1195 words by Stanley Lieber
It is the trying I think that wears me out. Yes. I do not believe I will try any more today. I tilt my head so that my eyes appear to be focusing on the surface of my pressure screen. In actuality I am focusing on nothing at all -- but this hardly matters.
Aside from our corporate clients, we are fortunate to service a number of truly eccentric, truly wealthy collectors, a handful of whom have lately become obsessed with recreating the childhoods of their ancestors. Amongst these are a rarefied elite who wish (and have the means) to enact elaborate simulations of what it must have been like for their great-great-great- grandfathers to open their presents on Redaction Day morning. A set is created, costumes are donned. From what I understand, never having witnessed it myself, actors are even hired to reprise the roles of relatives who have passed on. I know, it makes me roll my eyes as well. But the pay is remarkable, and unlike so many of our customers, I must work for a living.
Though I should be honest. It's a bit more complicated than I make it seem. You see, the clients believe we are locating and procuring the original artifacts. That is to say, the actual toys their ancestors played with. Of course in reality such an operation would be unprofitable. Tracking down examples of these antiques in good condition would inflate prohibitively expensive overhead (to say nothing of trying to verify they were actually the same ones owned by individuals who are by now long dead); we simply could not stay in business if we actually provided the service we are being paid for. Hence, much of my work is concerned with creating convincing replicas that we pass off to our clients as authentic.
Or so my standing orders state. And yet, for the last many years, I have suspected that what my superiors actually hired me for, what they continue to pay to accomplish day in and day out, is merely to always wear a smiling face, to always agree with whatever happens to proceed out of their mouths next. On the face of it this may not seem so terrible a task, but judging from my performance record (as documented by my immediate supervisors in my personnel folder), it is apparently too much for me to handle.
Today, I cannot quite prevent myself from communicating my thoughts.
Here is my situation:
I would prefer not to continue working on the fake figures project without the extra pay unless the work is going to become a part of our job description (this includes training others to take over for me, which would amount to doing the work anyway). I will not refuse a management directive if I am instructed to continue working on the fake figures. This communiqué is merely intended to register my complaint, so that the objection is not invisible and does not disappear from the record.
If the Service Leader role is being eliminated from our workgroup, then it makes sense that people who are no longer acting as Service Leaders would no longer receive Service Leader pay. But for those of us who are still expected to continue doing the extra fake figure work, it does not make sense for us to suddenly no longer be paid for work we are still expected to do. No advance notification of the change, and no explanation of the change after it was made was offered to me, or to my knowledge, to anyone else. I was informed of the change only after filling out my timesheet on Monday.
The change represents a significant pay cut for me, and I would not be comfortable continuing on, performing the extra work that is not required of my fellow employees (whose job title I share and whose pay rate I now share as well), as if nothing had changed. It is not my intention to pose an ethical dilemma or to cause an unwarranted disruption, but simply to draw into focus this situation which adversely affects both myself and others.
To clarify: I will await further instruction before continuing work on the fake figures project.
What this will accomplish is extra attention being paid to my regular assignments. Suddenly, small errors in my work process that (being largely inconsequential or a matter of personal style) have gone by for several years without comment will become "coaching opportunities" that must needs be addressed immediately. I have prepared for this inevitability by compiling, ahead of time, a list of rebuttals to each request for corrective action I anticipate will be forthcoming. Of course it would have been easier to have corrected these small errors before the management of my company was made to notice them, but I have discovered during my years here that if they fail to detect a small number of actual errors, they will as a matter of course invent false ones to take their place, whilst still expecting you somehow to account for these simulacra. As this would be impossible, it is far better to give them something real to complain about, something you at least have a small (if diminishing) hope of actually correcting. In this way you may allow them to exercise a measure of power over you, sating their lust for same, without your ever actually losing control of the situation.
As I suspected, the petty retribution is not long in coming. Only this time I have miscalculated. The proper factors must not have been taken into account. My perspective on the matter must have been skewed. Instead of creating a situation in which requests for corrective action may be issued against me, I seem to have overstepped a series of invisible boundaries, to the point that my services at this company may no longer be required. (At least, that is the general thrust of the notice I have just received; no, it has not informed me directly that my employment has been terminated -- that piece of information will be delivered to me by telescreen tonight while I am at home, safely away from the building and my co-workers.) Earlier in my life I might have been unduly troubled by a misstep of this nature, but by now I am experienced enough to realize that such wanton acts as my open, unguarded communication may result in serious consequences. I experience little or no emotion as I close down my telescreen and begin to clean out my desk.
As I replace my chair to its normal position and heft a small box of belongings into my arms, the president of our company, Plinth Mold, shoots into the room enjoying his usual stride, which encompasses twice the average floor area as that of the common adult male. He glances over my person and pushes past me, on his way to discuss further staffing cutbacks with my former supervisors. I apologize briefly for having stepped into his path, and exit the building quietly, using the First Street side entrance. Taking the long view, I suppose I have quit my job.
Thanks as always to jackiesadork for digging up excellent source images