I now have an enemy.
Last year two offices opened up on our power wall. Every office has a power wall -- that hallowed hall of offices where the elite meet to seat themselves. Power walls offer the best views, close proximity to power and, most importantly, a highly visible manifestation of one's elevated status within an organization. Offices on power walls are, therefore, coveted by all but the least ambitious.
I don't currently reside on the power wall and I'm not sure I want to sit on the power wall, what with all those powerful people minding my business, poking their heads in my office, wondering where I was yesterday afternoon, giving my office friends the bent eye as they visit me to dish the dirt on my power wall neighbors. I'm also not an obvious candidate for the power wall, currently occupying a densely-populated mid-level rung on the ladder, unsure whether I'm on a rocket ship to the stars or rising with the tide or hitting my ceiling or just grateful to be employed.
After assessing the likely competition, I figured it was unlikely I would actually get one of the open offices on the power wall. But I also figured that asking for an office would demonstrate a white-hot burning ambition (a good thing to demonstrate to your superiors so long as it's not aimed at them) and maybe cause my superiors to throw me a bone when they turned me down. I'd also feel like an idiot if, after sitting on the sideline, someone at or below my level snagged one of the open offices.
So, after observing a respectful waiting period for the dearly departed (a transfer and a retirement), I put my name in for a power wall office. Office assignments are administered by a low-level functionary adept at implementing the decisions of the high and mighty while keeping them insulated from the fray. The functionary, upon hearing my request, scoffed and offered her opinion that I'd never get one. I nevertheless insisted that my name be added to the roll, counting on that consolation bone when they turned me down.
Four months later, the low-level functionary called to give me my moving date. Interpreting my stunned silence for the stunned silence it was, she filled me in on the details, perhaps moved by her newfound respect for the newest resident of the power wall. Apparently two heavy hitters had requested the open offices soon after I did, scaring off all other potential competitors. The decision was made to defer all office moves until this year, so there things stood until late December, when one of the heavy hitters was promoted out of our facility, leaving one open office, one remaining applicant (me), a looming moving date and an office ruling class unwilling to sanction a second competition that could easily descend into internecine warfare amongst those of us on the middle rung. The office therefore fell, by default, into my lap.
The next day my enemy revealed himself. The functionary, now treating me as a trusted confidant, called to let me know that my enemy came by her office, demanding to know how I got the office and stating his supposedly superior claim. At this point, I was inclined to cede the office to him, for he did have a superior claim, I had no interest in alienating him and, as discussed above, I didn't really want the office in the first place. But then, the functionary continued in a lowered voice, my enemy cruelly detailed all the reasons why I didn't deserve the office, dwelling maliciously on my unsuitability for sitting amongst the office gods. At this point, he became my enemy. Ceding the office to him now would just validate his superiority and confirm my inferiority. I resolved they'd have to pry the office keys from my cold dead hands before he'd get them.
My enemy is persistent, for he continues to press his claim despite some overwhelming obstaces. My claim is easy to administer -- I was first. His claim is difficult to administer, requiring the functionary and her masters to engage in a qualititative evaluation of our relative merits and demerits. His claim is also controversial, for once it gets out that the "best" person will get the office, everyone who cares about his status and isn't already on the power wall will join the fight, potentially triggering the civil war they're trying to avoid. Also, by seeking to overturn the functionary's decision, my enemy has turned the functionary into my ally.
My enemy labors under the misapprehension that I outmaneuvered him, and he resents me for it. Like all devious people, he assumes I am devious too, and he hates me for it. My enemy is an insecure man, obsessed with, but never sure of, his status within the organization, and my perch on the power wall will just prey on his deepest fears.
So far, my enemy believes I know nothing of his claim. He swore the functionary to secrecy, not realizing that the functionary is now my closest confidant and ally. Through her I've obtained most of the details of his struggle. Meanwhile, I've run into him in the hallways, I've sat in meetings with him and once we even found ourselves together at the men's room sinks, and he's always been cordial, never saying a word about the office. I'm not sure how long he'll be able to maintain this facade but, for now, I'm playing along as if I don't know.
Yesterday I learned that my enemy's appeal to the higher ups had been denied without leave to amend, removing the last obstruction to my move. I may have won this battle, but I'm sure we're in for a long cold war of undeclared hostilities, border skirmishes and battles by proxy. I often think of him plotting and scheming my downfall, enlisting allies and spreading his hateful propaganda. He's a worthy opponent, one whose cunning and ruthlessness will keep my eyes on my back, ever watchful for his treachery.
It's all so exciting!
P.S. More here.