Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

A Short Story by Ehtisham Rizvi

“We give you guys freedom, and this is what you do with it?” When the boss was unhappy, his voice could be heard throughout the office.

“But…let me explain myself.” The employee said in a hushed whisper. The look on his face was that of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Only in this case he could get fired instead of getting spanked. 

He didn't fear getting fired; he had been meaning to quit that job anyway. However, he truly dreaded the reason he was being fired. If news got out of what he did, his reputation would be ruined. He wouldn't be able to get a job anywhere in town, and more importantly, he would bring shame on his family name. He had to find a way out of this.

“What possible explanation could you have? No one else has access to your computer, there were no viruses or malware, and the browsing history speaks for itself. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“A lot of other people have access to my computer. It is not password protected you know. May be someone from IT is trying to set me up.” The employee had gathered himself by now, his voice was a little less shaky and his brain was now coming up with a number of good excuses, maybe there was a way out for him after all.

“So I am to believe someone from IT logged into your account, downloaded those shameful photos everyday for the last twenty days, during the time you were supposed to be at your desk, and then sent a complaint about you? The complaint did not even come from the IT guys, a couple of people saw you doing it. You were looking at those pictures when you thought no one else was looking.” It seemed as if a couple of employees had already thrown him under the bus.

Snitches! He went silent for a couple of seconds before moving on to his next natural response. 

“They are conspiring against me. They are jealous you know. I meet my sales targets early every month and they don’t.” He applauded himself at this response. In his mind, he had not only discredited the snitches, he had also reminded his boss about his excellent performance as a sales rep. They can’t fire me, they need me, I bring in the big bucks.

“Don’t flatter yourself. You are not important enough for anyone to conspire against you. And almost everyone here meets their sales targets; the product pretty much sells itself.”

“Look…” He decided to put all cards on the table. It wasn't like he was the only guy in the world who enjoyed looking at pictures like that. So what if he rewarded himself with a couple of mouthwatering high resolution jpegs after making a big sale every now and then. He was only human, and the boss was human too, he would understand.

“I admit it. I went to those websites, and I downloaded those pictures. I even looked at them during work hours, but who doesn't do that from time to time? I mean people check their emails, listen to songs, some even visit social networking websites through proxy servers while at the office. They all have a guilty pleasure or two, and so do I. And it’s not like we are a registered company that pays taxes to the government. We pay the tea boys less than the minimum wage, so let’s not get all high and mighty here.”

The boss, who was till that point sitting aggressively at the edge of his chair finally let out a big sigh and slumped back. This employee could report them to the authorities, and then they would have to pay taxes which in no way would be acceptable to the owner of the company.

“All I am saying is that this is the holy month of Ramzan, and as a Muslim you should not look at such pictures while fasting. You do fast, don’t you?” This time around, the boss’ tone was very polite. The employee smiled, he knew he had saved his job.

“Yes sir I do. And rest assured this will never happen again.” He even saved his boss the whole ‘I am letting you off with a warning’ speech as he walked away.

The boss looked at the links shared with him by the IT department as proof. He clicked on a link, then another, and then another. His screen filled with tab after tab of colorful images of a diverse range of food; desi food, Chinese food, Italian food, and exotic cuisines with unknown origins. 

One picture of a beef burger was so mouthwatering that the boss could feel its yummy, juicy delights in his mouth. He tried to remind himself that he was fasting, and that he should not be doing the same thing he almost fired his employee for, but he couldn't stop himself from clicking one picture after another. It’s not like I am actually eating it. My fast is still in tact. He clicked on the image of the beef burger so he could zoom in to get a better look.
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