Posts Tagged ‘Paranoid Inc.’

Vic Neverman

Vic Neverman

You, dear reader, might inquire why a Freelance Adventurer, such as I, might have some inside information on something as mundane as the corporate world. You might even recall my previous diatribes on Paranoid, Inc and wonder why I would ever return to such an environment in pursuit of petty income when I have spent much of the last year as a survivalist preparing for the 2012 Maya Apocalypse and later as a post-Maya Apocalypse scientist in search of El Dorado along the banks of the Amazon. Why indeed? Because malaria adventure has a tendency to drive a dude broke. And so I crawled upon the altar of traditional commerce, begging to be let back within the traps of mainstream Americana where hideous things lurk like conference calls to prep for conference calls or bathroom stall small talk or company Fantasy Football leagues. Fortunately, for your narrator, I am rather employable thanks to an uncanny sense of direction and a borderline-creepy intuition for deductive reasoning guessing – these skills easily qualify me for employment as a pizza delivery man or a financial market software integration analyst hack. My new job doesn’t make quite as much money as the alternative, but at least I don’t go home smelling of pepperoni.

The contemporary corporate workplace is an inspiration for satire and treatises on human nature. It is a life-sized petri dish where ergonomics, social dynamics and out-of-office responses blend together in a blue-ribbon meatloaf recipe leftover from the state fair. Regardless of the sophistication of the organization’s spreadsheets, the corporate workplace is feudalism with pant suits masquerading as a meritocracy like a hyena stuck in the rib-cage of a dead manatee. It is an ideal stage for drama. With drama, there must be conflict and workplace conflict requires an agent of antagonism – a vile character of traits evil or strange or excessively hairy. Rare is there an antagonist equipped with all three advantages over his fellow coworker. This… is the story of one such man.

In this story there is a goat. A self-described Greatest-Of-All-Time. His suspenders wouldn’t argue and I wasn’t in a place to argue either – his meteoric rise in the corporate world was the inverse of my professional career’s cannonball plunge. I once managed Hannibal’s elephants and at the time of this story had found myself wallowing in the pig-shit of business managerial double-speak like Mad Max pre-Thunder Dome.

NOTE to the aspired: being known for your beard and your popularity on the Homeland Security Watchlist is not good for your career.

Ah yes, before we were so rudely interrupted, I was speaking of this Goat. On one occasion, I was saddled-up to the corporate bathroom piss-pony while the urinal immediately to my right was occupied by the illustrious Goat. He glanced over in my direction and sneered at the familiar sight of me. “You’re worthless” he said plainly. I haphazardly turned away from my mid-stream business at-hand to glare at my opponent, mono y mono, but before I could opine on the value of his golden buckled suspenders or his “GOAT” cuff links, this sixth bastard son of a sixth bastard son flushed the toilet and left the room without ever feigning to look in the direction of the bathroom faucets.

Urinary digressions were not my chief source of socializing on the 5th Floor of Paranoid, Inc., but close to it… at least with the manfolk. My immediate superior is a nihilist in that he doesn’t believe in the necessity of my existence (which is “nihilism” from my POV). There is an Amish bloke out of Philly whose beard nearly rivals my own, but his undying allegiance to Wawa gas stations make him eerily suspicious. Across the faux walls into the next cubicle hallway is Old School, where your grandfather’s software programmers trade spittle in tirades on liberal youth and the glory days of the Nixon administration, at least when they are not making dire phone calls to secure doctor appointments. Their prattle is accompanied by the wafting scent of microwaved sturgeon emanating from the break-room where the ceaseless droll of the printer can be heard along with the percussion of the falling fat snacks of the vending machine and the imbecilic babble of “the most interesting man of the 5th Floor” who is out-chattering the local charter captain of ToastMasters.

“You’re terrible.” The Goat reminds me whenever he passes by my cubicle. “Pathetic.”

“Which leaves you where?” I called after him, though his wake had already left the corporate carpet in clumps.

Why such animosity from the Goat? Was it some sort of class warfare between the privileged bishop and the anonymous pawn? No. Quite simply, I joined his Fantasy Football League for the sole purpose of besting him. Best him I did. WE WERE GLADIATORS ON THAT DAY. In our matchup, where my list of players was compared to his list of players, my list possessed superior statistics. I lost to everyone else in the league, but I did beat the Goat. #life-affirmed

The one time I did owe money to the Goat, I met him in the break-room where he nervously chewed on his thumb while amidst thought (probably deciding whether or not to annex Poland). I fished out my wallet then paused before handing over the cash, “I can wait for you to finish with your thumb.” He flashed his teeth in a snarl before snatching the money and walking away, thumb still stuck in his maw.

a dramatization of office place synergy

a dramatization of office place synergy

Lo! Here I ramble, having mentioned naught of the womenfolk. First and foremost, there is my muse, my savior, my sisterly courage – my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee. Without her, I would be lost adrift and without direction in a sea of senseless toil and subhuman social niceties. My Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee maternally advises me on my facial grooming, romantic endeavors and wardrobe miscalculations while granting me respite to curl into a fetal position within her cube which does makes it awkward when her mixed-martial arts husband from 3 rows down stops by and furrows an eyebrow at the hairy paranoid asleep in his wife’s filing cabinet.

While my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee sits over a faux-wall to my left, there is another woman who sits across the aisle at my back – the Cruise Director. CD is a lady of bubbly spirit and good intention. CD is our heroine. The Cruise Director, aged enough to be a young aunt to Vic Neverman or an older sister, is a woman quite used to having men pander to her. Or so we suppose. She is a write-in for Miss Congeniality, a popular favorite along the halls of Paranoid, Inc. Even the Goat remembers her name on occasion. The Cruise Director is used to man after man (so and so forth) bending themselves in hyper-yoga positions to better her state of being. CD is not, however, familiar with disaffected hermits such as I. The Neverman across her way was peculiar and distant: a queer creature washed ashore. CD made efforts to appease my grisly, distrusting nature. She even sought out the advice of my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee who psychically knew such efforts would only end disastrously. Sure enough, the harder the Cruise Director tugged at the leviathan on her beach, the more it crept back to the deep.

You, dear reader, may have realized by now the aforementioned evil, strange and hairy antagonist of this story is yours truly – Vic Neverman. I am now nicknamed “Blackbeard” around the office, partly for my densely dark facial growth and other-partly because I have the social graces of Edward Teach (which is a stretch as Teach was quite the gentleman pirate). How did my sulking, wall-flowery persona devolve into the most despised man on the 5th Floor? Well, it began with my birthday.

As you might imagine, a true paranoid prefers the secrecy of shadows to the light of deceiving day. On the birthday in question, I arrived to work to find my cubicle decorated in mass-produced leaflets of “Happy Birthday Vic” messages. Not only was the interior of my cube decorated, but the exterior as well. The entire cube farm was rife with tumbleweed fliers of my apparent day of birthing. This was not acceptable. For those of you unawares of the socio-phobe, of the irrational panicking terror that comes when privacy has been ever-so-slightly violated, you may find my actions nonsensical. You might find my actions rude. You might find my actions anti-social. I wouldn’t disagree. That being said, I do not regret for one second my instinct to tear down the fliers of congratulatory birthing. I tore them all down. Immediately. I tore them down hard. I ripped the fliers from their taped perches and crumpled them into wads of wasted wood. I accumulated the celebratory messages, the kind-hearted acknowledgments, I crumpled their lively dreams and I disposed of them in the nearest garbage bin. I didn’t even show enough respect to recycle the public notices.

It was a Public Relations campaign put on by the Cruise Director and it was annihilated by the very person it was promoting. I did not know who my benefactor was at the time nor how they had gathered the intel on my date of birth, but I was not going to stand for the proliferation of my personal information. Aroused by the commotion, the Man of Snails (who figuratively travels upon a legion of snails who guide his sneakers) came around the corner from Grumpy Old Man Row to inquire on the sudden bout of noisiness. When he saw yours truly tear down the “Happy Birthday Vic” signs, he aptly jested, “someone cancel the cake” and skulked off to his den of grump… (to this moment, he is still skulking in that direction, but then, who am I to critique an old grump?)

Of course, the Cruise Director bore witness to the destruction of her attempt at appeasement. If there is a victim, the social consciousness will tell you it is not the man who distressed over his private information made public. NAY! The victim was the do-gooder who tried to make one social outcast’s birthday a little bit more special. She, who intruded on his business place to put up her declarations – she was the innocent. She, who applied her cookie cutter mold of what she expected a man to be – she was the innocent. She, who took personal details and broadcast them to the (near) world – she was the victim. Aye, this is so. WHY is this so? Because she was acting on social customs. She was the normal one. Fuck him, who doesn’t want to be normal.

Aye, I am the asshole. The Cruise Director now hates me with a seething fury. Counseled by my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee, I eventually apologized to the do-gooder for my reckless behavior in tearing down the signs of good cheer. “Yeah, whatever, you don’t like growing old. No worries.” The Cruise Director waved me off. No, I chuckled in that awkward way one chuckles when trying to apologize when they feel fully within their rights to be an asshole. No, I like my birthday. I am just private man, I don’t like my private details being shared.

So… yeah, I am the asshole. It was always fairly well known before, but now it is confirmed. The social gossip around the water cooler, the bathroom stall small talk, the inter-cubicle whispers are all about how Vic Neverman is a psychopath who maniacally tore down his own happy birthday signs.

photo (3)A day removed from the workplace scandal, I withdrew the birthday card purchased by my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee. It is an lovely card featuring a squirrel named Scrappy who is juggling his nuts as he becomes a victim of vehicular manslaughter, as nut-juggling squirrels are prone to be. The card is signed by many figures, from the Amish Philly dude to the Cruise Director, who wrote a phrase in Latin:

Esse Quam Videri, which can be translated into

To be rather than to seem

A judgment on my very nature? Indeed! Yet, what is it she wishes me to be that I had formerly only seemed to be? Normal? Nice? Traditional? If I seem to be calm and yet am a paranoid conspiracy theorist, would she rather me both seem & be stark raving mad and spraying insecticide in her very direction every time she speaks?

Sigh.

For the Cruise Director, acting normal is not enough. I must be normal to the core. What’s a poor socio-phobic dude to do?

It was the dawn of a new decade (a new world, actually, as the frazzled collective psyche of the country would never recover from the events of 9/11) where I, Vic Neverman, had returned to my native land barefoot and sunburnt, harried and scabbed, weathered and wizened… and, of course, as broke as a liver on nickel beer night. I needed a job.

Employment was found at a compliance and security firm ruled by its tyrant founder – a rabid, vapid, vile figure you, dear reader, shall come to know as Phaust. At Phaustian Enterprises, the organizational culture was a brew of fear and intimidation. There were strict policies: a suit must be worn everywhere, at all times; no facial hair allowed unless you can prove you’ve been bearded since 1984; and absolutely no smoking on company grounds or anywhere on earth or any orbital trajectory off the coast of earth, on any occasion. These are not exaggerations. And most certainly…

“We have a zero tolerance no-fraternization policy!” the alarmed Human Resources representative expressed with her large doe eyes which were startled at my offhand suggestion of a potential caffeinated rendezvous later on at a break room. She explained the policy in more detail: co-workers were not permitted to interact outside of corporate events more than once a quarter. This rule applied to every fellow employee, regardless of gender or sexual persuasion of parties involved.

“Tight-knit group here, huh?” I, Vic, quipped and did so fruitlessly.

For those of the Neververse familiar with the phobic rants of I, Vic Neverman, you might think such an environment inhospitable for the budding paranoid, as was yours truly, but this would be a false assumption. You see, dear reader, the NeverMind is ideally suited to thrive in a repressed environment. The hyper-sensitive instinct passed down from our proto-paranoid ancestors was an intuitive fear for the figurative sabertooth over-shoulder and this fear may lie dormant in many of our contemporary primates whose heads remain naively buried in the sands of reality television, but this instinct is a dominant trait in us, the conspiracy dwellers whose cynical minds are fully engaged and completely enraged. In fact, we are not whole when we are not threatened. The ideal utopia many of mankind strives for would be uninhabitable for the NeverMind. Certainly, a corrupt purgatory would be a better suited afterlife for Vic than the harp music and cumulus congestus of heaven.

And so existed this Orwellian police state culture within Phaustian Enterprises which favored two distinct subgroups of employees: the ruffian bullies and the sultry vixens those bullies tended to hire. As for the droles – those of us who were lost somewhere in between doing the vast majority of the heavy lifting – this environment created a strange sensory cocktail of equal parts fear and lust/envy. There may have been incentives for obedience, but I would hardly classify them as worthy of the spiritual/physiological opportunity cost. Unless you were willing to barter your kidney for some gold-star recognition, it was best to remain out of the spotlight, avoiding the awareness of the overlords. Thus was my motivation to lurk in the shadows, taking stairs instead of crowded elevators, doing everything I could to work discretely enough to collect the next paycheck. Life, as it were, at Paranoid, Inc.

The local newspaper published stories of the worst places in the area to work and mentioned Phaustian Enterprises for the exceptionally high turnover rate, something the paper attributed to the short-fused, egomaniacal, eccentric, founder. One of Phaust’s key thugs was Jahosefax, an oversized homunculus whose rotund form matched his ravenous personality. (Side Note: the monstrous root-like homunculus is born of the semen ejaculated by the hanged man onto the earth, and this, I believe, is the ‘root’ of Jahosefax’s existence as no human mother could birth such a beast) The alpha dog Jahosefax was not just a decrepit individual with several pending sexual harassment lawsuits, he was the idolized golden child of the Phaustian powers-that-be for his bullish approach to reach their goals at any cost.

When I, Vic Neverman, was interviewed by this land-born kraken, Jahosefax, he grilled me on the gap of time since my previous employment. “Why weren’t you employed?” he growled, salivating at the defenseless flesh within his reach. I explained to him it was personal. “What kind of personal reasons?” Familial personal reasons. “What kind of family reasons”, this elephantine blight on humanity further queried. I explained, politely – as politeness is in my nature – my father died and I had to tend to family business. I did not go into detail how my personal denial led me to believe Old Man Neverman had faked his death and rushed off to Oceania, prompting my departure from North America to Australia in search of him, only to stumble into UFO hunting and interactions with bush camp drug runners. Fortunately, or not, my simplified reasoning was enough to appease the beast.

Once employed within Phaustian Enterprises, I quickly learned there were few I could trust as I daily witnessed snitching and back-stabbing amongst what on the surface seemed likable workmates. Such was the organizational culture where this behavior was encouraged as a means of self-perseverance. For most of my time at Paranoid, Inc, I was under the supervision of one of Jahosefax’s stooges dis-affectionately called “Chubby Hitler”, or so was he known far behind his back (Note of Importance: I, Vic Neverman, repeat his moniker here to set the stage for the universal distaste of his character, yet I never used this name as I believe the list for ‘Hitler’ equivalents should be reserved for the utmost evil and, to be honest, this former boss of mine was a harmless dweeb). The few friends I made within Phaust Tower either quit or were fired due to the actions of Chubby Dweeb. I had the infamous role as being the right-hand man to Chubs, but only because no one else lasted as long as I did under his reign.

Weekly, there would be departmental meetings around a large oak table where the dozens of peons would cower behind their supervisors who would report project statuses to the ultimate leader, Jahosefax. At the end of the meeting, if the fat man’s appetite was unsatisfied, he would single out anyone as a sacrifice towards his appeasement – which is why so many chose to hide behind the plastic foliage in the room. One day, Jahosefax called on me…

“Neverman!” He bellowed like a tugboat pulling into San Francisco Bay. “What’s new with you?”

I held up my wrist and informed him I purchased a new watchband during my recent lunch break. “So what?!?” Jahosefax groaned, his voice trembling the sturdy oak between us. Snickers slipped out around me as my blood-thirsty peers hungered for my doom. I calmly informed Jashosefax the watchband’s significance began with the well-placed compass within it’s rubber. “Compass!” He sneered, vehemently. “What’s that?” Well, I told him, a compass points towards magnetic north. “What do you need that for!?” Jahosefax inquired, his ferocious chins vibrating a percussion beat into the already humid room. I, Vic that I am, informed him a compass assists with telling direction and that my ability to celestially navigate was greatly hindered by our over-bearing sun. Apparently, this was more information than the beast could process as he quickly moved on to the next victim.

It should be noted here, the above experience is nearly verbatim.

Amidst the doom and gloom of this toxic environment, there was to be had some pleasant scenery. In the 1980’s, the company was well known for the ‘Phaust Girls’ who would accompany the company jet, picking up clients and delighting them on their cross-country travels. Times have changed, but the emphasis on aesthetic pageantry remained. The front desk hostesses were of the finest specimen and those that worked the phones would respond to any request with “my pleasure” ever-so-suggestively as they redirected calls.

And yet – HR Rule #1, no fraternization! Phaust bore us droles brilliant fruit, yet we were not to touch. As the administrative assistants came and went with increasing attractiveness (typically leaving soon after filing a harassment lawsuit against the homunculus, Jahosefax), my courage for defiance steadily increased. By my third and final year in my stint with Phaust, I had developed a network of confidants, securing myself against the various corporate snakes in the grass. I had even moved out from under the Chubby Dweeb and into a different department. Amongst my trusted colleagues, we developed our ‘secret language of the birds’, which was a simple system of codewords and names for various individuals. For example, in my last days under the Jahosefax regime (before he took over a different department), “Pandora” was our name for the unobtainable (don’t touch that box!) beauty that was his administrative assistant (before she filed suit against Jahosefax). With the reassignment of Jahosefax came a new department director and his own administrative assistant, whose beauty even outshone her predecessor. I, Vic Neverman, first encountered this exotic creature in the hallway. She stared straight-ahead with those godlessly dark eyes as her dirtied-blonde hair was pulled impossibly back, yet… upon her face, one worthy of Michelangelo’s inspiration, was born a smirk, a suggestion of her awareness of I, your faithful protagonist. My heart was immediately lost in a cloud of ignorance as the world I had once thought was simply ceased to exist now that this… she… was present within it.

Goddamn if this entire story weren’t just the entrance and exodus of her, the Cheetah. But so it is and so it shall later be fully told.

Following the aftermath of the Cheetah dialogues (which shall be spelled out in good time), I, Vic Neverman, would return from a vacation of infiltrating Castro’s regime in Cuba (goodwill American spying on the commie bastards, all strictly pro bono) with a full-beard to Phaust Tower (beard? blasphemy!) and explained to Jahosefax’s replacement director’s deputy-director that I, Vic Neverman, was never again to be employed by Phaust.

I was immediately escorted off the premises.

The same year Phaust sold everything to a bigger corporate entity, but one – it must be mentioned – that had a reasonable HR policy. Within the year, the tyrannical bastard would die. Phaustian Enterprises was no more.