For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #145, where we write about the image below from Jessica Gale at Morguefile.com.
Justine was flustered. The newest – and youngest – member of the board, she was already fed up. But for this meeting, the new Head of Customer Relations had been tempted to pull a sickie today. As it was, she sat, seemingly in a daydream, but actually reflecting on how to fight the latest fire, when the grossly overweight chairman rose unsteadily to his feet.
“Gentlemen. And lady.” He added poignantly, as if it was not already clear that Justine was the only woman in the room. She fiddled awkwardly with her pearl necklace, which contrasted well with her deep rouge trouser suit. “Item next”, he began. “Staff Absenteeism.”
He continued. “As we discovered last time, absenteeism has tripled in the last nine months, and so the airport decided to hire a firm of management consultants to help us discover the reasons. Mr Glover…,” he nodded to the officious-looking man sitting on his left, “… has come to visit us today with their interim conclusions. So, without any more ado, let me hand the floor to Mr Glover.”
Glover, a small bespectacled man in his mid-forties, rose quickly from his chair. His first action was to move deftly towards the door, where he switched the lights off. The only light in the room was the sunlight, struggling to make its way past the window blinds. On his way back to his leather chair, he flicked the projector on.
The man returned to the table but remained standing.
“Gentlemen….” Justine noticed that this time, she did not even warrant a mention.
“We ran some numbers, and we believe, at a high-level, that we understand some of your issues.” He reached out in front of him to the small remote control lying on the table. In one movement, Glover grasped it, and hit a button. The projector immediately fired into life, showing a simple bar chart.
“Gentlemen, what we are looking at is a curve of the number of aircraft that leave the airport, between zero and sixty minutes late. The blue bar denotes five years ago. The red denotes the year to date. As you can see…” – the red bar was taller – “… there has been a massive 45 percent increase”.
He allowed the data to sink in for a moment, before hitting another button.
“Same thing,” he continued, eyes focussed on the chart. “But this time, between sixty minutes and one-twenty.” Again, the red bar towered over the blue.
After a suitable pause, Glover displayed the next slide.
“In fact, what these numbers show is that overall, 35 percent more of your flights are departing late. The new slide ratified the number.
But Glover wasn’t done yet.
Allowing another pause, he started, “We then looked at assaults on staff. In terms of verbal assaults, there was a massive sixty percent rise.” Click.
He progressed quickly, keying the fob once more. “And in terms of actual physical assaults, the number is forty percent higher.”
One last pause.
“And the number of days taken as a result of these assaults accounts for seventy five percent of the increased staff sickness.”
Glover at last sat down.
The Chief Executive again rose and thanked the consultant.
“Bad news,” he bellowed, before softening his voice and adding, “but we have a plan.”
Justine shrunk into her chair, looking for the nearest sinkhole into which to throw herself. Make the fucking planes fly on time?