“Good morning, Peter. It is good to finally meet you. You have an impressive resume.”
The meeting had been a long time in coming. Peter was a long way from unknown around the organization. Nevertheless, he had never applied for an assignment like the one that he was being interviewed for. It is always a concern when a famous overachiever applies for an anonymous assignment within the organization. He could be the best candidate that the department had ever had or he could be bored to tears within the first hour of his employment. I had been told to give him a shot at the job. My department was very interested in meeting him.
“It is not every day that we meet with somebody of your stature within the organization. Do you happen to know what we do here?”
Peter spoke with power but used his words economically. He left no doubt that he knew what it was that he had applied for even though I had gone into the interview with doubts. Few applicants ever change my mind about anything. Maybe I was in danger of losing my humility.
“You know that the emperor has such great care for the small things that not a bird falls from the sky without his knowledge. Attention to detail is central to your duties in this department. I have a task for you and I must know if you are up for the job. This is high priority.”
It almost seemed a comfort to Peter that I had not just assumed that he was qualified as his fame might have led other managers to conclude. That spoke well of his qualifications. Details are so central to the jobs that we are assigned that I could not stand an applicant who took anything for granted. Assumptions on the part of other departments made up most of our workload. Peter would have been rejected immediately if he had not been as attentive as he was.
“It is not like the emperor could not handle all of this without us, you understand. He likes having us around for his own reasons. You must fully understand that these jobs may not even make sense to us at the time, Peter.”
I could see that Peter was eager to get into the file on my desk. His eyes had fallen, locking onto the off yellow folder on my desk and would not rise away from it. It was the only folder on my desk at the time since I took great and individual care of each and every case that was assigned to me. Peter's single minded devotion to that case mattered to me. Maybe he was a good fit for the job.
“A client in the field has to recall he sweet aroma of a wildflower within four seconds of the time specified on this page; 1631 hours and 28 seconds tomorrow evening.. The original operative became distracted by an anomaly with a carbon atom in a butterfly. Do you know how much damage it would do to the universe if carbon started turning into nitrogen?”
Even with my vast experience, I could not tell if Peter wanted to laugh or if he shared my concern for the stability of the universe. I could hardly blame the operative for being distracted by small details because it is the nature of our business. Peter would be ill suited for any assignment in my department if he did not share our concern for details. We do our jobs so well that people believe that things just happen and that is how it must remain. You do not have a choice unless you are free to make it.
“No, Peter, it is not like the universe is falling apart. The universe is just thankful to have been created and simply wants to shout hosanna all day long. Little things like the conservation of mass and energy get lost when you only focus on the big things in creation. Do you know how many people out there actually believe that you can go into a laboratory and things just work unless we 'interfere?' They have no concept of the number of times that absolutely nothing happened in a laboratory. For nearly an hour last week, strawberry shortcake had no calories in it. Clients take a lot of their world for granted these days and we make sure that they have that opportunity.”
Peter was right, of course. My mind was wondering through the achievements of my department. The emperor never seemed to mind that we were proud of our service; however. pride rides highest before a fall. Our emperor had decreed that our client base should have the ability to make the choice that he had given to it. Our clients were nothing if not creative.
“As you know, people react when they remember things. When this client remembers the flower, she will smile. She must smile while a certain man, whom she will never even know, is looking on. Chance encounters are some of our biggest missions. You must make sure that this memory is in her mind at the precise time that she needs it.”
His eyes told me that there were questions in Peter's mind. He was not unusual amongst applicants. I know that he would have done what he was told even if he did not understand it. Finite beings of any level have to take a lot on faith. Faith is never stronger than when belief is denied as a motive.
“This man belongs to the bloodiest religion in all the universe. He does not even believe that we exist and we are going to extend him the option of retaining that belief. This simple smile will compel him to spare 36 lives. The emperor wishes to extend the offer in hopes that all 37 of these people may join our organization.”
My fear was that Peter might improvise in the field and try to remake the world into a place that was perfect in his own eyes. All of us have the greatest hope for the clients in the field. That is what makes us able to do our job as well as we do. Peter was gracious in his questioning. I could accept that he was not going to go rogue in the field.
“Now Peter your resume shows that you have done field work in the past. You know the imagination that our clients have. The emperor himself went into the field and you have seen the clients who deny that he exists or try to make him into a pretty flower sitting helplessly in a field. It is the emperor's will that all of our client base should join the organization, but love is not made of coercion.”
It was a sticking point, to be sure, yet Peter's acceptability for my department was looking good. He knew that ours was not the only organization trying to gather clients and his concern for the welfare of our clients was genuine. Unless he resorted to trickery, he did seem to be a good candidate for the position that I was interviewing him for. The thing in our clients that breaks our hearts most is their belief that they do not need us. We know that showing them the truth of all things would not alter the stone of their hearts.
“This client needs you, Peter. You may save her life a million times over and she will never know that you were there. If this is something that you can live with, then turn right when you leave this room. Otherwise, turn left. It was truly a pleasure meeting with you.”
Well, have you seen Peter lately? Would you know if you had?