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Preston Dirges’ Sense and Sensibilities

Preston and Valerie have temporarily escaped the office, and the attentions of Kirsty the Reportgirl. After dragging Valerie into his car, Preston now bundles her into a local pub…

Interior: Pub – Day

The pub is almost empty. Preston swings the doors open and marches to the bar. Valerie follows.

PRESTON: What are you having? I’m buying.

Preston pulls out a handful of change from his trouser pocket, and starts sorting through it.

VALERIE: I don’t know. JD and coke.

The landlady appears at the bar.

PRESTON: We’ll have a double Jack Daniels and coke – and I’ll have a coffee, please.

VALERIE: You’re having a coffee?

PRESTON: I don’t drink.

VALERIE: Why didn’t you say that before?

PRESTON: Did I need to? Just because I don’t drink, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

VALERIE: But why are you getting me a double, without asking?

PRESTON: I don’t want to seem stingy.

Preston pays with exact change. They sit at a vacant table.

PRESTON: Cheers.

Preston swigs his coffee.

VALERIE: You know, Preston, you’re something else. We should be at work.

PRESTON: It’s nearly home time.

VALERIE: Preston, I’ve been in the office three days with you, but I still don’t know what you do, or what I’m supposed to do.

PRESTON: You want me to explain it again? No problem.

Preston swigs more coffee.

PRESTON: We convince our auditors that the cables we make all comply with the relevant standards and specs. Then we hang their certificates in reception.

VALERIE: Preston, I’ve not even seen a cable yet. All I’ve seen is paperwork.

PRESTON: That’s the point. Paper is easier to manipulate than anything real.

VALERIE: That makes no sense whatsoever.

PRESTON: It makes business sense. Alright. There’s three theories as to how the system works. First, it’s efficient to implement a system of internal quality controls, including many precision tests. The test results are summarized in internal reports, which are then further summarized and scrutinized by us, and then given to the auditor. Second, it’s cheaper to push around lots of paper and talk about testing, than to do real tests on real cables. Third, if you make just the right amount of paper, you always find exactly the right number of problems with your cables. Never so many that the business loses lots of money on fixing them, and always enough to make the auditor feel good about themselves, hence proving that the system works.

VALERIE: You’re fiddling the system?

PRESTON: This really is your first job, isn’t it? Let me give you some advice, people don’t see the wood for the trees, and they don’t want to see the wood for the trees, because scary things lurk in them there woods. So we make everything nice, clean, safe and transparent, by telling a lot of clever lies, where each individual lie isn’t dishonest at all, but the sum total is a total crock. So what we do, is we say what specific tests are needed for our cables, and we choose them just to get the kinds of results we wanted to get. The auditor agrees the actual tests matched our plan, and has no idea of what we really should have tested. So everybody goes home happy.

VALERIE: Perhaps it’s best that you don’t explain work to me, ever again. And anyway, you don’t seem to be very happy.

PRESTON: Don’t I?

Gordon and Tina arrive. Tina sits first, next to Preston. Gordon walks around, to be next to Valerie.

PRESTON: What are you two doing here? Is everybody slacking off today?

TINA: It’s gone five. We came to grab our seats before everyone else arrived.

PRESTON: Everyone else?

TINA: Whoever’s coming to Belinda’s leaving drinks. They’ll be here in a second.

Preston downs his coffee and jumps up from his seat.

PRESTON: I have to get out of here.

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