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Dispatches from the Great Thermostat War


The conflict known today as the Great Thermostat War of 2014 was fought from April to July of that year, in the Jacobs & Bridges Accounting firm’s Pittsburgh branch. The result of a long-simmering feud over the office’s temperature, hostilities broke out when a ragtag regiment of coworkers with poor circulation led a brazen campaign to wrest control of the thermostat from the employees who got hot easy.

The human toll was devastating.

A firsthand account recently found on a tattered legal pad in the firm’s supply closet offers new insight into how the conflict unfolded. Authored by Doug Bartlett, a receptionist on the front line, the journal offers an unvarnished view of the Thermostat War’s horror—and of the men and women whose hope transcended it.

April 4 — The cruel winter has abated. Yet with trace snow still glistening in the parking lot, Craig from H.R. seems determined to subject the entire staff to what he reckons a suitable temperature. Fifty-nine degrees? Curse the day that scoundrel learned to adjust the dial! Would he condemn us to a January without end? Does he wish us to set our expense reports alight to stave off the chill? Never! Today, I make my stand. Today, I crank it up to sixty-four.

April 9 — Each time I turn the dial up, it returns to its frigid state, as if by necromancy. Or most likely Craig. Either way, I am going to need allies in this fight. We, the Chilly Folk, must band together as one! I suspect Trish will be sympathetic to the cause—I noticed her shivering a whole bunch this morning. But what will branch manager Colleen think? Her opinion will surely hold sway, yet I dare not ask for fear that her sympathies lie not with us. Does this make me a coward? Perhaps. Perhaps.

April 11 — I’m wearing my parka at my desk today. Fuck it.

April 14 — I attempted to enlist Becca to the cause during the morning meeting by nudging and saying, “Brrr, am I right?” But no—she revealed herself an enemy sympathizer! “I like it cool. It helps me stay alert,” she said with a shrug. As though that were perfectly reasonable! I hate Becca.

April 20 — I have come down with a severe case of the goosebumps. The flesh along my forearms is so pimpled from the cold that I fear I shall never recover. Pray for me.

April 22 — Sylvia from payroll is wounded in the arm very bad. She tripped on the fringe of a tattered shawl she snagged from her car. She called for garment reinforcements on account of her thin blouse. I dressed her wound with gauze and comforted her as she wept. Would that I could do more.

April 27 — Promotions team got hit by an aerial blast from the duct this morning. Chuck didn’t make it. Poor bastard’s desk was right under the grate. We had to tourniquet his sleeves, but it was all for naught. The interns are pale, vaguely necrotic. But they raise no complaint for fear of having their credits stripped. We fight for them—not just because they fetch coffee, but because they’re human beings who deserve dignity and comfort. But mostly the coffee.

May 19 — It has been some time since my last entry. My hands were too cold to grip a pen, and writing with mittens proved disastrous. I’ve been hunkered in the break room for hours, as it’s the only place warm enough to soothe my stiff joints and mend my shattered spirit. See, Trish brought in a space heater from home. It oscillates. She’s the best.

May 24, 1:00 p.m. — We have prevailed! We, whose skins are sensitive to the wicked winds that whip through the lobby when goddamn Liam doesn’t shut the door—marched onto the field of battle. We approached Colleen in the communal kitchen and said that some of us are having a hard time with the temperature, and asked if she wouldn’t mind turning it up a little. “Sure, whatever,” she muttered. I say today, no sweeter words have yet been uttered!

May 24, 4:00 p.m. — It’s still fifty-nine degrees. It overtook our unit like a wave, the sickening realization that Colleen was only humoring us so she could keep eating her kale-and-apple salad without distraction. Sometimes I wonder if God hath forsaken us. At the very least, He’s being a bit of a jerk.

June 3 — I have accepted a position at an Ernst & Young outpost in Seattle. More money, better benefits. As I bid farewell to my nippy brethren, I wish them luck in their struggle for warmth. Field reports indicate my new office keeps things a titch on the warmer side, mercifully. But it better not get above seventy-two. Any higher than that and I walk.

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