Thursday, May 1, 2014

We Already Won (Short Story)

"Near the Village, the quiet village, the lion sleeps tonight"
 From "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)" Performed by the Tokens

(part one)
The people worked harder and longer because there was a conflict to solve and everyone needed to do his or her part for the conflict’s resolution. A conflict isn't necessarily a war; it’s a conflict. War was bad for business, so the stuff going down wasn't called a war. Governments, their associated generals, armies and economic analysts knew that, so they marketed wars as conflicts; which in turn was good for business. Besides that, real war held too much of a commitment and connection to winning. There is always a way out of a conflict. Upon entering hostilities, declaring something a conflict kept the definitions of solving that conflict loose to interpretation. Conflicts had easily accessible back doors-- an instant escape if military involvement came under heavy public criticism or if, by chance, the conflict’s original estimation of solution wasn't available. Wars are to be won or they are lost. Of course, no one wanted to lose. Losing was bad for morale. Bad morale was bad for business. Conflicts were resolved or not resolved; left open for the use of the Love'em & Leave'em clause. This provided a relatively quick way out if either side can't, or doesn't want to continue. Good regular pep talks helped to keep up the morale of the war-machines gears... oiled them ... kept them (the workers) well lubricated and focused. A conflict was easier to just leave. Something unresolved could, eventually, still be resolved as opposed to lost. Losing led to guilt and that does little to create or maintain the patriotic fervor currently needed to see the Central African Conflict.
The loud lunch tone sounded. It was 10am. It was five hours through another twelve hour day of a six day work week. The lunch break was really just a 20 minute faux-lunch break that passed as a real lunch break. The factory personnel-- many of whom had a 45 to 90 minutes ride home-- decided to forgo an additional 30 minute lunch break, the official lunch length, in turn to leave a half-hour earlier for their trip home.
Quickly, Oscar turned his third and final machine off. Every day it amazed him at either quitting time or faux-lunch time, that when machines got turned off, how lifeless and quiet a factory could be. His regular routine was to go to the centrally located restrooms to wash up before eating his lunch. As he washed his hands at the deep troughs designed to accommodate multiple people washing their hands at the same time, he also thought of how incredibly dirty he got every day. Industrial solvents and lubricated machines made the factory's work stations perpetually dirty. The reality that the factory made components used in remote drones of all types in the Central African Conflict surrounded him all-day long. Flags, banners and stickers spurring the idea of patriotism with catchy slogans and pictures of eagles invaded every line of sight. Every asset of the factory fed directly upon sentiments of the Central African Conflict. The footing of the conflict justified running everything as hard as it could. Machines, employees... Doing it for your country meant you can always do more, better and faster. This workplace attitude gave birth to the MoreFasterBetter (MFB) work mantra promoting itself as justifiable manipulation of the American workforce.
No one said you had to wash your hands before you ate, it was just the sort of thing that you felt you should do. Even though Oscar was washing up for faux-lunch break, he had no plans to actually eat his lunch. He could eat faux-lunch in between dirty machines and their reloading. Factory work made factory workers learn to eat fast; especially when you only had 20 minutes. Eat fast then go have a cigarette, make a phone call. Sometimes it helped to just put your head down on the lunch table to rest. The concept of MFB was a true product of the people, the workers... It took attitudes they already had and focused that mentality into a movement for their country.
Everybody had their own routines during faux-lunch. Oscar was working on a new routine himself; a routine that he had not yet perfected.

Oscar would decline heading to the lunch room to eat. As planned, he decided he would find time to eat between machine loads or maybe even during the afternoon’s 10 minute break.  A third option consisted of a taboo subject to Oscar-- eating in the bathroom stall during a restroom visit. One unspoken rule of factory work was you didn't go take a shit on your own time. You waited until just the right moment, when your machine loadings synchronized, and then you took a shit on the company's time. Also though, counteracting this Anti-Bathroom Eating issue was one of his own personal morals which prohibited not only the combination of eating and having a bowel movement in one act, but also forbidden food of any sort being near public or private facility bathrooms. Although it was hard to not be vocal about this heinous act when he witnessed it-- which happened in this filthy factory bathroom more often than he liked to admit-- he succeeded in looking the other way.
The sound of a rustling snack bag had become a sickening sound to Oscar. That bag sound attributed directly to the act of people eating inside the factory restroom and also would become the defining memory for his entire stint of employment at the factory. It became 'that fucked up place where the workers ate while they pooped'. Even though realistically, only a small percentage of his work associates actually did the act, time and jadedness would amplify the sparse accounts. In the years to come, hearing the crunching of potato chips--no matter where Oscar was-- he was instantly back in that next stall having a bowel movement shaking his head, mouthing insults and dispensing single-finger hand gestures to an audience of none through the stall’s partition.
However, the bathroom stall was also the one place in the factory where you could go and for the most part, no one would bother you. It was another unspoken rule of the If a man’s gotta shit, then a man's gotta shit rule. In his time at the factory, he heard almost every manner of ludicrous bathroom 'stall life' as possible... Eating, sleeping/snoring (aka 'slopping'), mobile phone conversations and the rustling of newspapers being read... One time, wicked stories from the demented shit-house told the tale of a co-worker who reportedly did a first wipe of his shit-ridden ass-crack and then shown the result, unexpectedly, to another workmate in the stall next to him under the stall partition! This turned out to be the same guy (the one wiping his ass) that after affirming who was next to him (again) by recognizing his shoes (again) and proclaimed loudly he was 'choking his chicken'...  Oscar didn't know whether to believe this tale or not. It was a new level of pondering and railing against shit-room etiquette.
Still, the allure of the man’s gotta shit rule allowed Oscar an opportunity he may be able to use to his advantage with only a small bit of contradiction being utilized.

Read part two:

Story by Shawn Abnoxious 
Editing by Shirley Hoover 
Graphics: Fuxter Schittly

Thanks: Julie, Olive, Juice, Fuxter and the best mother-in-law a guy could have, Shirley.