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A novelette-written-on-wetnaps-miniseries
By J

Salaryman woke up before sunrise for the first time in months. His stomach was a ball of lead that not even the third cup of coffee could loosen. Today he would start a new job, and along with the promises of exciting work and financial viability came the usual sense of foreboding and nervousness. Can I hack it? Will my boss be a dick? Will I get canned on the first day? These thoughts and others ran through his head like a tickertape on PCP.

He had not slept very well at all. Sleep? Who needs sleep when there's adrenaline? Sounded great to him the night before, at least. Maybe that's why he chose to play with his laptop instead of laying down to rest.

That third cup of coffee turned out to be a mistake. Halfway to his new job, Salaryman made one of those bad decisions that he knew was bad when he thought of it, but made anyway. Reasoning that he probably would not be able to slip to the men's room once he got to work, he pulled the jeep over to the side of the road and proceeded to pee in the adjacent rice paddy. He noticed a lot of cars going by, but pretended to pay them no mind. Just as he was enjoying how tightly his belt could be pulled now, Mr. Rice Farmer Guy came out of his crappy hovel and started yelling epithets in Japanese that would make even a shitty bastard red with shame. As if that wasn't bad enough, he started noticing a lot of people in gray uniforms passing him by as he sat there in the drivers seat. His new company uniform was gray. Were these his future co-workers gawking at the sight of a rice farmer furiously waving a gardening tool at a businessman driving away in an old black jeep?

He spun up a storm of dust and gravel and got back on the road. He was angry and embarrassed, and knew the whole affair was his own fault. What a way to start the day. He turned up the stereo, and Weiland helped ease the insanity of the situation a little:

"I am smelling like the rose that somebody gave me
On my birthday deathbed.
I am smelling like the rose that somebody gave me
Cause I'm dead and bloated"

Well hell, thought Salaryman, maybe this will work out after all...

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Salaryman has been working at the new company for a week now. He has grown used to the compulsory stretching exercises at various times of the day, and to the cafeteria that somehow reminds him of grade school. Maybe it's the fact that the tables are divided by sex: For some reason, the long rows of tables are split into girls rows and guys rows. The second day of work, he even asked his boss about this curious display of childish behavior in Japanese adults. He was not given a satisfactory reply. Even though he is trying to blend in, Salaryman is sometimes tempted to sit at the girls tables and attempt to break some inbred societal behavior patterns.

When Salaryman is bored, he pulls the set of company guideline cards he has been issued out of his wallet and reads them out loud to himself. There is a card with the Company's Quality Policy, another with the Environmental Policy, two complimentary ones with the Ten Manners and Ten Item Safety Checklist, and his ID card with magnetic strip.

  1. Let's greet each other morning and night.
  2. Let's make it clear where we are going when we leave our seats.
  3. Let's speak politely and briefly on the phone.
  4. Let's walk briskly inside of buidings.
  5. Let's keep all areas of buildings clean.
  6. Let's put our chairs under the desks.
  7. Let's assemble for meetings five minutes early.
  8. Let's not put our hands in our pockets when walking.
  9. Let's do the mandatory company exercises.
  10. Let's throw away any trash we find.
  1. Make sure your clothes are clean and worn properly.
  2. Keep your work area in order.
  3. Don't speak unnecessarily.
  4. Observe basic working procedures.
  5. Do not run in the workplace
  6. Utilize proper safety equipment.
  7. When you put your hand in the moving parts of a machine, turn off the power.
  8. When you find something dangerous, immediately call your superior.
  9. Observe traffic rules and drive safely.
  10. Clean up possible fire hazards and prevent fires.
  1. Will part of my body get caught in between it?
  2. Will I get cut or scraped?
  3. Will I get twisted up in it?
  4. Will I fall?
  5. Will I get burned?
  6. Will my back get hurt?
  7. Will I get shocked?
  8. Will I hit my head?
  9. Will foreign objects get in my eyes?
  10. Are there other dangers?

The ID card with the magnetic strip is the icing on the cake. It is used to pay for lunch in the cafeteria and for drinks from vending machines. It can be used in the company convenience store and coffee shop as well. If an employee is late, he must use it in a card slot at the outer gate of the company. Salaryman was told to come in later than usual the other day, and was in the position of having to use the card to get in. The card slot was in a black box mounted face high on the outer gate's support post. Salaryman had seen this system at another big company he visited as part of his last job, but had never used one before. When the card is inserted into the slot, the employee's entry time is electronically recorded, and a camera switches on. The employee must then explain in what section he works and, sometimes, explain why he is late. Salaryman wanted to avoid this at all costs, and felt the system was a big time invasion of privacy. "If I had to work at the Pentagon," he fumed silently, "at least I would get to CARRY A FUCKING GUN!"

Ironically, the tall main gate was surrounded on both sides by waist-high fencing. "Modern Japan," thought Salaryman as he lifted one leg over the fence, "All form, no function".

Continued on page 2

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