|Cartoon by Ben Yomen|
It's his favorite part of the day. No phones ring in the cube farm after 5, and he can work uninterrupted by colleagues who can't conceive that the urgency of their word processing impairment isn't several orders of magnitude greater than whatever it is he might be working on. Working for the public means wearing another new hat just about every week as people and jobs disappear from the state service; one of his current collection has "I am your Help Desk" written on it. He does what he can, but some days it eats into his schedule so badly the only way to get everything done is to stay late, off the clock. Being frugal with the public's dime.
He has recently come to the conclusion that, as an employer, until they turn off Fox and start paying attention, the public will suck.
When the microwave beeps, he takes the mug back to his cube and sets it on the desk, trying to ease back into "terminal" mode as he sits down. Taking a ginger sip of the scalding coffee, he realizes as the document rolls back up that there's no more work in him tonight. His eyes are sandy, his mouth tastes like the inside of a running shoe, and there is a bone-deep fatigue that comes only from pouring your awareness into a computer for hours on end.
Out of gas, he thinks. Which reminds him of the drive home, which reminds him of the drive in this morning. Which unfortunately reminds him of a clip of Rush Limbaugh demanding that House speaker John Boehner (R-*hic) put Barack Obama "in his place" for having the effrontery to ask to hold a joint session of Congress so he could present a jobs package at the same time NBC is presenting the Republican candidates debate, another miraculous battle of wits between weaponless combatants. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry that the whole thing appeared as though Limbaugh demanded and the Boner delivered. Breathtakingly full of shit.
He wonders how much money would it take to buy one state back from these thieving ALEC droids? How much for the whole country? More than we've got, maybe. He starts shutting down to leave.
As he waits for the screen to die, his tired mind starts running a dreary, familiar treadmill: how did they convince so many people that government and public workers are the enemy? He's read letters to the editor and comments online bordering on and sometimes crossing the line into threats of physical violence. The idea that private sector employees are somehow going to be better off because some punk-ass governor busts public employee unions is a lie, but it's a very successful lie.
We are all being taken for a ride, he thinks, and they have us at each others' throats while they steal everything that isn't nailed down.
It's simple, he thinks, grimacing with a final sip of acrid coffee: private sector workers are being screwed by the corporations and companies that employ them, not by me. If a private sector employer takes away their contribution to health insurance and 401k's, cuts wages, or better yet just sends jobs overseas and gets a tax break for doing it, the government is not doing its job.
"And that would be," he says aloud to the empty computer screen, "because the government is no longer here; it has moved on."
There is no answer, just silence at the end of a very long day. Or the beginning of a very dark night.