glad that he didn’t turn me in. Maybe he’s an ok guy. Just a bit on the paranoid side.
The two FRIU workers went about their business in their separate storerooms for the next three weeks with the pass-through vent covered on Donald’s side. But then, on the first Monday in November, Tim arrived to find a big change in his e-waste storeroom: The pass-through vent was gone. It had been removed and the void had been dry-walled over. Well, look at that. I wonder if Donald did that himself. No, he couldn’t have; he doesn’t have a key to this room. But, I bet that he requested it. I bet that he invented some safety reason for it.
Donald noticed the same thing in his storeroom five minutes later that morning. His side was already painted. It looked like the pass-through vent had never been there. So, Mr. IT pulled some strings with Maintenance and had them wall off that vent. I bet that he fabricated some security reason. Those IT types are quite crafty. Maybe he gave the guy in Maintenance a free used computer for doing it after hours. He’s probably burning a fatty [a distended marijuana cigarette] right now. [Tim was.] Guess I could safely do so, too. I’ve still got the air freshener. Oh hell, why not?
At that same time, the district fire inspector was talking on the phone with the university’s fire safety specialist, a 39-year-old Navajo American male who was in the Maintenance Building.
“Sani, did your guys get that basement pass-through vent removed and walled-off?”
“We did, Harvey. We just need to paint one side.”
“Excellent. Good job, Sani. Now, how about those alarm-system-linked smoke detectors for the storerooms?”
“They were installed and tested late last Friday. We went with that small, inset, nearly invisible model that you approved.”