By Stuart Warren
Sixteen minutes. The watch has moved one quarter. Still no one.
Scrawling, busily, I make myself look busy. They are imperative notes, written in peace time. No rush or need, not yet at least. When I look up they have arrived: a kingpin, and two lesser agents. I smile, because that is proper. In my mind, fear floods in, but my will overcomes the torrential inundation. I am calm, stable.
"So," the kingpin begins. "How are you doing?"
"Doing alright," I reply. My mind outside of my body perceives a young man in a room opening and closing his mouth, the shuffling of papers.
"Thanks for coming in today," the kingpin continues in procedural language. "After reviewing your qualifications we wished to extend a job offer to you."
I nod, suppressing my mixed fear and anxiety and excitement.
"Awesome," I remark. Keep it simple, stupid.
A smile. Procedural.
"Starting next week we would like to offer you $13.75 an hour, a 5% raise from your original pay. It would include an annual increase, per the review cycle this coming November..."
My mind reels. Remain calm.
I extract a clip of documents, mixed in with my own, my secret cache of data. I flip through the summary evidence, my argument, my salvation. The two lesser agents are impressed, emboldened by my fight. The kingpin narrows it's gaze and is amused.
"We understand that," the Kingpin begins in procedural language, "however, our figures are gathered from extensive research. As you can see, we take all positions into account, then average them accordingly. Try to understand. It's just... business."
My will deteriorates, succumbs to scrutiny. I have lost. "Hold on," my inner voice cries. "I am a man, a man!"
"Let me ask you something," I begin. "How is this fair? How does a satellite company, in another state, thousands of miles away determine how much I make at this company?"
The Kingpin says nothing, just stares. The lesser agents look at their hands.
"You can't have the CEO of our company tell us about our growth, our strength, every year and expect your employees to be happy with their poverty wages," I stumble along. "How can I support my family on $13.75? Tell me."
"We understand that you have differing opinions on what we offer here at The Company," the Kingpin replied. "Other companies are hiring..."
"I don't want another job," I interrupt. "I like my job. I like my commute. I want an equitable wage."
"I want a lot of things," the kingpin replied, coldly. "Maybe you just aren't the right fit for the company?"
I freeze. Waves of confusion and anxiety wash over me. My blood curdles and thumps against my skin asphyxiating me.
"Are you firing me?" I said. "What is going on here?"
"We at the Company," the kingpin began, sorting its papers, standing up in its seat, "would like to thank you for your time. You will be paid for your full day here, and we wish you the best of luck in your future."
"Please," it said. "There is the door."