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Weekend Long Read

Human Capital:
A Horror Story

At least tomorrow will be Tuesday, you tell yourself. But it will be the same. It will always be the same. It will always be Monday. Until you die.


- November 27th, 2019
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It’s Monday. You don’t want to come into work but you must, so at least you just want to complete your work as quickly as possible and get out.

That isn’t going to happen. You are not in the office to work. 

You are there to participate in social rituals and humiliate yourself.

***

You enter the office and the resident Non-Player Characters ask you how was your weekend. They don’t care but you answer anyway. You think of a safe and meaningless reply to end the ritual and not get into trouble. You tell them you walked in a park when really you lay in bed depressed and exhausted.

***

The NPCs tell you what they did. You don’t care, but they tell you anyway. They tell you about the amazing brunch they had. They tell you how great their kids are doing. You try to walk away but out comes a phone and now you have to look at photos of the brunch.

***

You hate Eggs Benedict but smile anyway. Jane from Finance has returned from holiday. She wants to tell everybody about her week in Florida. You try to look uninterested but she shows you a video of her son at the Epcot Center. 

You check your emails. You have 120 unread messages.

***

You go for a coffee to get away from the morning chatter. You order a black coffee and hope you can get through the day without speaking to anyone. As you order the coffee the barista asks for your name. You are the only customer and you don’t want to give your name.

***

The barista says you must give a name. You argue but she just blinks. 

You tell her your name. Five minutes later she hands you a latte. You don’t complain and just leave. It’s better this way.

***

Back at the office, you bump into Jack from IT. You hate Jack. 

He asks you about your weekend and then shows you a video of his son at the Epcot Center. He asks you for lunch but before you can refuse he’s sent you an invite for 12:30. 

The restaurant only serves Eggs Benedict.

***

You sit down at your desk and begin clearing your emails. 50 percent of them are chain arguments where half of the company has been copied in to play witness to a misunderstanding about dirty coffee cups in the pantry. The other 50 percent are from people trying to put their work onto you.

***

You begin to tackle the 60 emails from people trying to offload their duties onto you. You reply to each one-by-one. After you hit the final send button you check your inbox and you now have 60 out-of-office replies.

***

It’s lunchtime. Jack drops by your desk so you can’t escape. Over lunch, you joke about how anyone who asks for a lunch appointment always wants something more than lunch. 

Jack laughs. He says you have a good sense of humor. Then he asks you to join the company social committee.

***

Finally, you get back to your desk. You can’t close the door and work in peace because you work in an open-plan office. Someone behind you is playing rap music loudly on headphones. You try to concentrate but you can’t because you work in an open-plan office.

***

Jane comes by your desk with birthday cake. It’s the birthday of Zoe in HR. She offers you a slice. You tell her you’re on a strict keto diet. Jane raises an eyebrow and gives you a look. 

You eat the cake. 

Five minutes later you receive an email asking you to give $5 for the cake.

***

There is a commotion by the door and a chorus of oohs and aahs. A woman who has been on maternity leave for a year has popped in to show off her baby. Work stops completely as everyone leaves their desk. 

You try to work. 

The baby is now beside you. You’re being asked to kiss it.

***

The mother asks when you are going to have a baby. 

You don’t even have a girlfriend because you work late every night and are too depressed to leave the house on weekends. 

The mother then tells you she is expecting again and will have another year off. 

You will do her work.

***

An email lands into your inbox. 

“Can we have a quick meeting at 4 p.m.?” 

You reply: “Yes.” 

They reply: “Thanks. Please send me an invitation and book a meeting room.” 

It’s already 3 p.m. There are never rooms available at 4 p.m.

***

You reply that there are no rooms available but she is welcome to swing by your desk. 

She never replies. 

A week later you discover she complained to your boss that you were unprofessional.

***

A girl from Communications stops by your desk. She is taking photos for the company website. 

She asks you to hold up a sign saying “I support women in leadership!” 

Ninety percent of your management are already women. 

You hold up the sign and give a thumbs up. You’re tired. Your smile hurts.

***

You turn back to your PC. A message has arrived that this Sunday will be Family Day and “they” hope “you” will be there. 

You look at the names of the people organizing the Family Day. They are all childless middle-aged women. You read more and note that attendance is compulsory.

***

David from Contracts replies to the email that he can’t attend Family Day because his son has a football game that day and it’s the finals. 

The childless middle-aged women respond to David that attendance is mandatory. 

There can be no family fun outside Family Day.

***

A supplier emails you about a long-overdue invoice. You email the invoice to Jane from Finance and ask on the status. 

She replies and asks you to attach the invoice. You grit your teeth, reattach the invoice, and click send. 

Jane then asks why have you sent her an invoice.

***

You try to concentrate one last time, but somebody has hit a sales target and the song “We Are The Champions” blasts over the speaker. It’s impossible to focus. 

You look at the overweight tired people high-fiving each other by the sales desk. 

They don’t look like champions.

***

You never wanted your life to be like this.
This is not how you imagined life to be at 35.
You studied hard.
You worked hard.
You did all the right things.
Said all the right things.
Yet here you are being asked to give $5 for Zoe’s birthday cake in an open-plan office.

***

You wonder if there are other better jobs. You check LinkedIn. You notice your company has posted a photo of you smiling, holding up the “women in leadership” sign with the hashtag #greatplacetowork written underneath. 

All the other companies say they are #greatplacestowork, too.

***

You realize there is no escape. 

Even though you have unfinished work you decide to leave on-time today and just go home to lie on the bed. 

Jane from Finance notices your sad frown as you leave. 

“Somebody had a bad case of the Mondays today!” she jokes. 

Everybody laughs.

***

At least tomorrow will be Tuesday, you tell yourself. 

But it will be the same. 

It will always be the same. 

It will always be Monday. 

Until you die.

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Tuesday

Your alarm goes off and you force your head from the pillow. 

It’s Tuesday. 

You half-recollect faded dreams of childhood summers and flying like a bird but it’s Tuesday so there’s no time for that. Today you must complete your work. 

Maybe Tuesday will be your good news day.

***

You arrive at the office early so that you can get a head start. You switch on your PC and immediately a screen pops-up saying you must restart in order to install essential updates. It gives you no choice to refuse. 

You click restart and wait. 

And wait and wait and wait . . .

***

You are staring at a blue screen and your PC won’t turn on again. 

You call the IT helpdesk but you’re early so nobody answers. 

You go buy a coffee to kill time. The coffee queue is long with the morning rush. Your supervisor scolds you for being three minutes late when you return.

***

You call the IT helpdesk and a heavy accent tells you that you must use your PC to log a helpdesk ticket. 

You explain you cannot open your PC so you can’t log a service ticket. 

The heavy accent says you must log a ticket. 

After 10 minutes you hang up.

***

You walk physically to the IT department. Deepak and Prakash ignore you while they have a fervent conversation in Hindi. Eventually, you raise your voice and ask for help. Deepak says you must submit a ticket. 

Saira from Sales arrives and asks for help. She is assisted immediately.

***

You stand your ground as you have no other choice. 

Deepak asks if you have tried turning your computer on and off. 

You roll your eyes, swear under your breath, and say “yes.” 

Finally, Deepak agrees to check out your PC.

***

Deepak sits down at your desk. He turns the PC off and then on again. 

The PC now turns on immediately with no problem whatsoever. 

Deepak glares at you. When he’s gone you notice that one of your French chocolates has disappeared. 

It’s now 11 a.m.

***

You open Outlook and wait for the folder to update. Suddenly you hear a “Hi!”

It’s Zoe from HR. 

She wants to thank you for the birthday cake and then proceeds to monologue about how her husband (who works in banking) plans to treat her for her birthday weekend. 

It’s now 11:30 a.m.

***

Politely—meekly—you gently tell Zoe that you have enjoyed the conversation but have work to do. She looks at you and says: “Well, you have a nice day.” 

Finally, you open your emails. Five minutes later you receive an email from Zoe saying she did not appreciate your tone just now.

***

Zoe thinks that you could work on your workplace language and that tone “is something you can especially work on.”

She thinks it will help to make the office a #greatplacetowork

She sends you an invite for an all-day training on “Respect” for tomorrow. 

She signs off with “Kind regards.”

***

For a moment you sit silently pondering the meaning of the words “kind regards.” 

You receive another email that says it is a “gentle reminder” about the compulsory Family Day this weekend. 

You try to think when was the last time somebody wrote sincerely to you.

***

It’s lunchtime. You buy a sandwich as all you want to do is eat at your desk and zone out watching an anime episode for thirty minutes. 

Just as you’re about to put on your headphones someone taps you on your shoulder. It’s Ian from Sales. He tells you how he is “smashing it” in Q4.

***

After 20 minutes of Ian telling you how much he is “knocking it out of the park” you make your excuses and go to the toilet for some peace and quiet. 

The male toilet has disappeared overnight. Now there is an “All-Gender Toilet” and the door is decorated in rainbow hearts.

***

You go through three stalls before you find one that hasn’t got a used tampon floating in the basin or discarded on the floor. 

You put on your headphones and watch 10 minutes of anime in the stall. This is the best part of the day. 

In the next stall, you overhear Ian crying.

***

Ian starts to mumble to himself between his sobbing. 

“You’re a corporate tiger, Ian! You’ve got this! Q4 is gonna be your quarter!” 

You wonder how much Ian is really “knocking it out of the park” and leave. A woman glares at you as you leave the all-gender toilet.

***

You get back to your desk and you can’t enter your PC again because your 30-day password has expired and you must create a new one. 

You try the name of your first dog, mother’s date of birth, elementary school address . . . all are rejected for not being strong enough.

***

You try them all again with added capital letters and symbols but they still fail. Eventually, you give up and input a string of 20 random letters and numbers. 

You’ll never remember it so you write it down on a Post-It and stick it to your desk for future reference.

***

An email arrives from Jane in Finance. They won’t process your invoice because there is a new procedure and you failed to follow it correctly. 

You ask where this new process was announced. She tells you it’s on the intranet’s Finance page. 

You never knew you had an intranet.

***

You go onto the intranet page and it tells you that all invoices must now be submitted through a new Oracle system. 

Sighing, you click the link to download the Oracle system. 

A pop-up springs open and says you don’t have administrative permission to download new software.

***

You call IT to ask them to download the new invoice platform. 

They tell you to submit a service ticket. 

You submit the ticket. 

It’s now 5 p.m. and nobody has replied to you. 

You call IT again but they’ve all left for the day.

***

Desperately, you search the office for someone who can potentially help. You bribe the autistic guy in the corner office to help you get around the IT permissions. 

Finally, you submit your invoice on the new system. A pop-up tells you that the deadline for invoices was yesterday.

***

Most of the office has gone home. 

A few people that you hate stop by your desk to tell you not to work too late. 

“I can’t work late like you,” chuckles Jane from Finance. “I have a family to look after.” 

You don’t even have a girlfriend. 

Jane thinks you should “get one.”

***

The office lights dim around you and the A/C shuts down. They are all automated to power down after 7 p.m. to help the company achieve its Sustainability Goals. 

You know this because you attended a meeting on the firm’s sustainability goals presented by two McKinsey consultants in suits.

***

Sweltering in a dark office, alone and hungry, only the light from your PC illuminates your surroundings. 

You have achieved absolutely nothing once again.

***

Luckily, there is always time tomorrow to complete the unfinished tasks. Wednesday is a new day. 

As you switch off Outlook, a “gentle reminder” from Zoe in HR pings in reminding you that you have an all-day training session tomorrow. 

She signs off: “Kind regards.”

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Wednesday

You awake from a terrible dream. 

No. That’s wrong. You awoke into a terrible dream. 

It’s Wednesday. It’s halfway through the working week. 

You’re 35. You’re halfway through your life. 

Neither is looking bright right now.

***

On the train to work, you spot an advertisement for a job site. It’s a multicolored garish image of happy people with bright teeth and sharp suits. 

You look around at your fellow commuters. Everybody looks like shit. 

You wonder where these great jobs are and return to your phone.

***

Today is an all-day training, so you arrive early to clear your emails before it starts but once again you’re locked out of your PC. 

You succeed in grabbing Kumar from IT. He tells you that security saw the Post-It note with your password written on it so blocked your access.

***

You get angry. You explain that you really need to access your PC. 

Kumar replies that you were locked out for your own safety and security. 

You ask how long you it will be that you  are locked out. Kumar says 24 hours. You decide to watch anime in the toilet until the training starts.

***

You go to the pantry to make a tea before the hell begins. 

It’s impossible not to notice that someone has placed a photo of Greta Thunberg in the pantry and removed all the foam cups. 

You use a paper cup. It collapses as soon as you pour the tea in. 

Now you have wet pants.

***

Susan from Legal walks past and sees your wet pants. Susan is 63 and entitled to a final salary pension. 

You’re not. 

She doesn’t give a fuck. 

“You should bring your own cup,” she says. “Gotta go green!” 

She shows you her cup. She thinks it’s really funny. 

You don’t.

You enter the training. The room is full of desperate-looking men staring downwards and women holding pens. 

“Welcome!” shouts Zoe from HR. “Looks like someone had an accident!” She points to your pants and everybody laughs. 

This is a respect seminar. It doesn’t matter. You’re a man.

***

Everyone is asked to introduce by stating three funny facts about themselves. 

Janet says: “I have two adorable kids, make a mean lasagna, and I loooooove my coffee!” 

Everybody laughs. 

John says: “I’m from Ohio, visited Trinidad twice, and I loooooove my coffee!” 

Everybody laughs.

***

It’s your turn. You say: 

“I think Nietzsche was overly optimistic. I once shared a beer with Mel Gibson. I enjoy hot toddies made with real Martinique rum on a toasty cozy evening.” 

Nobody laughs. 

“Does he have a drinking problem?” you hear one woman whisper to another.

***

The training begins and Zoe turns on a PowerPoint presentation. 

The first slide is a 500-word intro titled “What is Respect?” 

Zoe proceeds to read out every single word even though it is right there on the screen. 

You internally sigh. Everyone else nods their heads sagely.

***

After reading out the first slide she says: 

“We are gonna work hard today but we’re also gonna have a lot of fun!” 

She clicks to the next slide. 

It’s a photo of a cat in a tree with the words “Hang in there!” 

Everybody laughs.

***

You are asked to get into groups and create something called a “mind map” about a topic that is important to the company and helps build respect within the group. 

Your group chooses “Equity.”

Out comes a flipchart and you are given a marker pen. You will see a lot of both of those things today.

***

Janet takes the lead and asks the group to say words related to “equity.” You reel off 12 in an instant. 

That was wrong. 

The point of the exercise isn’t to just give correct answers. It’s to discuss and share. 

Over the next 20 minutes the group slowly repeats your 12 words.

***

You begin to wonder if you just got a bad group. You look over to the other groups. 

One is whooping and hollering. You don’t understand why. 

The other is taking it very, very seriously. You don’t understand why. 

You look outside the window. The autumn leaves are beginning to fall.

***

You look back to your group’s board. 

It is now covered in meaningless statements like “Carpe Diem,” “Be there,” and “Fair + Equal.” 

You vaguely recall being forced to do similar activities in elementary school and speculate silently how this is meant to train you on anything.

***

Once completed, every group has to volunteer one person to read out their words to the rest of the group. 

You are volunteered. 

You read out all of the words written on the flipchart even though everyone in the room is capable of reading. 

Actually, you’re not sure about that.

***

You break for lunch. Since it is a training day you must go with the group for a team lunch. 

Nobody likes Pizza Express, but everybody is afraid to state a strong opinion so the easiest option wins out. 

The group orders a Hawaiian pizza. You hate Hawaiian. You smile anyway.

***

The bill arrives and it is declared that everyone should pay an equal share. 

That sounds simple. 

Janet says she only had an appetizer so she should only pay half. 

John is gluten-intolerant so he only had a Coke and doesn’t want to split. 

So you all agree to cover their share.

***

The waiter comes. Nobody has cash. The waiter says they can’t split the bill across different cards. 

Everyone looks down and goes silent. 

Eventually, you volunteer to pay the bill. Zoe says you can claim it on expenses. It will take you three months to clear it through expenses.

***

You head back into the training room. 

For the next hour you are asked to perform role plays. 

Dutifully, you act out a fake situation that would never be resolved in real life as it is resolved in the role play. 

Every role play receives applause no matter how bad it was.

***

Everyone is told they’re doing great. 

Everyone is told that they are so lucky to work somewhere with such passionate, intelligent, and dedicated people. Best of the best. 

As you’re told this you glance over to Janet. She is picking wax out of her ear with a ballpoint pen.

***

Zoe makes a special announcement. 

She has managed to pull some strings and you are about to receive training on something that is guaranteed to bring you up to the next level. 

You wonder what it is. 

A 50-year-old lesbian walks in and declares you’re all about to do Laughter Yoga.

***

For the next hour you are all instructed to roll on the floor and laugh hysterically. 

You join in because it feels awkward to walk out. You’re worried about the consequences if you leave. 

The old lesbian instructs you all to bark like dogs. 

Apparently it helps your chakras.

***

Finally . . . finally, it comes to an end. 

Before you can go home you are asked to fill in a feedback form about how useful the training was. 

You know that Zoe from HR will read every form. 

You give the training five stars and sign off your enthusiasm with 17 exclamation marks.

***

You don’t even bother to check your PC on the way out. You just want to go home. 

You just want this nightmare to end. 

But it won’t end. 

Tomorrow is Thursday and you’re only 35. 

There will be many, many more Thursdays.

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Thursday

The alarm rings. Every single beep drilling it’s way into your skull. You reach out for the snooze button. Just 10 more minutes, please. Ten more minutes wrapped in the blanket not having to think about work. 

You hear the pings of a dozen Whatsapp messages flooding in. It’s over.

***

You check the WhatsApp messages, bleary-eyed. You have 57 messages. 

It’s your team Whatsapp group. Five of the messages are your five teammates saying they are feeling sick today. The other 52 messages are everybody wishing everyone else “Take care sweetie” or “Get well soon, babe.”

***

You wonder why there is so much sickness among your team today. Perhaps food poisoning from yesterday’s pizza? But you’re fine . . . 

Then you remember. The big boss is visiting from HQ today. 

Another Whatsapp message. Someone is asking if you can help complete their report.

***

You arrive at the office. Jack from IT accosts you at the entrance. 

He is holding a Sponsorship Form. 

Will you donate money for his current cause? 

You ask what it is. 

Jack says it’s to raise funds to help transexual Somalian children undergo gender reassignment surgery.

***

You don’t think it’s a good cause, but a group of colleagues stop by and all slap Jack on the back and say what a great cause it is. 

They look at you. They say they’re hoping for 100 percent participation. 

You donate $20. 

They tell you the minimum donation is $50. 

You donate $50.

***

You approach your PC, warily. 

Miraculously . . . it works. You open Outlook with no issues. 

Due to being mostly offline for the last two days you have 2,407 unread emails. 

Many have red exclamation marks in the subject title. Others are written in CAPITAL LETTERS.

***

You settle in to confront the email tsunami. 

A bell rings. Someone shouts “Can I have your attention please?” 

The big boss walks into the office surrounded by a gaggle of excited looking marketing girls in their 20s. 

You know this isn’t going to be good.

***

The boss explains that she feels the office energy isn’t high enough. Something needs to be done to help increase output. 

So she has a fun new initiative that will be “rolled out” immediately. 

Everyone must stand up for the rest of the day. No more sitting down.

She says she learned this during her MBA at Wharton. 

***

The marketing girls scatter and drag everyone’s chairs away. 

You try to hold onto your chair but the marketing girl stares you down. 

“It’s better for your health anyway,” she says. “Sitting is the new smoking.”

***

You stand at your desk. Your hands cannot reach the keyboard so you hunch over to type. 

It hurts, but they told you that it’s healthy, so you don’t complain. 

You haven’t eaten alone all week. 

You promise yourself that today you will treat yourself to a nice burger . . . alone.

***

You have a meeting and are the first to arrive in the meeting room. 

Everyone else starts appearing 10 minutes late. 

Even though 10 minutes late, they all laugh and chat and say “Oops, forgot my coffee!” They leave to get coffee. 

They all looooooove their coffee!!!

***

The meeting starts 30 minutes later than scheduled. 

It’s a simple meeting. It shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes. It’s simply to agree on the content of a new report. Yet there are 20 people in the meeting. Why? 

The organizer begins. She opens a PowerPoint. 

It has 70 slides

***

She reads through all 70 slides and it takes over an hour. She asks if there are any questions. 

A hand rises. 

“Should we really be using Helvetica font for this report?” asks Jane from Finance. 

More hands rise. You never knew so many people had such strong opinions on fonts.

***

You don’t understand what is happening. You don’t understand the direction the meeting is taking. You don’t even understand why all these people are here—giving an opinion. 

Even Maria the Cleaner is here. She doesn’t even use a PC but thinks the report will be better in Arial.

***

Time passes. Two camps have formed: the pro-Helvetica and the pro-Arial. Voices are raised. Jane from Finance is crying. She says she is passionate about Helvetica and that this is really, really important to her. 

You look at the report. It’s all numbers in Excel. It won’t even use a font.

***

It is 3 p.m. and the meeting finally ends after five hours. 

No conclusion has been reached except that a further six meetings have been arranged and a committee will be formed to discuss appropriate font usage. 

You’re on the committee. 

You never had the chance to eat your burger.

***

You grab a protein bar and a can of soda from the vending machine and return to your desk. Your chair is still gone so you have no choice but to stand while eating your snack. 

You throw the wrapper and empty can in the bin. 

Zoe from HR asks why aren’t you recycling your waste.

***

The next hour passes uneventfully. You do your best to clear your emails but it’s like chopping heads off a Hydra. Every time you clear one email, another four arise in its place. 

You gaze across at one of the twentysomething marketing girls and daydream about a different life.

***

An email from Jack in IT drops into your inbox like a wet shit. 

In order to support his charity cause, he is suggesting that all the men come to work on Friday dressed as women. He says that it’s a chance to show you care and “walk a mile in her shoes” and will be a lot of fun.

***

The office is immediately excited. 

Everyone thinks it is a great idea. 

Someone suggests that the men should contribute a $10 donation to participate. 

Everyone thinks it is a great idea. 

Zoe from HR asks if you need to borrow a dress. 

Everyone thinks it is a great idea.

***

You try to put the Fun Friday Activity out of your mind. You try to focus even though all around you are engaged in mundane chatter. 

A thousand more emails to go. Nearly there. 

Your boss emails. She’d like to conduct your annual performance appraisal since she’s in town. 

Tomorrow.

***

She asks you to write down all your strengths, weaknesses, objectives, and targets for the past year and for the year ahead. 

She wants your objectives to be SMART. Apparently that’s an abbreviation for something. You google it. You still don’t understand. It’s just buzzwords.

***

It’s all so meaningless. 

It’s all so tiresome. 

Now you will definitely be in the office till at least midnight. The train stops at 11 p.m. 

You keep a small blanket and pillow in your drawer for such occasions. Tonight you will sleep under your desk. You’ve done it before. Many times.

***

At least you can rest over the weekend. 

Although you’ll probably have to work on Saturday to make up for all the time lost this week. 

And Sunday is Family Day. 

Then it will be Monday again. 

You gaze at the marketing girl once more. 

You’re 35. You have wasted your life.

***

A group of colleagues walk past to leave and ask if you’re joining for Thursday drinks. 

You smile weakly and say you have work to do. 

“You shouldn’t work so hard,” says one. “Tomorrow’s Friday! TGIF!” 

Yes. Tomorrow’s Friday. So why does it still feel like Monday?

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Friday

The rosy fingers of dawn extend westward reaching you from the impromptu grief-hole that you made under your desk. You want to wash and clean yourself as much as possible in the restroom before anyone enters. 

The broom of Maria the Cleaner nudges you awake. She laughs at you.

***

You take off all your clothes and wash yourself naked in the All-Gender restroom with a tiny bar of hand soap, hoping nobody will enter. 

You can’t brush your teeth so you steal one of the “welcome mints” from reception then scurry back to your desk.

***

You get back to your desk just as the rest of the office arrives. You hear their noise before they enter. 

Every guy is wearing a dress. They have promised to “walk a mile in her shoes.” The white knights laugh at you like you’re a freak and ask why you’re not wearing a dress.

***

This is for a good cause. 

It’s for transexual Somalian kids. 

What is wrong with you? 

Zoe from HR has brought in her dead mother’s dress especially. She waves it in front of you. Everybody is clapping and cheering. 

They want you to wear the dress.

***

“It’s Friday!” they shout. 

“Come on, bro!” yell some of the men. 

“Are you afraid you’re fucking gay or something?” shouts the Head of Respect and Equality. 

You enter the restroom and wear the dress. There is a used tampon on the seat. You wonder if you need to stick it up your ass.

***

You exit the toilet wearing a dress and a bloody tampon drilled up your anus. 

In your time at this company you have created a new database, hired a new overseas team, and upskilled over two dozen interns. However, nobody has ever looked at you with the respect they give you now.

***

You return to your desk. You only have five minutes before it is time for your performance review. 

You tried all night to think about objectives and goals. However, all you want to say is that you just want to be left alone. 

If you’re just left alone you can do your job fine.

***

That’s all you ever wanted. You never bothered anyone else. You only wanted to be left alone. Why couldn’t anyone understand that? You’re good at what you do. But nobody ever left you alone long enough to prove that. All you ever wanted was to work hard and do a good job.

***

The boss calls you into her office. 

She tells you to sit. 

She has heard many complaints about you. 

You used the wrong tone with Zoe in HR. 

You raised your voice to a person of color in IT. 

Your invoices are late. 

You lack team spirit. 

You tried to put a pizza through expenses.

***

You try to explain. You hope she understands. She was promoted to this position, so surely she must be senior and experienced enough to understand that all complaints are multifaceted? She went to Wharton! 

You watch her pick her ear with a ballpoint pen. 

You realize you’re screwed.

***

Your boss looks at you with the utmost seriousness. 

“I like you,” she says. “You have a lot of potential.” 

You nod, sensing the upcoming “but.” 

“But . . . you’re a smart guy,” she says. 

“But, but, but . . . ?” 

“You know how it is,” she says, with a smile . . . 

***

She’s really looking you in the eye now. You feel like you’re about to enter a special club. 

“There are many complaints. So many complaints. However, your work is good. Potentially you could get promoted . . . ” She stares at you with a distant distant look. 

You don’t yet understand.

***

“What? What do I need to do?” you exclaim. “I’ve been here for four years! I’m ready for promotion!” 

Your boss shakes her head. 

“Oh, my sweet summer boy! It’s not a question of skills. You’re more than capable. But there’s a small problem . . . ”

***

She explains how you are a valued talent in the company.

You are “human capital.” 

She emphasizes how your skills are much appreciated. 

However, she whispers, the company is committed to diversity. 

Very, very committed. 

She would love to promote you . . . but she only has a quota for new female managers this year.

***

Your boss stares you in the eye. 

“Do you understand what I am saying?” 

Before she can finish, a girl from Marketing barges in and hands you a slice of Jane’s birthday cake. Jane from Finance is now vegan. The cake slice looks like your grandmother’s bowel cancer.

***

The cake wriggles and squirms and clicks in front of you. 

“It’s a new kind of birthday cake,” your boss says. “No meat, no cruelty, just 100 percent kindness and a commitment to make the world a better place!” 

A piece of the cake crawls away.

She stares at you. “Do you understand?” she asks.

***

You want to tell her how everyone is late for meetings. 

You want to tell her how it’s not your fault: IT only works 50 percent of the time. 

You want to tell her how you have no time to do your job. 

You want to declare that this is not a #greatplacetowork but instead Hell on Earth.

***

Your boss looks at you. She’s almost weeping. She has deep expressive feminine eyes. 

“Are you committed to gender balance?” she asks. 

“Yes,” you say. 

Your boss looks at you like an ancient Greek Oracle. 

“We can only offer this promotion to a woman,” she says. ”Are you a woman?”

***

It’s 12 p.m. 

You’re hungry. 

You want to eat.

You have 10 years of JAVA coding experience but all that seems to matter now is slicing your cock off and declaring yourself oppressed.

***

You look around you. The walls are covered in pride posters, asexual posters, bisexual posters, pansexual posters, every and all kinds of pride except yours. Everyone has always hated you at your company but now they come to applaud. A mob of pink-haired weaklings carries you on their shoulders.

***

Everybody is gathered around you now. 

Your boss. Zoe from HR. Maria the Cleaner. The Indian fellas from IT. Everybody. How did they get here? 

“Come out! Come out!” they say. “It’s National Coming Out Day!” 

YOU. MUST. SUBMIT!

***

You scream. You shout. 

“I’m not gay! I’m not gay!” You are crying. “Just leave me alone, please!”

“You must celebrate diversity!” your boss chants. “Are you a woman?” 

It’s Friday afternoon.

***

You think about the prospect of promotion. 

You stare your boss in the eye. 

You nod your head.

Everyone smiles at you. It feels better already. Your dress feels light and comfortable.

You are not fighting anymore. They offer you a seat in the pod. The Marketing people bring back the cake that wriggles and squirms in front of you.

***

You feel much better now that you are oppressed. There is a positive vibe in the office for the first time in ages.

An email lands in your inbox. It’s your boss announcing your new promotion to the office, effective immediately.

“Congrats!” Zoe from HR slaps you on the back.

You look over to the girl from Marketing. Then you remember you’re a woman now.

You look away.

***

You log onto Facebook to announce to the world about your new promotion and your new identity.

You see a post from one of your old school-friends.

“I WILL NOT LIVE IN THE POD!” he has written. “I WILL NOT EAT BUGS!”

He seems very angry. You delete the connection, post a selfie of yourself sat in your pod with your new dress, and take a bite of Jane’s birthday cake.

It’s delicious.

***

A few hours later, you stand up to leave the office exactly on-time. The resident Non-Player Characters ask you about your weekend plans. You respond positively and ask about their plans, too.

“TGIF! It’s Friday!” you joke, with a huge grin that hurts your eyes.

Everybody laughs.

You laugh, too.

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