8) The Thread – Page 47
The Thread | The Corridor | The Past
Wald is free; he has escaped. Why don’t I feel free? thinks Wald. He looks at the bodies around him; the oppressively low curved ceiling; the frayed thread belt securing him to his seat. Ignoring current circumstances.
Seven days ago, Stephen had handed in his letter of resignation. His boss had tried to talk him out of quitting immediately. Take a week off, think about it some more. I’ll give you a call on Monday and we can talk it over. People get the wrong impression about government contracting jobs — sure, half of it is just putting warm bodies in chairs, but real work has to be done. That burden gets split among the workaholics and the naturally competent. Finding capable replacements is tough.
Throw in a security clearance classification and the task becomes exponentially harder. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg problem: can’t get a classified job without clearance, and can’t get clearance without a classified job. It’s no wonder that the government hiring process is a farcical construction.
I don’t want to think about work anymore. I don’t want to think about airplane seats and numbers going up and down.
Wald had worked side-by-side with a guy named Jim who knew first-hand the ludicrousness of it all. Jim had been on the government side on the contracting business for thirty years. That side is just like the contracting side, except you can’t be fired and you don’t get paid as much. He’d fallen into it after serving in the army; veterans, then as now, got preference in the submission process. Well, Jim had gotten lucky enough to latch on to voice data analysis right as it was getting big. Never understood an iota of the technology, he readily admitted, but Jim had worked his way up in management. Thirty years later, he was the sole government person in charge of coordinating the contractors from the company Stephen had just quit. And that’s when he retired, with a government pension and the retirement income from the military. The department panicked — who could they get to replace a manager with thirty years of data analysis experience and a high security clearance? They went through the formal process of opening the job up for application for eight weeks before declaring the position could not be filled as a government role. Jim returned on the contracting side — just like the government side, except you can be fired and you get paid more — working for Wald’s old company at half-time while cashing three paychecks.
Stephen’s plan, just like Jim’s, had started on the day he had quit and unchained himself from that desk. He had let himself go, sitting at a desk. It wasn’t just that he had gained a few extra pounds. He had been absorbed; he had been too busy to get hair cuts on time, too concerned with projects to take vacation. Stephen’s conscious mind suddenly jerks him out of his reverie. Stop thinking about work!