(A short story written for Dailykos back in 2011. Dystopia, when the norm has become a place where you work till you drop, and it's every man for himself. On our way there!)
That sound cutting through the darkness of the early morning was the alarm clock, and a hand reached out to stomp on the snooze button and silence that infernal buzzing noise.
"Another day, is another day closer to retirement".
And that retirement was coming closer.
At the age of 69, every day was getting to be more of a struggle.
The knees went a few years back, and the back was going next.
Blearily looking out through the cataracts obscuring much of his vision, the man sat up and put his feet onto the rug that was on the floor next to his bed.
Shuffling off to the bathroom to brush his teeth and empty his bladder, he muttered about how blasted cold it was.
But he knew that turning up the heat would be a big mistake when he got next months electric bill, so he put on his bathrobe and tied it tight as if to ward off the chill.
Breakfast was a cup of hot tea and a slice of bread with margarine. It would have been nice to have had some real butter, and perhaps a banana sliced on some cereal. But it had been a long while since he was able to afford things like Fruit - or cereal. Or milk for his tea.
Gearing himself up for another 12 hour day, he resolutely got out of his chair in the very quiet cold kitchen, grabbed his coat and headed for the door.
At the bus stop the man looked at the other people headed to their jobs, either the first, last or middle job for the day. He was luckier, and he knew it. He only had to get to the one job. He used to have a car, but there was no more gas to run it, and since electric cars were too expensive for regular people he didn't have one.
If someone lived too far from work? Why didn't they just move? That is what he would do.
The bus pulled up and he crammed himself into a spot near the back. It was like being in a can of sardines, and some could not make it onto this bus and were left standing at the stop. But the next bus would come in an hour or so. The city had cut the transit system to the bone to save costs.
By the time the next bus arrived, the sun would be up.
He absently wondered if anyone was going to be too late for work and be fired that day?
It happens, he thought to himself, and he mentally shrugged. Those who were too slow and lazy got what they deserved.
As the bus drove through the streets toward his job he looked out the window as it passed the massive fence and gates of the part of town where the rich folks lived. They really had it good since they owned everything including the banks and they ran the country too.
There had not been any elections in years. Which to the man seemed like a sensible thing, too many still had been voting for those liberals that were trying to socialize the good 'ol USofA.
Getting rid of the elections was just a good business decision for the corporations that owned the country. They were the ones who had the jobs after all. They should be able to do whatever they wanted.
He also recalled that there used to be unions, and how those lazy bastids used to suck all the money from the companies so they couldn't make a dime. It was a really bad time during the 20th century. People just thought they were worth way too much. They wanted high pay and pensions......
By the time the bus got to his stop, the sun was just peeking above the haze of pollution.
At work, it was much the same as the day before. He went in, hung up his coat, placed his lunch into a cubby in his cubicle then punched his card in the time clock and sat down. No one at any of the desks in the sea of cubicles really said good morning, no one said much of anything to him.
It was better to keep your head down, and not get caught talking to anyone. The boss may think you are slacking off. There was always someone who would take this job, gladly.
Imagine, a full twelve hour shift, 6 days a week! Unheard of nowadays.
In 5 hours he would actually get a lunch break, and then another 10 minutes in the afternoon. Who needed more than that?
He knew that hard work was the only way that anyone could make anything of themselves in this world, and he was sure that when he finally got to retire, he would be able to just do the things that he wanted to do.
He paid his taxes so the corporations didn't have to so that he would continue to have a job. And he paid into his personal retirement account every paycheck. That was another benefit, his company invested his own money for him in the stockmarket.
It was hard, and he just had enough to pay the rent and other expenses after all those deductions.
But, he was a self made man. He didn't expect anyone to pay his way.
It was a good thing he had that personal retirement account in the first place. In the old days the socialists and commies that ran the country would have left him with nothing.
Social security was robbing him of his paycheck before it was finally killed. He had no idea where that money went! He also had disliked all those "programs" that gave money to people who were just too shiftless and lazy to work at three or four jobs.
He was proud that he had always voted Republican.
While there had still been elections.
5 hours later, he grabbed his lunch bag and then headed off to the lunch room. Well, it was sort of a lunch room. There were chairs and a table provided by the company so that the workers would not get any food on the computers by eating at their desks.
The bulletin board had some new notices on it, and he absently munched on his peanut butter sandwich while reading about the new procedures to do with calling in sick. He squinted at the notice; If you called in sick a doctors note was required, or you needn't come in the next day. He knew that no one would call in sick again.....Who could afford it? It would cost at least three days pay just to get a note. And good luck seeing a Dr in the first place. Cash up front, and a 6 week wait. He snickered to himself because he never called in sick. He showed up no matter what. When he had that toothache that time, he waited until he had the money saved, and then he had it pulled on his day off. When it got infected, he again just popped enough over the counter pain medication to make it through. He was tough. Why on earth couldn't people just be stronger?
A woman who used to work at the desk beside his had called in three times in one year, her snotty nosed brats were always sick. She sure got hers! When she came to work that last time, the company security had escorted her to her desk to get her things, and then shown her to the door.
Women had no place on a job. He knew that.
He moved onto the next memo, It caught his attention. It was about the personal retirement accounts through the company.
To all who may be affected:
Because of the stock market dip, and the companies need to purchase new equipment, the stockholders profits were down this year.
Effective immediately, all personal retirement accounts have been reinvested into the company.
They will be paid out at a rate of 25% to anyone planning to retire in the next 5 years.
We know that all will understand the need to do this, as the stockholders are one of our greatest assets and we must protect the management bonuses.
Thank you for your compliance.
The man read the memo a few times. He chewed without swallowing.....
75 years! He would be 75 when he could retire.
But what was he going to do about eyes? He soon wouldn't be able to see the screens at work at all.
Maybe the Doctor would work out a payment plan for him so he could get that cataract surgery?
But how was he going to get the time off? They would probably just give his job away.
What was another 5 years? He was a self made man.