Welcome to Hell
I spent exactly six days, seven hours, and forty-three minutes in the registration department of Hell. The Hell. You know, with fire and brimstone and a little red man with a pitchfork and horns? There.
Granted, Hell did not have fire or brimstone or a little red man with a pitchfork or horns, but it couldn’t have been anywhere else, because there is nothing worse than the cold, impersonal cubicle space that is permitted you when working in Hell.
You’re not allowed pictures or other personal items of any kind. Music, even with earbuds? Forget it. You want a small seat pillow so your back doesn’t ache at the end of the day? You’re out of luck, buster. How about a heating blanket so you don’t freeze under the constant blow of the air conditioner, stuck at exactly 59 degrees? Nope.
Talking with neighbors is discouraged. It happens, but usually only when asking for a spare paperclip or a piece of gum.
How I lasted six days, seven hours, and forty-three minutes is beyond me. I’m surprised I wasn’t fired sooner.
“Welcome to Hell. Here is your cubicle. You are to register incoming names,” the cloud of smoke told me. Whether there was a person behind that cloud of smoke was unclear. I thought I could make out the shape of a face, but perhaps the cloud was its face.
I pushed my glasses up the bridge of my nose. “How exactly will I do that?”
A small chute deposited a tube onto my desk. The cloud of smoke pointed at it as it spoke, “Handwritten names will be sent to you. You input them into the computer, then shred the handwritten page. Send the empty tubes through the other chute.”
“When is lunch?”
“What’s my off-time?”
“When do I sleep?”
“No sleep. Welcome to Hell.” The cloud of smoke walked away to what I assumed was its own cubicle.
With a sense of dread filling me, I sat down at my desk. The chair was uncomfortable and I couldn’t adjust its broken levers. My computer was already logged in for me and showed the spreadsheet I was to add to indefinitely. If I tried to click off the page, the computer showed an error message. Apparently, that meant trying to play Solitaire was forbidden as well.
I opened the first tube that sat on my desk with great difficulty, then unraveled the paper inside. The handwriting was nearly illegible. Finally, with significant difficulty, I could decipher the twelve names and I added them into the document, then I deposited the slip of paper into the shredder that sat by my desk. The paper jammed.
“Son of a bitch,” I muttered.
From the other side of the cubicle partition, I heard someone say, “Language!”
“Are you serious?” I whispered back to them.
“Yes. Profanities are reserved for the end of the day.”
“There is no end of the day.”
“Well, then I suppose you ought to watch your mouth!”
“Fuck off,” I whispered back. “My shredder jammed and I will not censor myself just because you don’t like cursing.”
“Curses are perfectly acceptable. Profanity is not.”
“Fine, then may your hair fall out and boils grow on your face.”
The bizarre nature of the conversation led me to stand from my chair and look over the partition. Sure enough, a middle-aged woman was now pulling out chunks of her hair and depositing them into her trash can while boils slowly appeared on her face. She looked unperturbed, smiling as she resumed her work.
I sat back down, slowly, and waited for the next tube of names to be deposited onto my desk. I hadn’t exactly accepted this job, so much as I had been assigned to it, but I still wondered what I had gotten myself into.