Walter returned to his desk thinking it a very fine idea to give up on change. Everyone could see the power of his intent, after all. That must amount to something. No one could say he didn't want change. Yes, he decided, he had done enough. But as he settled on this, he realized that his chair was now relaxing on some sunny beach many miles away, a seat to some vacationer sipping on some exotic drink or eating some picnic confection, and this meant that he would have no way to sit at his desk and return to his duties. Why had he gotten that intent at all, he kicked himself. Well, he thought — having nothing else to do without his chair — he may as well go forward on that earlier demonstrated momentum.
He had all but lost the fury that carried his assuredly ergonomic seat out to sea. Walter's coworkers were busy reassembling their cubicles into tight, throttling rows. In a few minutes there wouldn't be a single thumb tack out of place in the building. They'd even manage to right the potted plant and plaster over the massive hole. The slightly discoloured patch would quickly dry and blend back into the dusty grey eggshell of the wall.
Walter took this all in as he rotated his coffee cup idly in his hands. The elevator took quite some time to arrive, and he had plenty of long seconds to further extinguish any desire he had of pursuing his change. It began to irritate him now. Why should he be responsible for it? His cup had crawled a dozen full rotations through his agitated fingertips before the elevator grumbled open with a solution in sight. The intern.
Hello, Walter smiled, just the man he was looking for. Walter stepped onto the elevator and was delighted to see the intern heading to the very floor he would have had to set foot on. But not now. No need now. It was all so simple. Interns are so eager. Surely all he would have to do is explain the problem and his powerful intent, and the intern would understand. Before the elevator could close, Walter pointed out the devastation on the office floor, but the intern was unmoved. Walter realized with a tinge of despair that through the crack of the closing doors he could see the plaster had fully dried. The damage was no more.
The motor hummed and Walter felt the pressure building the closer it got to the floor of the resource director. The system, he hurriedly explained, is not optimized. The intern didn't see it that way. Walter did his best to outline the exact nature of the inefficiency, but the intern was simply too inexperienced to understand. The intern apologized, and Walter's brow creased in frustration. After a feverish moment racing through possible methods of coercion at his disposal, Walter realized it really is rather difficult to motivate an unpaid employee. His arms fell to his sides and he turned away from the intern to sip at his coffee in a bitter mood. Why did he get so excited at something so impossible? He should have known the intern wouldn't understand, he thought. And now he was stuck here on this elevator, stuck with the pitiful lingering force of his earlier intent, and stuck with an incompetent intern who couldn't understand even the simplest of inefficiencies. Why had the intern been on the elevator? If only the intern were on the next elevator, Walter could have given up, walked back to his desk, and tried at working while standing. There was no escape now. Every action had to have a purpose, or else he may be reprimanded for idling in his labours. He thought maybe he could retcon the purpose of his journey. He did need a new chair after all. Surely he could just say that was why he left his station.
Walter was fumbling with explanations for the disappearance of his chair when the elevator began to slow. A friendly ding announced their arrival at the desired floor, and the doors began to open. But they were not an inch wide before Walter felt his first regret at the sound of the resource director's voice. At two inches wide, the intern somehow slipped through the crack, leaving Walter alone to return the booming small talk.
"Walter, wonderful to see you."
Walter replied that it was a pleasure.
"A pleasure! Not sure that's the best attitude, but, well, it's good of you to take the initiative here."
Walter asked what initiative they thought he had taken, overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of a cut elevator cable as his stomach rose to his throat. Did they know about his intent, he worried to himself, oh if only he had never noticed anything. If only the system had already been optimized. Why hadn't anyone else recognized it needed to be fixed? Why was it only him?
But the sweaty, suited man behind the reception counter in front of the elevator didn't know about his intent. He only knew Walter had stepped away from his desk for a few minutes, and in fact he only seemed to know that much because the intern had placed a formal report in front of him, which the man handed back to the intern and requested three copies. The elevator's doors grinded open at an impossible inch a minute.
The elevator door was nearly completely open when the sweaty man started stamping the copies of the report from the intern and finally, when the doors were completely open wide, the resource director asked Walter to sign a copy of the report. Once here, twice there, and the date three times.
Walter asked what he was signing, and the man replied that it was a formal reprimand. Walter replied that he'd very much rather not sign such a thing without a chance to explain himself, and to this the man replied back that there was a space at the bottom for comments that would be taken in due consideration. Walter was even considering bringing up the inefficiency right then and there. Perhaps he could muster the same passion he had earlier and sign the paper with such furious intent that it and all of its duplicates — which the intern had produced in the hundreds now — would be eradicated from memory. But his pen only served to feebly acknowledge the unexcused leave of his desk and duties. His pay was immediately reduced, and once again Walter found his feet kicking each other in a fit of self loathing.
It was now that he realized, with a surge of unbound passion, that he had something greater to live for than his pay and reputation. It was now that he realized he absolutely had to correct the inefficiencies of the system. It was now, feeling low, reprimanded and docked, that he looked the well-suited man in the eye with such a fire that thick beads of sweat flew from the man's brow, splattering sickeningly against the wall behind him. His hair blew back, curled and blackened like it had been too long under the drier. Walter brought his fist down on the man's counter, scattering reprimand documents like pigeons at the park. He began to speak with, not all, but at least some of the intent he had had earlier.
“You see, sir,” he started strong and confident of his purpose, “The system.” And that is as close as Walter ever got to changing anything. Without letting another syllable through the crack, the elevator roared closed, nearly crushing Walter’s arm in the process.
Walter’s intent was completely lost now, splayed all over the resource director’s desk and walls. He felt disoriented by the sudden loss of direction, but it was freeing. After a quick detour to the first floor lobby, Walter returned to his desk, paid less, coffeeless, and dragging behind him a hard wooden chair borrowed from the lobby. He clunked it down and tried shifting it around on the carpeted floor for a while before deciding no amount of desire for change would send it flying. He slumped down and rolled the last drop of coffee around his mug for a while before a smile crept across his face. The situation most definitely could be worse.