How to Survive in the Workplace; or, How to Lose Your Job – Prologue

I’m back, bitches.

Well, for today. But hopefully more days, as well. I’ve been busy and stressed with work and other things for a while, and most of my free time has been eaten up by obsessing over Magic: the Gathering, but I was determined to get back into writing. Too long I had felt the response of “I write stories” to the question “What do you do in your free time?” to be misleading, and I wanted to fix that.

This is a story I’ve wanted to write for a while. I actually started writing it a while ago (I believe I mentioned it in the introduction to The Shower-Baby), but a whole slew of things recently have inspired me to pick it up again. So here it is. I was going to categorize this as the first chapter, but I think this “chapter” isn’t particularly indicative of the direction and flow of the story as a whole, making it a bit more like a jumping-off point, a bit more of a… prologue?

And hey, how about that, it’s almost been a year since I posted.

Music! I’ve listened to a lot, have a lot of recommendation, but I’ll just start with this album by Igorrr.


His eyes were so intense, so watery, so bulging as I took a seat and shook his and his partner’s hands.

She didn’t make much of an impression on me. She just seemed normal. But this guy was looking at me so intently, looking at me like the prime suspect in a serial murder case, that he embeded himself in my mind.

They were all the normal questions, the questions I already had answers to, the tone of voice and improvisational style practiced to sound natural and off the cuff.

“What strengths do you have that could be relevant to the job?”

Good with math, programming experience, interest in mechanical systems and a compulsion to learn everything I can about whatever I’m faced with.

“What’s an example of a time you were faced with a difficult situation, and how did you deal with it?”

That was one question I hadn’t prepared for, but the example I had had happened so recently, was so coincidentally reflective of my current situation, it was nearly as good as having prepared it. But I couldn’t tell them about that. I just told them, very vaguely, that I had been placed in a fairly perilous situation while pursuing another job before applying for this one. They accepted the story just fine.


The job hadn’t originally grabbed me that much, but the company that offered it did. It was the largest company by far centered in my small city, with international favor, and it paid pretty well, so I applied. I got a call a few days later from someone named Matt McConaughey notifying me that I was being considered for the job, and was given an online skills test. After doing very well in it, I was given another call from Matt with a date and time for an interview.

The first thing I did when I got there was a digital math test. Just high school-level algebra kind of stuff. I finished it quickly and was sent to sit on one of the chairs set up in a row, in the center of the room, to wait for the interview. There were a couple other people in the row, most of whom were women. I had a pen and a small notebook in my pocket, and wrote an odd little nervousness-induced scrap.


Interviews had been upgraded since I last had one, it seemed. Last time I had sat, or stood, or shuffled in this line, it had been with an impersonal synth at the end. Not that all synths were impersonal, but just that they had chosen a particularly impersonal and cold one.

It asked you questions and you answered promptly, and if you failed in that or gave an unwanted answer, the interview was over.

These synths were much more personable. From what I could tell so far, anyway just from the introductions I heard as they plucked the next entrant out of the line and before the heavy padded door shut, blocking all future sound – either going in or coming out.



I was interrupted by a door opening and a watery-eyed man beckoning me inside.



I thought it had gone well. I left the small building, crossed the road, and took the sidewalk to the right, down the big hill that led past the high school. I started playing an album by Ween on my phone speaker and held it up to my ear, and felt the cool, early-fall breeze evaporate the sweat I had accrued in the interview.

Maybe I had expected it to be harder. Or maybe I had just expected them to instinctively understand I wasn’t just the clean-cut, well-educated guy sitting nervously in front of them, that I fully intended to break the rules from day one.


You don’t directly receive the results of your drug test, as I learned. The two drugs I depended on, other than regular shit like caffeine and nicotine, weren’t usually tested for, but I had heard that a metabolite of one of them – an opioid called Tetramol – would sometimes throw up a false positive. I didn’t decrease my use of it before the drug test that Matt had assigned for me along with the skill test, you don’t just skip a dose of an opioid once you’re rolling with it, as I had been for years, so I just hoped for the best.

If there was any question about the results, I was fucked, because I was pretty much doing the test at the last moment, so it would look like I had unsuccessfully waited to get clean before the test. In reality it was just being busy part of the time, and being unmotivated to take it the rest. But I took the test, paranoid that they would just be able to smell the concentration of drugs in my piss, and waited several anxiety-filled days.


After that time, I was told via email that I had gotten the job. They tried to hustle me into a third shift position, probably hoping I wouldn’t thoroughly read the job description, but I sent it back with a request for second shift, which I recieved.


At that time, my sleep schedule was fucked beyond belief. A combination of drug abuse, dependency, insomnia, and anxiety had me up until 5:00 AM or so each night, waking up around 11:00 the next morning. You’d think the tiredness would build up, that I’d be able to get to sleep at a reasonable hour once in a while, at least, but no. My schedule got worse and worse, as did my mental state. Second shift would still be a change in schedule, but it would be a lot easier to transition to than first shift, and that was the big thing.


“… Training will start at our 375 Lincoln Rd. location, at 6:50 A.M. on October 14th.”


And that was the bigger thing.

Shifting your sleep schedule back by five hours is bad enough, far worse when I got little more than five hours of sleep a night already. I wrote up a whole schedule, shifting back my sleep fifteen minutes at a time over the intervening time, around a month, before I started training, but it was a complete flop. I ended up maybe shifting it by two hours by that time. The night of October 13th I tried going to sleep around midnight, tossed and turned for a few hours, and woke up to the jingle of my alarm, the fucking cursed “Crystals” iPhone alarm sound that scares the shit out of me whenever it plays, at a time I hadn’t been awake at in years. Six-fucking-o’clock.

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