Gary had an important job. It was respectable enough. Whenever someone outside the factory asked about it, he always impressed. The terms involved had a way of sounding–specialized. In truth, the work was specialized, though the superiors of the upper floor rarely saw this. What they saw, firing accusatory glances at us from an interior window, were profit margins and bottom lines and various other abstractions of vague financiality. In times of restlessness, the bosses would flex their authoritarian muscles by descending to the plant floor and solving problems that didn’t exist. Gary avoided this meddling inasmuch as he was able. After all, he did fine work, and this is what he would insist upon if ever his compliance with policy was in doubt. It’s true, though, about the good work; the products of his workstation benefitted people. So if he was to be watched–he and his coworkers alike–as if on probation (I know this is how he felt), at least he could be proud of his work.
My own station was a couple of units over. I could see the bosses glaring from the little window, but it didn’t bother me in the same way it bothered Gary. Nevertheless, when he would rail in private against the ever-multiplying, nonsensical corporate initiatives, I was right there with him. Remember what I said about solving problems that didn’t exist? Well, the company was afflicted with this recreation, from headquarters in I-don’t-remember-what city all the way down to our little plant.
One day there was a meeting announced by the supervisors. These occasional meetings were called “roundtable discussions,” a ridiculous epithet calculated to imply equal status for all employees, as if everyone’s opinions would be considered. Gary and I rolled many an eye at the mention of these. Attendance was not always required, so I stayed behind to work, thinking that Gary would relay anything pertinent. But he never came back. I saw the others returning. Familiar, sarcastic voices out of sight behind the workstations said things like “culture of excellence” and “we’re all in this together,” followed by mocking laughter. The very use of such phrases only showed how out-of-touch the higher-ups were with the rest of us. I thought that maybe he got sick and went home early. When he didn’t show up the next day, I asked my super about him. The super stared at me as though I was speaking French. That was it–no explanation. Now I know. That is just how people tend to disappear around here.
*This is a departure from my usual posts in that it is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, or events is purely coincidental. No, really. It is.