Author : Christina Richard
It happened every Tuesday; we were lined up, yawning and drinking coffee as the wireless network light blinked from beneath our hairlines as we waited for our updates. What HR said when they installed the chip was that human networking technology was minimally invasive, and a huge career enhancer. Which employer, in this ravaged economy, wants to pay for staff development when employees could just upload new information from the business’s network? Information sharing, they said, was the new American way. They said the connection was disabled as soon as working hours were over. That as soon as five o’ clock came, your mind was your own again. But as I stood in line that morning, waiting for the training on new security update to be uploaded, I stared towards the back corner of the sea of cubes, where Billy Johnson used to be.
I looked around to make sure no one was watching me. Lucky that all the twentysomethings I worked with never left their cubes without music feeds plugged into the micro USB inside their ear canal. Me, I thought the little plug was painful; if it had not been a mandatory update, I never would have gotten the hardware installed. I held off on letting HR do it until the ultimatum came; install the update, or good luck finding another legal job out there. I came to work one day and saw nothing but an error screen in front of my eyes. I dropped my coffee and stained my blouse because all I could see around the corners of the angry red message box were the hallways leading to the update chamber.
Now here I was, in line again. The standards for network security were being raised since a hacker in Omaha had programmed a building of Wal-Mart employees to cannibalize each other, right there on the sales floor in the middle of the day. Just imagine the single mothers and old ladies without retirement funds tearing into each other, the smiley face buttons still pinned to their blue vests. It was declared a national tragedy. The new security updates were meant to prevent my coworkers and I from going zombie on each other. The line moved, and I was just a few spaces away from sitting in the leather recliner with the master computer feeding information into my brain.
I wondered what happened to people who refused the updates and quit. I’d never heard of it happening, but there were rumors about employees who got transferred. Billy was transferred, or at least, that was what the HR representative in the sinfully expensive suit told us. They said he was moving on to another government position that was “better suited to his abilities” after he hacked his supervisor’s brain and scored a three day weekend for his department.
I saw Billy’s wife in the supermarket a few days later. She was one of those careful people who examined the skin of each apple before letting it swish into the thin plastic bag. When I asked her how Billy liked his new job, her eyes went dull, like the life was being taken out of them, and the apple she was holding fell to the ground and rolled underneath a bin. Then her head snapped back up, and she smiled vacantly. “He’s doing fine. His new position is really a better fit for him,” she said. When she turned, I saw the wireless network light having a seizure beneath the brownish gray of her pixie cut.
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