Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

A Helpful Glitch

“Yawn”. I couldn’t stifle it this time. The meeting had been going for almost two hours and finally, the competition between my boss and my coffee was over. He had won.

I finally left the meeting mid-way excusing myself and went out for a smoke. I checked the watch and found out that I was completely wrong. The meeting had conveniently crossed two hours. In fact, my boss had beaten his previous record — Two hours and 23 minutes.

Yes, we time our boss’ meetings. They are long and boring so the only way to entertain ourselves is to find something fun. And seeing my boss beating his previous record is fun. Believe me! Please.

I had left the meeting at the exact time when he reached his previous record. Interesting coincidence it was.

“Hey Saurabh, what are you doing here. Isn’t there a meeting going on in your team?” Natasha asked.

My heart fluttered. This was probably the fourth or fifth time we were talking. Even in that, most of the time, I was the one to initiate.

“Yeah, but there is only so much a man can take. And he has already taken enough of my time.” I made a feeble attempt at looking cool.

She laughed and my attempt succeeded. The cigarette in my hand promptly dropped to balance it out.

“Whoops!” Natasha said and immediately scooped it from the floor. Putting it between her lips, she started to puff it. I felt a pang of jealousy towards the dying stick.

“You know you shouldn’t smoke. It is bad for your health.” Natasha said while releasing a dense cloud of smoke from her mouth.

“Umm.. Ok.. Thanks for the advice.” I said and formed my fingers in a V-shape and held them in front of her. She reluctantly gave me the cigarette.

“What are you doing here?” I asked her curiously.

“I like to take a stroll every once in a while. The office is very congested place to work.” Natasha said.

“Are you kidding me? Your office is at least ten times as good as mine. If you feel that, I am probably working in the slums.” I said incredulously. I was genuinely surprised by her reply. Her company was considered one of the best companies to work for and mine was considered one of the worst.

If that was not enough, she was at least two rung higher than me. In my company, she would be my boss’ boss. To ask her out would be the most hilarious event of my life.

“Still. Sometimes, there is an urge to breath the fresh air.” She said looking at the cigarette expectantly.

“Of course.” I said and gave it to her.

— —

“So guys. I still feel that this product has a lot of potential. However, our analysis is lacking.” My boss droned as if this product would change the world.

Three weeks had passed since my last encounter with Natasha. I had smoked hundreds of cigarettes, whiled away hours outside the office and yet I could not meet her again. Probability is a bitch!

My boss however was as consistent as ever. I suspect his doctor has told him to have one meeting a day for a long and healthy life. An hour of my life sucked away everyday. Sometimes, even more. Since last time, he had broken his record three times already. The new record was at three hours twelve minutes.

“Saurabh. I give you the responsibility of this product. You will have to ensure that this product achieves the success it deserves. Can I count on you?” My boss asked me.

“Of course Karan. I will make you proud.” I said with the biggest smile on my face. Karan’s (that’s my boss) face lit up like Diwali lights.

Hey! Just because I hate my job doesn’t mean I don’t suck up to my boss. Besides, Karan is a nice guy. A very boring, torturing, infuriating nice guy.

“I expected as much from it. You can start working on it right away. Also, you can leave if you want. The rest of the meeting is with only the creative team.” He said. I tipped my hat (imaginary one) at him and left the meeting. He looked a little apologetic. I guess he thought I was disappointed at being excluded. If only he knew the truth.

I immediately got to work.

Got you!

I, of course, went to smoke. The only time I wasted was in quenching my dear old thirst and then immediately going to the loo. I don’t know how that happens. If there is water already inside, can’t the body just use it. Anyways, my boss was on a meeting marathon and I wanted to take full advantage of it. So, I went out.

And, lo and behold, there she was.

Natasha looked at me and smiled. My legs immediately took me there. They know their stuff.

“Let me guess. Another meeting.” She asked giving me her cigarette.

“Yeah.” I said as my heart did a whoopie.

Last time, she took my cigarette and today, I took hers. Technically, we had now shared saliva. Don’t judge me!

“Over two hours before he would let me out. And he is still continuing it.” I said.

“Your boss sure takes a lot of long meetings. Last time we met, you told me it is over two hours. Before that as well.” She asked laughing.

“He loves his meetings. In fact, today, it was almost two hours and… 23 minutes… before I could get out.” I said surprised by the coincidence.

“Wasn’t it around the same time last time as well.” Natasha asked.

“Yeah. Around the same time. I guess my bladder has a schedule.” I said while my mind started to analyze the data.

Natasha snorted and could not stop for the next minute or so. While I was enjoying the laugh, my mind was too interested in finding a trend.

— —

I had put a timer on my phone that told me when it was two hours and 23 minutes. It took my boss two days to hold a long meeting. I never thought I would say this but I was disappointed by that.

As the meeting progressed, I could not help but get excited. I knew it was just a major coincidence that is going to disappoint me greatly but I had to test it out.

I had not met Natasha for the past two days and not for lack of trying.

At precisely two hours and 23 minutes, I excused myself and let the meeting. I wanted to run towards the office door but somehow maintained my calm.

I reached the place where we had met last time and I waited (im)patiently.

I lit the cigarette and tried to not look at her office’s direction. I kept looking at the watch. Over five minutes and one cigarette later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Even before turning, I knew.

“Care to share.” She said.

I immediately lit a cigarette and gave it to her.

An hour later, I returned back to office.

I knew as I reached office that from this day onwards, every person in my team is going to hate me.

I scheduled two and a half hours’ meetings of my boss. I found out articles and journals that showed the importance of meetings and what not. I, of course, took of at two hours and 23 minutes.

I was meeting Natasha every day now. I don’t know how this glitch works. I don’t even know if this is just a series of coincidences. I just hope that it works till I can gain the courage to ask her out. Or at least ask her number.