When Stanley arrived at his cubicle, his boss was already waiting for him. Brock Masterson, Jr. Affectionately known as “B-Rock” by the staff (at least behind his back).
“Two minutes late, Coggins,” was how he welcomed Stanley to the office.
“And don’t tell me it was the elevators again,” B-Rock added before Stanley could say anything. “You need to plan for those in your commute time.”
Stanley wondered how it was that he could be a salaried employee, and yet be so tied to the clock… but in this office, everyone was on the same hard-and-fast schedule: 8am start, break at 10am for 15 minutes, lunch from noon to 1, break at 3pm for 15 minutes, done at 5pm.
Well, done at 5pm assuming all the work was done—if not, it was expected that employees would work late to get the work done, no matter how long it took. Stanley usually managed to get home for dinner with the family a couple times a week, despite the increasing workload.
B-Rock stood there waiting, and so finally Stanley said, “Sorry, B- Brock.” He caught himself just in time. “I’ll work on it.”
“See that you do. Now, how are the designs for the flux regulator for the gravity well coming?”
The gravity well was the company’s biggest project, and a contract with the government. It was intended as a power source—a big generator that used electromagnets to create a gravity field that would generate incredible levels of power.
Assuming it worked, that is. So far the models had functioned well in tests, but any attempts to increase the size of the machine met with failure. Either it didn’t work, or it produced less energy than it consumed.
Stanley had been given the flux regulator to work on—an important, if not very sexy, part of the apparatus. Still, he intended to do his best with it, whether his efforts were recognized by B-Rock or Abernathy, the VP of Engineering, or anyone else living in the rarified air of the company’s upper floors. He was sure they wouldn’t be—in the six years he’d been with the company, he’d done what he felt was excellent work, but he’d never been given a bonus, and his performance reviews always listed him as a “2”—which meant average performance. It also meant a meager raise each year—usually 1.5 to 2 percent—not even enough to keep up with inflation.
Stanley knew that his only real way of getting a big boost in pay was to get promoted. He also knew that his chances of that were slim, as there were only a few roles he could be promoted into, and all of those were currently filled. So only if somebody was fired, was promoted themselves, left the company willingly, or died, would Stanley be in a position to vie with the dozens of other engineers for one of those spots.
So, Stanley had resigned himself to his role, told himself he was happy to have a job (everyone he knew said he should be grateful he was employed, especially in this economy), and worked his days like a marathon runner: pacing himself for the long haul.
“Did you hear what I said, Coggins?” It was B-Rock again. Stanley realized he hadn’t answered the man’s original question. How much time had passed while he zoned out thinking about money and recognition?
“Yes, sir. I’m almost finished. Another couple of days, probably, or a week at the outside.” That was the deadline they’d agreed to previously. Stanley figured he really had two more days of work, if everything went well, but like others in the company, he’d learned to pad his estimates a bit, just in case.
“Tomorrow, Coggins. I need the schematics tomorrow COB.”
Well, there went any chance to check his work, but he was still pretty sure he could complete his tasks by the new deadline. “Will do, sir.”
B-Rock turned, without another word, without a thank you, and marched off to find his next victim. He didn’t have far to go. Jesse Faraday, the newest junior engineer, had the unfortunate luck to be walking by at that moment, and couldn’t disappear quickly enough to avoid B-Rock’s attention.
“Faraday. Where have you been?”
Faraday started to answer, not realizing it was a rhetorical question to B-Rock—B-Rock didn’t care where he’d been, only that he hadn’t been where B-Rock expected.
“I need you to see about getting some more boxes of paper for the copier. We’re out.”
Jesse bowed his head, said “Yessir,” and scurried off toward the elevator before B-Rock could assign him any other “miscellaneous duties as needed” that had nothing to do with Jesse’s master’s degree in electrical engineering. But since they were on each person’s job description, B-Rock took pride in enforcing them at every opportunity, saying it encouraged everyone to be a “team player.”
Stanley felt bad for Jesse, but part of him was relieved to not be the center of B-Rock’s attention. He felt bad about that, too, that he’d willingly throw one of his coworkers under the bus (or at least do nothing to save Jesse as the B-Rock-bus hurtled down the aisle toward him), just to save himself.
Stanley even felt bad for B-Rock. He wanted to like his manager, or at least respect him. But his boss didn’t seem much like a human being, with thoughts and feelings of his own, as much as a mouthpiece for the corporation. And B-Rock certainly didn’t seem to care about the people who worked for him, except that they delivered the quantity of work necessary to make him look good in the eyes of his bosses.
Speaking of which, I’d better get to it, Stanley thought to himself. He settled into his cubicle, logged into his computer, and donned his headphones. Soon, he was immersed in schematics and Bach, and almost enjoying himself. Almost, because he couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that some other shoe was about to drop.
For better or worse, Stanley didn’t have to wait long.
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image courtesy of John Fraissinet (cc)