One More Day
Matthew McPhee

The coffee smelled old. It probably was old; the bitter, stale scent wafted out of the chipped mug and hung suspended in the office air like the dust bunnies blown out by countless computer fans. The machines hummed their dull mechanical rhythm and it almost seemed to harmonize with the sound of the stark roomís florescent lights. I could sing along I know the tune so well. I sit in my squeaky chair endlessly, the one with the broken wheel (I put in a work order for a new one when I started here, that was five years ago...nothing yet) and process data. An odd thing to process, isnít it? I know how it sounds. Iím a data processor.

"Oh really? Wow, so you must work for a pretty large company?" Thatís what I hear whenever I tell people what I do for a living. They always seem so impressed. I imagine they picture a large corporate office building, streak-free windows stretching high into the air, touching the clouds with the rest of the city's majestic skyline. Then they would picture me, sitting comfortably in a bright, post-modern office filled with young up-and-coming business enthusiasts just waiting for their inevitable big break. Fantasy. I hate fantasy and thatís all that is.

In reality I enjoy a much humbler place of employment than popularly believed by those I meet. In place of a large corporate building, itís a small converted two story office space in the cityís wonderful and dangerous south end. We get the top floor.

"Weíre on top!" Thatís what the office cheerleaders like to say. Iíve never really found it funny.

Instead of a modern, comfortable office I have a grey, dusty cubicle that I share. Karim and I share the same cramped space, knocking our chairs into each other every time we readjust ourselves. It wouldnít be as bad if we got along, but we donít. The beauty and intricacy of office politics prevents either one of us from openly expressing our complete and utter distaste for one another. Itís probably a good thing because in reality at this point so much frustration has built up in each of us that any release would be on par with Chernobyl. I just canít do that to all the innocent bystanders. Someone might spill their coffee.

I wouldnít describe anyone here as an up-and-comer or enthusiast, more like downtrodden and miserable. These are people who drift from one job to the other, just letting life hammer them into blissful mediocrity. Lazy, unmotivated and generally uninterested in any aspect related to their supposed career; I use career lightly, as that term denotes some possibility of advancement where in reality there is none. There are really only two positions, data operator and supervisor, and as far as I can tell there isnít any added responsibility for supervisors unless you consider leaving fifteen minutes early and showing up half an hour late every day responsibility. Personally, I've always thought they were being jackasses.

"Just keep putting in the hours, keep paying your dues and something will happen." I hear my motherís words as clear as the church bell across the street from my bedroom window and when I was younger I felt her words carried an equal share of clarity, a clear ringing insight. My father would sit in his chair and though he never looked up from the newspaper he would nod in agreement to everything my mother said.

"I hate my job," I would say. "Mom, itís boring, itís tedious and it makes me just a little bit dead inside." She would always respond with the same calm certainty, a kind of ďeverything will be okayĒ attitude.

"Honey, everyone hates their job." That never made me feel better, but then again, was it supposed to?

I held onto the belief that it wasnít true for so long. Certainly someone somewhere enjoys what they do for a living. I have to believe that there exists someone who anxiously turns off his or her alarm clock, leaps out of bed, looks out into the morning air and says: "I just canít wait to go to work today!" Maybe itís just another fantasy. I hate fantasy.

"Ryan, Iím going to need you to resubmit your northbound shipment separators." Iím jostled into coherency by Susanne, the office secretary. Her cheap perfume and forced chipper-ness is unmistakable. I havenít looked up from my desk yet but Iím sure I know what Suzanne is wearing today. A trendy, flower patterned blouse complete with a scarlet purple neck scarf and black pants that are far, far too tight for a woman her size. As far as I can tell, Suzanneís job is to run around looking flustered and tell everyone how busy she is. Beyond that, I donít think Iíve ever seen her do anything that could be deemed productive. Though she does organize a mean birthday party. "Why is that?" I ask with a genuine interest, as despite my loathing of my current position, I detest making mistakes.

"Oh, nothing major..." Her voice was so light hearted and happy it made me a little angry. "It just seems there was an issue with some of the reports you submitted." I bet I could be that happy if I never had to do anything remotely resembling work.

"I'll get right on that, Susanne." I put on my best worker bee voice and Susanne cocks her head to one side as she smiles before walking away.

As much as I complain, Iím really no better than anyone here. I loathe my job, yet after five years I still berate myself when I make a mistake - an odd side effect of being besieged by motivational seminars and the ridiculous banners that hang from the ceiling. Actually, I think itís more than that. Iím still holding onto those words my mother said to me the week before she died: "Just keep putting in the hours, keep paying your dues and something will happen."

I keep waiting, mom. I just never knew it would take so long.

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