Dolphin Boss


It was 8:20 a.m. and Greg and I were schmoozing until our scheduled meeting with the dolphin boss.

"You know, Ann, I always wanted to have a dolphin for a supervisor," said Greg, "ever since I read about their large brains and pacific attitudes."

"Same here," I said. "And don't forget all those drowning swimmers they rescue each year, or so they say. You know, I touched one at Sea World once."

Then we went to the meeting in the dolphin’s office. The whole promotional department was there.

We'd all glimpsed B.J. before, of course, since he'd been here two days already, and we'd seen him floating with dignity in his tank atop the oak desk in his office. But this was his first staff meeting. We took seats around his desk and gazed up expectantly at his bottle-nosed form.

"Good morning, people," said B.J.

I just said "Good morning" right back like everyone else. Like everybody else, too, I glanced at the speaker cabinets that amplified B.J.’s voice. B.J.’s native clicking was translated into English via a computer system, so that what we heard was not his real voice. It was, so far as we knew, the voice of some computer nerd programmed into the system, except he sounded like Sting.

"I gather from your responses that my speech system is working properly, so we may proceed," said B.J. "By now you've all seen me in here swimming around, and I think I've had the chance to say hello to everyone, except for Curtis, who’s been on vacation. Welcome back, Curtis. I thought I'd start the day today with a brief get-acquainted meeting so I can tell you all a little about my background and how I view the future of our department here at Tom's Tuna.

"By the way, help yourselves to the coffee and doughnuts over there on the table, if you haven't already, and would someone mind throwing me a fish?"

B.J. seemed to be looking at me, so I got up and approached his desk where there was a smelly bucket of sardines or mackerel or something. Not seeing any tongs, I tossed one of these into his tank with my bare hand, then another as he nodded his head. Finally I went over to grab a coffee and doughnut, and to wipe my hand on a napkin.

"Thank you, Ann," B.J. said. "Now then, a little of my background and expectations. I was captured off the St. Petersburg coast, took to human company and training at once, and soon had a job performing at Sea World in Orlando. But I felt I could do more, and after a year I convinced my handlers to send me to school. I took a B.A. in business with a minor in marine biology at the University of Tampa. After I graduated from Tampa, I worked briefly for the U.S. Navy, and then two years as a development consultant for a cruise line, before coming to Tom's Tuna.

"Let me add that I'm very glad to be here, and that although I consider myself a businessman first, I do have a sense of humor. I don't mind that some of you call me Flipper, or Mr. Shark, behind my dorsal fin."

We all laughed nervously and looked shamefacedly at each other. But B.J. was being a good sport.

"But be aware," B.J. went on in a more ominous tone, "that I have the same expectations of hard work and dedication as my predecessor John, and will not be running a lax  department. Any questions or comments so far?"

John, our last boss, had been promoted in another division, and most of us wished him well. We were all stunned into speechlessness, however, as something spectacularly unwholesome suddenly appeared beneath B.J.'s calmly floating form and drifted slowly to the bottom of his tank. I was so embarrassed I couldn't think of any questions, and I believed my coworkers were in the same condition. After a moment, though, Tod noisily cleared his throat.

"What do you bring to Tom's that a human wouldn't?" he asked. This was blunt, but Tod was still resentful that the company was hiring mammals who were nonhuman for the better paying positions.

"Tod," said B.J., "I'm glad you asked. My goal is to bring to Tom's a number of higher mammals as managers and consultants, not only porpoises but even primates, all of whom I believe are keener practitioners of business than humans commonly give them credit for. And more than that, I believe we can expand the market of  Tom's Tuna to these mammalian communities. My first initiative in this direction will be an apology on behalf of Tom's to my own kind, since dolphins too frequently get trapped and die in tuna nets. This practice will stop at Tom's Tuna."

Tod gave those around him a sly look.

"Let me add," B.J. continued, "that in the coming weeks I'll be meeting with each of you individually to establish your goals and major work objectives in line with my vision, and we'll go into greater detail then. Today I just wanted to address a small issue I think we can resolve immediately, concerning our dress policy."

Now it was Jan's turn to squirm. She had already been warned by John about her low-cut blouses and short skirts, and now the matter was surfacing again. Not only that, but her wide eyes and suspended breath underscored the irony of having dress policy set by a nude swimmer, particularly one who relieved himself in public.

"Of course it may seem odd to you," B.J. said, as if he had read our minds, "that I, who swim in my tank au naturel, am in any way concerned with clothing, even that of another species. But I know that John had established some dress guidelines, and I just wanted to let it be known from the onset that I like men in ties and women in dresses. And even on casual Fridays, I don't want to see jeans or T-shirts so ragged that I can spot bare behinds and midriffs. Any questions or comments here?"

"Are tank tops OK?" asked Lisa.

"I'm used to seeing humans in rubber wet suits and bathing attire," B.J. said, "so tank tops are fine by me personally. But for the sake of office decorum, I'm afraid they're out."

"Shucks," said Lisa.

I then made a suggestion that Tom's be called the Friendly Tuna on the grounds that we kill only tuna and not other creatures who have the same rights that we have, and B.J. seemed very pleased with the idea. I'm not sure, but he might have smiled. The meeting broke up soon after that, on a positive note I felt, and we were all filing out when B.J. asked me to stay.

"What are you doing for lunch, Ann?" he asked me out of the blue.

Did he wink when he said it? I wasn't sure. I was right up close to his tank and maybe what I saw was just some ripple in the water. Still, it made me wonder if his feelings about an all-mammal brotherhood extended to, well, dating outside his own species. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, if he really was coming on to me. If he asked me out I would have to think it over. There was something lean and dynamic about his bod, though, that made it thrilling to watch. And while he didn't show his, how shall I say, interest in me, assuming he had any, and I didn't see it anywhere on him, still he was a guy and it had to be attached to him somewhere.

"Why are you looking at me so strangely, Ann?" he asked.

"Oh," I said, momentarily at a loss, "I was just pondering my schedule. Lunch would be fine, if that's an invitation."

"You bet it is," he said. "We'll stay in, of course, unless you want to carry me through the streets wrapped in wet towels to keep my skin moist."

"How much do you weigh?" I joked.

"I'm not Free Willy, but I'm a handful," he kidded back. "What do you like? I'll be having raw fish, naturally."

"Sushi is fine."

"Great. I'll phone it in. Shall we say 12:15? I'd like to discuss your idea of calling Tom's the Friendly Tuna, which I think is an excellent suggestion and right in line with my own thinking."

"Thanks," I said, "it just came to me." I couldn't help it, my heart was racing. I had never gotten this kind of recognition from John, and B.J. was a lot cuter, too.