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January 28, 2008

In a Uniform Manner

Filed under: Essay,Humour,Writing — litlove @ 12:01 pm

From The airport diaries 

My cries affirming my liberty were premature. The department store has many grasping tentacles it seems, and they are spurting their acrid slime all over my soul. I was “reminded” that my final pay cheque would be held back if I didn’t return my uniform, which is fair enough, but it meant venturing out to that barren place to deposit my washed, tumble dried/electrified polyester slave clothes. It speaks volumes that the only rebellion I could make was not to iron the uniform before stuffing it into a plastic bag. It crackled angrily at me and I smothered the urge to drown it in a canal, with bricks as ballast.
It was strange seeing the department store without the desperate stench of pre-Christmas consumerism in action. Instead there was a post-Christmas ennui; people queueing at the returns counter with unwanted gifts, their eyes rolling round in the sockets and their faces caught in the grip of why-do-we-bother exasperation. They saw me skipping the queue with my plastic bag full of clothes and suddenly became alert, like springbok sensing a lion. Their eyes burned me as I walked past, muttering commenced and faces became red.
I had to wear a “visitor” badge, and ascend the stairs to the offices. On my way I met a man who somehow knows my mother. I meet him so often that I’m sure he is hiding in alcoves, waiting for me at every turn, so he can tell me about his kids and talk about a conversation he once had with my mother over three years ago. A particularly bleak moment was when, over lunch sometime in November, he discovered that I worked with his daughter at the airport for about three weeks. This was a great excitement to him, and now I am in reluctant fellowship with his whole family. He is the sort of person who goes to Florida every summer and stays in the same hotel he has for the past twenty years, visits the same theme parks and eats at the same burger bars. Christ, all I wanted to do was drop off my uniform.
I managed to shake him after about six minutes. I made it to the office in low spirits.
“Here’s my uniform,” I mumbled. “My name badge fell off when I was lifting turkeys out of the freezer. I don’t know where it is.” I added this additional information for fear of getting another letter through the post, or even worse, a court summons.
The woman behind the desk frowned and glanced inside the plastic bag.
“OK,” she said. “Are you sure it’s not still at home?” She said this as if I was trying to keep the name badge, as if, when I’m eighty, I’ll be attending a remembrance service with hundreds of retail name badges down my lapel instead of medals. Come to think of it, there should be such a thing, honouring the brave men and women who have sacrificed their youth for something as futile and meaningless as Profit.
“It’s somewhere in this building,” I replied, and she sighed.
“OK, you’ll get your final pay slip through the post.”
I left the office and the building, thinking that was the last of my dealing with the company. Alas, when I returned home, there was another letter waiting for me, the envelope emblazoned with the company’s logo. Apparently, I am a “valuable source of information on what it is like to work for the company”. Attached there is a five-page questionnaire, as if the people setting the questions work for an entirely different organisation. Surely they already know what it’s like within the corporate machine. I was unsure whether failure to fill the form in would result in the continued holding back of my last pay cheque, so I uncapped a particularly stinky green marker pen and scrawled the URL to this record over the top, making sure to sign the form in the alloted place. That should tell them all they need to know. Who has time to fill out that sort of form anyway?

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