Location # 181

Here’s my day at the office, which I’m recounting just for the challenge — is it possible to make the company’s stupidity make sense? I'm not sure it is, but here goes:

I work in the administrative offices for a big chain of department stores. Each store has a three-digit number. That number is important. It’s how the computers keep track of what’s selling and shipping where, who’s working where, and everything else. As people have been reduced to numbers, so too have buildings.

The company buys all sorts of crap to sell in the stores, and most of those purchases don’t pass through my department, but if buyers order something shipped to one store, and later change their minds and want it shipped to a different store, that paperwork comes to me. A week or so ago, a series of invoices landed on my desk, telling one of our cut-rate suppliers to redirect some of their high-profit, low-quality merchandise to location # 181.

Location # 181 was a store in South Fresno that closed in 1989, years before I was hired. Obviously, we don’t want to ship merchandise there. On the form, right next to location #, staff is supposed to write the name of the location, so we can look it up and easily solve this problem — but whoever filled out this form left that line blank. Literally clueless, I sent the paperwork back to the suit who'd signed it, with the notation, “Invalid location.”

Today the phone rang, and An Important Executive screamed in my ear that location # 181 is valid, and how could I be so stupid? It’s a new store in Bumfuck, Utah, grand-opening on Saturday, and because I rejected the paperwork they won’t have any bathrobes to sell, and I’ve cost the company thousands of dollars, and ... insert the sound of grown-ups talking on a Peanuts special.

When the stranger on the phone paused in his tirade to take a breath, I told him curtly that complaints go to my boss, gave him her number, and hung up.

First off, if you treat me like an ordinary adult ordinarily treats other ordinary adults, I could solve this problem, prioritize the shipment, and get those fluffy overpriced bathrobes to Utah by Saturday. If you scream like a toddler, I won’t.

And also, I’ve searched through all incoming memos for the past three weeks, and nobody’s informed my department that a store is opening in Bumfuck, Utah. Our list of locations still showed location # 181 as defunct. I’ve updated the list, but why would you keep it a secret if we're opening a new store? Send a frickin' memo!

This company is in the process of being bought by our largest competitor. When that multi-billion-dollar deal is finalized, we’ll probably all be out of work, so how much should I care about a bunch of bathrobes in assorted sizes and colors? If we lost money due to my stubborn refusal to input something that looked like a mistake, well, finally I’ve found satisfaction in my job.

My apologies for bringing you to work like you're my daughter.

♦ ♦ ♦

Margaret called today, as she does once or twice weekly, but today she was the craziest she’s been yet. I don’t think she went four sentences without changing the subject, and her tone of voice was jittery like too-much-coffee all the way through. “Relax, Maggie,” I kept saying.

I like Margaret, and worry about her, but there’s not much I can do about her issues, short of dismantling my life and moving to Eastern Washington to help her take care of herself. She’s asked me to do that. She asked again today.

I like Margaret, and worry about her, but I’m not doing that.

♦ ♦ ♦

Crumpets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But that’s OK. I like crumpets.

From Pathetic Life #4
Tuesday, September 13, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


Pathetic Life 

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  1. There's no such thing as "An Important Executive".

  2. Every executive I've ever known would disagree.


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