Each tick of the clock echoing around the lobby reminded me that it’s been two hours that I’ve been waiting to start my new job. Never had I had to wait this long to start before. The receptionist was clearly ignoring my looks now. I don’t blame her, I’ve asked at least half a dozen times when I’ll be starting. Was this another tactic to say I didn’t get the job? It couldn’t be, otherwise why would they say they’ve selected me.
Two hours and thirteen minutes later, the door creaked open and a sweaty manager stood before me, slightly out of breath. Wet marks spotted the usual places of his shirt and his hair clumped in sweaty streaks.
“Hello, I’m Jacob. I’ll be your manager. Sorry for the delay,” he said. He started to outstretch his hand before quickly retracted it. “Sorry, heavy lifting made my hands sweaty. I’ll give you a quick tour, there’s lots of work to be done so I’ll show you the full tour at a later time.”
He peeked into the hall, looking both ways before beaconing me to follow. Our footsteps were the only noises echoing through the corridor, otherwise it was eerily silent. We passed endless doors until finally reaching the last two at the end. He opened the left door and ushered me inside.
“In here, this is the break room. It has all the necessities. If you smoke, or just want some fresh air, there’s an exit at the back of the room. You are entitled to two breaks and a thirty minute meal time. The next break is in an hour. Now follow me to across the hall.”
As the door opened, a waft of musty air and ammonium smacked me in the face. A room rarely used but recently cleaned, and filled with towering columns of papers and folders. Along the edge of the room were hundreds of filing cabinets, only a handful with wheels.
“We have had a series of leaks and a number of rusty filing cabinets. All the papers needed to be quickly stored in here for safe keeping but we didn’t have any of the new filing cabinets ready. We do now, and that’s where you come in. We need each of these columns to be filed into the appropriate cabinet. The papers are labelled as are the cabinets. That should be all you need.”
He scurried out the door before I could ask any questions. My gaze drifted to the stacks of papers filling the room. Dread overcame me. I was fresh out of college with a degree of system engineering and data analytics, but here I am, filing papers. I’ve done my share of meaningless work. I thought this job was going to be different. I picked up the first few folders and glanced at the titles. “Policy For The Maintenance Of Exterior Grounds. How exciting.” I said snarkily. “Policies And Procedures For Antique Equipment Restoration. I bet that’s for their submarines. Guidelines on the role of company security in protection of civilians… Policy for the storage and handling of confidential and restricted records… Workplace Appliance Safety Protocol. Uggh,” I sighed.
I could no longer focus on which stack went where. I longed for the first break. The exit door sang to me with each stack or folder that was tucked away securely. By the time I finished a single stack of what I counted at least a hundred, I ran to the break room. With the building so large, I was surprised and relieved to see that I was alone. I devoured my lunch and stared at the exit door.
Maybe, they’d think I was going for a smoke. I left the break room and smelled the sweet air of freedom. I started with a casual pace towards the exit gate. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had no encountered a single soul. No explaining what I was doing or why it looked like I was quitting after only an hour. By the time I reached the gate, I was in full sprint. The sweet air of freedom filled my nostrils. I never had to return to that dull excuse for job again.
Three hours earlier
“Jacob, there’s been a grave mistake. Look at this.”
Jacob grasped the wad of papers in front of him. “What’s this? A resume? So. Who is this?”
“It’s the new recruit.”
“Is this a joke, Delilah? He’s not qualified at all. Just tell him, there’s been a mistake.”
“I was about to, look at who authorized his hiring.”
Jacob stared at the top of the first paper before swearing loudly and repeatedly. “Are you… dammit. He’s not qual– This can’t. It’s against policy to hire him. Unless–”
“Someone from much higher up approves it, yeah,” responded Delilah. The two stood for several minutes in near silence, Jacob quietly murmuring to himself. “What if… he were to quit of his own volition?”
“How the hell is he going to do that? He’ll see things we won’t allow him to walk away from. It’s such a clusterf–”
“Make it dull and relentless. By the looks of his resume, he doesn’t stay in one place for long. If he thinks he accepted the wrong job, maybe he’ll quit. Any ideas?”
Jacob fingered the air in thought like he was writing on an invisible chalkboard. At the moment that Delilah became impatient he snapped to, “I got it!”
She shook at his outburst.
“The old conference room still wired up with a camera?”
“I believe so.”
“I need every available body to move all the filing cabinets from the archives into the old room. Every one of them emptied with the papers stacked into columns.”
“There’s still sensitive information in them. How does that help?”
“We’ll put the boring policy drivel on the tops of the stacks. We’ll monitor him to make sure he doesn’t actually read anything that would cause problems. If we are lucky, he’ll leave.”
“I’m leaving it to you then. You have two hours to move all that you need.” Delilah began to walk away but a thought tugged at her to stay a moment longer. “Work up a sweat. The more inefficient this place looks, the more unappealing it will be.”
Jacob sighed. “It better. If he goes for a smoke, we’re clear.”
“His file says he doesn’t smoke.”