Happiness, Inc.A.E. Hodge / Humor / Horror
By A.E. Hodge
Good morning, Mr. Savage! And welcome aboard. We’re pleased to have you here at Happiness, Inc. Do you remember me? I’m Adam Moore, head foreman. You’ll be reporting to me.
As you know, our top seller, the drug that put us on the map, is Tranquilify, a miracle pill that treats all three plagues of the modern world: depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder.
We manufacture Tranquilify and several other pharmaceuticals right here in this factory. Between you and me, all this will be outsourced soon enough. But for now, it’s cutting edge, so we need to stay by the research team. You’ll be a quality analyst here at the factory. Work hard enough, and you might have my job one day. If you speak Chinese! Ha, ha.
Seriously, work hard and you’ll be rewarded. You always reap what you sow.
Did they talk about the dress code? Well, we’d like you to wear a tie. Sorry for the confusion. I guess there are different definitions of business casual. It’s all in the employee handbook. No biggie, just wear one next time. I know you’re not facing clients, but it’s policy. I don’t need the Quality Executive in corporate breathing down my neck.
Come on, I’ll show you around. Here we have the packaging unit, and over there is the matriculation pool, where the pills are synthesized. Don’t worry, you don’t have to know what all this crap does—I still don’t. Ricardo will explain the ones that matter.
Your main duty is the floor check, twice per hour. You’ll walk the factory floor, check the pallets in the shipping room, and fill out this checklist to verify that everyone and everything is working as it should. The factory—the whole company, really, is like one big clock. Every cog has a role to play, and it’s your job to make sure they’re playing it. Got it?
Ah, there’s Ricardo now. Great guy. Been here—oh, I don’t remember. Great worker, though. Never sick, never tardy. Pretty good with English, better than a lot of them. Don’t tell him, but we almost gave him your job. Luckily you took a lower offer. Sorry we couldn’t go higher on salary, by the way. You know how it is out there. At least you have a job, right? Ha, ha.
Hey, Ricardo! Que pasa? I’d like you to meet Bob Savage. He’s my new quality analyst. I was just telling him what a dedicated worker you are. How long you been here, a few years? What—Fifteen? Wow! Has it been that long? See what I mean, Bob? What a great worker!
I’ll let you two get acquainted so you can learn the ropes. If you need anything, I’ll be in my office. Make sure you knock first, okay? All right.
Good morning, Bob! How’s your first week going? Good, good.
I wanted to talk to you about your quality reports. I noticed you’re getting a little descriptive with them. Just so you know, these things don’t really call for a lot of, uh, thinking outside the box. All you have to do is look at the packaging and check off the boxes on the form, okay? All this stuff about the machines—let the engineers worry about that stuff. Got it? Great.
Good morning, Bob. Could I talk to you in my office?
You know we’re happy to have you, and for the most part, you’re working out great. Shipments go out on time and without errors. We’ve had no customer complaints. No safety violations.
That said, I do want to talk to you about some things. First, you’ve been loosening your tie and unbuttoning your shirt some afternoons. I know it gets a little hot in here and you spend a lot of time on your feet, but we do have an image to maintain, don’t we? And the tie is policy.
The other issue is bathroom breaks. Other employees have noticed you take several per day. It’s critically important that you maintain a presence here on the floor. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble or anything. Just try to stay on the floor as much as you can, okay? And when you’re not on the floor, I expect you to be at your desk. Okay? Great. Thanks.
Bob, I think we might have a problem here. Remember what I told you when you started, about how dedication makes a good worker? How do you feel about dedication? Mm-hm. Would you consider yourself dedicated to your work?
Good. I’m glad to hear it.
Thing is, I’m getting some complaints from other employees. You were overheard at the water cooler making certain comments… Please don’t raise your voice, Bob. I understand, who wouldn’t want to be home with their wife and kids? Yes, it was a joke. And I understand it was a private conversation. But you have no expectation of privacy on the job, and here at Happiness Inc., we take morale very seriously. People talk, Bob. You can’t go around making comments about how boring your work is and how you’d rather be traveling the country and playing guitar or doing whatever else. When your resume said you were in a band, I thought it was good you had a hobby. But if there’s something you’d rather be doing, somewhere else you’d rather be…?
Look, I know it’s not the most creative job on Earth. I get that. And you know what? My kid wants to be a rock star, too. Hell, I wanted to be a writer. We all have dreams, but this ain’t the place for dreams. It’s not the place for your hobbies, or goofing off, or distracting other workers with jokes, or sleeping at your desk, or any of the other ways you’ve been wasting company time. Yeah, I know all about it. I have ways of knowing.
You need to shape up. This is a place for work, Bob. Nothing else. Do you understand?
That’s okay. I know you take it seriously. I know you want to be here. Just don’t let it happen again. Great. Thanks.
Bob, can I talk to you? It’s about your attendance. You were several minutes late again this morning. Don’t get defensive. We have witnesses. Yeah, I know, the sick kid excuse. But that’s your problem. If you can’t keep your life from interfering with work, I’ll find someone who can. Understand? I need you here on time, every day. This is the third time we’ve talked about this. I’m gonna have to dock your pay.
Bob, can I talk to you? It’s about your lunch breaks. They seem to be getting longer than the twenty minutes allotted…
Bob, can I talk to you? It’s about these long walks you take during work hours. When you’re not doing a floor check, I expect you to be at your desk…
Bob, can I talk to you?
Thanks for meeting with us. You know Hillary from HR? Well, let’s get this out of the way. I think you know what this meeting’s about. We’re here to issue you a formal warning.
Look, Bob. You do great work for us. We know you’re smart, talented, driven. We know you like to garden. We know you’re an assistant coach on your kid’s soccer team. We know your rock band is taking off. I’ve heard your albums, they’re really something. I mean that. You’ve got a loving wife, two kids, several degrees and accolades—maybe too many. Ha. Ha.
But there seems to be a disconnect between what you’re capable of and what you’re giving us here. It’s not even a matter of performance, per se. You’re doing wonderful work. It’s more a matter of—how should I put this? Administrative things. Your adherence to company policy. Your morale.
Don’t get excited. We’re here to talk, not to punish. In fact, we’d like to see you come back the other way. Become a really dedicated employee, really give us your all. Okay?
Just so you know, there’s employee counseling available through HR if you need someone to talk to. And if it’s just a matter of focusing—have you considered Tranquilify?
You should talk to your doctor to see if Tranquilify is right for you.
Oh, and one more thing. Your quality reports for yesterday mentioned a smell from the matriculation unit? I told you, don’t worry about the machinery. The engineers handle it. Just check the stuff on the form, okay? Can you do that for us?
Thanks, Bob. That’ll be all.
Oh, Christ—Bob! Bob, can you hear me?
No, don’t call a paramedic! Look, he’s coming around. Just back off, all right! Give him some space! Can you hear me, man?
It’s all right, Bob. Everything’ll be all right. Ricardo, help me get him to the eye-cleaning station!
What do you mean, what happened? The matriculation unit backfired, sprayed you with highly concentrated Tranquilify! Bob? Stay with us! Ricardo, get the research team on the line! Find out if there are side effects to heavy exposure. Stay with us, Bob! Stay with us…
So good to see you up and at ‘em. I trust you’re feeling better? Ready to get back to work? Good, good. It sure is good to see you again. You look much better. Calmer. More rested. Would you step into my office a minute? How are the wife and kids?
I’m sure HR let you know all the details. All we need to process your pay increase and hazard bonus is your John Hancock on some paperwork. This is the non-disclosure agreement. This is your attestation that the company was not at fault in the accident. This is your agreement not to sue for damages at any time, now or in the future. Just sign here, here, and here…
Great! That’ll be all.
Let’s get you back to work, shall we?
Good morning, Bob! You’re looking cheerful today. I got your quality reports for yesterday, and they were spot on. Exactly the kind of focused attention to detail we need. And of course, I guess you learned to stay away from the matriculation pool! Ha. Ha. Keep up the good work!
Morning, Bob! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us for your annual review. Hard to believe you’ve been here a year already! Don’t worry, we have only good things to discuss today.
The change since you began here has been like night and day. I have to admit, I was worried about your staying power when you first started. It was almost like you didn’t care. Like you had more important things in your life, like you were just phoning it in for the paycheck.
Now, you’re my star performer. You concentrate on your job with a trance-like focus that puts my other analysts to shame. You pay attention to details so closely a lesser man would weep from eye strain and sheer tedium. And I can’t think of another worker who’s more faithful to administrative minutiae. It’s like you’ve memorized the entire handbook! I guess all it takes is a brush with death to realize the things that really matter in life, eh? Ha, ha.
To thank you for your dedication, we’d like to offer you a promotion, to assistant foreman. It’ll require some nights and weekends, some longer hours here and there, but this is just the beginning of a long and lucrative career. And you want to see those kids of yours through college, don’tcha, Bob? What do you say?
Great! I knew you wouldn’t disappoint me. We’ll get you started immediately.
Morning, Bob! Seems like only yesterday we were sitting here for your first performance review. Hard to believe another year’s gone by, isn’t it? And again, you’ve outdone yourself. Performance metrics are off the charts. We couldn’t ask for a more dedicated worker. No more restlessness. No more long walks. No more long calls to your wife. No more playing guitar in the break room. Oh, your band broke up? Yeah, it’s hard to find time for hobbies. Price of growing up, I guess. That’s a shame, though. I’ll hold on to your first album. I really did like it.
Morning, Bob! It’s that time again. You’ve been with us three years now, and it’s hard to believe what a critical part of the company you’ve become—even in spite of your personal hardships. I know, divorce can be tough. Eh? Not the same person she married? They all say that. I know. I’m heading toward my second ex-wife myself, ha, ha.
Shame about your little girl getting pregnant, too. School systems these days! What the hell are they teaching ‘em?
Anyway, I have good news. As you know, after Mr. Smith’s unfortunate suicide, there’s an opening in the corporate office for a new Q.E.D. Your performance has been noticed, and they’re talking about putting you in as the new Quality Executive Director. It’s okay, Bob. No hard feelings. You deserve it more than me. So lose that poker face for once, and smile! You’re gonna be my boss. See what I told you, way back when?
You always reap what you sow.
Maybe someday when I need a career boost I’ll call in a favor or two? Ha, ha. Good luck to you, Bob. Or should I call you Mr. Savage?
Morning, Mr. Savage! Here’s that coffee you ordered. Thanks again for promoting me out of the factory. I’m really enjoying the work as your personal assistant. I feel like I have so much to learn from you. Er—what am I working on now? Anything you need, sir! Just say the word!
Morning, Mr. Savage. Are you feeling okay? No, no, you look great, it’s just… I remember when you started here, you looked so young. Now you look much more… distinguished. I mean that as a compliment. Er—yes, sir! Coffee, extra black, coming right up.
Morning, Mr. Savage. Whoa! You sure you’re feeling okay? Nothing. It’s just—you have another, uh, weird scaly gray patch. On your face this time. Maybe you should see a doctor—uh, yes. Sorry sir. I know when you take time off the company loses money. No, no, don’t worry—it’s not that noticeable! Of course I won’t mention it at the shareholder’s meeting!
Mr. Savage? Sorry, you startled me. Uh, no. It’s not that noticeable. Not at all. I mean, the other half of your face still looks totally normal! And your hair… uh, that gray straw look really suits you. You look dignified. Like an old scholar. Uh—I was just trying to be—yes, sir. Sorry, sir. Yes, I know you’re only thirty-five. Yes, sir, I’ll shut up.
What did you need? Your hands are too stiff to type? Oh God—it’s spreading there, too.
Sir! I have to beg you to see a doctor! You’re more important than the CEO now. You’ve become the heart and soul of this company. And you’re my mentor and personal idol. I don’t think I could go on without you!
Yes, I know. Going public with your condition would only lend credence to the class action lawsuits. Maybe that would be the end of Happiness. But Bob, for God’s sake! Think about yourself for once! What if it’s some kind of cancer, like they’re saying? I know you don’t talk to them much anymore, but have your kids seen you like this? What do they think? What if—?
Sorry, sir. Yes, sir. I do understand the meaning of dedication.
What do you need me to type?
Mr. Savage, is there anything I can get you? Yes, sir. Sorry, sir, I’m trying! Your skin’s just not absorbing the lotion. If this even is skin anymore. It feels like stone or something. And your hair—my God, it’s so brittle it falls apart, like dried mud. Sorry, sir. I’ll try to compose myself. It’s just, seeing you like this…
What’s that? Yes, I have the latest quality reports. It’s okay, you don’t have to move. I’ll read them to you.
Mr. Savage? Sir?
Is there anybody in there?
Good morning, Mr. Johnson! And welcome aboard. We’re very pleased to have you here at Happiness, Inc. Remember me? I’m Adam Moore, Quality Executive Director. You’ll be reporting to me as my personal assistant.
As you know, Happiness Inc. specializes in the manufacture and distribution of Tranquilify, the formerly top-selling treatment for depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit disorder. Pay no attention to what you might have heard. All those cases in the news were from long term, over-exposure. You know how the media exaggerates things. It’s not like people were turning to stone from the inside out overnight.
But you know that already, I’m sure. You seemed pretty bright in the interviews. Who knows? Work hard enough, and you might have my job one day. Ha, ha. Of course, it might be for a different company. Our stock is plummeting at the moment, and if we don’t find a buyer soon…
That statue over there?
Oh, that’s Bob Savage. My predecessor. Yes, it’s a very unique piece. Stone underneath, cloth business suit on top. Memorialized just as he was in life, here in the office where he worked so tirelessly. Compromising plans. Sacrificing dreams. Trading his hours to scrape out business for our company. He was the very model of everything we stand for here at Happiness, Inc. Focus. Dedication. Happiness.
Sorry, I don’t mean to get choked up. Ha, ha! It’s just, I had the honor of working with Bob personally. I know first-hand. That’s why I kept him—I mean, the statue of him—right here in my office. No one else would’ve wanted it. His legacy was here. Now everyone can remember him and his tremendous contribution to the pharmaceutical industry—no, the human race!
At least till we lose this office space.
Here’s to you, Bob—the best Goddamn worker I ever seen.
Good night, Mr. Savage, Q.E.D.
A.E. Hodge, 09/2014
Now that you’ve clocked out for the day at HAPPINESS, INC… Buckle in for THE ACCIDENT, another creepy tale by A.E. Hodge, only $.99!