PANIC IN THE PARKING LOT©
The company was committed to elevating its corporate conscience. In its aggressive campaign to search out and hire physically and mentally challenged employees, the company had earned national recognition as a model for all organizations. Access ramps and electronic doors were common place. High-tech equipment, designed to assist physically and mentally impaired employees hummed busily throughout the facility. The research funds that the corporation poured into joint efforts with computer companies and universities had finally paid off. The flood of media attention made the organization the darling of the industry and the community. All of this was good for business.
Morton Highland was the company's respected general manager. His favorite activity was to host executives from other companies in their tour of the facility. He proudly explained the newest equipment and always delighted in introducing their "special" employees to the visitors. The last stop on the tour was usually his office. It was crowded with plaques and accommodations from various agencies and organizations. Each award spoke of the company's untiring commitment and applauded its efforts toward mainstreaming the mentally and physically challenged.
Alfred Manchester, who was mildly mentally handicapped, was one of the company's newest "special" employees. The company's industrial psychologist had assessed Alfred with interviews and a series of tests. The psychologist determined that the young, cherub-faced boy was capable of highly routine clerical or manual work. Alfred functioned best in a structured routine, so he was assigned to the print shop. There he bound reports, ran simple copy equipment, and maintained department logs.
The psychologist was on target. Alfred loved his job. He was always prompt, never wasted time, and was careful about his work. His supervisor often remarked that she wished she could have five Alfreds. When Alfred heard her make these comments, he extended his grin wider than usual, flashed an adoring look her way, and returned to work even more intently.
Alfred felt very lucky indeed. He found the smell of the inks and binding glue comforting. This was his first real job. He was on his own. Today he especially enjoyed the bright airy atrium where he chewed thoughtfully on the leftover roast beef sandwich his mom had packed for him.
"Everyone is so nice here, not like at school where the other kids teased and made fun of me," he thought as he rummaged through his lunch bag to see what kind of treat his mother had sent along this time. Alfred had been on the job for two months now, and everything was going along smoothly.
Alfred had never taken city busses before this job. At first, he was very nervous about taking the bus. Alfred had no problem counting change, because he and his mom always made sure he had the exact amount before he walked out in the morning. Just to be safe, he kept his bus fare in a separate section of his wallet. But the schedules were sometimes confusing. The office was in the suburbs, and the bus only ran every forty minutes. The thought of missing his bus made Alfred feel clammy and disoriented. About a week later, Alfred's supervisor asked him to stay a few extra minutes so they could complete a rush project. Always eager to please, Alfred plunged into the task. This extra duty delayed Alfred by about fifteen minutes–just long enough to miss his bus. When he left the rear entrance of the building at 5:15 P.M., he looked for the familiar faces that rode the bus with him. No one was in sight.
A wave of nausea converged on Alfred. He felt himself starting to perspire. On the pavement, peeking through the melting snow, were chunks of asphalt coughed up from last winter's series of freezing and thawing. Alfred's eyes started to water while he grew more and more agitated. Frustrated, he grabbed a fistful of asphalt. It was now 5:30, and no bus was in sight.
Morton Highland decided to call it quits for the day. He packed up his briefcase and headed for the rear entrance, where his car was parked. As he walked through the door, a whirring sound and a shotgun snap cracked right past his ear. When he rubbed his ear, his fingers touched his cheek. He felt sand and grit.
Before Morton had a chance to look around, he felt a punch in his arm. Morton dropped his briefcase from the impact and spotted Alfred winding up to hurl another chunk of asphalt. Morton quickly grabbed his briefcase, shielding himself from Alfred's machine-gun like pellets as he ducked back in the building for safety. He raced to the nearest office to call for help.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©