Hey, You, Comrade!

July 30, 2004
Our spirits are crushed, one chubby, middle-aged coupon clipper at a time. On my first day at Albertsons, the biggest blow to my self-esteem wasn't the "Welcome to Team Albertsons!" indoctrination video I had to watch. It wasn't the apron I had to wear, or my manager's incessant reminders that I'd be earning minimum wage. I figured on all of that. It was my encounter with you that caught me off-guard. I was cleaning Aisle 4 when you approached me, squinted at my name badge and screeched, "Where's the prune juice?" I was supposed to follow the procedure outlined in our employee training video and lead you to the juice, grinning like a lizard. There was just one problem: we were already in the juice aisle—hence the sign above our heads reading "Aisle 4: Juice"—and you were standing right next to the prune juice. All I could do was sigh, walk a few steps to my right, slide a bottle off the shelf and silently hand it to you. Thanks for shopping Albertsons—and for reaffirming the futility of my job.

Jan. 25, 2001
I don't know if there's an afterlife, but if there is, and if you can still pick up newspapers, please read this. None of us knew you were suffering. Maybe we were deaf and blind to obvious signs, but you must admit you did a great job hiding your pain. And when the end came, when you left your body where others would find it hanging like a big question mark, well, "surprise" can't even begin to describe how we felt. And we were just co-workers. Your kids? They're like zombies. Your spouse? I haven't even seen your spouse in weeks. You took a little bit of all of us with you when you went down. Sure, you could have brought a gun to the office and cleaned us all out; instead, you took just a part of each of us—not because we loved you so much, but because it turns out we hardly knew you. How many other "friends" and "loved ones" are really just strangers to us? How many of them—apparently happy—are contemplating the same sort of death? How many of them are actually planning it right now as they sit near me? If there's an afterlife, and if you can still hear us, then hear this: Where's the suffering? And what should we do about it?

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