9 AM, Monday morning.
As she breezes through the double glass doors, the chill of the AC envelops her. Speedily she walks down the sterile marble hall to the elevators, her heels echoing through the halls. She stops in front of the elevator doors, studying her blurry reflection on the doors: a grey pencil skirt and a matching grey jacket with a white blouse poking out, slightly unbuttoned revealing an acceptable amount of skin. She shouldn’t have gone for the extended brunch yesterday, she thinks as her head pounds watching the numbers descend above the elevator. It really makes these mornings murder…
She files into the elevator shaft with the rest of the latecomers on the right as the night shift exits the elevator on the left. Tightly packed like sardines at first, they slowly start to unravel row by row as the elevator rises. 25th Floor. She shuffles off the elevator and heads towards the glowing frosted glass doors with the company logo and slogan inscribed on it “EMPTY BOX – a place for possibilities”. Swinging the doors open, one enters the clinically pristine lobby where the only living thing is an orchid, perched tall and full on top of the frosted glass reception desk. She heads past the receptionist and through the maze of grey cubicles till she finally arrives in her office.
The view from the windows in her office overlooks a nearby park and the towering downtown skyscrapers in the distance. The space is a comfortable size, painted with a ghost white, and filled with modern white furniture. There are a few fake plants, but the main decoration is mostly composed of papers, office utensils, books, and mechanical wiring. The only thing breathing is her sleeping laptop, waiting patiently to be awakened with her touch.
She settles into her office, throws down her bag and wakes up the computer with a slap to the space bar. She walks across the room to open her extensive shelving system, which houses hundreds of file folders fully color coded with the typed names arranged perfectly in the same direction. She pulls the Blank file and starts to get to work.
She peruses the Blank file for about 30 mins – half working, half trying to wake up and get reconciled with the 8-hour workday ahead of her. She selects a few pages from the stack. She is preparing to present some of the changes that will have to take place to ensure the continued efficiency of the Blank case. The presentation will entail a short informative speech during which people will stare at her blankly pretending to care yet being more interested in discovering what color bra she is wearing. She will then hand out some packets with printed material followed by a quick powerpoint presentation, by which time their eyes will have fully glazed over. These conferences are not about being productive or conveying ideas; rather they are just a formality of going through the motions of pretending like you are doing something. At the end of the day, she knows that she really can’t make a difference. And the Blank case will continue to progress as it has for the past two years.
She closes the Blank case and, after one last check of her facebook home page (wow, Gabi is just now taking a shower and starting her day!), grabs the selected sheets of paper and makes her way to the copy center. She sweeps through the sea of cubicles, stealing glances at each person sitting in their comfortable swivel chairs staring at their computer screens. The copy room is separated by a glass wall, which makes it a great viewpoint to observe the workforce.
Every cubicle is manned. Every one is busy – or pretending to be. The room is filled with the sound of fingers clicking down on the keys of the keyboard, phones ring in different tones, there is a sprinkle of laughter… Every person is performing a minor repetitive task that culminates into a much larger scheme. They don’t know what the ultimate goal is – they are simply doing their job. Clock in. clock out. Party Friday. Party Saturday. Brunch Sunday. Start all over Monday.
The light beam from the copy machine moves side to side. She hears the constant flick of the paper as it is being moved through the machine, sucked in and spit out. The machine slightly vibrates and she can feel the heat radiating off it. Her skirt slightly moves from the hot air that is being released. It feels like a hot breath on her leg through the nude nylon tights. She stares down at the copy machine, deep in thought.
Lost in the melody of the churning sounds, she looks up again at the cubicle sea. They are performing a dance… choreographed to the pounding of the machines…back and forth…back and forth…the workers are alive…but the machines are awakening. She watches as red, orange, and yellow wires come out of the computer screens guided by an invisible force towards the unbeknownst workers piercing the eyes, mouth, and ears – delineating a connection. The workers are frozen in place – no one seems to move. She holds her breath, the pounding and roaring of the vibrating copier still fills the air. A second passes and as if the dance continues, the wires slowly start to surface and unfold through the workers ears; coiling into themselves and slinking towards the floor. The cubicles slowly start to fill as the information is fed through the working bodies.
Frozen in disbelief, she doesn’t realize that the copier has stopped. Suddenly she feels something sliding up her leg. Startled, she looks down and sees a feminine arm extending out of the copier machine. A leg and another arm stretch on the other end. She wearily starts to back away, when the arm flinches around and grabs her by the waist. The other leg swings around her leg so that she can’t move. Terrified, she wants to scream but can’t. The other arm gracefully lifts up above the machine and a perfectly manicured finger with deep red nail polish points towards the opening where one places the originals. The page had finished copying. The machine was ready for the next set. Her hands still free, she grabs her papers, fumbles for the next set, inserts them in the opening, types “50”, and hits the green button. The grip around her waist and legs loosens up, and the arm and leg gracefully retreat as the body starts to vibrate again…
Free again, she stumbles backwards. She looks around and notices that all the machines have sprouted elegant feminine limbs. The fax is faxing – using one hand to dial, the other to feed the paper through. They are mechanically assisting the workflow. They are females, being used, yet they are in control and want to be used – they feed off of it. All the workers are mesmerized in place by the machines. The power has shifted – the workers have become like an immobile tool to be used mainly to continue the workflow. The machines are craving to do what they are meant to do – work.
Legs protrude out of computer screens and wrap around the worker who dispassionately continues to push the keys on the keyboard. Crazed she runs out of the copy room towards the vice president lounge. She opens the door and there he is, talking on the phone as usual with a stack of papers spread before him. She sighs, happy to see that there is still a normal situation in the office. Yet before finishing her sigh of relief, she sees an arm reaching around him, stroking the pile of papers. A leg protrudes from the desk and wraps around his legs like a snake. He finally realizes that she is watching him and looks up from his conversation. What is she doing? He asks, if she is ready for her presentation. A hand slithers up his arm towards his shoulders. She seems a little pale…
The room goes out of focus.
When her eyes refocus, she finds herself on the ground. He is standing over her, his face growing into a smile as she regains consciousness. His secretary rushes in. No, she feels alright her head just hurts from the fall. He helps her up and lets her sit down in a chair. His secretary brings a cold glass of orange juice. After a few minutes, she decides to get up. He asks if she would like to go home and rest for the rest of the day; we can organize the presentation for tomorrow. She nods, puts down the empty glass and walks out of the room. She looks out over the cubicles. Just like always, nothing out of the ordinary. As she crosses the copy room, she stops in front of the copier. It’s off. Her documents are finished, stacked neatly on the shelf. She hesitantly touches the machine, runs her fingers along the green button and slowly starts to back away. It was all just a dream, I guess. Some weird mind trick. As she walks towards the door she hears a little rustle and she turns around in time to see a foot squeeze itself under the copier.