These days, the Hamlet's Public Works Department is divided into two camps-- those who want changes in the way it is managed and those who manage it, and those who think that it is perfectly fine just the way it is. These factions are antagonistic toward one another, so much so that longtime co-workers no longer speak to one another, except to call each other "asshole" and "motherfucker", etc.
The paranoia level at the Shop is high because of the poisonous partnership between the Boss and the Stump. Boss is highly paranoid in nature, but with the Stump's constant whispering in his ear telling him what people are saying, what people are doing or not doing-- his suspicion, fear and resentment of those he manages grows unchecked.
Boss's nature is what led to his current "administrative leave". He's been gone for a few weeks now, amid accusations of harrassment, disparate treatment and ineffective management. His cozy little relationship with Stump, she of the filthy nails, frizzy hair and feta cheese-covered keyboard, has finally bit him in the ass. Stump is still doing her job, whatever that is. Hence the bad blood between co-workers at the Shop.
Two of the water department guys, Richard and Star, are old-timers in public works. Combined, they have over 50 years' experience slogging through sewage, repairing broken water mains, responding to panicky late-night phone calls from Hamlet residents. They've seen and responded to every imaginable water or poop emergency, and consequently, nothing surprises them. They've worked with Boss for over twenty years and have seen him morph into the bitter, sarcastic man he is today. Their view of Stump? Aw, she's just some girl Boss is screwing, and they perceive her as a malignant harpy.
The other day, Richard and Star were fixing a hydrant outside Hamlet Hall. I went out to visit them on a break.
"How's it going?" I asked.
Star, in his mild way said, "Fine... just the usual stuff. You know."
Richard, armed with a large wrench and tightening a bolt on the hydrant, said, "Yeah, really exciting shit. I think I'm ready for a drink."
"What's going on up there?" I asked, tilting my head in the general direction of the Shop.
Star shook his head slowly, his eyes earnest. "Just more of the same. Everyone's mad at everyone else, people driving out of the parking lot flipping each other off, calling each other names. We just stay in our building and away from all that. No point in participating."
"It's really that bad?" I asked, stunned. Some of these guys have worked together for decades.
"Oh yeah," Richard said, straightening up from his work. "You wouldn't believe it-- it's pretty bad." Star nodded in agreement, looking at the ground, hands in pockets.
Then Richard said, "Still not as bad as that one time, Star-- dontcha think?"
Star laughed. "No kidding. That was really bad."
Richard asked Star, "What was the name of that thing?"
Star squinted up at the sky for a moment and answered, "The Whisper 2000." They chuckled.
I looked at Star, then at Richard. "The Whisper 2000? What the hell is that?"
"It's a microphone that hunters use," said Star. "You point it in the direction of where you think animals are and you listen for their noises."
"You've got to be kidding me! Why were they using the Whisper 2000?"
Richard said, "Oh, you know. Boss would sit in his office and point it over at our building to hear what we were saying. I guess he thought there was a bunch of stuff goin' on over there that he was worried about and wanted to know what was going on." He shook his head.
"Yeah," said Star, "He coulda just asked us. Nothing was going on. Instead he went out and got the Whisper 2000. It was sad."