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T R A G E D Y


BY C.C. BAXTER

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1.0. I work for the American branch of a Japanese conglomerate. I am referred to as 'C.C.-san,' as san is an honorific the Japanese use at work. I rarely use the honorific not because I do not honor my co-workers but because I am too shy to say it '[]-san'. I have been told that some people find my salutations overly familiar.

2.0. All employees have a Hanko. As the company manual states: 'All regular full time employees will receive a personalized Hanko. It will have the first initial of the first name and the last name and an adjustable date stamp. It is ordered by Human Resources and as it comes from Japan, it may take up to three months before an employee will receive it. Supervisors will use a GREEN stamp pad, managers a RED stamp pad. All other employees will use a BLACK stamp pad; no other colors may be used."

2.1. Every piece of paper generated by every person in the company must be marked with their Hanko. I have a black stamp pad. Black stamps cannot authorize any expenditure or external company communication; it serves merely as a mark of intra-company communication.

2.2. Once I had to send a letter FedEx and after filling out the appropriate requisition form I went to my supervisor for approval. He said, "Oh, you need a red Hanko to send FedEx." He only had a green Hanko. A green Hanko serves to identify the author of a document or to approve the work of a black Hanko. Our manager was not in that day and although her Hanko was on her desk neither my supervisor nor I were sure what would happen if we were to use her Hanko ourselves.

3.0. I first came here on a temporary assignment. The woman whom I have replaced was then on medical leave. All of her personal effects were still present: pictures of her children set under plastic desk protectors; bottles of Avon hand lotion; pencils and pens in every color of sorbet; a small polished black stone inscribed with the phrase "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus Christ." The screen saver on the computer used to say, "What would Jesus do?" I left all of this just as it was.

3.1. I snooped a bit and found a diary she kept detailing her grievances against the company in general and her supervisor in particular.

3.2. The woman died. I took all of her personal belongings except the diary and put them in boxes that once held reams of copy paper. One day I came to work and the boxes were gone. I left her work product for three more months. No one ever mentioned it. I recently threw away every piece of paper stamped with her Hanko.

4.0. Each night I remove all of the detritus of the workday, sweeping files into drawers, pens and pencils into trays in drawers and paper coffee cups into the garbage- everything that might indicate the cubicle is occupied by someone. Everything except the diary in which I make an entry in before leaving work detailing the specific and general slights I suffer in the course of the day. I leave the diary on the desk and except for the diary no one would ever know that I, or anyone, works there. This way anyone, or I, can walk in at any time and start doing whatever it is I do all day.


OTHER McSWEENEY'S STORIES
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How Do I War Thee? Let Me Count the Ways by Lavage Scarliotti

 



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