It has not been a good day.
It has in fact been an extremely unproductive day, namely because there has been nothing to produce.
Work has crawled to a standstill. Today’s Pointless Meeting was prefaced by The Smile cheerfully saying, “Oops, I forgot to bring copies of the schedule. There’s nothing new on it, though!” which was followed by a heckle of “Uh-oh!” by The Man from UNCLE.
Normally, you’d find jokes about the company you work for quite possibly going under a bit disturbing. As luck would have it, you’d already decided that this day — with its news cycle dominated by $700 billion Wall Street bailouts, university massacres prefaced by videos uploaded to YouTube, workers in India killing the CEO who fired them, and the big UN coming-out party for Sarah Fucking Palin — can go screw itself. You find yourself just not caring as much as you probably should.
The Pointless Meeting thankfully concludes close to quitting time, which for you is 6:00 on the dot. Let the other robots hang around the next couple hours feigning work and self-importance — you just want to get the hell out.
The Tokyo streets are refreshingly cool, but you find yourself on edge. Out here, surrounded by the ebb of the crowds, you find the culmination of the nagging feeling you’ve had all day.
There’s something wrong.
Something is in the air, palpable and oppressive.
As if in validation of that feeling, you get to your station only to find an angry-looking crowd, the schedule completely disrupted. There’s been another jinshin jiko, a politely euphemistic way of saying that someone has decided to throw himself in front of the train rather than board it and go through another day of the monotony that has become his life.
You can’t take any more. Turning to walk toward an alternate train line at a somewhat distant station, you pull out your cell phone, begin dialing. If anyone can help you shake this sense of dread, it’s your friend Solace, whom you’ve come to rely on when things start becoming too chaotic.
“Hey,” she answers, in a tone that says she’s glad to hear from you.
“Hey,” you reply. “So, I don’t really have anything to say. I just needed to hear a friendly voice.”
She laughs, the sound of it pure, unaffected.
“How’s your day been?”
“Not so good,” you say. “At first I thought it was just me, but it feels like there’s…”
“Negativity in the air?” she asks, showing once again just how eerily alike the two of you think.
“‘A bad wind blowing,’ I was about so say. I’m sitting at work, I’ve got nothing to do, no new jobs coming in…” The words start to come in a rush. “There’s helicopters circling the sky, and just a couple hours ago, I talk about people committing suicide by throwing themselves in front of the train only to get to the station right now and find that’s exactly what’s happened.”
” Really? That–”
Suddenly, Solace’s phone starts beeping, an indicator that the battery is low. A second later, the connection drops.
Wonderful. That was nice while it lasted.
It takes you 20 minutes to reach the alternate station. You head past the turnstile, grateful you’re taking the outbound line because, astonishingly, the inbound line is running late because of yet another suicide.
Train ride. Changeover.
Another train ride, the cabin packed to capacity because of delays due to mechanical error. At least it wasn’t a suicide.
Home and silence and another goddamn computer screen.
Everything is sandpaper — the surface of your skin, the back of your throat. You’re staring at the computer and it’s exactly like the one you’ve spent your entire worthless day in front of, pretending to be busy because there’s no work to be done, and for a moment you want to scream at the mundanity and unrelenting sameness of it all.
The kind of sameness that has people launching themselves in front of trains.
God damn it.