Michael Gary Scott, of Scranton PA, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Dunder-Mifflin Company Annual Report; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating a certain entry; this was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:
Scranton branch (manager: M Scott) have continued to achieve their sales targets in a satisfactory manner and have won several major contracts this year.
"At Scranton, we believe that family time isn’t just for weekends - family time is 9-5 (8-4 for some employees depending on shift patterns)!”
The quote wasn’t as comprehensive as his original contribution – Jan must not have got all the seven pages of the fax – but the spirit was there. And “satisfactory” – well, that’s what she said!
And now his family was to grow, much like Madonna’s, by adoption. Several members of the Stamford branch were coming to join them and he was determined to make them welcome. After all, those poor guys would be so relieved that they were finally able to get away from that dull environment where, judging from his encounters with Josh, they must have been toiling long and hard without any of the great ways to get through the day which his Scranton homies enjoyed. He could only imagine how happy they must have been to hear that their boring workplace was to close and they would have the chance to join the house of fun.
But perhaps they would worry about fitting in. Well, he had the perfect plan to make sure that his new family members would not have a moment’s doubt about their place or about the ethos of the Scranton branch. And he had the perfect person to help implement that plan, the lovely Pam, his receptionist. If he were only 20 – well, 30 – years older, Pam could have been his devoted spinster daughter, he thought sentimentally, although in that case his admiration for her charming curves would have been quite out of place, so it was just as well they were employer/employee.
“Pamamerama,” he called. “I neeeeeed you!”
Poor Pam. Her expression as she trudged into the room looked so forlorn. Clearly the break-up with her fiancé Roy was still hitting her hard, which was weird as it was months ago now and she and Roy seemed to be on friendly terms. But something had to be done to turn her frown upside down and he was the man to do it.
“Michael, is this about the thing at the zoo? Because they’re still calling about that incident at the monkeys’ enclosure –”
“They’re still harping on about that? Man, what whiners. You’d think they’d know that they LIKE beer, I mean haven’t they seen Every Which Way But East? Anyway, it is not about that. The Stamford people are joining us next week and I need you to help me set up a wonderful bonding opportunity for us, Pam, a day which is going to transform strangers into family, or to be more exact, one family and some strangers into … a bigger family. It’s going to be so awesome!”
Pam still looked depressed, which was frankly selfish of her, to let her own problems outweigh the needs of the office.
“So, what is it?”
“It IS … well, uh, if you were going to guess, what would you guess that it was?”
She paused. “Um, you’re going to take everyone to lunch?”
”Pffft! No! That wouldn’t be very exciting, would it?”
“Well, I think people would -”
“I don’t know … a game? Paintball?”
“Hmm. Good … guess … but I don’t think that what we need is to set people against each other. This is about bonding, about stretching our horizons and being all we can be, about reaching for the skies … together …”
Pam could tell Michael was getting carried away. Quickly, she offered to look into team building exercises and report back to him. As she left his office, she could hear him humming the theme tune to The Greatest American Hero.
Great, she thought, as she returned to her desk. As if she didn’t have enough to do with all the administrative issues surrounding the sudden merger, which was being rushed through by head office to forestall any discontent over the closure of Stamford branch. While human resources issues were dealt with by Toby, of course – although for some reason he seemed to keep coming over to ask her opinion on some of them, which was odd – it was Pam’s responsibility to make sure that the transferring staff would have sufficient supplies, equipment and space, which meant reorganising the layout of the office, getting the IT guys to hook things up and so on. Now she’d also have to spend time researching ideas for Michael’s latest attempt to bring people together.
Although, she had to admit, she could always do it in the evenings. It wasn’t like she had much else to do then, given that heating up her meals-for-one took ten minutes and Project Runway was only on once a week.
Sometimes Pam couldn’t believe the way her life had changed. Just six months ago, she’d spent her evenings cooking for Roy and herself, then going over wedding magazines on the couch while he channel-hopped or watched the game. She knew she’d done the right thing in calling off the wedding – the very fact that she and Roy had already become little more than friendly acquaintances spoke volumes about the lack of passion in their relationship – but it still felt strange.
Sitting at her computer, Pam opened up the local Scranton directory and began flicking through the entries for local businesses. This ‘bonding day’ of Michael’s was the last thing she felt like taking part in and she doubted whether the Stamford people would be too keen either. After all, they’d been put in an impossible position: transfer immediately to a new town, or lose their jobs. Given the unemployment rate in Stamford, it was no surprise that most had agreed to move, with five employees opting to join the surprisingly thriving Scranton branch.
Or rather … four joining and one rejoining. For among those due on Monday was the man whom Pam had spent the last six months thinking about.
Jim. Jim, who, she now realised, was a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit and brilliancy. And who she had rejected, not just once, but twice, through her own stupidity.
Yet again, her mind went back to that conversation the night she had finally broken it off with Roy. She had driven straight to her mother’s house and poured out the whole story. And her mother, who loved her very much but who had lived her whole life without taking a chance, who had no sense of humour and never got jokes, but who knew her daughter inside out, said: “Is this about that boy from work?”
“No! Yes … I don’t know, Mom. Maybe …” she’d whispered.
That chink of doubt was where she was vulnerable. For Pam had never really been very good at firm decisions. Younger than her years, in many ways, she had always been easily influenced – not in the traditional, going-off-the-rails way, where she’d go along with a bad crowd. She’d been raised better than that. But Pam trusted those who loved her more than she trusted herself. And her mother’s arguments, backed up with years of affection, were hard to dismiss.
“If you’re not ready to marry Roy, that’s one thing, Pammy. You know he’s a good man and he’d take care of you, but I’d never want you to get married if you’re not sure. But this Jim – what do you really know about him? You’ve got a crush, that’s understandable, he’s a good-looking boy –”
“He’s not a boy, Mom.”
“He’s not much of a man, either, trying to seduce an engaged woman, spending all his time at work playing silly jokes instead of working hard to build a future, like Roy. And didn’t you tell me he was seeing another girl until recently? Didn’t he just break it off with her suddenly? How do you know he wouldn’t do that to you – maybe he’s just one of these men who likes the chase.”
“No! He’s not … he wouldn’t do that, we’re friends, he – he said he loved me.”
“And then he left, right? He left without saying goodbye? Did you ever think he might have been trying to take advantage of you because he was leaving town? All I’m saying is that you should wait and not rush into anything. I’m saying this for your own good, darling, you’re such a trusting soul, you’ve always had such a good heart. I would hate to see you get hurt …”
And so it went on and Pam, upset and shaken by calling off the wedding, felt like that had used up all the confidence that she had. She didn’t have the nerve to get in touch with Jim and as time went on, it seemed too late – too awkward.
As the months had passed, she realised that she had made a terrible mistake. But there seemed no way back. She just couldn’t bring herself to write or phone Jim – what would she say? She felt so foolish, like a little girl who had been unable to know her own mind for so long. Jim had put himself out there, had been brave enough to speak up, and she had failed him …
Well, it was done. Though only six months had passed, Pam felt much older than she had been before. Living on her own for the first time, dealing with bills and rental agreements and repairs, as well as dealing with the many, many enquiries about why the wedding had not taken place, had given her a new self-possession. She felt that finally she was growing up.
And now Jim was coming back … when she’d heard the news, she had managed to hide any reaction, conscious of the eyes of the other staff, of the watchful cameras. She’d forced herself to wait ten minutes before slipping off to the bathroom, to lock the door and exhale a heavy breath as she took in the news. Jim was coming back, he was coming back, she might have another chance.
But the new stronger Pam, which still contained more of her old fears than she liked to admit, argued caution. What were the chances that someone like Jim would be interested in her anymore? Not only had she rejected him, but she had called off the wedding – she knew he would have heard about that – but not had the courage to contact him. How pathetic. How could he still be interested in someone like that?
No. He will have moved on, she told herself. And that’s fine: if all I can expect is our old friendship back, that will be enough. I may not deserve his love, but I am damn well going to try to deserve his respect. I’ll show him that I’ve changed, that I’ve grown.
Michael’s latest inane nickname cut into her thoughts, breaking up the cycle which she had gone over too many times already.
“Look no further, I have it!”
She looked up to find him practically bouncing up and down in front of her desk.
“Come here, I don’t want to spoil the surprise for everyone,” he said, pulling her head towards him in an exaggerated display of secrecy which, of course, attracted the attention of everyone in the office.
“Mmmf, massage,” he whispered into her hair.
“What? We’re all going for a massage?” she whispered back, adopting his tone without thinking. “I don’t think head office would think that was appropriate, Michael …”
“No! MONtage. We need a montage, Pam!”
She had no idea what he was talking about. When she found out he was referring to Montage Mountain, Scranton’s nearest ski resort, she just wished she didn’t know what he was talking about. There was no way this could go well.