An email loaded with amorphous detail rings out in the morning, and by the afternoon, we will taste human flesh for the first time. Sometimes jobs are like this. Email is the fodder for corporate anarchy, some press release about our jobs written in newspeak, vague on detail and ripe for the scuttlebutt. Everyone imagines those who pen such things cackling as they type, one finger coyly twisting into their cheek as the missive speeds to a few thousand inboxes. The Masters™ are no fools—these things are not designed to root and rile—but we eat it up, we crave it like the needle. The inbox makes that little chiming sound, a wild email appears, and seconds later I am wearing a spiky leather Mad Max costume and running down some poor family on my motorcycle for an expired can of tomatoes. Things have escalated.
The morning started with coffee and small-talk about the weather, but by 2pm, the savages have painted symbols in blood on the walls, and I cannot identify what is slowly twirling over the sticky-note bonfire. Not all of us have come unprepared, however. As I read the tricky emails from on-high, I lower my Bane mask and inhale its chemicals, strengthened by it, empowered by its intentions. “You think the corporate world is your ally? You merely adopted the khaki socks and the Starbucks. I was born in it. Molded by it. I didn’t see true email until I was already a man. By then, it was nothing to me, but a career.”
Let us be afraid and jump to conclusions, goddammit! Worried bodies bob and weave in and out of the offices, struggling to hear what’s been heard by someone who heard a thing who heard a thing. Something smells rancid and delicious out in the open sun, so every dog under the prairie starts to pop their head out and squeak. Get it? I used prairie dogs as a loose metaphor because I am so terribly clever.
One question, then more:
“What have you heard?”
“What does ‘restructuring’ mean?”
“I heard that half of us will be fired.”
“Really? I heard that we’re to be hunted on an island off the coast of Argentina.”
“I heard that we are to now worship the Demon-King Pazuzu, and we are to prepare our bodies for the harvest.”
“Yup. I heard the same thing, and that we have to pay for our own break-room sodas.”
“It’s probably true. Someone told me that someone told them that they over heard that we’re all going to have to get those blood plugs installed over our heart, like in Dune.”
Things have escalated. Early in the morning it’s all smiles and small talk, the kind you practice on each other, the kind you never use anywhere else in your life. The culture is adopted—it has to be—you cannot expect to bring your own flavor to the place. If everyone wears jeans on Friday, you are going to wear jeans. If everyone says “hello” in the hallway, every time, then you are going to say “hello.” If everyone participates in some archaic devilry mentioned in whispers as “the skin ritual,” then you are going to buy cocoa butter, learn the ins-and-outs of a wild pig, and be ready to learn Aramaic. You work here now, get fucking comfy.
It turns dark when someone a few pay grades higher than you starts shooting out emails light on detail and heavy with innuendo. I don’t like it any more than the next, but I chose this life. I spent years inside the walls of the white collar world and its boring-ass carpet patterns, and I then Gladiator-ed my way to freedom. I spent years wandering the outside world, trying to find my place in it all as a grownup human. While I was able to make it work for a bit, eventually I carved “Matthew Was Here” into a support beam, kicked the chair, and fell back into “the life.” I wanted the politics, the red tape, the water cooler, and the words that aren’t used anywhere else. At home or with friends I do not speak like this, but at work, I will bust out the “strategy,” the “cooperative process,” and the “let’s touch base,” like it was my job. Well, yeah, it is.
“You’re probably safe, it’s me I’m worried about.” Safe from what you loony thing you, an asteroid? Self preservation is the name of the corporate game, but we are arming ourselves for things that we cannot see. Vague emails and unseen things are normally the stuff that turns my anxieties up to eleven. I am well seasoned at “what-if’ing” myself into a wild tizzy, and I have bested the most righteous of the brain medications available, things with acronyms and side effects similar to those of parathion nerve gas. I can stub my toe and string together a chain of worries that has me awake at night wondering if I accidentally gave myself foot-AIDS. I can sneeze into my elbow and spend the next week waiting for my own assassination by a band of horny drifters with deep gambling debts and debilitating addictions to cocaine and manga. It all makes sense when you think about it too much, and holy Mary full of Xanax, I do. Look at me, again, so clever.
Let’s keep our button-ups tucked into our underwear for the moment. “Don’t Panic.” I think someone from outer space said that once. So, things are changing, you-the-whomever-still-reads-this-blathery, and if decades of song lyrics have taught us anything, it’s that A.) Things indeed do change, and B.) “Notorious is glorious in the sack, hit skins from the back, put my thumb up the ass crack.” Listen then—nothing may change, or, we all might be relocated to some drifting mega-liner in the middle of the Atlantic. There is only one way to know—ready your own backup plans, and wait. Well, two ways I suppose, but unless you’ve got plutonium, a clear plastic neck tie, and a DeLorean, I’m not holding my breath.
Again, the Bane mask fits snugly over my sinuses. The bravado comes on easily, and I’m almost talking to myself at this point. “You read an email. And this gives you power over me?” I forget what comes next. Something with Michael Keaton, I think.
Music in this episode:
Photo thanks to the gallery of x-ray delta one.