Oh, Lotto God, Deliver Us From Misery
By Bob Slaymaker
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Working nine to five is a drag. You get up at seven, wash, iron a shirt, stuff something down -- an apple, a banana, anything -- then rush to the train to try and get a seat. You get there late and have to stand all the way to the city. At the office, you pass the Hey-It's-Only-A-Jobbers talking at their desks. They're bright and cheery, but you walk on to the department in the far corner, where you work with the This-Office-Is-My-Lifers, who are already complaining.
"My neck is so stiff," says one, opening the top drawer of a file cabinet. "Musta been a goddamn draft in my apartment last night."
"This office is too freakin' cold," says another, typing.
"The weather outside is lousy," still another says.
"If I was gonna be a widow, why not a rich one so I wouldn't have to work here."
"Larry, that rice cake you gave me yesterday nearly broke my teeth."
"I hate that jerk in stat -- the one who wears the paisley ties. Every time I see him, I wanna puke."
And on and on.
You sit down at your desk, discover your boss has already left a job for you -- a hundred-page report, half an inch thick. The yellow post-it on tops says, I want this typed by lunchtime.
The person collecting Lotto money comes around. Up to now you haven't kicked in -- you think Lotto is like happy hour and religion, opium to soothe the poor workers' misery, to keep them numb and dreaming while keeping them in line. Also, it would cut into money for writing materials you can't steal from the supply room. For each night, after work, you go straight home and grind out the next few pages of The Screenplay. You are not a secretary, you are a screenwriter temporarily doing secretarial work, until The Big One sells and you retire with your computer to the country.
As you sit there considering a Lotto share, a blue, toxic-smelling haze descends on you from the ceiling vent. You and the Lotto person start to sneeze, your eyes begin to water. The blue haze is everywhere and the entire floor is in an uproar. The Chief Honcho upstairs is called. Angry to be disturbed from his meeting, he comes down. He phones the maintenance men in the lobby, informs you and the others there is construction going on in the building. They're using PAN -- not acetylene -- torches to cut up two old elevator shafts. Acetylene fumes, he assures you -- looking at his watch -- are in no way harmful to breathe.
Two of the Hey-It's-Only-A-Jobbers open their mouths to protest, but the Chief Honcho is gone. Everyone goes back to their desks, coughing, tying handkerchiefs bandit-style around their mouths and noses. In an effort to protect your eyes, you take the sunglasses from your bag and put them on. You think about calling the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, but remember that's who you work for. The Lotto person passes your desk and you grab him. You fish two crumpled dollar bills from your pocket, buy two shares in the pool.
It's beginning. You're becoming a full-fledged office worker.
Happy hour starts at five. See you there.
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