Three Weeks in Pursuit of Angela From Accounting

MY DATA-ENTRY JOB at the law offices of Wilson, Spiegel, & Prestwich was always meant to be a temporary thing, a stopgap until my accordion playing took off and started to pay dividends. I figured I’d stick around for six months or so, maybe, and learn some computer skills while I saved up enough money to record my demo and build up enough of a local following to make the accordion a full-time affair. As temporary jobs go, it wasn’t so bad; we had free donuts in the break room, casual Fridays, and I could shoot the breeze with Copy Room Gary whenever data entry got to be a little too tedious. The most visible attraction, however, was Angela from Accounting. She was, I felt, the kindest and most beautiful co-worker I had ever had, someone I felt a real affinity for and a potential for a lasting, meaningful relationship, and so it was with no small degree of regret that I got her fired.

I first met Angela when I needed to fill out my paperwork to get on the payroll. She was predictably beautiful, with straight dark hair and dark eyes, and I did my best to make the most of the situation.

Angela: Joel Salisbury? Just fill out this W-2 and the confidentiality agreement, and we should have you ready to go in just a few days.
Me: You know, doing data-entry is really more of a temporary thing, for me. I’m an accordion player, and as soon as that starts to take off…well, let’s just say, it’ll be ‘sayonara, suckers’ to Messrs. Wilson, Spiegel, and Prestwich, esquire.
Angela: I’m sorry, did you say ‘accordion’?
Me: That’s right. You’re a fan?
Angela: No. I mean, not that I know of. I guess I just didn’t realize that there was much of a market for accordion players.
Me: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of untapped potential out there. I mean, how many guitar players are there? They’re a dime a dozen. But for us accordion players, the playing field’s wide open.
Angela: Interesting. Just sign here, and you’ll be all done, Joel.
Me: The accordion can be incredibly expressive, you know.

After that, we’d see each other in hallways, or in the copy room, or at staff meetings, and I’d make a point to chat her up as much as I could. The Salisbury charm is legendary, the sort of thing that drives women to deep throes of passionate longing, and I have to say that it was in full force in Angela’s presence. It was only a matter of time, I felt, before I’d win her over. She was a few years older than me, and had returned to school to study fashion design, after getting her degree in English. She attended one of the local art schools here in Chicago, and from what I could tell, she really felt like she could make it in the world of fashion design. Once, she opened here desk and showed me some of the drawings she’d been working on, and they looked pretty good to me.

It was at one of these schmoozing sessions over at Angela’s desk that I accidentally spilled my coffee all over her accounting paperwork. I had been demonstrating a particularly vigorous accordion technique, and bumped the mug that I had set on her desk, and when I tried to catch it, I ended up knocking it completely over. As the coffee began to soak through her stack of billing reports, she just sat there, watching. I think she was in shock.

Angela: This was two weeks of work, Joel. We have to get everything finished for our tax returns by the end of the week.
Me: Here, let me help with that [reaching for a tissue and dabbing ineffectually at the coffee].
Angela: Just go away. I’ll take care of it.

I felt bad about making Angela stay overnight at work to re-do her paperwork, but I had a performance later that evening at a restaurant that offered live music, so I couldn’t really afford to worry about it. I did, however, perform an accordion rendition of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, which I dedicated to her. It struck just the right sort of plaintive, wounded tone, I thought, although it didn’t seem like the audience really understood what I was trying to accomplish.

Later, I asked Copy Room Gary what I should do to fix things with Angela. More than anyone else, he had his finger on the pulse of the office; secretaries would stop by for paperclips and share the latest gossip, paralegals would come in to get motions duplicated and would chat for a few minutes, even partners would talk a little bit about their lives while they were waiting to pick up a fax. I asked him if he knew if Angela was mad.

Gary: I don’t know. I heard Carol gave her a pretty hard time about having her paperwork in late.
Me: That’s what I was afraid of. What do you think I should do?
Gary: Maybe you should send her a note. When I do something that makes my wife mad, I leave her a little love note with flowers.
Me: [hugging Gary] You, my friend, are a genius.

I figured I could do Gary one better—I had Angela’s email address, so I looked up an “I’m sorry” e-card, composed a heartfelt little note, and sent it off to her. It would, I was certain, brighten her day and turn her frown upside down. After sending off the email, I waited anxiously at my desk for her response. She walked by a few times, and I tried to give her a little wink, but she avoided eye contact with me.

A few minutes later, though, I saw Angela coming out of Carol’s office, and it looked like she was wiping tears from her eyes. How, I thought to myself, could she be sad at a moment like this? She had just received a hilarious and unexpected email from myself, with a heartfelt note of apology. A little later in the day, I was able to get the scoop from Gary.

Gary: I guess Carol had stopped into the accounting office, and Angela was checking her email, and all of a sudden this loud obnoxious music started playing from her computer. Well, Carol turned to Angela—you know how she is about people reading personal email on company time—and just totally laid into her. She said that her behavior lately had been sub-par, that issues in her personal life were infringing on her ability to work, and that she was going t0 have to put Angela on probation.

This latest development, I could see, was going to be difficult for even the legendary Salisbury charm to smooth over. I needed to pull out all the stops. It is at times like this, when lesser men would tuck their tails between their legs in defeat, that a Salisbury shines the most. I knew what I would have to do. I looked up Angela’s address in the company directory.

That evening, in the bushes outside Angela’s house, I tried to formulate the best plan of attack. It was quite cold, and the accordion straps were pinching my shoulders. I could see a light on in the upper story window, and when I saw a shadow move in front of the light, I took a deep breath. I stepped out into the open, and began tapping out the bass notes to U2’s “With Or Without You.”

Say what you will about the accordion, but if you were to hear me that evening, you would have been brought to tears. Never had I played so soulfully, never had my voice been so clear and so true. It was, in a word, stirring. It could have turned the godless heart to religion. As I sang, I saw a figure come to the window and lift it open.

Angela: Joel, is that you? What on earth are you doing here?
Me: I won’t be rebuffed, Angela. All I want is to express to you the feelings in my heart.

The silhouetted figure moved away from the window, and a minute later, Angela came out of the front door. To my surprise, she wasn’t alone. She was accompanied by, of all people, Barry Spiegel of Wilson, Spiegel, & Prestwich. I was confused.

Angela: Joel, you shouldn’t have come here. I don’t know what you were thinking.
Me: Um, sorry? I thought you’d be alone, Angela. Wait a minute…are the two of you on a date? I thought you were married, Mr. Spiegel.
Barry Spiegel: [punching me in the nose]

In the end, I think it probably turned out for the best. Angela never did go back to work; I think she and Mr. Spiegel decided that if it came out that they had been dating, it would just cause too many problems at the office, and then Mrs. Spiegel would find out, and it would probably be easier for all involved if the two of them just broke off their relationship. As for me, I stayed until I was able to get my last paycheck. After that, I decided that it was too much effort, hiding behind the file cabinets every time Mr. Spiegel walked down the hall. I tried to call Angela on the phone a few times to invite her to my performances, but she always hung up on me. Even this didn’t dampen my spirits too badly, however; they say that the best accordion music is made out of heartbreak, and if I was ever going to hit the big time, I’d be needing some material.


Anonymous Jessie said...

I loved the voice in this story...it is such a "Dave" story. Your characters always seem to have something about them that is just so odd..little quirks and such. The way you write is wonderful in that although I could never relate to an accordian player you have made Joel endearing to me. His passion about his accordian playing is almost nerdy, and yet I can relate to feeling passionate about something that may be a little off the wall. Great story. Im starting to believe that your best work is produced when you are in a jam. I now understand why you are such a procrastinator :) it works for you.


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