Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
I’m in a terrible bind. There’s a partner in our 1,127-attorney firm named Mr. B who everyone is scared of, including me. Unfortunately, I got assigned to his practice group yesterday. Even though I’m a fourth-year associate, Mr. B apparently wanted to break me in easy. He called me on the phone, said his secretary had a document for me to copy, and told me to come to his office. When I did, he was on the phone again. He held up his right hand with all his fingers extended and mouthed, “This many.” So far, so good. I made five copies. But later in the day, he called me into his office again. He wasn’t on the phone anymore. He held up his right hand and extended his fingers again. Then he started screaming. “Look!” he yelled. “Tell me what you see!” A chill ran down my spine when I counted only four fingers.
As it turns out, Mr. B is missing the pinky on his right hand. As a result, I really screwed up. The document I copied an extra time was 10,780 pages long. Now Mr. B is telling all the other partners that anyone who “can’t count to four” is “too stupid to work at the firm.” To set things right, I’m going to offer to pay for the extra copy myself. My dilemma is that I can’t figure out how much to pay. Although the guys in the copy room tell me that copies cost the firm about two cents per page, we charge our clients fifty cents. So do I owe $215.60 or $5,390? Believe me, I don’t want to make another stupid mistake.
By the way, I found out that Mr. B is missing his pinky because he was mauled by a pit bull as a child. I guess that explains all those scars on his face and the way he hunches over when he walks. He’s a scary man, Mr. Schaeffer, and he frightens me.
Signed, Wishing-It-Was-All-A-Dream in Washington D.C.
However much you owe, I don’t think your problem is the money. Your problem is that Mr. B considers himself disabled--digitally-challenged, if you will--and you failed to notice his disability. It’s an important lesson for anyone who works at a large law firm: get to know the disabilities of the partners. Back when I was working at a large firm, I knew a partner who was recreationally-challenged--that is, he had a serious disability with his golf swing. One of the associates made the same mistake you did. He failed to take the disability seriously and laughed when the partner sliced three balls in a row into the lake at the edge of the 7th green. The associate was fired before the group made the turn. No one even offered to give him a ride back to the clubhouse.
Since almost every big-firm partner has a serious disability of some sort, it always pays to keep your eyes peeled. To set matters right with Mr. B, you’re going to have to demonstrate that you’ve noticed his disability and that you care deeply about it. Why not buy him a nice pair of leather gloves? Choose the most expensive pair you can find, then carefully cut off the pinky from the right hand. Find a secretary with a sewing kit and have her patch the hole. You’ll find that Mr. B will gratefully accept your gift and might even forget about the extra copy. Just be sure to look at the ground as you hand him the gloves, since it would be very impolite to stare at his facial scars. And don't bark, even as a joke.
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer
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