Lex Makes His Move                                                  GREEN  2.2
 

      Lex was ready to make his move.

      He had been thinking about this particular gambit for several weeks, from the very first day he had moved into his sterile new office. This was the first private office Lex had ever occupied during his thirty-odd years of government service. At fifty-five years of age, he felt that this token of respect was long overdue, so overdue in fact that the predominant feeling he had towards the whole situation was one of seething resentment. His new walls were chalky white and covered with poorly spackled nail holes, holes where awards, diplomas, and pictures of the President and Agency Director had previously been hanging. The gray metal furniture was bolted to the wall opposing the door, which meant that Lex could not rearrange it to allow for a clear view of the approach zone. Closing of the door was frowned on during duty hours.

      On the first day of residency in his new office, Lex bought and tacked up a small ornamental mirror, positioning it at eye level above his clunky desk. This would allow him an advance view of anyone attempting to invade his space. The mirror was emblazoned with the colorful emblem of the Defense Supply Agency, which made it unlikely that anyone would confuse it's purpose for either vanity or protection.

      Although it was there for both.

      Today, Lex was going to mount a cartoon.
      On the front door.
      Below his name strip.
      It would be a bold gesture.

      This was going to be a beautiful morning, you could smell anarchy in the air. Lex flicked on his mini-stereo with the Gremlin three disk changer and sipped happily from his sixteen ounce cup of Starbucks Light Blend with Amaretto syrup.

      The Quality of Life Integrated Process Team (QLIPT) had made some excellent improvements around the headquarters building, not the least of which was putting a Starbucks, China House and Mrs. Field's in the cafeteria alcove. Lex was proud to have served as a charter member of the QLIPT, even though he had blown off the majority of their meetings. No matter, no one could claim that he wasn't simpatico to the cause. The gold-sealed certificate of appreciation he had received for his service as a member of the QLIPT was the only object that he had elected to hang up on his barren wall thus far.

      Lex picked up his coffee and meandered outside to the smoking area. Some of his fellow smokers complained about their oasis being all the way downstairs, but it really did have the nicest view of any spot on the whole compound, facing the air recycling fountain and the open fields beyond. The occasional helicopter flew lazily overhead, providing transport to and from the Pentagon. Lex leisurely smoked two Salems while contemplating the morning ahead.

      His coffee was cooling but still delicious. A curtain of harsh smoke drifted into his eyes, and roused Lex from his reverie. It was drifting his way from a couple of cigar smoking gentlemen deep into a discussion of new Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer. Hopes were running high again. Lex removed his gold aviator glasses and dripped in a little Visine. Time for him to buckle down and get  back to work. He needed to put some serious thought into the task at hand.

      There was a time in his life when Lex had enjoyed the antics of Dilbert, but Dilbert was oppressively omnipresent these days and Dilbert was not the right man for this job. Dilbert was so over. Who didn't know that? Besides, Lex didn't have a pointy-headed boss to ridicule, although he did have plenty of annoying co-workers that he wasn't always able to avoid. Lex didn't really have a boss at all. Oh yes yes yes, he had a myriad assortment of boss-like individuals to deal with, layers of bureaucracy above him and around him, but still there was a missing link where his 'boss box' should have been. There was a dotted line on the org chart surrounding Lex's office symbol. It had arrows pointed outward in all directions.

      Lex had been effectively reorganized into a division of one, which made him his own immediate supervisor and his only employee. (Also, he would sourly joke, 'his most outstanding employee'.) He even had his own office symbol, J-649; no, scratch that, he was his own office symbol. He was the Knowledge Management Division. And he was answerable to the whole menagerie of superiors pointed to by his arrows, answerable if and when they had anything pertinent  to ask him, which in fact they never did. 

      Hey, Lex wasn't some rube lost in the big world of the Department of Defense. Having thoroughly mastered the black arts of PowerPoint, he knew quite well how to plot out an organizational workflow chart, and he knew that at least some of those arrows should be bi-directional.

      Lex was being retired in place. It happened all the time. He was aware of what was happening to him, and on a number of levels  he even half-heartedly welcomed it, but he still hadn't come to peace with the underlying dynamics of the process. Everybody always seems to know your business when you've been designated as dead wood, and you start turning into the butt of the joke to all the Company boys and girls. You'd hear their whispers in the hall. You would  spend your time pretending to attend the meetings that others wished to avoid. You would smoke a lot.

      Gary Larson was very good. Over-exposed in the workplace, sure, just like Dilbert, but at least Larson had more than a handful of characters to manipulate. He had been around for too many years, but his material still held up. The Far Side seemed to have a cartoon for every imaginable situation, and best of all, there were actually those folks who didn't  'get' a particular panel. This in itself provided the amusingly cheap thrill of superiority, which was much more fun to Lex than If some loser were to say 'Hey, that's a great one, Lex, my wife has that cartoon on her coffee cup'.  Lex still chuckled at the thought of a co-worker who had asked him to explain a drawing of a snake with a rat half way down it's throat thinking 'this always happens' while the telephone rings.

      Lex thoughtfully pulled open a squeaky metal desk drawer and removed a folder tabbed as 'Larson Project (J-3)'. Inside the folder were seven manila files: 'Cows', 'Dogs', 'Other Animals', 'Nerds', 'Scientists', 'Aliens', and 'unclassified'. For a pleasant hour he sifted through the unclassified file, building little square stacks of possible new categories.

     The Far Side cartoons, unfortunately, eventually proved too rife with meaning for Lex. How sad. Over the years they had become far too popular. Their time had passed. He realized that his amusement with these panels was mostly a misguided feeling of nostalgia. Larson's drawings were the Beatles of cartoons. He might as well have been looking at Gahan Wilson.

      Lex was searching for a cartoon that was provocative, true, but he also wanted something that offered plausible deniability. Something that he could pass off as a meaningless trifle, if need be. He drummed his fingers impatiently and thought about going outside for a smoke, taking a break to clear his mind. He had almost worked through lunch.

      Instead of smoking or dining, Lex reached deep into his file cabinet and extracted a folder tabbed as 'Inscrutable', He carefully removed the file labeled as 'NY Panels'. This was a plump little sucker filled with neatly clipped cartoons from the New Yorker. Lex had been subscribing to the New Yorker for years now, primarily for their undeniably excellent cartoons. How long had it been since he had opened this file? He accessed it regularly to insert freshly clipped material, but when was the last time he had stopped to savor these fine paper panels of  slick black and white? Oh, how Lex looked forward to leisurely perusing these cartoons - this could last him until quitting time if he took enough breaks. Speaking of which, it was time for one now.

      Lex's mood slowly drifted downward into melancholy as he returned to his office from the smoking area. He was narrowing in on his final choice. Bold, yes, but was he ready to make a selection such as this? Lex caught a glance of himself in his DSA 40th Anniversary commemorative mirror, and was not pleased by what he saw. He looked tired and defeated. He was defeated. He felt that any move he made would lead him into trouble, and the only sane way that he should be approaching his job right now was to just sit back, take a load off, and try not to cause trouble. Smile and wave. Life could be so easy.

      Still, Lex had to make his move. How many roads can a man walk down, before they call him a man? Slowly, purposefully, Lex steeled himself and selected a cartoon that was not very subtle at all. It offered very little in the way of plausible deniability. It's meaning would be quite clear in a glance, even to the terminally feeble-minded. The selection seemed impulsive at first, but for the past ninety minutes he kept finding himself being drawn to it, until finally the cartoon had become the most tempting of forbidden fruit.
      In stark black and white, the cartoon showed two businessmen standing in front of an office suggestion box. One man is writing on the wall in jagged block letters as the other watches. He has spelled out "GO FU ". The second man informs him that all suggestions are supposed to go
inside the box.