by Noel Denvir
“Hey, where’s your badge?”
Frank stood motionless, cheeks reddening. This was it; he was caught. Supervisor Thompson repeated the question, only this time with a gentle smile. There was no point in lying; the game was up. Young Frank Seaton had run his race.
“I haven’t got one.”
“Well, we’ll see about that.” The supervisor lifted the gun-like device attached to his belt and proceeded to tap some keys.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Erm, Frank. Frank Seaton.”
“EE or EA?”
Some more tapping. He was probably informing security that there was an imposter in the store. And that was what Frank was; an imposter. He had been pretending to be an employee here for about six weeks now. An employee of Happyland.
Happyland was a huge multi-store complex with thousands of branches all over the world. It sold everything, all displayed in appropriately themed departments: food, electronics, houses — yes, houses — clothes; the list was endless. The place resembled a theme park more than a store. You could spend all day here, or more, as there was a motel on site.
There was a cinema, washrooms, gym, swimming pool. Why, you could live here, which, in a way, was what Frank had been doing. He could sit down in the living room of his dreams, relax in the perfect bedroom, cook in the ultimate kitchen. He often came here just to stroll through the beautiful themed halls.
One day, he helped an employee to pick up some stock that had tipped over. The employee thanked him and offered him a lunch voucher. Frank accepted and had the pleasure of taking a free lunch with this employee. The young man, Neil, told him that they could always use a bit of help in exchange for vouchers. So Frank took every opportunity to help out when he could in the different departments. He was even getting to know some of his adopted colleagues.
Then one day, when using the washroom, he found a discarded red and blue polo shirt with the company logo “HL” on it. He tried it on; perfect fit! It was empowering, imbuing a sense of belonging, almost as if the fibres contained some sort of magical power. He then stepped out into the store a new man, a recognisable employee. Customers would ask him where things were and fellow workers would greet him or even ask him for some help.
One such fellow worker was Andanka in the Flower and Gardening Department, a tall dark Romanian beauty, who would actually search him out when she needed assistance and seemed to have an endless supply of lunch vouchers, which surprisingly enough, Frank didn’t need. With one look at his “uniform,” the canteen staff just waved him through the cafeteria checkout.
Andanka even waded in to his defence when Frank was asked about himself. “He’s on loan from kitchen,” she would say, and then smile knowingly at him.
“Thank you,” Frank said.
“Well, for covering for me.”
“You mean, lying for you?”
Frank shifted uncomfortably. “Erm... yes. Lying.”
“I come from a country of lies.”
“You mean, Romania?”
“Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they told me that it isn’t called Romania!”
“That sounds terrible; living in a country of lies.”
“Yes, but if you hear enough lies then you finally arrive at the truth, as Romanians have.”
Frank smiled. “There’s a lot of truth in that!”
Then they shared one of many bouts of laughter that seem to define their relationship.
Andanka and Frank would sometimes go to the cinema after work and even sometimes stay at the motel together: no problem, rooms available for all employees.
This was the life! He had his comparatively generous unemployment benefit, a basic but comfortable apartment. And now to complete it, a purpose.
But now that was all over. Supervisor Thompson finished tapping his device keys, and extracted a small plastic card. “Here you are, Frank, your ID.”
Frank held the badge in both hands, staring at it.
“Don’t you want to get back to work?”
He ran back to the Flower and Garden Department.
Andanka smiled and said, “Welcome to Happyland!”
Supervisor Thompson sat down at his console and typed in the details of the new employee, Frank Seaton. The young man had proven himself a worthy trainee and completed his six-week induction period to the management’s satisfaction. Punctual, friendly and helpful, and prepared to work late — yes, those motel bills — but his facilitator, Andanka, had done an excellent job. Maybe too good a job! But why not? Maybe they would get together and create new customers!
This new company induction training program was working very well. No need for expensive human resources. It was acceptance by doing. The candidates weren’t selected, they applied voluntarily, so “Motcom” — motivation-commitment — was a foregone conclusion.
In a country with ninety percent unemployment but one hundred percent basic income coverage, it was essential that those who wanted to work could do so.
Andanka and Frank had a bright future.
Copyright © 2019 by Noel Denvir