Day 4 in my novel-in-a-month effort

Chapter 4: The Fungus Among Us

In case of the prevalence of a contagious or epidemic disease at the seat of government, the President may permit and direct the removal of any or all the public offices to such other place or places as he shall deem most safe and convenient for conducting the public business.

—Title 4, United States Code, Flag and Seal, Seat of Government, and the States

TO: Attorneys and Staff of The Firm

FROM: Claude Dedrick, Managing Partner

DATE: May 29

SUBJECT: Pandemic Prepraredness

I write to you today on a matter of grave importance—the epidemic of a powerful strain of flu that is sweeping our nation.

Every day, we read about more and more people falling prey to this scourge. Some have called it the “swine flu,” though that apparently is inaccurate. Others (“scientists”) call it by its formal name—H1N1. Whatever it’s named, we are taking steps at the Dedrick law firm to prevent its incursion into our sacrosanct halls. And even if we cannot protect our hallways and open cubicle areas, then at the very least, we will bar it from entering the offices with doors.

In this memo I will set out some of the methods we have implemented and will implement to prevent the spread of this flu and of any other disease, malady or shock to the system.

First, as of this morning you may have noticed the plethora of hand sanitizing stations placed in and about our offices. The stations contain a gelatinous cleaning agent that, according to research on the evidence based Web site, is able to neutralize or eradicate 700 varieties of microbe. In some rare instances, the sanitizer has also been found powerful enough to destroy human tissue (“skin”), so it should be used with care.

(In fact, it should be avoided by: pregnant or nursing mothers, those with compromised immune systems, anyone who has recently given blood or is contemplating major/minor surgery, people with children, those who have just eaten or have not had a meal recently, those for whom soy or beef are a significant staple of their diet, the Amish.)

Alongside the hand sanitizing stations you will see cylindrical trash receptacles (“trash cans”) to accept any hand wipes or tissues that you may need to discard. The  trash cans have a hinged lid that remains closed, ensuring our protection. To open the trash can, merely pass your hand over the sensor built into the can, and watch as the lid swings open to accept your germ-ridden detritus.

(Unfortunately, the unique and difficult-to-locate batteries to operate the lid are not yet available. They are expected to arrive from a small island nation just off the coast of New Zealand within two months. In the meantime, in order to open the lid, simply insert your fingernail in the negative-edge border between the lid and the can and pull the lid skyward. After completing that function, the firm recommends you repair to the restroom to wash your hands.)

I hope everyone appreciates the time that the firm (“I”) put into the selection of the style of these helpful implements. Though they contain cutting-edge science based medicinal gelatinous material and petroleum based (“plastic”) trash can liners, they do not subject us to a look more akin to a hospital corridor. Instead, we (“I”) located products from the “Lexington & Concord collection.” Therefore, the sanitizing stations and trash cans are festooned with images of our Founding Fathers and historic battles of the Revolution. On your OSHA mandated morning break, you may enjoy identifying all of the figures who are illustrated as they wash their hands after using the same quill pen to sign the Declaration of Independence. The first to correctly identify Button Gwinnett, delegate from Georgia, will be awarded a very attractive modern lamp, which would well complement your kitchen or veterinary office.

Beyond the common areas, you will see that our restrooms now have automatic dispensers of “SOAP” and “SANITIZER”.

One of my partners has asked why those words have been placed within quotation marks on the dispensers themselves. He asked (that scamp) whether that was to communicate the fact that the product within was NOT, in fact, soap and sanitizer.

Please do not give the matter another thought. The liquid material in the dispensers is just what they say they are—no “air quotes” intended. (Mary, make a note to prevent that receptionist from using the label gun to affix names to things – he has an obsession with quotation marks—DELETE before sending final memo!!!)

It bears noting that the identical warnings and prohibitions apply to materials in the restrooms as well. If you do note that your tissue (“skin”) appears to be pulling away from your body (“falling off”), you are certainly free to return to your apartment or some such, once you have completed any of the pressing work required of you by your supervisor (“your job”). After all, we are not ogres here at the Dedrick law firm! Even when we get the swine flu, we are not swine!

A few more items to note. I am sure you will agree that these measures are designed to ensure the protection of all of us: 

1.      After meeting with any visitor from outside our office, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. That is especially important if you have met with any of our pro bono clients. No one is pointing (“clean” ha ha) fingers, but among clients, it is far more highly likely that our clients who cannot pay the well deserved fees of a superior lawyer may have become infected with the swine flu, or some other malady that is lying in wait. There may be good reasons to “take on” pro bono cases, but that does not mean we should let our guard down. Those “clients” require our advocacy, not our infection.

2.      If you are feeling ill, do not come in to work. We do not want you to infect other contributing members of this firm with your illness, and we want you to rest fully to return to health. While at home, we would expect that you are putting in a full day’s work. Each of the nonlawyer staff will be assigned a portion (“stack”) of materials that can be completed off-site, all without the need for computer interaction. (Please prevent any of your family members from reading, touching or sneezing on the materials while they are in your home.)

3.      We are exploring the possibility of offering flu shots here in the office. We have been informed that they will be available within a few weeks. However, in an effort to reduce the number of low-productivity days (“all staff meetings”), we may schedule the shots to be given on our already calendared open enrollment meeting day, next spring. At that point, much of the flu season danger will already have passed, but you can’t be too careful! (Shots will be no more than $50 per staff person.)

4.      We continue to work on developing solutions to the occasional dropping of feces by our wheeled canine companion (“Rufus”). We understand that such fecal matter can be a “vector” for infection. Until we have created an effective strategic plan (“strategic plan”) to address the “matter,” please continue to patrol the offices for feces and discard them, as assigned by the staff assignment list posted in the hallway next to the Facsimile Center.

5.      Once a month, nonlawyer staff will be examined for head lice or any obvious skin deformities that may indicate infection (Mary, tell Hattie that her goiter is obviously exempt. DELETE before sending!). The firm will take all reasonable measures to ensure that this examination is conducted with the utmost dignity and respect. Please line up outside the custodian’s closet (“slop room”). The procedure will be performed by “professional” students (“sophomores”) at the local magnet “first responders” high school as part of a community service project. The inspection will be conducted monthly, immediately in advance of our “employee appreciation” water and chips social. (As a reminder, please place your name on the bulletin board roster to indicate what month you will bring chips.)

Your health and welfare are our first concern here at Dedrick, Duckworth, Castro & Paine. We look forward to “pulling together” to fight the scourge that is the swine flu. With your help, we can defeat this and any other biological anomaly that comes our way.

CD, Justice (ret.)

CHAPTER 5 is next.