Michael hated his new carpet.
Like really hated it. Detested, loathed and absolutely abhorred it.
More even than Toby.
Well maybe not that much, but his feelings about the new flooring in his private office were a very close second to what he felt for the HR rep that made his stomach turn and blood boil at the mere sight of him or mention of his name.
Pam, after all her years of being receptionist and ear to Michael’s grievances about him, still wasn’t sure what the initial reasoning was for his animosity towards the gentle, soft- spoken soul. She quite honestly found him to be a calming presence in the midst of ever-present chaos, that was most often her bosses own doing.
As for the carpet, his grounds for hating it were assorted and numerous and she was well aware of all of them.
It was stiff and industrial feeling. Below his desk, it didn’t have the worn-in spot that had become soft and cozy in the exact place where he liked to run his unshod feet in the afternoon. Besides the roughness under his toes, it had a strong chemical odor, unlike his old carpeting which over time had absorbed the smell of pizza and popcorn and the faintest hint of his Night Swept cologne. There was a comfort embedded in the scent of the old rug that was no longer swirling in the air now that it had been replaced. But the carpeting that once provided Michael a sense of calm when he was greeted by its aroma each day, had been sullied by an odor so offensive it still made him gag when he thought of it. What now blanketed the room had a formaldehyde-like odor that reminded him of the middle school biology class where one Troy Abshire had deposited his amphibian’s innards down the back of Michael’s pants.
It made for an interesting talking head, when on day two after the office remodel, Michael shared all this with the camera crew. But they weren’t the only ones privy to his feelings on the subject.
Pam knew all of this too, perhaps and more, because he started complaining about it to her just moments after Roy and Darryl finished the installation. She thought maybe, just maybe, he would let it go overnight but when she arrived at work the next morning, he was waiting at her desk with a sour look on his face that told her it would be a very long day.
His first words were “I hate it, Pam. It makes me think of frog guts in my pants.”
Hadn’t she heard enough about his memories of middle school the day before. Obviously not, as he went on to repeat the tales from his bio labs that she’d already gotten an earful of yesterday.
When he came out to grab a coffee from the kitchen, he stopped off to mention how the rancid scent offending his nostrils today was only slightly better than the one that had been removed yesterday.
Fifteen minutes after that he grumbled some more when he dropped off a contract for her to fax out.
At ten-thirty, he called her from his desk to whine about its obnoxiously bland hue, as if the grey of the previous rug contained specks of sterling and a platinum sheen that was absent from the new one.
It was exactly the same color as the old one had been.
After the call came in from Jan to reschedule the seminar that was supposed to happen yesterday but due to the discovery and subsequent carpet replacement had to be postponed, he summoned her in once more. This time it was to make her run her stockinged feet along the empty space under the desk.
Even after Pam agreed that no, it wasn’t as soft and comfy—although she was only saying it to quiet his complaints, she never tried it out before and had no basis for comparison—he still was carrying on, trying to convince her.
The whole morning was like this, with him coming out every 15 minutes to complain about the rigid fibers,
…or how the color clashed with the walls,
…or the way his desk felt like it was lower now, the new pile not giving it the same lift.
She groaned silently each time he popped his head out, each time with a varied complaint about something else that was wrong ever since the industrial broadloom had been laid.
When after lunch he griped about how stiff it was, she was so exasperated at hearing about how awful his carpet was she didn’t even laugh when Jim, who happened to be up at her desk grabbing some jelly beans, mouthed that’s what she said to her and Randall, the cameraman that was just off to their right.
Michael might have hated his carpet, but at this point, Pam absolutely despised it and was ready to rip it out herself just to get him to shut up. Instead, she retrieved the air freshener spray from under the kitchen sink yet again in hopes the third misting would at least make him forget about the chemical smell it gave off.
“Sorry Michael, but you are just going to have to live with it,” she barked at him as she sprayed the room.
“The only way to get your old carpet back is to go back in time and stop your buddy, Packer from his little practical joke.”
The sound of Michael slamming his hand down on his desk startled Pam until she saw his face, the one he got when he had one of his crazy ideas.
“That’s it, Pam. I can go back in time. Just like in Harry Potter.”
She knew he’d just seen movie three, because as usual, the day after he’d come in asking her a million questions about the plot, how the magic worked and what exactly a dementor’s kiss was and wasn’t a kiss usually a good thing?
“Now how do I get my hands on one of those Time Changer things. Do you know any wizards?”
She assumed he was joking. He had to know that Harry Potter was just a story, a fantasy tale at that, but the way he said it she wasn’t so sure.
On her way back to her desk this time she stopped by Jim’s to ask him if it were at all possible that Michael wasn’t aware that J.K. Rowling’s magical world was in fact a fictional creation.
“I think he really believes there are witches and wizards who attend Hogwarts and learn to do magic.”
“And why wouldn’t he?” Dwight interjected, the supersonic hearing he was always boasting about, proving to be accurate.
“Without a doubt, they exist. You think all that came from her head? Rowling’s for sure a bitter squib, and is probably banished now, exposing their world like that.”
Accustomed to Dwight’s invasions into their conversations, they would often ignore him or tell him to mind his own business, but sometimes, like now, his nosiness warranted further attention.
This was one of those occasions where they engaged, trying to gleam more from the interfering deskmate. The information might prove useful to fuel a future prank.
“Really Dwight, you believe all that stuff about Hogwarts and magical beings is for real?”
“You think we are all Muggles and there’s a Ministry of Magic and Quidditch is a real game”
Jim really knew his Harry Potter, Pam mused. Of course, she loved it too, had read all the books so far and couldn’t wait for the final one to come out. Roy would often make fun of her, reminding her how they were written for children as if he were busy reading Proust or Faulkner when he hadn’t picked up a book himself since they graduated high school. She had to bribe him to see the films with her, owing him a favorite homecooked dinner or sex after each time he went along with her, even though he seemed to enjoy the movies almost as much as she did in the end. He would never admit it though, cashing in on his one-sided BJs when they returned home after the show.
But Jim always waited patiently for her and once she would eventually get Roy to go with her to see the films usually a few weeks after release, always seemed happy to dish with her, discoursing over things like how the movie differed from the book and what worked better in the film and what things they imagined differently in their heads.
Roy never did as he had no clue beyond what he saw on the screen, so their post-film discussion was limited to yeah, that was fun babe and the dementors were cool.
“Of course, idiots. Just like there are super heroes and aliens. Naturally there are wizards among us too.”
Craning his head around to see who else might be listening and pay heed to the others around the bullpen, he leaned in closer to them and whispered, “In fact, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that Creed may be wizard-born himself. I’m not convinced he isn’t some form of Animagus, that he doesn’t transform into a squirrel or a mole when he leaves here at night. I’ve had my eye on him for a while now.”
“You might be right Dwight,” Jim teased, even though he knew any sarcasm in his voice would be lost on Dwight. Pam’s cheeks however, puffed up in delight as her mouth widened into the smile that had been missing for most of the day thanks to Michael’s driving her mad about his carpet.
“Noted,” Jim spoke quietly to her and directed his eyes to the breakroom which she immediately knew as the sign to meet him there in a few to plot out a new prank thanks to the information they had just learned.
Once safely in the breakroom and out of the earshot of Dwight, Jim was able to talk freely with Pam.
“So, the other day I was at Barnes and Noble and up front by the register, you know how they have those little gag gifts?”
The smile on Pam’s face was already widening as she pictured the spinning wheel that featured the boxes with the toys Jim described.
“Yeah, the things like desktop Ping Pong and the mini Zen Garden.”
“Exactly.” Jim’s smile expanded to match Pam’s at her recognition.
“Well, I’m pretty sure I saw a bunch of Harry Potter ones there last time and one of them was a Time Turner. How funny would it be if we could convince Dwight that he could go back in time?”
Laughter filled her eyes as her grin broadened, the giggle that was just below the surface escaping into the air as she imagined it. She didn’t even need to answer before Jim was planning his trip to the nearby bookstore.
“I’ve got a sales call near there. I’m going to stop off and pick one up on my way back. You should keep talking about how much Hermione was able to accomplish by being able to revisit her days with her time travel apparatus.”
“Yeah, if Michael will give me a break today. He’s been making me crazy about his new carpet. But ooh Jim, this will be fun and I can use the distraction from him.”
While she waited behind in the breakroom for Jim to leave on his call, Pam thought about how glad she was the little bit of awkwardness between them had dissipated while she’d been away on her vacation with Roy. The day she left, after she’d learned about his crush, things between them had a similar feeling to Michael’s new carpet, a little stiff. Then, when she came back, she barely saw him. She knew it hadn’t to do with her; Michael’s office remodeling forced him back into the annex temporarily but she got a taste of a day at the office without Jim around and she didn’t like it. Even with Roy up on her floor the entire time, there was something missing without Jim’s jokes and conversation and general presence.
Once she knew he was gone, Pam made her way back too, purposely passing behind Dwight’s desk while subtlety grumbling about being behind schedule with all Michael’s trivial complaints distracting her.
“Oh, I wish there were two of me. Or better yet, I had Hermione’s hourglass thingy so I could go back and have another few hours to catch up on today’s to do list.”
She mumbled just loud enough for Dwight to hear her, hoping he would be listening in as he always did. Of course, he was, but so was Michael who happened to be heading over from her desk, probably having come from there to try and hold her captive to another gripe session, in her absence making his way to Dwight who he knew would be more sympathetic anyway.
“Well, I’m sorry Pam, if my carpet problems are not important to you as they should be. This office cannot function properly if the leader is not comfortable… and it’s your job to help me be comfortable so you should be more concerned about my comfort.”
Pam rolled her eyes at the camera she spied just over Michael’s shoulder before she turned back to him to placate him again with words of understanding, but he was already storming off back into his office. Still, he must have also heard Dwight who just as she had hoped he would, bombastically corrected her.
“Oh and Pam, it’s called a Time Turner and they are very rare. Good luck finding one.” He snickered deviously and hummed the Harry Potter theme as he also turned to where the camera was peeking out from behind the corner plant.
“Not likely,” he said with a smug smile as Pam walked away from him, a smirk of her own forming as she did.