I opened the office door on my way to lunch and almost walked into a pizza delivery driver, not knowing whether he was a definite or indefinite acritical. There was no doubt he was the driver because the pizza establishments our office orders from do not provide their delivery people with personal drivers. Surely he did more than driving – the pizza was proof of that. Yet he wasn’t ‘the’ pizza guy as there were more like him. The fact that I could not frame him only compounded my alarm at finding a person right outside the door, which never failed to startle me even though I am well aware that there are seven billion of them out there. Nevertheless, I gathered myself, stepped to the left, held the door open and let him step past me. Judging by the size of the thermal bag he was delivering two full sized pizzas. The door closed behind us. As I went down the stairs the parking lot was visible through the tall glass entrance doors. The doors were more fitting of an office building on Park Avenue, than the corner of barbed-wire and police-tape in these lost parts of San Jose, where one spent the night in the office if you failed to leave before the sun went down. Budgets were tight, rent and life were cheep. My ride was waiting for me. We drove off to have a sandwich.
When I got back from lunch the accountant was waiting for me. He was pale and looked distressed. As I came closer the office manager joined him. Together they blocked the door to my office. ‘Did you order pizza?’ I smelled the distinct smell of pepperoni – a unique odor of beef jerky and fresh motor oil. I looked over their heads and saw two Domino Pizza boxes on my desk. ‘You know I don’t eat pepperoni.’ ‘Then who ordered the pizza?’ I understood their concern. They both were chartered with limiting expenses to bare bone essentials. Two-in-a-box organizational structure for best results. ‘Everyone has eaten already.’ The pizza was redundant. Indeed, this was a problem; on the face of it five dollars had been poorly spent without expense approval, and for no life sustaining reason. They could not overlook such uncontrolled spending. If I filed an expense report they would have to reject it. No wonder they were exasperated. The office manager was beginning to foam at the mouth. The accountant looked very nervous. Our remaining sales operation specialist walked by cuddling a puppy. ‘I thought it would be fun to see a puppy play on a pepperoni pizza’ I lied. This calmed them a bit since they knew that I knew that dog food was not a reimbursable expense. They moved aside and went to play with the puppy. I took the pizza boxes to the kitchen. I needed to find a better answer. Surely they would be back after the puppy mania died down. After all if I had knowingly ordered the pizza, then I was guilty of not-tipping-in-the-second-degree with aggravating circumstances. The top of the pizza box said ‘This pizza could not have been made without the help of Stella, Edna, Abigail, Estelle and Nancy.’ I set the boxes down on the table, not caring to spread paper towels to absorb the grease oozing through the cardboard bottom. I could not imagine anything in Mozzarella, American, Provolone, Parmesan or Feta cheese that dripped like that. Pepperoni had no fluids to give. I stepped back to my office. Short term memory or lack thereof reduced the gratitude list to ‘Edna’. The only Edna I knew who was within the thanking time frame of the shelf life of a Domino Pepperoni Pizza was a UCLA professor who had indirectly asked me to compile a list of Novels about Jewish prostitution in North and Latin America. I had submitted my work for preliminary review the day before, only to receive an automated reply that Edna would be back in four months, at which point she will be happy to review my work. How humble and thoughtful of Edna. She must have known that I would have to eat while she was gone and sent pizza at her own expense. But how did she know where I worked? I looked back at the box. Edna was one of the cows which Domino thanked for producing the aforementioned cheeses. Apparently the cows were not related to the Peperoni which was as comforting as it was disturbing. Back in my office I Googled ‘free pizza’. A list of online webinars which offered free pizza ‘delivered to your office while you watch’ popped up on the screen. Not only had I found a free source of food, I had likely reviewed this list a few weeks earlier and forgotten all about it. The sales operation specialist went to the kitchen to grab a box. ‘Do you mind if I take one home with me?’ She was trembling with ecstasy. Clearly the pizza was not for the puppy. ‘Please do,’ I answered. My phone indicated half a dozen missed calls. I dialed my voice mail only to hear the accountant desperately notifying me that pizzas were being delivered to me in my absence. The sound of her own voice brought her back. I gave her the new explanation. The color returned to her face. No expenses were made, there was no need for justification or reimbursement. I would not be charged with criminal negligence, however I did not tip the pizza guy – which was not right. The least I could promote him to a definite article.