For at least the thousandth time, I stare at the nameplate on my desk. It says “Pete Tailor”, which would be fine, except my name is spelled “Taylor” and I’ve always told everyone my name is Peter, not Pete. There’s only one guy in the entire world who calls me Pete, and I hate his guts.
I’m an accountant, so I looked in the company’s accounts payable system to see what a corrected nameplate would have cost. Five dollars and thirty-five cents. Every time someone in upper management sends out an email that states “we value our employees”, I know that they value me somewhere below five dollars and thirty-five cents.
The CFO steps into my office. “Hi Pete.” He holds up a stack of receipts. “I’ve got some travel and entertainment expenses I need reimbursed. No need to run them through the approvals process, I’m approving them myself.” He slips the first receipt off the stack. “This one’s for that–”
I haven’t taken my eyes off my computer screen since he walked in the door, and I don’t turn towards him now. “Two hundred and sixteen dollars and three cents.”
He flips the receipt around and stares at it, trying to decide whether it’s transparent enough that I could have read it through the paper. He sets it down and slips the next receipt off the stack.
“Four hundred and fourteen dollars and ninety-six cents.”
He looks at the back of that receipt as well.
I hand him a check with a payment stub attached. “I’ve already cut the check.”
He slaps the receipts down on my desk, checking each of them against the check stub. When he finds that everything matches, he stares at me. “I don’t know if you broke into my office or hacked into my credit-card account, but either way, you’re fired, and I’m heading to security right now to have you escorted out of the building.”
I pick up the box already packed with my personal effects. “Don’t make Wayne climb the stairs — he’s got to be eighty years old. I can throw myself out of this dump.” I leave the nameplate. Maybe the company will save five dollars and thirty-five cents by hiring an accountant named Pete Tailor.
I don’t know why I can see things before they happen. I didn’t suffer any kind of head trauma. I didn’t throw a magical coin into a wishing well. I just woke up on a Wednesday morning and started seeing things twice.
I sit at my home computer, typing my travel dates into an online reservation site. Before today’s test with the CFO, I thought I might have been suffering from some debilitating form of deja vu. Now, I know I’m really seeing things before they happen. I’m headed to Vegas.
The reservation site lets you choose where you sit on the plane. 23C? Some kid kicks the back of my seat for five and a half hours. 33F? Drunk lady spills red wine all over my clothes. 9A? Perfect. The guy in 9B doesn’t make his connecting flight.
As I step off the boarding ramp in Las Vegas, two men block my path.
“Mr. Taylor, could we have a word with you?”
The man who speaks is sketchy-looking. He’s wearing a conservative suit and tie, but his long hair is in a pony tail, and he has running shoes on his feet. Something is pinned to his jacket which is halfway between a badge and a convention sticker. It says “Nevada Gaming Control Board”, and in smaller letters below that, “Predictive Services Division.” I consider walking past the guy, telling him I’m not Taylor, but the second man is a uniformed LVPD officer, so I go with them, moving away from the flow of disembarking passengers. This is definitely the kind of thing I should have seen in advance, but I’d had no warning at all.
The man pulls an envelope from his jacket and hands it to me. “I’ve booked you on the next return flight. You’ll be leaving in approximately two hours. Please do not return to the state of Nevada.”
“So … you saw me …”
“Yes, Mr. Taylor. I do appreciate that you would have kept your winnings relatively modest, and that you would have spread them among several different casinos, but I’m afraid the state of Nevada cannot allow people such as yourself to exploit an unfair advantage.”
“You’re just a Nevada guy, right? It’s fine with you if I go to Macao?”
“My counterpart in Macao will not provide you with a return ticket. Ever.”
“I can go home and play the lottery. I didn’t want the media attention from that, but–”
“Mr. Taylor, have you ever seen the news stories about people who won the lottery, but ended up bankrupt, with every facet of their lives in complete ruin? People aren’t that stupid. Those stories are the aftermath of the Lottery Man dealing with individuals such as yourself. I have no doubt you could win, but trust me, you do not want to draw the attention of the Lottery Man.”
“Well, maybe I can get a job with your outfit?”
“If you had seen me coming, Mr. Taylor, then we would certainly have discussed it. As things stand, no.”
“What am I supposed to do, then?”
“Go home, Mr. Taylor. Seeing an automobile accident may save your life some day. You might avoid marrying that woman who would cheat on you and leave you divorced. You’ll have a normal life, but seem just a bit luckier than the average person.”
“You don’t get it. I’m an accountant. There aren’t that many people to begin with who can stand the dreary mindlessness of being an accountant. How could anyone stand being an accountant who sees everything twice? Every account reconciliation — twice. Every purchase order — twice. Every rejected invoice — twice. Nobody could do that and stay sane. Nobody!”
“Have a nice flight home, Mr. Taylor.”