13 May, 2012

the "Company"

There is a methodology to smiling. A methodology, even to walking. To presenting. Or so it is believed in the "Company", which is, of course the only place worth working in the city. When meeting day comes around, everyone is prepared, because everyone is reading the same memos and doing the same "Company" exercises and going to the same pre-meeting pep rallies. Everyone is laughing, smiling, sharing their favorite aphorisms and confidence that "Everything will be OK".

"Everything will be OK" is one of the most popular "Company" aphorisms.

Before the meeting starts, the music ramps up.Men and women walk into the room. Single file. Find their seats. Many smiling stupidly and humming to the music.

The Minister walks up to the front with authority and the cheering crescendoes and then dies down. After the introductory pledge and announcements, the meeting covers the approved topics. Those who are approved for the agenda are allowed to speak and anyone is allowed onto the agenda, although to tell the truth not many people know exactly what the procedure is. It seems most meetings go over the budget, talk about "hot button topics" and cover little new ground.

For Rob, the meetings are a blur of noise, gaiety, hubris and diversion. Usually he doesn't really hear what is being said, or, if he does, he doesn't quite see how it relates to him.

Rob has been working for years as an artist as a chef in the kitchen. It's not quite what he wants to do , even though that is where his "interest" and "aptitude" tests place him and even though Rob is told by his supervisors that if he takes initiative, he can make the job whatever he wants to. The problem is, he's not quite sure what that is and he doesn't have any ideas from where he's at. He just knows he's vaguely unhappy.

Let me tell you before we go any further that the "Company", at least from the outside is seen as the perfect place to work. Effortlessly spotless with happy employees that are always ready to give or receive advice. Still, everyone who visited The "Company" felt there was something "off" about the place. Sure, the employees received ample benefits- everything from free healthcare to free ballroom dancing and cooking classes, workers were encouraged to follow their passions- artists could decorate the menu or work in the garden, social butterflies could organize parties, greet people and isolationists had rooms and rooms of arcades and libraries.

But everyone who visited said the same thing "something is off about that place".

Rob has a beautiful house and a beautiful girlfriend, although he does not like either of them very much. His girlfriend enjoys dancing and drinking while Rob prefers reading and swimming. He has tried approaching the "Public Relations"desk to try to change his personal life and his dissatisfaction but finds that when he does, he is at a loss. You see, in the "Company" there is no way to explain "different interests", because there are only appropriate and inappropriate interests and no way to say "I'd rather be single", because it is not seen as healthy. So if he wants to keep his job, he has to keep his girlfriend.

And so he continues to stay with her, often forgetting that her name is Emily. Often dreaming of Rosalyn, who works with him in the restaurant only to wake up to find Emily has left for work and if he doesn't leave soon, he'll miss his shift.

Well one day, when he is in the middle of chopping an onion, a task Rob abhors, he brushes past Rosalyn. This is something that happens perhaps a dozen times a day, but this time she notices him and gives him an irked look.

"He was LOOKING at me!" Rosalyn complains. Rob tries to go back to work, but soon enough the whole situation has become unavoidable.

And soon enough, he is sitting in the middle of a "sexual harassment" office and fending off accusation he didn't even think were possible. He thought he saw Rosalyn wink at him, but he thought he must be imagining that. But when the two of them leave for the day- he without a job, most likely, she tells him "it's only for my own security, no hard feelings."

So, needless to say, the dreams of Rosalyn stopped, but there was nothing to replace them with so Rob didn't really have any dreams. For a while he just did what he did during the day, as expected and at night he slept and remembered nothing.

When it became apparent that Rosalyn was going to take him for everything he had and that there was no way he could be an upstanding member of the "Company", Rob decided to leave. The thing is, nobody ever left the company.

Rob left in the night. He took the train north and just kept riding. He eventually found himself at the ocean, where he proceeded to become very drunk from some very cheap rum and fall asleep behind a brush pile in a vacant looking part of the town.

He wandered around this town for a few days and found it interesting and a little bit relaxing not to have any "job" to go to. When he was bored, he went to the next town. He ate all sorts of strange food, did all sorts of interesting drugs and one night when he was oddly self-confident he even found and had sex with a hooker.

But Rob was bored.

He knew there was a life out there without the "Company", but he didn't know what it was. Everyone he met told him he had two choices- either rejoin the company, beg forgiveness, or continue on the path he's on- the path of drugs and homelessness and madness.

But Rob didn't want to return. He watched the "Company" as it continued to expand and people let it, sure that it would make their lives better, impotent when it came and yet did not make their lives better. As the years went by, Rob moved from town to town, living in shacks and doing what little work there was to do for the meager crumbs he could find.

There were two types of malcontents Rob ran across. Those who said this was just the “way of things” and then they smiled at the "natural progression" and that one should just make the most of what life they have. Then there were those who hated the "Company" viciously said it was Cultural Warfare. These people were often the same many call "crazy".

Rob one day finds an abandoned shack and stays there for five years as the "Company" reaches its zenith. Wars still continue, violence still continues, life gets more and more predictable as the "Company" begins to decay because there is no room left for expansion.

Well one day Rob sees all this and he is still living off of the scraps that he can find and at night he is still not dreaming and he still has the same half-dead look on his face.

Well one day Rob stops humming. He didn't realize he was humming, but all this time he had been humming the song that had been taught to him since his birth, the song of the "Company". And then that night, Rob dreams again.

It's a completely new dream.

He tries explaining it to the people in the "Company", but noone understands it. There simply aren't words for it or a way to say it that they will accept and understand.

No one believes him when he says he has seen a "world outside of the company, a world too beautiful for words."

But they will believe him when they start to dream a new dream, when the "Company" is no longer.

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