By The Human Head © 2005
He can't believe that he's here again, he hates it so much. Actually, he doesn't hate this job as much as the ones that came before, but he sure doesn't like it, either. It's the people, not the work. The actual work is something on which he thrives and something that he enjoys (for the most part), but O GOD, THE FUCKING PEOPLE. In his long history of being a corporate whore he wonders sometimes if even 5% of the other whores are real people with real thoughts. The very thing that affords him a decent lifestyle is a sea of nothingness in which he must swim, and as he looks towards the entrance he is filled with a sense of hopelessness that is difficult to describe.
"For Christ's sake," he chides himself, "you haven't even left the car yet."
The first half of the journey is spent ignoring The Voice. Some days it speaks louder than others, but it always repeats the same thing…
"It's not too late to turn around, there's more to life than this."
Just like a needle that has recently encountered a scratch in the vinyl and can’t seem to get past it, The Voice relentlessly repeats itself on every trip over this space of asphalt and concrete. The Voice is easier to ignore today, and as a matter of fact, it has grown fainter during these last weeks. Maybe it's dying. Maybe it’s simply tired of trying. Maybe both, which leaves him wondering whether he should be concerned about it or hope it actually happens. If The Voice dies, will he be relieved that it's gone or will he instead shift to spending the first half of his daily journey looking for it to reappear? Too late to worry about it now, he's past the tenth step already.
"Maybe I'll listen tomorrow," he murmurs to himself.
The day will be temperate, the sun will shine, and everything will be well...until he makes his trek. The wind will mimic a hurricane for 60 seconds just to make the journey more miserable than it already is. Sometimes it will rain briefly, and then clear up once he is inside. Whatever happens, it's never pleasant. Sometimes it seems that The Voice is in cahoots with the weather in a joint proclamation of "Turn Back!" Other times he is convinced that the weather has a deal signed with his dire destination, as if to remind him as early as possible that it's really going to suck. Just like yesterday. Just like tomorrow.
The last half of the journey always brings thoughts of earlier employment, an awful time of existence. The phones...customer service...cross-selling. He's still angry that he put himself through that for so long, hindsight being 20/20 and all that. Slaves had actual chains to keep them from breaking free, but my, how things have improved in their efficiency and implementation. No chains were needed to imprison him; all it took was a long piece of thin wire attached between a phone and a headset. Advancing up the ladder brought new wonders to behold. The chains still bind, they’re just a bit longer and are wireless. He knows that real chains would be infinitely worse and that it's a shitty comparison to make, but he can't stop himself. Just like The Voice, the comparison is made day-in and day-out.
Some days he spends those last ten steps pondering Sisyphus. If he had more than ten steps in which to ponder then maybe he could trick himself into thinking that his task is somehow noble, pushing the proverbial stone up the hill every single day. Instead of giving those passive-aggressive nothing-speakers a big "Fuck You!" and a slap, he quietly pushes his rock, speaking up sometimes but not often enough to matter. Noble, that's the ticket.
"Yeah, right" he sighs.
The twenty steps are finished, and yet again it feels like a million.
Amidst the banal stream of words with no meaning, he readies his weapons. Big fake smile signaling that all is well and he is happy to be here? Check. Cheery responses and knowledge of the weather forecast to engage vacuous colleagues in pseudo-stimulating conversation? Check. Vast repertoire of buzz-words? Check. Positive attitude and outlook? Oops, he forgot that today but he’ll put it on his action-item spreadsheet and send himself a high-priority reminder email, don’t you worry.
The Human Head is a writer from Wichita, Kanasa.
September 28, 2005
A Million Miles in 20 Steps
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