When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Hitler!
My name is William Schprockenberger. My friends call me Bill — you can call me Bill, too, if you want. I live in a quiet suburb just west of the city with my wife, Dotty, and little Bill Junior. We’ve got a fine ranch house there, with a big patio out back for the barbecue. Dotty keeps our home spic and span, and, when I get home from the office, she usually has the Philco tuned to my favorite radio station and a freshly mixed highball set right next to my easy chair. Yessir, she’s quite a gal, my Dot. And Bill Junior, why, he’s quite a little tiger himself, always getting into mischief. Heh, heh — yep, I’ve got quite a family.
Anyway, officer, my day started out like any ordinary day, except I was running late, see, so I couldn’t pick up Joe and Ernie, my two pals who I always ride into the city with. Joe’s in plastics and Ernie’s in sheet metal. Me, I’m an ad man. Anyway, Ernie was awful sore when I called him and told him the news, but Joe took it okay. He said he’d give old Ernie a lift in his Studebaker and not to worry.
Now, I know there’s a war on and I shouldn’t use all that gas for myself, but Dotty forgot to set the alarm clock, so I got up late. Old Man Higgins — he’s my boss — he was counting on me to make a big presentation at 10 AM sharp for the Gleam-O Car Polish account. I couldn’t be late for it. So Dotty packed up a lunch of Spam sandwiches and two hard-boiled eggs and I just had to hotfoot it into town all by my lonesome.
Well, officer, here’s where things start to get weird. I come to a red light, see, I’m slowing down all ready to stop, when I hear, just as plainly as you talking to me, “Dumkoff! Run zee light! Schnell! Schnell!”
Now, this voice I’m hearing, it’s pretty insistent, right? — like it’s not gonna take no for an answer. I don’t know why, but I just had to obey it. So dad blast it if I didn’t run that red light! You can see I’m telling the truth! Why would I admit to something you didn’t know about? I’m not a bad guy, officer, honest — I’m being cooperative. You can tell that, can’t you?
Well, that shook me up real bad. I got to work all in a terrible mood, just sore at myself for listening to that crazy voice — I could have caused an accident, for crying out loud! And where did that voice come from, anyway? I went into my office and told Miss Hairbun to hold all my calls. She said Mr. Higgins had called me twice already. I said, “Aw, you can tell Higgins to go . . . oh, never mind, I’ll call him myself in a minute.”
What was wrong with me?
Well, it worked out I met with Higgins just before we sat down with the Gleam-O people. “What’s the matter, Bill?” he asked. “You seem a little off your feed.”
“I’m all right, just a headache I guess, Mr. Higgins. But don’t you worry, I’ll sure sock ’em with this ad campaign I cooked up.”
I had the easel already set up for the Gleam-O presentation. Joe Lawson, the fat president of Gleam-O who was already puffing away on a big stogy at 10 in the morning, sat at the conference table right in front of me. I took my place next to the easel and started in:
“Gentlemen, I thought we could kick off the new campaign by holding a beauty contest — you know, for Miss Gleam-O. A national search for the Girl with the Gleam. Then we could take bathing suit photos of the winner in front of a brand new Ford, all shined up by Gleam-O Car Polish, and she could say, ‘Shine your car with Gleam-O, and I’ll take a shine to you!’”
Lawson interrupted. “I hope this ain’t the best you got, Schprockenberger, ’cause it stinks!”
“Well, no, it’s not all, Mr. Lawson, but I kinda figured it to be the centerpiece.”
“It’s crap. Can the whole idea. What else ya got?”
Well, then it started getting weird again, officer. Old Man Higgins, he was giving me the eye, like he was saying, c’mon Schprockenberger, think of something. I sure was nervous. But then I heard that voice again, loud and clear, only . . . only it was me talking — but it wasn’t me! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true!
“You vill like ziss campaign, you schweinhund!” I heard myself say.
“What did you just call me?”
“Uh, Bill —” quickly interposed Higgins, “he was just kidding around, Mr. Lawson — Bill, tell Mr. Lawson you were just kidding.”
“Higgins, I think this advertising genius of yours just insulted me!”
“Oh, no, no, Mr. Lawson! It’s just that off-beat sense of humor of his. That’s what makes Bill so special, you know!” Then Higgins turned to me and said loudly, “Say, Bill? What about that other thing? You know, the thing you left in your office? Maybe we better go get it to show Mr. Lawson.”
“Vat zing?” I asked.
“Ha ha! Ha! Bill, that’s funny . . . Mr. Lawson, uh, heh! heh! . . . to your office, Bill . . . be back in just a moment, Mr. Lawson. What a kidder, huh? Ha ha!”
As soon as we stepped outside the conference room, Higgins wheeled on me. “Schprockenberger, just what the hell’s gotten into you? That’s the Gleam-O account in there, our biggest plum, for God’s sake! Explain yourself!”
“It must be this headache, Mr. Higgins.”
“Listen, Bill, I’ve got some damage control to do in there now. I want you to head into your office, lock the door and don’t come out until Lawson and his group leave, understand me?”
“I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay, Mr. Higgins.”
Well, the Old Man sure settled my hash pretty good. I slunk back to my office past the inquiring gaze of my secretary, Miss Hairbun. What was happening? Why did I say those things?
So there I was, stuck in my office. I could hear Miss Hairbun typing just outside my door. Through the wall, I heard Bob Wajowski, one of the account reps, talking on his phone in the office next to mine, the big one with the window that overlooked the park.
The office I always wanted.
Then I got this idea, a real screwy one, but, officer, it was like some madman was doing the thinking for me, I swear! I didn’t even hesitate. I hit the switch on the intercom and said, “Miss Hairbun, tell Jimmy from the mailroom I want to see him.”
“Yes, Mr. Schprockenberger.”
Several minutes later, young Jimmy Springer walked into my office. “You sent for me, Mr. Schprockenberger?”
“Yes, Jimmy, I did. Sit down — take this chair, the nice, comfy one. Now tell me, Jimmy: do you see yourself always working in the mailroom?”
“Heck, no, Mr. Schprockenberger, someday I want to be an important man, like you, sir.”
“Ha ha! Well said, Jimmy! I’m very glad to hear that. Ambition is good. It’s good if you know how to use it, and it can drive you on to big things. Now listen, Jimmy, you must know someday I’ll be the top dog around here.”
“I’ll bet you will.”
“Oh, you can count on that. And that day might come sooner than later.”
“Look, Jimmy, let me tell it to you straight: when I get to be in charge around here, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll remember anyone who helped me get there.’
“Gee whiz! You mean you could use my help?”
“Heh, heh! You’re a smart one, Jimmy! That’s right. As head boy of the mailroom, I’ll need your help, yours and the other fellas you have working for you.”
“You talk to them, Jimmy. I want you all to form a kind of . . . well, a kind of brigade. A youth brigade. Let’s call it — let me see now — why don’t you call yourselves the Schprockenberger Youth, eh? It’s got ring to it, wouldn’t you say?”
“Enlist them all, Jimmy, and have everybody meet me in my office at 11:30. It so happens I already have a ‘mission’ in mind.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Schprockenberger!”
I knew I could count on Jimmy to get them on my side.
Look, I don’t want to make a long story out of this, officer. This is how things went: at 12 noon, myself and six of the mailroom crew marched into Wajowski’s office armed with rubber band slingshots. Each member had several hundred rounds of paperclips at his disposal, while Wajowski, caught by surprise, had only a letter opener and a paper weight. We ousted him from his office in less than a minute under a hail of paperclips and pink erasers. I now controlled two offices on my floor. By 1:30, through a program of indoctrination and intimidation, half the floor was mine. The secretarial pool fell without a single shot being fired and my army swelled to 16 in number. I made Miss Hairbun my Minister of Propaganda and I promoted Jimmy to Reichsmarschall. The supply room was next to fall after 15 minutes of heavy fighting. Jackson, the office manager, lit several jars of correction fluid before retreating, but we doused the flames and secured our position with minimal losses. On we went — the break room, the janitor’s closet, the executive washroom, office after office —we were unstoppable! By 2:00, I was sitting at Higgins’ desk, sipping a snifter of brandy from the Old Man’s private bar. I had conquered the entire eleventh floor!
Was I contented? No, assuredly I was not! Officer, my company occupied only one floor of a 17 floor office building. One floor was not enough!
I sent Miss Hairbun on a secret diplomatic mission to the ninth and thirteenth floors. See, I was friendly with Henderson of Bric & Brac Accounting Services, and Wilthorpe, of Noodlestrom Plumbing Fixtures, Inc., owed me a favor. What we needed were allies! I knew Bric & Brac had a simmering feud going on with AAA Accounting on tenth, and there was no love lost between Noodlestrom and Wilson Pipe and Joint Co. of the twelfth floor. We were on the eleventh. Don’t you see? With a little muscle, we could cut the F. W. Finkelstein Building in half!
Well, Miss Hairbun did her job, all right. She’s not such a bad looking dame, you know, and Henderson and Wilthorpe weren’t exactly blind to her charms. At 3:00, my company, Bric & Brac and Noodlestrom launched an all out attack. Staples flew everywhere! Rubber bands, erasers, thumbtacks — the air was thick with them! Peterson, the guy from accounting who always chews with his mouth open, disabled the elevators and sent a commando unit to control the stairs. By 3:30 we conquered floors nine through thirteen, and by 4:00 we owned the entire top half of the building! Ha ha!
By this time, the bottom floors began to get wind of what was going on. Metropolitan Candy Bar and Wing Nut, on eighth, was the most vulnerable, and frantically called for the other companies to come to its aid. My staff and I reviewed the rest of the businesses. Most could be defeated, we could see, but Galactico Extruded Plastics, which occupied the bottom three floors, could prove intractable. Luckily, early intelligence reports indicated that their president, Thaddeus P. Toodlebottom, was an isolationist. If Galactico could just stay out of the way, all would be well.
But then the unthinkable happened. Henderson, who now went by the moniker of El Douché, launched a surprise attack against the Galactico shipping department! Reports of overturned containers, slashed truck tires, wedgies, and shredded shipping manifests began to pour in. What was he thinking? Why wake a sleeping giant? In the eerie calm that followed, we heard the PA system, from several floors down, crackle to life. It was the voice of President Toodlebottom himself:
“This day, January 18th, 1943, a date which will live with a whole bunch of other dates that aren’t too good to look back upon, the forces of Bric & Bric Accounting Services did, without provocation, attack the mechanized fleet of the Galactico Extruded Plastics shipping department. There now exists, between Galactico Extruded Plastics and Bric & Brac Accounting Services, along with its fellow Axis of Bad Business Practitioners, a state of war!”
Cheers followed this proclamation. Holy cow, we were in for it now!
Well, officer, I won’t belabor this story any longer. For an hour or so, it was touch and go. We modified several hand trucks that gave us an advantage for a while, but the Allies unveiled the Super Dumpster. First we lost control of the stairs, then the elevators came back on line. We made one final push, but were repulsed on the fourth floor. And then you and Officer McClusky pulled up in your squad car and put an end to things once and for all. Seems our paperclips and staplers were no match for your guns.
So here I am, officer. I’m a living example of what can happen when you commute by yourself. Because…
…when you ride alone, you ride with Hitler!
Special thanks to the fabulous Mrs. T for posting that inspirational poster on her blog!