A Guilty Conscience

There's this guy named Reinholdt.

He claims that if he doesn't have processes expressly written down for him to review whenever he performs a task, no matter how many times he may have performed that exact task in the past, he won't know how to do it correctly. Even then, he rarely follows the instructions, so even if everything is appropriately documented and readily available at his fingertips, there's a pretty good chance he'll screw something up in the end. And sometimes, for no apparent reason, Reinholdt just makes up his own rules.

We've gotten used to how Reinholdt operates. Whenever something goes wrong, we're pretty certain he's at fault. All incoming mail is sitting in the OUT box? Seems ol' Reinholdt didn't bother reading the huge sign that says "OUT" right above it. Two and two are supposed to equal four, but suddenly they come out to seven? Oh, looks like three days ago Reinholdt messed around with the laws of mathematics. Every number in the phonebook now has a four-digit area code and ends in a letter? Reinholdt thought he saw once that was the right way to do it.

We try to be gentle with Reinholdt. After all, he's a pretty nice guy. So whenever he pulls another one of his doozies, always managing to somehow best himself, we attempt to respond in a diplomatic manner. Once the problem is fixed, we gather everyone in a room, talk about how things are working out, pat some people on the back, remind folks about the bowling party next week, wish Darlene a happy birthday, and, oh yeah, one more thing: just want everyone to remember that the access door to the fusion reactor should be sealed before firing the thing up.


Later on Reinholdt corners me in the break room as I'm digging through the fridge looking for my lunch that was most likely eaten by someone else.

"I know you were talking about me," he says out of the blue.

"Huh?" I respond, my head nearly entirely in the crisper.

"The fusion reactor. The access door. Keeping it shut."

I pull my head out. "Oh. That. No...not necessarily. I just thought it was a good time to remind everyone of that very important policy."

"Well, it's just that, at my last job, we always left it open. At least a crack."

"You left the lead-lined three-foot thick access door to an operating fusion reactor open at all times?"

"Yes. It's how we kept things cool in there."

I'm a little dumbfounded. Once again, Reinholdt has managed to justify, at least to himself, an idiotic mistake.

"Well, regardless, I wasn't talking about you specifically anyway. Like I said, just a friendly reminder I thought everyone could stand to hear."

"Are you going to put out a memo re-iterating that? It might help me remember to do it."

I'm getting frustrated. I tried not to single him out as the offender to save him a little dignity. But there he stands, admitting his guilt to something he wasn't even directly accused of.

"I really don't think that's necessary," I tell him, "considering there's a huge sign on the door telling everyone not to ever, EVER, leave it open. Besides, it was just a reminder. I don't want to push the point."

Which I wouldn't have to do if he would just let it go.

"Hmmmmmmmmm..." He stands there, just staring at me.

He doesn't seem to want to walk away. I want the conversation to end. I had my say and it's done with. I start rummaging through the refrigerator again in a vain attempt to find my lunch. I make a sound of frustration.

"I think I ate your lunch on accident," he says.

(NOTE: This is pretty much a true story, only names and details have been changed to protect identities. For instance, there's nobody I work with named Reinholdt, and my employer stopped using OUT boxes some time ago.)

Inspiration found here.

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