It is a Saturday. You are starting a new job Corporation Corp Unlimited, and for some reason, you are starting your orientation today, instead of on a Monday. It is 8:30 AM, and you are seated in a sectioned off portion of the building’s cafeteria, groggily sipping coffee and trying to wake up. Two women enter the room.
LORI: Hello, everyone! My name is Lori Paskawitz, and I’ll be running your new employee orientation weekend. Now, I know some of you might think it’s strange or even unfair – how silly! – that we expect you to do your orientation on a weekend, followed by a full week of work, but think of it this way: that’s two extra days worth of pay in your pocket, and two extra days to meet your new coworkers! It’ll also get you used to working every other weekend, because that is mandatory.
Low groans and mumbles issue from various people around in the room.
LORI: I know some of you have already filled out all of your forms, but some of you still need to do yours, and that’s alright! Just to make sure that nobody’s left behind, my partner Becky Witskinslins…
BECKY: Hey, ya’ll!
Lori, having been interrupted, shoots a look at Becky that would melt through tungsten. She holds her stare, unblinkingly, for one full minute, and then flutters her eyelashes and continues.
LORI: As I was saying, Becky will be handing out the forms so that everybody can get up to speed. If you’ve already filled them out, that’s okay, just fill them out again, that way we’ll have an extra copy in the likely event that Becky loses them.
BECKY: Oh Lori, you’re such a kidder!
LORI: I’m not joking.
Becky hands out a large stack of paperwork, including a ten page job application, tax forms, a two hundred and fifty question multiple choice quiz used to determine personality disorders, another hundred question quiz which tests your honesty by asking the same five questions in twenty different ways, and a variety of forms which, as far as you can tell, forbid you from discussing anything that you do, hear, see, or say in while in the building. Apparently, what happens at Corporation Corp stays at Corporation Corp.
For the next hour or so, you are forced to slog through these documents, despite the fact that you already filled out every single one of them. For moment, the idea occurs that this does not bode well for the rest of your career here at Corporation Corp, but you quickly force that out of your head. This time it’s going to be different! This time you’re not going to feed into the negative attitudes of others! This time you’re not going to allow yourself to get sucked into office politics and petty gossip! You are going to be a rock in a turbulent ocean; firm, entrenched, unshakable. Before long, somebody is bound to notice, and then you’ll be promoted into a position where you can really make a difference!
Yes, indeed, this time it’s going to be different. You can feel it.
Becky comes back around and collects everyone’s paperwork, and almost makes it to the front of the room before she drops the entire stack, stepping on half of the forms in a fumbled attempt to recover them. Lori doesn’t even look in her direction.
LORI: Wonderful! Now, as we like to say here at Corporation Corp, “Your Money is Technically Our Money”, so we’re going to watch a short film about corporate policy and how it pertains to the appropriate use of time of on the job. Make sure to pay attention, there’ll be a quiz at the end, hahaha!
Polite laughter fills the room.
LORI: In all seriousness, though, there will be a quiz.
Lori spends the next ten minutes trying to figure out how the big screen projector works, how to get the video signal to go to the projector, and then narrowly avoids locking herself out of her own Active Directory account while trying to sign in. All the while, she makes excuses about “the A/V equipment set-up being brand new” and that they’re “still trying to figure it out” because it’s “a bit cranky”.
Just when you can’t stand it anymore, the video comes on.
LORI: There it is!
The music starts, and you immediately wish it hadn’t. The video, which is about forty-five minutes long, details the exploits of Mark, a young man, fresh out of college, who is comically naive and incapable of making even the simplest of decisions without consulting his all-knowing and benevolent middle manager. He is surrounded on all sides by badly portrayed, unrealistically cheerful and obedient cubicle slaves, all of whom seem to have been born without an imagination. This makes the cartoonishly obvious outliers all that much easier to spot, so that when he sees an employee furtively checking Facebook, catches one stealing office supplies, or spies one openly drinking from a flask at his desk, and the charming aww-gee-shucks stock music plays, the audience cannot possibly miss the message.
After the movie ends, Lori makes a spectacle of herself once again when turning off the projector, and then turns to the group.
LORI: Does anybody have any questions?
Of course, nobody does. This does not keep Lori from expectantly making prolonged eye contact with everyone in the room individually before moving on.
LORI: Okay, then I expect everybody will get 100% on the quiz, hahahaha! Siiiiiigh. Or you will be terminated immediately.
You are allotted fifteen minutes to finish an eight question quiz which is entirely solvable with basic comprehension skills and common sense. You complete it in under two minutes, but when Lori announces that you have one minute left, you still see several people begin furiously scribbling in order to finish up. You sigh heavily, and get up to get another cup of coffee, all the while repeating in your head, “It’s gonna be different this time!”
After the quizzes are collected, you are sent on a ten minute break, and when you return, a relatively short but solidly built man in a crisply ironed white shirt and black pants, and a cheap tie is standing at the front of the room He waits patiently until everyone is seated.
CHUCK: How’s everyone doing today?
Non-committal murmurs from the crowd.
CHUCK: Let’s try that again. HOW’S EVERYBODY DOING TODAY?!?
Louder, slightly more invested response this time.
CHUCK: That’s a bit more like it. Okay, I want everybody to stand up. Come on, everybody!
CHUCK: Alright, up your arms up in the air and streeeeetch! Good! Now put your arms back down, and jump in place three times. Good! Okay, now, HOW DOES EVERYBODY FEEL TODAY?!?
The follows an enthusiastic response which you suspect has more to do with people humoring this man so that he will get on with his spiel than it does with grown adults having been energized and cheered up by mildly embarrassing Romper Room antics.
CHUCK: ALRIGHT, WE’RE GONNA HAVE FUN TODAY!
Chuck proceeds to give an energized speech about safety procedures, fire extinguishers, fire drills, employee badging procedures, chemical spills, MSDS procedures, and a variety of other topics, somehow managing to make it quite interesting. In spite of yourself, you find yourself grinning; the man is a natural public speaker and might have made a decent stand up comic or a game show host if life had taken him along a different path. You decide that you like Chuck. Sadly, you somehow already know for sure that his brief twenty-five minute lecture will be the highlight of the entire weekend.
LORI: Okay! Let’s everybody give Chuck a big round of applause. We love Chuck, and his door is always open, so don’t be afraid to drop in with any safety or security related issues you might have.
LORI: Next, we’ll meet Jason from the Legal Department, who will be speaking about our various compliance programs, including the non-disclosure agreements you all signed today.
Jason, you realize, has been standing around all morning. You’d assumed he was just another new hire, somewhat overdressed in an expensive suit and leather shoes which have been polished to a mirror shine. He strides confidently to the front of the room with a briefcase in hand. He opens it up and pulls out a thick document.
JASON: Good morning everyone.
Remembering list of speakers you were handed this morning, you look at it and see that Jason’s presentation will take you to lunchtime, which is scheduled for 12:40 PM. You glance at your watch. It’s currently 11:08 PM.
About ninety minutes later.
JASON: Well, I know I went a little late, and you guys are ready to go to lunch, so I thank you for your attention. Have a great day and welcome once again to Corporation Corp Unlimited.
You are released for lunch. Thankfully, they were gracious enough to give you a full hour. You pay two dollars for a soda and a slice of something that can only be compared to pizza in terms of its shape and basic color scheme. You eat joylessly and try to remember that it’s going to be different this time.
When you return, a man in a pristine baseball uniform and a bushy mustache is standing at the head of the room. He turns to speak to Lori, and you notice the logo on the back of the uniform: the Corporation Corp Corps. Clever.
He turns back around, and and addresses the attendees.
JOE: Hello everyone, I’m Joe, manager of the Sales Department.
Sales department? Your new job title is Sales Associate I; that means that this man is your new boss! You sit up, smarten up your attire a little, and pay rapt attention. Time to shine. Time to make a good first impression.
JOE: Hey, I wanna thank you all for coming in on a weekend. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but we appreciate it. This company is all about its people – we wouldn’t be here without you! – and I just wanted to take a moment to talk to you all about our Quality of Worklife program, of which I am a part. After all, you spend nearly half your waking hours at work; so why not make those hours fun?
JOE: Now, who here is a sports fan? Any sports fan in the house?
You raise your hand. You’ve always been a sports lover, yourself, you even made the JV basketball team in high school.
JOE: Great! I’m a big baseball guy, myself. Well, we’ve got a softball league, and we still need a few players. Got a practice today – that’s where I’m headed to after this – and everybody’s welcome to try out! And if you make the lineup, you get the game day off to come out and play, so that’s a great incentive for you.
Hmmm… yeah, this could be good. A shared love of the old ballgame is a perfect “in” to get you on your new boss’s good side. You make a mental note to sign up for the softball league tryouts at your first opportunity.
JOE: And even if you don’t play, come on out anyway, buy a hot dog – all proceeds go to fund the league, as well as other Quality of Worklife programs – and watch the game. Bring your kids! Our first game will be in two weeks; we’re up against the Kadugen Industries Corporatocrats.
JOE: Now, I’ll turn the floor over to Kathy from Accounting, who will discuss some of the other great Quality of Worklife programs we’ve got available.
KATHY: Well, hillllou everbody, I’m Kaaathy, and I just wented to taaaall you all abowt some of ouwr praaagrems. Easter is coming uwp, and we’ve gawt ouwr A-Tisket-A-Taaaasket Easter Baaasket praaagrem. We’ve got a whole bunch of greeet baaaskets this yeaaar; we’ve gawt the chaaawclet lovers baaasket, the wine lovers baaasket, the kitchen baaasket, and my feevrit, the craaawssword baaasket! Tickets are three for a daawler or ten for three daawlers.
Please let this end. You don’t know how much longer you can listen to this woman’s horrible accent.
KATHY: Neeew, we also haaave our rigular evints, like ouwr Funny Haaat Daaay, Howhyan Shiiirt Daaay, and our newest one – courtsey of ouwr Equal Oppowrtooniy Oooowfice – Gender Swaaap Daaay.
Is it an accent? A speech impediment? The result of brain trauma, maybe?
KATHY: During October, it gets rilly fun with Driss Uwp Month, where you get to driss as your feevrit character for a whole month!
You hate this woman.
KATHY: And then at Crissmiss, we have ouwr Crissmiss tree, where everbody brings in an arnnament and we heng the uwp on the tree; everbody rilly seems to like that. And of course we can’t forget our Seeecrit Saaanna praagrem. Last year, I gawt an aaaawsem craaawsword book. We look ferwerd to werking with you alls. Theeeenks!
You silently hope that Kathy will drown in something on her way back to Accounting. At least her presentation was short. You check your watch – it’s around 2:10 PM. Two and a half hours to go.
A flashy little creep of a guy slimes his way into the room, wearing a tacky suit and a power tie. Something about him simply oozes disingenuity, and you take an instant disliking to him. Lori, on the other hand, looks ready to start dry humping him in front of everyone.
LORI: Oh my goodness, everyone, it’s Chris! Chris is soooo much fun! You guys are just going to love his presentation!
Jesus Christ, take it easy, Lori. You’re gonna soak the carpet from all the gushing you’re doing.
CHRIS: Sup, everybody, I’m Chris. I’m gonna tell you a little bit about our product line and our branding, so that you can better understand what we do here. I like to keep it loose, so let’s get this happening.
Chris proceeds to bore the shit out of everybody in the room for a little over an hour. Lori watches lustily, occasionally biting her bottom lip, never taking her eyes off him. You entertain yourself by imagining the two of them in a variety of compromising situations, until about halfway through, when you suddenly become aware that Chris is almost certainly gay. You spend the remainder of the time imagining her trying everything in her power to seduce him and failing miserably, and never understanding why. Somehow this gives you sick feeling of satisfaction.
This is bad. You’re not even done with day one, and you’re already having low-level revenge fantasies. You’ve gotta pull yourself out of this tailspin you’re in! Remember: it’s going to be different this time!
After Chris leaves, a surly-looking young man – surely no older than 23 – walks in with a stack of envelopes. He is followed by a – well, he… she… uh… well, the person has long, stringy hair, pulled back into a ponytail, a poorly-maintained, scrubby goatee, and is wearing a grubby tee shirt (with an obscure anime girl with enormous breasts who is bent forward in a rather revealing manner on it), tan cargo shorts, and a pair of mismatched Crocs, one purple, the other orange. This person is overweight in a lumpy, shapeless sort of way which makes it difficult to determine their gender.
You’ve all but convinced yourself that this is man, until they begin speaking.
BEVERLY: Good afternoon. I’m Beverly DePasquale, with I.T. I have your account packets ready to go.
Beverly. That’s a girl’s name. Problem solved.
Wait… wasn’t there a guy named Beverly on the swim team at your junior college? You can’t remember. It could have been Leslie. You know that it was a traditionally feminine name. You decide to side with Sir Occam on this one, and stick with your decision that this is a woman.
BEVERLY: Everyone please form two lines; if your last name starts with A through M, come see me.
On the other hand, its voice is sort of gravely, despite the pitch. You’ve heard men with voices like that before.
BEVERLY: If it with an O through Z, see Chip, here.
Beverly points to the misanthropic-looking young man, who is wearing a Speed Racer tee, tight black denim jeans, and a scuffed pair of Converse All-Stars. You notice the hair on Beverly’s arm; not to mention that goatee! Surely this is a male. Then again, you’ve met women who were quite hirsute…
Your name starts with S, so you get in line to talk to Chip. As you edge closer to the table where the I.T. people are seated, you continue to flip-flop between male and female – you wonder briefly if Gender Swap Day is on Monday, and Beverly is just getting an early start – and then you notice a glint of gold on its left ringer finger. A wedding band? This will surely answer everything!
That’s you. You step up, and are given your account packet. You sign a few preliminary docs, and glance over at Beverly’s hand. The band is completely non-descript, white gold, neither thick nor thin. You give up. Turning back to Chip, you realize he’d been trying to catch your eye. He gives you a once over, and then nods, as if deciding something.
CHIP: Yeah, so, if you have any problem with your account, like if your SESSION gets locked, and you’re in the middle of a HIGHly important call, just give me a call. Or feel free to stop on DOWN to my office, in room 420, and I’ll HOOK YOU UP, cool?
You smile and nod, bemused. You’re not entirely sure why he said to come down to his office, considering the 4th floor is, as far as you know, the top floor of the building. Must just be a force of habit thing. Strange guy. It was almost as if he was trying to insinuate something, but you decide you’ve just been at this orientation for too long, and are imagining things.
After the I.T. people leave – you vow to determine Beverly’s gender if it kills you – Lori stands up and addresses the crowd once more.
LORI: Well, folks, I’m afraid our next presenter had to push her presentation back until tomorrow. So we will be leaving early today. But before we call it a day, our CEO wanted to have a word with everyone.
You feel a sudden chill at your back, and turning toward it, you see a man in an immaculate, hand-tailored business suit with perfect hair and a perfect tan stride into the room like a Roman emperor. As he passes you, you feel as if some of your lifeforce is being drained from your body and absorbed by him. Upon reaching the head of the audience, he turns around smoothly, and gazes upon you with the cold plastic eyes of a cyborg.
ALEXANDER: Some of you might have heard about an open door policy. Corporation Corp does have one, but it applies only to your individual managers. I do not wish to see any of you darken my doorway. In fact, I don’t even want to see you anywhere near the executive suite. If, in the execution of your duties, you must pass by the executive suite, I expect you to find an alternative route.
What. The. Fuck?
ALEXANDER: Now that you have signed your paperwork, you should understand that your lives belong to me. You are mine to do with as I please. If you do not agree with this, you are welcome to leave. In a wooden box.
What have you gotten yourself into?
ALEXANDER: As I have my own entrance, and the executives have their own parking area, I firmly expect never to see any of you again, with the exception of the few occasions when we executives Hunger, and we summon one or several of you to our ritual sacrifice area, so that we may Feed. But that shouldn’t be necessary for a few years, at least.
This has to be a joke, right?
ALEXANDER: We also have a yearly mandatory lottery; those selected will be shipped to my private island where you will be hunted down, one by one, by myself and the board of directors. I would ask that you hone your survival skills so that you will provide a more satisfying challenge for us.
You find yourself wondering how hard it is to acquire citizenship in another country. Preferably on the other side of the world.
ALEXANDER: Finally, please understand that if any of you so much as touches me, I will be forced bite you to death. I take no particular pleasure in doing so, but my Curse prevents me from reacting otherwise.
He leaves, taking that rabid dog aura of wrongness with him. Everyone in the room – including Lori and Becky – sits in stunned silence for a moment, as if Alexander might return and drain them of their blood at any moment.
Well, you were right about one thing. It IS going to be different this time.