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

How about that, it only took a month and a half this time. Shortly after starting this “chapter”, I realized that it, too, wasn’t really a chapter as much as it was a prologue. So, here, I present part two of the prologue. The real “story” (is it?) starts in the next chapter, I promise. The actual first chapter.

I’ve recently been working on a bit of drone/noise kind of stuff again, as well.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of great music. Recommendation for today is Canada Songs by Daughters.

~

I arrived at the same small building I had gone to for my interview while it was still cold and dark out, along eleven others. Someone stood by the door, holding it open and directing us inside. The first step was having my picture taken for my keycard.

It was an important moment I hadn’t considered, and still hadn’t realized the gravity of for a while afterward. This was the picture that I’d be seen wearing all day, every day, the picture that established my place within the company for years to come. Being too sleep deprived and oblivious to the permanence of this scene to try to create a more visually suitable presence, my blurry, tired, drugged-looking photo was taken and affixed to my key card. This was no professional photo – this was one more grim entry into a database for reference and recordkeeping.

We were given our seats. The room was arranged with two large tables, each with a row of four chairs on either side. This specific detail may or may not be particularly important to the story, but it does play into one of the many oddities that happened here. I got to know most of the people in the room pretty well but there were three people of particular note – Jack, seated behind me; Nate, seated across from me and one chair to the right; and Steve, sitting two rows behind me.

The first day was as many first days are. Not much progress made, just an overview of what we’d be doing each day. Completed tests from the previous day to be submitted no later than 6:50, then 7:00 to 12:00 – with a 15-minute break around 10:00 – would be spent reviewing the previous day’s material. After that we would have lunch, wrap up anything left over from the first section, then we would be given our material for the next day’s test after a short break.

We were told that the material had been specifically designed to be able to be finished within an 8-hour day, along with everything else we worked on beforehand. This was, of course, patently false.

On average, eighty pages of one textbook with a test around one-hundred questions long, thirty pages of another textbook with a test around forty questions long, and assorted smaller, supplemental portions of other books, sometimes with tests of their own, were assigned each day. Given to us around 1:30 PM, with us leaving at 3:20 PM.

Despite my vices and predilections, my secret deals and manipulations, I’m a very conscientious person. I couldn’t bear to bring myself to not read the assigned reading in full, or to simply go straight to the test and make prolific use of the textbooks’ indexes. So I burnt myself out with speedreading and staying late, for the first week or so. At that point, I was walking home, so staying late wasn’t a huge deal, but it still felt like I was getting shafted all the same. I could’ve gone without the six-hour-wrapup that took up most of the day – I understood the material just fine. But I swore that I wouldn’t bring it home. There was no way in fucking hell I would let this job seep over into my home.

I did, however, have a tendency of letting my home life seep into work. Not in some personal issue, “I just had an argument with my girlfriend” sort of way, but in the drug sort of way. The most memorable example of this, that I can think of, was one morning I had a car to drive to work, and was binging hard on a variety of GABAergics the night before – think something between Xanax and alcohol. I had gotten maybe three hours of sleep that night and was still as high as a kite. The cold morning was one muddy, blurry, spinning mess that I could hardly make out through my unfocused eyes. I saw figures appear at the side of the dark road just as the car reached them and I could just imagine one leaping out at me and fucking me over for life. But I arrived at the building, stumbled out of the car, and mixed up a dose of Tetramol at my desk. It had a high oral bioavailability, so I was able to mix up the powder in a glass with matcha, cacao powder, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne and take it discreetly. I was often questioned about just what was that nasty green sludge I drank every day and I answered honestly – just aside from the Tetra.

No one noticed my sleep deprived and often hungover existence every day, partially because I had excellent grades and a good demeanor, but also because I had gotten pretty damn good at seeming sober, or at least normal, even when completely out of my mind on some contraindicated combination of drugs.

 

We had a “journal” during the nine weeks of training. Some simple website we would each log into each day and write some little notes about what we had learned, or something like that. To be honest, I don’t really know what it was for. What I do know, however, is what it was used for during our class.

The security was abysmal. Our usernames for everything during training was our first name and last initial, and the password was our whole name. Everyone theoretically had access to everyone else’s journal. I’m sure they just assumed no one would care enough to log into other people’s accounts.

“Everyone, please remember to do your journal,” one of the teachers, Rabiel, said. I heard some vague grumbling from throughout the room as I shook the computer awake and logged into the site. The journals were split up by day, in a calendar format, and would be filled in with a color once they had been completed. And, as it happened, that day’s box was already colored in.

“What day is it, again?” I asked to the room at large. Someone answered with a “October 24th”, which matched what the computer said in the bottom-right corner. Maybe I had just written some rambling garbage in there at the start of the day before I woke up, but I should delete that regardless.

I clicked on the day, and started reading.

Hello, class #36. My name is Tomar Malchik. I used to work at Medline Industries.

I recognized that name. It was one of the companies we had been told attempted to counterfeit our company’s designs, which was part of the reason for our very strict intellectual property protection team.

Someone in your class is a spy from Medline Industries.

I heard rustling and faint murmurs of “what the fuck” from around the room, and imagined that I wasn’t the only person who received this outside post on my journal.

This is easily proven by the fact that I’m sharing this message with you. The spy was instructed to give us any and all information they gather at every point in their training and, later, their job. He shared all of your full names, this website, and the information that your names are your usernames and passwords. I had resisted this espionage from the start, and once the spy started sharing personal information on other new employees, I took my leave from this company.

I can’t give you the name of the spy, even if I knew it myself, because they are using a pseudonym. But I can help you discover their identity, if you work together.

And that was it. I looked around the room and saw many others doing the same. Everyone but Sky, who was moving around the room, trying to get a look at someone’s screen to read their message. He crowded in a bit on Nate, who told him to move back and asked him if he didn’t get the post on his journal.

“No, what the fuck.” Sky turned to look around at the room. “Did all of you get it?”

The room responded with various versions of “yeah”. Sky looked a little scared. “Why the fuck didn’t I get one?”

 

But I could never come up with a good ending or twist to that story. There was intrigue, different people at different times wouldn’t get a message, and some people would get additional information, or less information, or a different message altogether. But I just couldn’t come up with a good conclusion.

 

After completing the fifth week of grueling, fall-asleep-in-your-chair classroom training, we started on machines. This portion, at least, was a bit more interesting to me. I had never had experience with any sort of metalworking before, and it was entrancing to watch how easily the machines manipulated the metal sheets, slowly stretching and turning them into perfect, uniform tubes, which got cut at precise lengths and beveled. The injection molder would make the hub, cap, plunger, and barrel, the latter of which would get printed with gradations.

We’d take out each part, measure a couple dimensions on it, then send it away to be recycled. The “products” we were making during the training weren’t the actual finished syringes, they were just a sort of a simulated version to protect their IP from anyone who didn’t make it through training.

But you don’t care about this, do you. Why would you? It’s all largely unrelated to the story at large. If you’re actually interested, you can just look up a video online. Overall, the training was largely uneventful, though I greatly disliked how it was led.

Starting with the third week of training, I began carpooling with Jack. I disliked driving, he loved it, and we got along well, so it worked out perfectly. On the final day of training, after he pulled into my driveway, he turned to me and asked if I wanted some khashik. As a matter of fact, I did. He pulled out a little bag of it from the center console and told me that his brother deals it, so he can get me some more if I wanted. I thanked him and re-integrated into my nightly near-lethal combination of drugs. Just the way to kick things off before starting at my new job.

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