Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Fucking Interns: Fast and Furiously Effective (episode 7)




DAY 41
9.55 hours
“Nice and easy,” The bum wiped off the stream of saliva running down her chin as she shook the plastic cup she held and handed it back. “Your boss wouldn’t know my spit from his espresso.”

We shared a conspiratorial wink as I walked towards the revolving doors of the entrance.
I didn’t tell anyone this. I got visions. Every time I pushed through these revolving doors. An avalanche of memories would flood my head. Memories I’d rather want to obliterate.

I’d see myself sitting at the HR Judgement room. I’d be tensed, worried, my lips wobbly as I stared on at the firing squad of the magazine. I wouldn’t hear them speak, but I could read their lips: You Are Fired. And moments later, I’d be packing out of Glitz, saying goodbye to all my colleagues. Then I’d remember Claudia Sharpe, editor in chief, call me a dark horse. And as though a 'Reset to Factory Settings' button had been tampered with, my brain received a fresh start as I revolve into the lobby. Apprehension gone, replaced by a feeling of ease. I would no longer feel insecure. I'd walk with a spring in my step, slowly. A foot placed in front of the other in equal rhythmic precision. Tap. Tap. Tap.

On the ride up the elevator, I’d wear on a smile. Like I still did till this day. Grateful to be at Glitz. Always, I picked up from this fresh, new start and began my day in the magazine of my dreams.

“Kobby, you are late.” I was greeted by Winfred’s reproachful tone as I walked into his office.

I was just going to assume he’d magically forgotten he’d ordered me to do the coffee-run before coming into work. I wanted to keep my smile. At least, what was left of it. So I ignored looking his way, and went about the room to distribute the others’ coffees.

“As I was saying,” Winfred began. “before the distraction,” His pause was deliberate, but I was too busy—eyeing Maggie’s Victorian lace gown and the matching parasol she’d swung onto her neck as I handed her the coffee—to care. “I have a challenge for you today.” My ears perked up, moving on to Justin who looked right through me as he took his coffee—too attentive to care about the serf. “As a copy editor, running the online magazine would be one of your duties. The online magazine is frequently updated and you’d have lots of freelance journos emailing their pieces to be posted online.” Wendy smiled distractedly at me, shoving me lightly when I was spending too much time searching through my treat bag for the sugar-crusted donut she’d specifically requested.

“Today, you’d run your own online magazine. Maggie you’d take on fashion,” Maggie beamed. “Justin you’d take on beauty.” Justin hid his disappointment. So the secret cross-dresser was beaten to fashion by the horribly, inappropriately dressed Victorian-loving intern. The irony of it all was stunning. “Wendy you’d handle accessories—the easiest!” Wendy wasn’t proud either of handling the easiest. If joining in the lunch-break arm-wrestling with security was anything to go by, it was clear she sure loved a challenge. “And Kobby,” His pause was evident as he addressed me, again I was too involved playing stoic butler to care. “you’d handle true-life stories.”

Wait! What? I steadied the remaining coffees before they slipped through my grasp. Hours spent dissecting the love life of Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew was proving of more worth than the level of seriousness (—none at all) I attached to those broke waitresses in New York.

True-life stories meant more word-count and more work! If I was seething beneath, I wore a blank mask. (Woah. Downton Abbey offered more than they were letting on). I wasn’t going to make my boss think I’d find it difficult handling the section.

“So, you would all be creating a blog,” Winfred resumed, after dipping his hands into my pastry basket and retrieving the scones I’d bought for myself, ignoring the bagels he always had. I wore on a smile—tense at the edges though. You wouldn't find me complaining. “I’d give you the email addresses of the sections I’ve assigned you. The challenge is, you post more by the end of the day.” The others all shrugged in synchrony as though they'd been asked to tie as many shoe-laces as they could. I sipped my coffee to appear unbothered because I knew Winfred was keeping an eye on me as he continued to speak, “Like an online magazine, you are going to promote your blog, get feedback on your articles—as much as you can.”

The others shrugged. My coffee immediately flew to my lips.

“Oh, there’s a clincher.” Anxiety levels peaked at his devilry tone. “Whoever performs least compared to their colleagues would have to miss some of my lecturing. And that means, dealing with HR on intern-review day.” My palms began watering at the mention of 'HR'. 

“Oh, did I say the deadline of the challenge is twenty-four hours? Which in Glitz time is a full working-day of six hours?”

Immediately all the others scampered towards the exit. I made an attempt to follow them.

“Kobby?” I slowly spun at my boss’ call. “Get me coffee.” I stared pointedly at the one I’d just left on his desk seconds ago. He hadn’t just lost his sight, had he? “Oh, Kobby, don’t you see?” He rolled his eyes at me. “I want you to fail.” And with those words, his coffee leaped from his desk and landed into the nearby bin. “Oops, gravity’s such a bitch.”

Just like my horrible boss.
10.45 hours
If anyone should have found the challenge easy, it should have been me. I had been book-blogging for years. So after settling in my cubicle at the Intern Floor and finishing off the last of the scones I’d picked up on my coffee-run for Winfred, I spread my hands on my keyboard. And began.

In a few minutes, I’d created my blog. I’d signed into the email account of the true-life articles. I’d edited and hosted up the first article on my blog. And I’d been sitting for minutes waiting for someone to comment.

Cricket, cricket.

Of course, I’d known it would take some time for someone interested to drop a comment. So I copied the link of the post and shared it across all my social media. I sat down waiting for an interested party to give feedback.

Cricket, cricket.

I turned to look at the others to see how they were faring. Maggie’s eyes were shut, humming to herself, a gloved-finger piercing through layers of artificially-ventilated air as she hit what I supposed would be the high notes of the song. There couldn't have been a more effective way to communicate to the rest of us how easy she was finding the challenge. Wendy was staring seriously at her screen, till she beamed a couple of minutes later, and began jamming at the keyboard hitting the 'enter' key, with a finishing flourish. The reader to whom she was replying must have pushed the right buttons with her. I looked on to Justin, who had pushed his monitor away from our view and was sniggering suspiciously to himself. I was curious.

“Justin, care to share?” I asked casually.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just replying to my sixteenth comment on my eighth post.”

An electrifying jolt sent a shudder through me. The others had also heard and seemed bewildered too.

“C’mon,” He shrugged like it was no big deal. “I figure you guys are way ahead of me. You are just teasing.” In his heart, I knew he knew we weren’t teasing. Modesty had never been his forte.

“What have you been doing, Justin?” Wendy asked dubiously. “I’ve posted my fifth article and I’ve only had one comment.”

“I’ve posted my eight article and have had one comment.” Maggie supplied behind me.
Their figures were making me dizzy. Dizzy enough to want to pull off a glove from Maggie and retch in it. Where have I been all this while? Oh, yeah, getting sodding coffee for my effing boss. I must find a way to catch up, else… I shook my head, banishing the possibility of facing HR again. I distracted myself with words coming out of Justin’s lips.

“… you guys are doing it too, aren’t you?” Justin seemed genuinely surprised. “You are sending private messages to your three-thousand Facebook friends asking them to comment on your posts, aren’t you?”

My curiosity was piqued. “Isn’t that cheating?”

“It’s…” Justin looked up at the ceiling as though it held an answer. “… effective. And at this moment, you need effective, guys. We are being realistic here. No one is going to comment on a blog you just created in six hours. Unless you are the Dalai Lama.

“I thought the purpose of a challenge was to challenge us—“

“Shut up, Kobby.” Wendy snapped before I could continue. “I do not have three-thousand friends. But I have quite a number of guys persisting to go on a date with me.”

She stood from her computer and asked if she's got some of her scarlet lipstick on her teeth. Justin told her not to worry, scarlet didn't really make a striking appearance against yellow. She glared at him and headed for the guys in the IT department across the hall.

I stared at my friends list on Facebook. The triple digit count made my stomach lurch. I can’t have been on Facebook this while and only garnered two hundred friends? Besides why was I even considering this? There was no way I would be cheating. What if Winfred found out? I had an image of him pulling me by the ear. Which was enough to cause me to shiver.

In between my moral dilemma, I missed Wendy’s return. “Oh, I’m so booked for this year. I have no social calendar than going out on dates with geeky guys who’d be concerned about how forthcoming I was with algebra solutions in class five.” She turned to her computer screen. “Oh, there’s a plus though. Sixteen new comments on my first post, sixteen on my second… oh, heavens, this is all EFFECTIVE!” She shared a crafty smile with Justin

From my peripheral vision, I watched Maggie stand up, hoicking up a mass of her ridiculous outfit. “Well, I also can work a room too.” She stomped off.

“Maggie?” Justin called, a tint of mockery in his tone.

“What?”

“You left you parasol.”

“Oh, yeah.” She covered the space between her cubicle in long steps. “Might come in handy.” She was off as Justin and Wendy were heartily sniggering into their palms. I wanted to join in, only my laughter would seem fake and rehearsed. So I turned to my Notebook.

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Had someone replaced my monitor when I wasn’t watching? “Guys, I’ve had a comment!” I announced excitingly. “An honest one, not like what you all have.” I jeered at them as I clicked to see the comment. “Kobby,” I read out, alternating my gaze between the Notebook screen and the others, “could you... get me… coffee…” my voice trailed off. My eyes immediately settled on the avatar of the commenter. I mentally squished the image in between my thumb and my index finger.  

How the fuck was I supposed to moderate that? I hit the delete button and threw my hands at the heavens for giving me the worst boss on earth. How was I supposed to get the challenge done and run his errands at the same time? Oh, yeah, I remembered, he was rooting for my failure.

I stood up from my cubicle, ignoring the snickering from the others. I quickened my steps towards the elevator only to halt when my eyes fell on one beauty intern. The beauty intern we’d dubbed ‘Selfina’ for her tendency to take more selfies in a minute than the heart would beat for the same time. The beauty intern with a tablet I couldn’t help but eyeball.

How was I supposed to get the challenge done and run his errands at the same time? Oh, yeah, there was a solution.
11.45 hours.
I couldn’t remember a time my neck hurt this much. Who knew taking so much selfies could ruin a tendon in your neck? I didn't. I was grateful though for the tablet I clasped in my hand which might appease the pains a bit. So you wouldn’t find me giving a stern leccture to the Chinese tourists snapping away all around the choked pavements.

“Mum,” I yelled in my phone hooked between my neck and a wobbly shoulder as I balanced my boss’ coffee in one hand and Selfina’s device in the other. “I could do with a little help from you.”

“Help?” My mum said on the other end. The sound of a vacuum cleaner almost drowning her out.

“It’s about work, mum,” The moment the words escaped my lips I regretted them.

“Fuck off, Kobby.”

“Mum!” I shouted over her before she could disconnect and found myself engaging in a two-step with a man uncertain of a side to take. “Please, it’s really serious. I need you to get on a blog I’ve created and comment.”

“It’s too much work, Kobby.”

There was a reason my mum had ‘given up’ her high-flying career as a nurse to be a stay-at-home mum. She always held this against my dad. No, we didn't want to know how many nurses would give up getting glasses of water to octogenarians every five minutes (—but she told us anyway, "A few, OK? A brave few."). We all knew if there was a list of words she wished the Queen hadn’t made up it would be ‘occupation’ along with 'earning a living'"It’s a waste of space, you know, that phrase,” I heard her complain to an old colleague who came over once. ‘Working for a living. Eek. As if there aren’t other, better ways to live.’

“Kobby, I’m engaging in thorough housework. I can’t leave that to attend to you.”

I couldn’t help but snap, “Oh, you and I both know you are following your hired-help around!” She ended the call, part in annoyance, part in shock that I knew of her long-kept secret. Next time she'd know not to disregard the photographic mind of a toddler who watched his mother wrinkle her nose in disgust as a stranger change his nappies (—"Does mama think ma poopy ish schmelly?").

I looked at the next on my list of people to call as I headed back for the Glitz building. There were so many friends who weren’t answering my calls from the moment I landed an internship at Glitz since they'd be spending all of summer in banks, in a tele-marketing jobs and behind a store counter. I certainly wasn't phoning Bob the Builder. So, I called the next on my ‘Family’ list, hoping they’d help.

I had no chance with my dad. He was enjoying his lunch break, playing golf, his android was running low and he wanted to make the last pocket, turning on his data would mean losing his game, but I should ask Isaac, kids our age had a full battery, he doubted crushing candy would hold so much interest to us, millennials. Isaac, my older, die-hard competitive brother who hated me the very moment he found out another baby was resting in his old crib, told me to, “Screw your asshole, asshole.” That’s Isaac. Very, err, selective of his choice of words.

“Kobby,” my grandmother had barked at me as I tried to give her the link to the website, 

Double-you-tee-eff, I am sick and tired of kids of your generation abbreviating every single thing. If you do not have the time to say aitch-tee-tee-pee in full, then I’m thinking you do not need my help as much. Oh-em-gee! If you keep this up, it wouldn’t take long before I YOLO one of these days! The loud disconnection tone stung my ear.

12.45 hours
I was going to fucking cry! If I assumed Winfred would be wearing me out because of the word count of true-life stories I was wrong. There was just so much sadness one could take in a day.

The others were already on their fifteenth (Wendy) and twentieth (Maggie) and fortieth posts. And I was on my desk, battling my third article wondering why there was so much sadness in the world. Why was that woman’s lover gunned down by her husband? Why did another have to be caught between a truck and a bin lorry and still survive to write to Glitz? Why could another woman not bring herself to pulling the plug on her son? (The latter was irritably dragging).

I massaged the kink in my neck wearily. I refreshed my blogger page to see if I had a comment. My eyes widened at the number of comments I had. Or rather, the number of comments I was supposed to have but didn’t! Grr. I wanted to yell at something: I have fucking stated you should comment! I took my time and told you to please fucking comment after reading this post! What more do you internet junkies want?

“Kobby,” Winfred was at my cubicle. Everyone looked up from their computers at his arrival. I immediately smiled so he didn’t notice my tension. It’s all really going fab, boss, these internet junkies are loving me! “Get me lunch.” He spun and headed for the elevator.

“I’m so exhausted, can’t I have a break?” Unfortunately Winfred heard what I’d intended to Maggie only.

“Did you say you want a break?” He rewarded me with his best withering stare. I nodded tentatively. “Oh, you would now? How about I send you some warm juice to go along with this break? Or, you’d prefer a massage? Perhaps, I could send in the magazine’s glam squad so you guys engage in exciting chatter as they braid your pubic hair?” He was off.

The others were giggling. I shot them my best withering stare. They were still giggling.

I stood up from my desk, went in for Selfina’s device—“Oh, my neck’s hurting, can we fucking not do this? Thank you!”—and headed for the exit. At the ground floor far out of reach of so many important eyes, I screamed, I stabbed at the heavens, I asked why my boss was so unbearable.

“Oh, there’s the boy who always smiles when he comes into work.” A security guard said to his colleague.

Despite myself I smiled.

13.05 hours
I was beginning to feel the heat when working hours were drawing to an end. I was nowhere near my fourth article. And I was flickering through the email unconcerned. Why did the stories have to be all so sad and weary? Why could I not sit still without getting momentary flashbacks of myself facing the firing squad?

“So, you know why they had to kill off Patrick Dempsey in Grey’s Anatomy?” I had only realized I was in Bummy’s shed when reality caught up with me, staring at the cars that plied the street a few feet away. I didn’t want to go up there to another errand from Winfred. “It's so wrong for someone with so many wrinkles to be called McDreamy. Heck, where do those dreams begin and where do they end?”

Great, I was whiling my hours away chatting TV shows with a bum. Why was succeeding at Glitz so difficult for me? Why did I always have to go through many trials in a day? If I didn’t step up, HR was going to get to me! I’d be fired! Was that what I wanted?

“Kobby? Kobby?” Bummy was calling. “You seem a bit distracted.”

A bit?! That could well be the understatement of the year if she got knocked down by a bus after here. “I’m doing this challenge. If I do not get it right, I might be fired from here.” I confided.

The bum gave me a surprising look which was easy enough to be translate: Why are you always worried about being fired? “What’s this challenge about?” she asked instead.

“It’s a whole lot, really.” The exhaustion was evident in my tone. “I’d have to create a blog, then post articles, then get people to comment.”

“Why have you not asked me?” she seemed genuinely affronted. “Oh, you think just because I’m poor, I’m dumb as well?” She reached into the breast pocket of her tattered blouse, took out a smartphone—for my eyes only, and immediately stowed it back so no passerby saw it. I wasn’t even going to ask how she was able to afford that on her monthly salary.

“It’s not that.” I said too quickly. “It’s just… I am assigned to the true-life segment of articles to put up on the blog.”

“Oh, lemme guess, lots of sad stuff?”

“Tell me about it.” I rolled my eyes. “Who do these fucking writers think I am? A lending ear to all their woes?” I was in the middle of my rant when my phone pinged to announce I had received a text message.

Winfred: Where are you? And why are you still holding my lunch hostage?

I winced in remembrance of his errand. I stood up. “I have to run. I have an angry boss to feed.” I took a few steps away from her shed. “Oh, and one thing. Could you please comment on the blog for me?”

“Am I not supposed to be poor and dumb? The lethal combo for every hobo out in the cold?” She grinned as I feigned a glare. “Oh, I’d do more than that.”

13.30 hours.
I was back in my seat and I was posting as many articles as I could. At least, if I believed I was, nothing could take that away from me. It was just that after my errand with Winfred I’d come back to a fresh batch of emails. In these emails, I’d stumbled on one true-life article that wasn’t sad. I’m telling you! It was funny and enjoyable. A woman was relating her experiences on how she lost everything because of a husband who liked to drink, gamble, and make nasty comments about the size of her arse.

“I had had it,” the woman had written, “had he been playing with my emotions when he’d stated so many times before I married him that my huge arse was all he’d want to cuddle up to?”

I ended the article with a laugh as the woman noted to herself: ‘Opposites attract. Just don’t think someone from a rival political party is a suitable match.’ Refreshing my blogger homepage, I found out, there were already two comments to moderate. Bummy had kept to her word.

"All of you." Winfred was at our cubicles. "To my office now."

I immediately hit publish on Bummy’s earlier comments and was about to run with the others when another comment popped in. It was my grandmother. I sat back in my seat. ‘I did it. I did it.’ The comment read, followed by lots of grinning emoticons to show she’d finally mastered the art of commenting and the internet in general.

I smiled and edited the comment: 'I read it. I read it. Laughing My (shrivelling) Arse Off.'

14.04 hours
Winfred’s eyes were scrunched onto his computer screen for endless minutes as we sat in anticipation waiting for him to declare who the winner of the challenge was. Though we all knew it would be Justin who’d posted a whooping sixty-five posts and had over a hundred comments. He knew this and was fanning himself in his seat like he mattered and he couldn’t care less if Maggie and I were staring daggers at him for deliberately slapping his fan at our faces.

“I guess it’s clear to you all who the winner is.” Winfred looked up from his computer finally, turning to look at Justin. “Maggie, your performance was close. Wendy you had lots of comments who happened to be spammers. One had even added they’d be thrilled to go on a date with you this Tuesday, you’d only need to bring your amazing personality, he’d said, and your share of the bill.” Wendy clenched her fist, not on her life was she going Dutch on any date, it was clear she was thinking. Winfred turned from her. “Kobby, you are the winner of this challenge.”

What the… my head had taken a u-turn, before I knew it I’d snatched Justin’s fan and was fanning myself as fast as I could. What did he say?

“You have to be joking.” Justin was laughing by now, addressing Winfred. “You almost had me falling for that. Look at you! Hahaha.”

“The essence of this challenge wasn’t to post as many articles as you can.” Winfred silenced Justin. “As a copy editor, you are paid to be choosy. To be choosy of the material at your disposal, making sure you are not printing shit. Justin your site was crammed with shit articles, but Kobby—"

“This can’t be happening, I’m next in line. I had the second highest posts.”

“Maggie, your posts were shit. But Kobby,” Winfred turned to me, “you went by your high editing standards and chose quality over quantity.”

“I did?” I was looking anywhere but him with a silly expression of worry mixed with excitement mixed with oh how the hell was I supposed to know when I couldn’t stare in a direction for more than a second!

“Belle Vinci?” Winfred was saying “The penname of the journo who’s article you last published?” His tone was inquiring, I nodded insanely. “She’s one of the magazine’s finest freelancers. She mostly dabbles in fashion and beauty. I’m quite surprised she does real-life too. But anyway, your choice is in line with what I’d always go in for. Belle Vinci is one of my best, and if she’s yours…” His expression took on a contemplative one. “… I now see why Claudia Sharpe called you a keeper and a dark horse.”

I was smiling now. I couldn’t believe the news. Was this really happening to me? Was my boss not evil after all?

“All of you leave,” Winfred waved his hand dismissively at the others. “You do not deserve to be called my interns.” They left. But Justin returned to snatch his fan and fix one final glare at me.

“Kobby, you are in charge of the online magazine.” Winfred announced casually like it was nothing.

I stared at him as though he’d suddenly grown a third head. “The Glitz online magazine?” I asked in disbelief. When I realized he wasn’t going to respond, and he’d turned his focus away from silly me to his computer, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" I said. "I can't Thank you enough.

I know. But coffee would be a nice start.” He mumbled, feigning non-commitment.
I shot out of his chair with so much speed. I was never ever going to complain for being sent on an errand. Because I, Kobby, was now the magazine’s online editor!

“How did it go?” Bummy asked as I headed back to the offices with Win’s coffee in hand. Win! Win! We were definitely pals now! All the resentment towards him had drained on my run to get the coffee. Perhaps we’d bond very well after here. We'd discuss his entranged nephew and I'd tell him not to worry, weren't all boys like that at that age, would he like a foot massage? Yes, he very much would. Win and I would be besties!

“It went great.” I said with a reminiscent smile at Bummy. “And thank you for everything!”

“Everything?” She was thrown for seconds, not realizing what I meant.

“Yeah, the comments.” I found myself narrowing my gaze at her. How could she have forgotten? Then I realized the look that had flitted across her features had been something far from forgetful.

Belle Vinci…? The penname of the journo who’s article you last published…? I shook my head at the rush of Winfred’s words. I immediately checked to see an arse. An arse someone would lie they’d love to cuddle up to.

I gasped. “You are a fucking freelance journo!”

She looked horrified for a split-second. She regained her composure almost smoothly. But it was too late. “I have no idea what you are talking about. Who the hell is Belle Vinci? Who in their right minds would call themselves that?”                                                        

I smiled lightly. I wasn’t going to tell her I hadn’t mentioned the pseudonym to her. But I wanted to hug her anyway. I reached for her and she stepped back.

She pointed at the coffee in my hand, looking for a swift escape from the subject. “Should I spit in it?” she wanted to know.

I thought for seconds, then shook my head. Winfred had been good to me. And though he never noticed he was sipping on a bum’s saliva (who was also his celebrity journo, so nothing to really worry about), it didn’t feel right to keep this up. “I don’t think you should.” I blew her a kiss and turned on my heel. She’d never know how grateful I was for her.

Now if I’d known what was waiting up for me in Winfred’s office, I wouldn’t have run up to him. I would have taken all my time in the world. I would have put one foot before the other in rhythmic precision. I knew all this was just so good to be true. But perhaps, running had been a good thing.

 “An intern editing the online magazine? You don’t think it’s too huge for him?” The fashion director all the fashion interns dubbed 'Cruella de Ghana' was saying to my boss as I walked into his office.

They were facing his expansive floor-to-ceiling window with a nice view of Accra’s skyline beyond.

“I don’t.” Winfred’s answer made my lips stretch endlessly. His confidence in me was so intoxicating, I wanted to pull out a chair and urge him not to stop on my account. “He’d get by. He’d handle it like a pro.” He paused, I watched the two exchange a smile. “At least, that’s what I’ve made him believe.” My pulse began to quicken sensing worry.

“You are so shady, Win.”

“I am, aren’t I?” Winfred shrugged pompously. “I just cannot have him around here. Claudia Sharpe called him a dark horse. That’s scary enough.” A pang in my chest. Something inside was tearing.

“So you gave him the job the last senior editor held before he was fired. One mistake in the online magazine and he’d be sent packing?

“He wouldn’t have to worry about HR. Claudia would be onto him before he’s realized he’s misspelled ‘the’.” He sniggered villainously.

“Score one for Winfred. Score none for the fucking intern.”

The two were disappearing from my view, becoming smaller and smaller as though a force was deliberately wedging distance between us. It was then I realized I was back-pedaling out of the office. And doing the only thing an instinct dictated I must:


I run. 


Author's Note: Thanks for reading. Very grateful you've stuck with me till the seventh episode. Not many have :). I do not publish comments on the blog. If you want a reply to your feedback send it all to kobbytettehgyampoh@gmail.com. So till next week, thanks for stopping by.



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