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10 Jun 98

The Way it Works

The Way it Works

I get shanked with a task that I shouldn't be doing.

It's the line of sight problem. I am seen, then asked to throw myself over the latest burning deadline grenade. It's going to go off, but maybe I can muffle the explosion.

Sometimes it's spreadsheets, or proposal-writing, or emergency editing. This time I'm filling out forms. I see the hourglass icon on Windows NT and think, "there goes my life, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz." I check the window for flying monkies. None appear, but the busty woman in the opposite office across 16th St. looks as bored as I feel.

The computer keeps slowing down. I've had to install Microsoft Word to do the form-filling. I've managed to avoid this program over the last two years, but today I give in to all eighty megabytes of torporous digital ass-fucking. Every time I hit tab, the program moves to another page and erases what I've done. I hit return and the font changes through seven paragraphs, to thirteen point "Wingdings." I hit return and a bullet point is inserted eight inches to the left of my document, and I can't erase it. My cursor throbs as if hungover, twitching like a paralytic. Finally, as I am about to save a document, I hit some strange combination of keys, the computer enters equation editing mode, and everything I type turns to calculus.

I've filled out eleven of these forms when a project supervisor appears back and .

It's going slow, so I say so. . The other person on the project looks at me and grabs my arm, as the boss . "I'm going to shit right here," says my friend. "I'm just going to shit, and leave the fucking office. Let them clean up my shit. Let them scrub my goddamned feces from the fucking carpet."

"You know," I say, "Actually, I did ask Mike to , since it was going slowly, but I guess he didn't want to. I guess it's just us with the shank."

She and I work on the forms for another three hours. We wonder if we should come in over the weekend or not. We go to discuss this with the supervisor, but she has gone home. So has the project lead, and everyone else in the office except for an intern.

"This is a winner for being screwed," I say. "Hung out to dry, and when the project is screwed on Monday, whose fault will it be? . Rally the fucking troops."

"If only they gave us nice silky pillows when we're hired," said my coworker. "So that our bellies don't chafe when they lean us over the desk and fuck us up the ass."

"I actually think it would be more efficient to have handles installed on my ankles. Drilled right into the bone. I can just lean down and grab on. No tables, less mess."

"Either way, they need to give us something to make it hurt less. Or just use grease."

"It won't be more money," I say.

"That's for fucking sure," she replies, smacking the button for "down" on the elevator.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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