WASHINGTON — Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the White House had put forth “alternative facts” to ones reported by the news media about the size of Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd. (New York Times, Jan 22, 2017)
After waiting in the hallway for what felt like hours, but was really only fifteen minutes, Bob Roberts was ushered into a small room containing a large executive desk and a small plastic chair. Behind the desk, a large, well-dressed man rose to greet him.
“Mr Roberts, please, come in, sit down, would you like some coffee? Cindy, get Mr Roberts some coffee!”
Bob’s hand was shaken so vigorously by the man – who also sported a rather bad combover – that he all but fell onto the plastic seat.
“Er, it’s fine,” he stammered, “I don’t drink coff-”
“Fetch Mr Roberts a large black coffee with three sugars!” the man ordered the retreating form of Cindy, “And bring us some of those chocolate chip cookies my wife made!”
“Umm, it’s fine really,” Bob muttered, as he perched on the uncomfortable chair and placed his briefcase on the floor, “I’m good.”
“Of course you are!” the man bellowed, “You have no reason not to be! This is merely a get-to-know-you session.” With a creak of leather. he eased himself back into his wing-backed chair. “My name is Doug Douglas and I’m the Alternative Partner.”
Bob paused for a moment, and tried to figure out just what that meant. He had arrived for an interview for account executive, confident that his many years in the realm of finance had set him up for a breezy chat with one of the chief executives of Douglas, Douglas and Thompson (“#1 Chartered Accountants for the 5th Year Running” – Best Accountant Weekly). However, he had been knocked a little off balance since being hustled into the room with someone who was not, despite his name, one of the Partners.
“I was under the impression that I would be meeting with one of the Senior Partners,” Bob began, just as Doug Douglas waved an arm airily and announced, “Oh we here at DDT have dispensed with the usual formalities of interviews in lieu of the Alternative Scenario.”
“The Alternative -?” Bob glanced quickly around the room looking for hidden cameras, and wondered if this was some kind of aptitude test.
“Yes,” Douglas continued, “We here at DDT, have decided to apply the logic of alternative facts to our selection process, and you, dear boy, are our first victim – er, candidate.”
Bob was momentarily distracted from the odd turn of events by the appearance of Cindy with what he assumed was a large, steaming mug of coffee and a plate of cookies. Upon closer inspection, the mug appeared to be filled with nothing more than hot water and grit, and the ‘cookies’ were saltines.
“Please enjoy,” Cindy said as she turned to leave, “It’s Alternative Coffee.”
Bob was still staring at the cup of hot dirt.
“I, um, er, I’m sorry, did you say that I don’t bring..?”
“Why yes, dear boy, what are the qualities that you don’t have that we wouldn’t be able to use here at DDT?”
Bob prided himself on his ability to think on his feet, but this interview was becoming surreal.
“Well, I can’t scuba dive,” he admitted finally, “I don’t think that would be useful here.”
Douglas nodded his head enthusiastically: “Excellent point, Bob!” he agreed, “Scuba diving, while an admirable activity, will not help you here at DDT. Except of course, in our Maritime division.”
“Maritime division? Is there much call for chartered accountants at sea?” Bob asked, unsure if he was on steady ground himself.
“None whatsoever!” was the buoyant reply.
“I’m also very bad at basketball and painting,” Bob continued, feeling a little more confident, “And don’t get me started on Trivial Pursuit!”
“Good, good” muttered Douglas, as he jotted something down on a piece of paper. “How are you with numbers?”
“Numbers? Well, as a certified accountant, I’d say that I’m pretty sharp,” replied Bob confidently.
Douglas looked sharply up. “Oh dear! Well, that is a shame,” he said, “You see we were rather hoping for the opposite – the alternative, as it were.”
Annoyed at falling for the trap, Bob tried to rescue himself.
“Oh, I meant, by er, sharp, I meant it ironically, as in ‘not very’…as in dull,”
“Hmm,” Douglas stared at Bob, “We don’t really ‘do’ irony here.”
“Yes I know,” Bob replied quickly, “You’re Chartered Accountants!”
There was a long pause. Bob’s palms started to sweat as he tried to gauge what was going on. Suddenly, Douglas barked a loud laugh, stood up and offered a hand.
“Well, Bob!” he announced, “I think that you have the right stuff to join us here at DDT. why don’t I show you where you will be working!”
With a sigh of relief Bob grasped his outstretched hand, “Thank you, Mr Douglas! Thank you, I was a little worried there for a moment.”
Bob followed Douglas out of the office and looked around at the desks, wondering which one would be his. It was with more than a little surprise that he found himself facing the elevator doors.
“Oh,” he said, “Is my office upstairs?”
“But where do I work?”
“Work? No, no, the Alternative!”
As the elevator doors closed and he descended to the ground floor, Bob wondered what on earth had just happened, and if he could get the last half an hour of his life back. While he waited for a cab, he glanced up across the street and noticed the gleaming sign of Douglas, Douglas and Thompson emblazoned on the opposite building.
Bob spun around to see that the building he had just left was derelict; nothing more than an empty shell of rebar and concrete.
The Alternative Office.