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The phone rang.
Swan Shreve ignored it, and continued to flip through files in the black, metal file cabinet until she reached the right tab. The phone had been ringing like a malfunctioning car alarm all morning. It was as though every idiot in the world had signed a pact to call her today to ensure she wouldn’t get the filing done. In all, she’d gotten two sales calls for magazines, one man selling siding, three irate and rude customers, and a woman who called to complain about a bill and when Swan explained she’d called the wrong department said, "Why don’t you know? Can’t you just call it up on your computer?" Swan said she couldn’t look it up and she’d transfer the woman to accounts receivable. The woman brightly explained that they never pick up there. That’s why she’d called this office instead. The phone rang again as Swan slid a piece of paper into the file. She hated filing.
"Are you going to get that?" Mr. Kowalchik yelled from his office.
She closed the drawer with her hip and reached for the phone. "Good morning. Mr. Kowalchik’s office. Swan speaking." Mr. Kowalchik’s front office was predominately white with mass produced office furniture. The fake cherry veneer was chipping off a corner of the desk. Swan considered herself fairly lucky because Mr. Kowalchik, as head of a section in the engineering department, had a corner office with wide windows and this meant she too had a window, overlooking the vast green lawn of the Bova Technologies campus. No one was ever out on the lawn and it probably had more chemicals spread on it than it was healthy to think about, but Swan liked it just the same.
"Is Mr. Kowalchik there?" asked the caller. He had the harsh, impatient voice of someone who wanted to convince her he was very important.
Swan braced herself. "May I ask who’s calling, sir?"
"I asked you a question first," the man said.
"I’m sorry?" She considered herself well schooled in caller rudeness by now, but this tactic was new. It was also not working.
"Don’t be sorry. Put Mr. Kowalchik on the damn phone," said the man.
"Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way," she said, trying to keep her voice mostly pleasant. "You have to give me your name and an idea of what you want."
"Well, if you aren’t going to put me through to Mr. Kowalchik, what good are you?" the man demanded.
Swan clutched the phone, largely because she couldn’t clutch the caller’s neck. "I’m good for screening out rude, idiot callers. I’m not going to give you Mr. Kowalchik, because I’d rather hang up on you."
She hung up on him.