For corporate contract workers — thumbs-up minis in MoreCorp terms — bonuses are an abstract concept. The company's known for amazing employee perks, and contractors get invaluable lessons in the relativity of fortune. We specialize in silver linings.
Let me explain. The Lovesport, an employment competition, brought me to Silicon. It's not really on yet as far as I know, but it could be, whenever. Thus my plus comes in the form of a loss. Colleagues, 50 players, were felled in a single swoop, the whole last wave of TLDR recruits drowned. The Clubhouse is in a hushed buzz over the mass expulsion. Competition’s been thinned and that’s a definite win, no denying.
Remaining readers are surprised not surprised. We feel bad ... if by bad what is meant is glad it’s not us. The terminations give survivors a good feeling, like we just got a bonus ... if what's meant by that is our tentative hold on opportunity got more awesome without MoreCorp doing anything, as MidCorp hires and fires us officially.
Whoever’s doing it, the terminations work in many ways, reminding us of our expendability and making us more eager to please, all while saving greenies. Yet I find this a strange approach to team spirit, collaboration, openness, and trust, all words favored by management. In fact, as the months pass, the impression that I’m working in a Wonderland snow globe in the hands of a madman grows more intense. Nothing makes sense.
“What happened exactly?” I ask Haiti about the departed during a pow-wow in the parking lot. Her three roommates from Metropolis are gone after just two months. She's screwed and has to fill their rooms.
“No work's what they were told.” Haiti is sitting on a stoop behind a car, smoking, her back bent. She’s tall and dark and can sometimes looks very powerful standing up straight, but not today. “You know MoreCorp, they just do whatever. They don't care.”
“What if this is the test,” I suggest, “us doing stuff though no one seems to want much?”
Haiti looks skeptical. “Like reverse psychology?”
“It's a theory, though it does seem they prefer we play ping pong. So why fire those guys? Why hire them?”
"Who knows? Better not to q." Haiti shrugs again, then stands and shakes off her blues. She grins. "A wave drowned though, so we win!”
“Definitely,” I agree, although it’s not quite true. I don’t totally win.
Something happens which I swear on the Founders never does. I score poorly on a reading test. Disaster! I’m crushed. Assessment X is a Secret Keeping Initiative (SKI) examination of tricky text reductions, assessing the TLDR team's ability to distinguish between secrets and public information in investigations.
Not yet understanding that no expression’s ideal here — that indeed the reason I’ve flunked the test is because communication — I ask Chip Brew what to do, adding, “I reviewed! I studied!”
Chip administers the test and patrols the Clubhouse while it’s taken, spared because he's good with spreadsheets, a guru of blocks, and a favorite of the SKI Team Lead, Ampersand Matrix. Smug, he pulls back golden curls, which give the false first impression he’s cute, revealing a pale, lazy-eyed, pimply face that suggests inbred kinfolk from the hills. He sneers. “There’s other tests, Ellipsis, plus culture calibration, and your more-more score. That's hard to define. Oh and code quizzes! Don’t worry. It takes much more to lose the Lovesport … unless your wave gets drowned, of course.” Chip rearranges his curls. “There’s tons of ways to fail.”
"Thanks," I say, unsure whether that's meant to be a threat or consolation.
The next day, a grand elucidation is held in a grand hall. Ampersand Matrix, my not-boss, delivers the answers to Assessment X at top speed. Withhold all the info is what it boils down to. This inspires no q’s, which is perfect from his perspective. What’s there to ask?
Well, plenty. The issue is preservation, legally speaking. Secrets can be withheld officially but are limited to strategy and speculations of certain people, certified advisors. That stuff gets redacted from records. But facts are not secret, nor is much else. Facts represent, at the most basic level, what is verifiable — dates, events, names, places, the is in it is what it is.
There's no way to discover information if investigations play a secret game with secret keeping. To ensure that MoreCorp's claims of goodness are never threatened by evidence of evil, however, we go the extra mile and call it all advice, often unnecessarily. This makes text reduction less efficient, but it ensures arbitrations conclude favorably and that the lesson at hand ends quickly.
Ampersand hurries out of the hall, pretty blue eyes clouded by concerns, tapping his skull for txts. I walk beside him and shrug sheepishly. “Bombed that one! I’m sorry. I thought I got it but...”
“Why are you apologizing,” he asks. “Don’t apologize. I hate apologies.”
“Oh? Oh. Ok. It’s just that words can mean whatever you want. We don't all read them the same, like, as dangerous. Especially not in the context of thousands of records in an investigation.”
“What’s that?” Ampersand halts, shocked. “Did you just say you read?”
“Yeah.” I don't remind him it's our profession; he's in charge after all.
“You know there's stuff to help with the words? Highlights, searches. Reading's slow, inefficient. We're phasing it out.”
Too quick, I reply, “I’m wicked fast.”
“I know,” Ampersand answers. “You sped through this assessment and…”
“Point taken. Sorry. Well, not sorry, because you hate that … Anyhow, I just wondered whether withholding everything is kind of a general approach? You know, since that takes time too, all the covering up, and we don't really need to hide all the facts if they're not bad.”
“Nope, that's the way to go. When in doubt, withhold. Also other times.” Ampersand sighs. “It’s all outlined in the materials on the internal webs, Ellipsis.”
“Right. I read them, or not read. You hate that too. I just meant, like if we followed the rules it'd increase accuracy and efficiency, and not even be a threat, or...” By now I'm really regretting that I ever started talking. "Or no."
"Yeah, no," Ampersand agrees. He walks away, hi-5's the sky, and reminds me, "Read highlights, not text!"
As required, I thumbs-up his disappearing back, replying, "Yes." But I think no. That can't be right.
Wolf is exasperated when I tell him about the encounter in the car on the way home from work. “You gotta talk about vids and shit, El! Don’t challenge Ampersand Matrix! He's a dimwit.”
“I wasn’t! Was I? It was clarifying. I didn't invent preservation principles. They’re real!”
“Real irrelevant. Learn to keep it zipped, kid. We’re here to do biz.”
“Yeah. You’re totally right," I concede. "But you're Mr. Right right now. How?”
Wolf did great on Assessment X. He's pops with the kool guys, active on the soc-nets, a hit in the fight clubs, and a central figure at lunch. Chip Brew even has a bro crush on him. Wolf takes his eyes off the perilous road home, excited to explain his strategy. With a gleeful gleam in his dark eyes, he says, “Since you’re so into principles, El, it’s the principle I applied in certification. To hate corporations is to know them. Understand that if they actually were people, not just legally so, they'd be psychos. Don’t break your head over facts and advice. Keep the secrets, keep it simple, keep it light. That’s my advice.”
“Good advice actually. I sux.”
“You don’t,” he consoles, then reconsiders. “Well, a little, sometimes.”
“LMAO buddy.” I'm not laughing my ass off.
“What’s he got to do with it?”
“Just kidding, not JFK. You’re so New England. But Just Fuxin' Kidding’s not bad. I’ll use that.” Wolf takes his hand off the steering wheel and puts it on my thigh, squeezes, and laughs wickedly. “Seriously, Ellipsis, go back to that magix trick you do, your posi-plus now-pow thing. Make people feel good, my love. When you focus, it works wonders. Just remember to coo.”
“That’s not what you do,” I object.
“No. Bonus! Because dude. Different rules."