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Nameless

Draped in grey as was everyone else in the hallway, zhe left the hole to go to work as zhe did every day, along with all the other drones in the building. The mouth patch had been put on squarely, to remove all temptation to say anything offensive. Eye blinders were set to the correct angle to ensure seeing below anyone else’s face while making sure one could still walk. Zhe had a freshly shaved head, though zhe had started to fill in parts to make the widows peak less pronounced. It would never do to be noticeable, one must only let the work shine.

Getting on the tube transporter, zhe noticed that the only seats available, even on this early trolley, were the ones reserved for the pregnant and as this did not apply, zhe continued to stand. Reaching up for the handhold strap zhe momentarily noticed the face of the passenger standing alongside, a nicely shaped oval. This face also had a mouth patch and blinders on and seemingly had not noticed the covert glance. Quickly looking down, zhe stared at the shoes of the other passengers, noticing the winter model was on everyone’s feet. Hoping that the glance would remain unnoticed, as whenever zhe accidentally let zher gaze stray.

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Fluorescents buzzed above all the cubicles in the great room, occasionally flickering as the ballast for the light tubes started to age out in the distant parts of the hall. The padded kneepads of a utility suit allowed a full range of movement as zhe pushed the angled tip of the broom into each corner, allowing the slight amount of dirt to rise to the surface in this hard to reach spot, a spot each wall space had.  Zhe would brush a small space and follow along shortly afterward with a hand vacuum, then shuffle along to the next section of wall.  There, the worn carpet would still hold dirt though it had been cleaned in this manner the day before. As zhe worked along the edge of the room, the voices of the greaters became a background hum, neither interesting nor distracting but still allowing to pick out the voices on the overloud in the chance that it was something concerning.

About three fifths into the normal day’s circuit, a pair of boots appeared within the vision of the blinders. Directly looking down at zher, the greater had a vague smile, polished hair and deliberate slouch of the upper caste. Young though, as if having just recently been certified by university.

“Please finish up and apply to opportunity in one tenth. It has been noticed and needs discussion. Oh, and please be to wash up first.”

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“…The wall covers also need a deep scrub, and as your job is wiping down the glass at the atrium, this should be a pretty simple opportunity for you to shine at your job. Of course, cleanliness is your goal here at the center, which you have done a great job at as one of the window team. But, there have been a few reports of your looking through the glass at objects and greaters beyond. As that is obviously the case, I would ask you to take the opportunity to tighten the field of your blinders to ensure that the looks up do not continue.  And as you were asked to wash up but left a streak under your left pinky nail, I feel that the increased opportunity here to again teach you your job is necessary. Thus, the increased use of blinders, along with heavy scrub. Thank you, that is all.”

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Arriving home late that night, delayed due to the need to finish zher circuit of brooming and vacuuming, zhe set about disassembling an old pen. Taking the ink cartridge out, bending back an old safely pin that was twirled in string. Dipping the pin tip in the ink, allowing it to swell into the thread, zhe slipped the primitive tattoo needle up under the nail.  Feeling the small but bright pain, allowing zherself the only control.

 

Internal corridor of the disused ‘West 5’ ward of Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital, Cardiff, UK.     No machine-readable author provided. Vaughan~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims).

 

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15 thoughts on “Nameless

  1. When I worked at Global Conglomerate (though as part of one of the Managed Services teams subcontracted to Global Conglomerate), one of the things that they made great pains to do was explain how Managed Services were not allowed in certain parts of the building: the ice cream social room, the gym, the library.

    Global Conglomerate was going through some of the same shocks that all companies were going through at the tail end of the 90’s, early part of the Oughts and benefits to Global Conglomerate employees were being cut (and, yes,there were layoffs and reassignments and whathaveyou going on too).

    The “you can’t go to the gym!” was told to me by more than one employee while I was there, even though I was working nights and wouldn’t have been using machines that regular employees would have been using. “The insurance doesn’t cover subs”, I was told.

    Now, dig this, I wasn’t particularly inclined to use the gym. Bulk life. I was kinda overweight then, too.

    Why in the hell would employees bother to tell a fat guy that he couldn’t use the gym?

    I realized that telling subs that they couldn’t use the gym was one of the intangible benefits provided to Global Conglomerate employees.

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    • Why in the hell would employees bother to tell a fat guy that he couldn’t use the gym?

      As just something I learned when trying to access the gym my company provides: Management really looks down on people being in the gym that no one knows about.

      They have a rather complicated system wherein you exchange your employee badge with the front desk guy, who gives you the gym access card and makes you sign in. And he checks the gym as part of his rounds and makes sure the count matches his book. Because management really dislikes the idea of someone getting hurt in the gym and being left until the next person comes in.

      Probably doesn’t apply in your case, but I know our gym closes when the front desk guy leaves for the night — because there’s no one there to find you if you’re hurt or sick.

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      • Global Conglomerate, at this point in time, still paid for multiple 24×7 security guards to do rounds around the building (soon replaced by a single guard who worked the gate where the executive types entered and badge readers and security cameras everywhere else).

        It wasn’t just me being told this. They also told the people who worked days… and they also told me to not eat the ice cream and don’t go into the library.

        Insurance might be sufficient reason to discuss people not using the eliptical.

        Seems less apt for sitting at the table and reading the out-of-date books on HPUX 10.20.

        Er, I mean, Global Conglomerate UX 10.20.

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    • “Why in the hell would employees bother to tell a fat guy that he couldn’t use the gym?”

      Because if non-employees keep using the gym, then the people in charge of paying for things might say “well, it looks like we can’t stop non-employees from using the gym, and there’s no way that our employee insurance policy can be extended to cover non-employees, so to avoid exposing us to multi-million-dollar liability lawsuits we have to close the gym”.

      Which was what the place I work at did with the company-provided bicycles :|

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    • Working in a temp position at Financial Software Company years ago, I got this series of emails, paraphrased and significantly abridged:

      1) “Everyone, please take our ‘great place to work’ survey! We want to keep getting better so you all keep wanting to work here more and more!”

      2) “All temp staff, please don’t take our ‘great place to work’ survey, as your input will pollute our results with opinions we don’t care about. We sent you the invitation by accident.”

      3) [recall request for email 2]

      4) “All temp staff, we’ve changed our minds. Please take our ‘great place to work’ survey!”

      I read email number 2 and thought “This is an amazing piece of found poetry. I must forward it to my personal email or print it out or something. I could never have written something so brilliant myself.”

      Email number 3 was my first exposure to Exchange’s message recall feature, so I made the mistake of clicking on it before I could retain a copy of 2.

      (FWIW we had access to at least some of the perqs the permanent staff did – I think we could have played basketball in the gym and such, and may have even had free cafeteria lunches like the permanent staff. We could not nap on the cots, those were reserved for permanent staff – whom I did not envy the overwork that made the cots relevant.)

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    • When I worked at Big Oil Company, there were a large number of policies enforcing the caste system, including the “What kind of furniture can you have in your office” policy. (I realize that at this late date, the notion of having an actual office, even if the choics of furniture was limited sounds like wealth beyond dreams of avarice. ) When people changed offices, their desk would sometimes be filled by someone of a lower caste, who would undeservedly enjoy furniture he did not rate, at least until the powers that were noticed the situation and replaced it with something more appropriate (i.e. cheaper.) Even if the nicer stuff wound up in a vacant office of a storage room, this was necessary to avoid the wrong sort of people getting above themselves.

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      • Years ago I worked at a large Danish IT company, where the HR manager was sacked because she tried to enforce these sort of caste markers.

        The company owner’s office was distinguishable only by the fact that he had an office of his own (most of us shared an office between two or perhaps three people), it was larger since it had a table and a few chairs for private discussions, and a photo on his desk of him having a chat with Bill Gates.

        That was my introduction to the Scandinavian distaste for in-your-face status displays.

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      • I always like stories about when a salesperson has a big year and hears his manager’s horrified exclamations that, “You made as much as Executive X!” as it it was an unconscionable affront to the natural order of things that a nobody who made the company a ton of money got the same thing as an Important Person.

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  2. The striking thing for me here is the rigid hierarchy that prevails notwithstanding the (dehumanizingly heavy-handed) efforts of social engineering to advance equality. The contrast is powerful.

    Perhaps just as the Lesser in this story asserts zher individuality through the subversive act of self-tattooing, so too does the Greater assert zhers through the smug dominance zhe imposes upon the Lesser.

    It sure is bleak. Kudos to the author for evoking that.

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  3. Driving to work this morning, we passed part of a 5K being run. A whole bunch of white people cheerfully doing the 5K in jogging shorts while dark skinned people in bright yellow jumpsuits and face kerchiefs picked up the little cups they threw to the ground.

    This story of yours immediately came to mind.

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  4. Nice work. For some reason I’m reminded of Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, a brave-new-world piece of fiction from the late 60’s, which may or may not still be in print.

    The obvious (and facetious) question I’d ask is: You and I don’t work for the same people, do we? Because…

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