a service industry tragicomedy
by Sander Hicks
Completely Revised and Updated
JUNE 18, 1999
Scene - Prologue
Middle of the day at Infinity Copiers.
Sealove is on phones, also moving copy jobs in big plastic folders between Allen, the key-op, and the customers. Lulu is working alongside him. Allen is making copies as if in a war. Cubit does more big picture manager type stuff, and picks up trash.
Sealove Infinity Copiers, we never close.
Customer What time you open till tonight?
Sealove We never close.
Customer Ya kiddin me.
S We answer the phones this way to save time. Watch. Infinity Copiers We Never Close, Can I help you?
C How late ya open this Sunday.
S Christmas, Hannukhah, Labor Day and Halloween, we are here bright eyed and bushy tailed.
S Yez bozz.
C Let me hear you say
C It'd be a shame to have to shoot you right now.
S I can't say that.
C How are we gonna stop the crack heads from stealing ladies purses, and our self serve staplers? What if we dropped the hammer and said, real cordially, it'd be a shame to have to shoot you right now?
S Not into it.
C You don't actually have to shoot anybody if that's your problem, Christ. Take ownership of this place. Make sure everybody here knows, this is our place of work. Our lives. Our space. I do good work for people who notice. You steal the staplers. Its ok to fire a customer, if you've tried your best and still it's not good enough.
S And its ok to execute the underclass.
C Forget I said it. I'm from the South.
S Right, where, in your first store you kept a gun in the safe.
C You never know
S Do you now?
C I'm not at liberty
Allen Man, I had a PERFECT day going until all these onesie twosies arts and crafts. Look at this glue table.
S What's your time?
S Aw Mang!
A Look what we've got here, photos, paste-ups, flaky brown prints from the Civil Fucking War.
C Back it up! Tell everybody hand placements are a three hour wait.
S This is first shift, mang. You are Key Op Prime.
C You make the times, you dictate the waits.
Allen I can do it.
C Don't kill yourself. We have self-service machines for arts and crafts projects. Tell 'em, three hours or they can hit the street.
A I don't want anyone to hit the streets, I come from the streets. These people need my help.
J Fluid babe, Got to stay fluid. What have I been telling him?
S Green Icy radiator milk, mang. We can't bust ass for fucking artists.
[he grabs phone.]
C Hello what time do you close
S We never close.
C Oh Really?
S Can I help you?
C What's a good time?
S Six A.M.
S It's the only way to beat the crush. [hangs up] Lulu, what about my idea about Voice Mail?
L It's so impersonal. It's so non-Infinity.
S No one listens to me.
L Be creative. Say it differently every time. Infinity 24-7. Inifinity Round the Clock Copies. You're a creative person.
S Here's an idea, let's get a nice, personal, creative Voice Mail machine.
C It's a lot of paperwork with the Regionals and with California. It sounds good on paper, but you don't know what you're up against with all the ....
L Red Tape. All of which you'll find out soon enough, when you're Assistant Manager.
S Ha ha.
L You might never be a great folksinger....
S I'm punk
L We're here for you.
C Sealove, the joint just isn't clean enough. Look, I'm going to treat you the way the Regionals treat me, OK? You need to know every cranny of your self.
C I've decided to have Marty put you on a rotating schedule. A new shift every week. It would be a good way to get to know everything about operations and production if you ever wanted to get on management track. Plus I need someone on third shift next week. I want Self Serve spotless by six every morning. That clear?
S Thank You Sir May I Have Another.
C Smile when you say that. [turns toward customer] Sorry, were you waiting for me? What seems to be the problem?
Five AM. Infinity Copiers, back room. Sealove and Julius are binding a large stack of documents.
Sealove rubs his eyes.
Julius This place. It's very dry.
Sealove puts some water into his hand.
Julius You got contacts? Am I right? Water doesn't work. Water dries your eyes. Spit. Mucus. That's what works.
J Cubit told me
S The Cube?
J Soon as they brought him in I was like what a name
S Cubic. The square. The motivational square.
J You think they're gonna make him manager over Lulu?
S I have a feeling seniority doesn't matter anymore. This place has been eating managers alive. And they're scared.
J They say he's good. I mean he's been out of New York for three years, but I hear he did good with some fucked up stores in Cali.
S I like it the way it is. Two assistant managers and no manager. We don't need one.
J I heard you and Allen were dancing on first shift when it happened.
S When the regionals fired Danny?
J I heard you we're like
S Blood! In the air! Everyone is still screaming for us to get their jobs done on time, they're still pouring in from everywhere and popping up out of nowhere, but it was like we knew. That back in that little office a shitty manager had been sacrificed. Take your smug paranoia out the door, Danny. I love the smell of your blood!
J OK, OK.
S And that day I finally thought Lulu would get it. Isn't she his obvious replacement?
J People make promises.
S I know.
S I thought I fell in love with her. I was wrong.
J Oh sure. Talk about it. Like I'm your mother.
S Well I thought you were asking.
J Get it out. I'm here for you.
S What happens when you don't really have anything in common with some body's core?
J You dump 'em.
S I'm learning that. Doesn't mean I feel ok.
J What was her core.
S In a lot of ways, I admired her cause I felt there was something classically workingclass about her.
J You sound like a fucking skinhead. Have you ever known a skinhead with a job? Or a factory job? Like they like to think they have. I walk by those kids, and inside, I'm like Get a Job.
S But what's cool about the skins is that they are proud of being at the bottom of society. Even if there's a big thing about appearances. Defining the word class is the big question. At least they have an answer.
J Lulu has a different one.
S She's a hard worker. But she doesn't really connect with other people. Unless it's to motivate them to do something. Then it's like a science.
J I don't know. She was really into you. I mean I heard.
J Got my own.
Cubit[half joking] Hey you fellas on a break?
[they stare at him]
J It still real dead out there?
C As dead as god. [to Julius] Sorry you're not religious are you?
J Not specifically.
C It's just the bums and the regulars asleep in the Self Serve computers.
J One a them's been wearing this construction helmet. I been going up to him, and poking him and been like....
S "It's not radical just to dress up like a worker?"
J No, I been saying, well, it's a joke.
S Maybe he's wearing protection from all that paint peeling off the ceiling.
C Workin' on it.
S Hearin' it before.
J So you had to take a step down to come back to the City, huh? You sick of being Assistant Manager?
C Ass Man.
S Third shift this week too.
C Social alienation, lifestyle challenges. Yeah, it's no pic nic.
J I like it because of that.
S I don't see anybody anymore. They're all asleep.
C We don't stay open 24-7 to make money. Third shift doesn't make money. We're here to instill a sense of god-head with the public. We will always be here. You can always come back. It's like babysitting, you tell a kid, "mommy always comes back." Wait until you've had a decent meal, a good night's rest with a loved one. You can come back anytime, into the lights, thumbing pink invoices for the pink paper work we did for you all night, busting holes in our lives to work the no time. Then I go home wide awake and the dawn makes me bug-eyed.
S The city is different at sunrise.
C Question of smell.
S Light, fog.
C It's that misty light that sweetens the edge off everything. Like a cyan tint on the 5775's. [to Julius] With a real nice black and white photograph.
S He doesn't run color.
C You don't run color?
C How long you been here?
J Longer than it's been around. In the old store. Before there were color copiers.
C But you don't know the Canon, or the 5775's?
J There's not much overnight color.
C You are cheating yourself.
J No one trained me.
C You wanna bind hospital manuals at four AM for the rest of your life, man? I'll train you.
J Third shift isn't as bad as all that. You need to get a thick set of curtains to sleep with the sun. I have a blindfold my wife got me off a plane. It's silk.
C You'll want to get off third shift someday, we can teach you color. Get you more well rounded. When they re-do the schedule...put it in writing. When first shift has an opening....
S You'll be running color at ten AM for the rest of your life, instead, Julius.
J Must be a customer.
C What about you?
C What do you do?
S Black and White. I Key Op when I'm not working same shift as Aleen, mostly these days I'm on the register.
C No, outside Infinity. What do you do?
S Oh. I don't know.
C You don't know.
S Little bit of everything
C kind of a dilettante?
S no, I don't paint.
C Aren't you in a band?
S Not anymore
C Didn't work out.
C What didn't work out?
S Don't ask.
C I did.
S [pause.] Bands are like lovers. And some nights, sometimes after a breakup, you think you could get back together. Just for the night, have a sweet little tryst feeding off the old attraction: the reflection of your own megalomania and lust, the contradictory charms, the childish will to power. The flaws in front of you are the flaws in you. He/She just paint a picture. It's easier than a mirror. It's sexier. But in the time spent away, the guitar player grew bitter and old. And suddenly had no respect. Not enough not to take a shot. Hit me in the neck at my own party. Big reunion show in my living room. He suddenly decided he didn't want to do the political pscyosexual hitchhiking song.
C What's stopping you from I mean don't you want to go kick his ass?
S The part of me that wants to is the part that he knows best. He's waiting, and quivering outside, waiting for that part of me to come finally take my revenge. Or not. Or say, despite it, let's get the band back together again. The hardcore punk was so self-affirming. You nearly caved in my windpipe in my own living room in Brooklyn, but that's why we need each other. Why we're a unit. But that's a load of crap. He ain't never gonna see me.
C Where are you?
S I'm in Infinity. I am an Infinity Copier. The boy's a man. I think.
[enter Allen with a large black coffee.]
Allen "I'm a boy and I'm a man/I'm EIGHT-TEEN./I get confused every day...."
C There he is. Hi Allen.
A Hi Cubit. Did you get Xerox to send Petey down to replace the belt on Mario?
C Well we decided to wait until today for non-weekend service. You know, it's cheaper.
A Man, we gotta stop WAITING. This way, you make ME have to try and get away with spots on the copies Every Monday Morning.
C I'll go see if I can reach a Regional. But you know I leave at eight. I haven't been, but I'm supposed to. I'm just saying....
A Yeah, bye bye
S I was just babbling to Cubit about the band.
A Oh yeah damn shame how was it tonight?
S What'd you do this weekend.
A Well there's this girl at my bar and I'm normally really shy with girls you knew that didn't ya?
A Yeah, yeah. But I had these press clips I copied on Friday. All about Alice Cooper. So I'm like drinking these pints and reading and I'm like laughing out loud, she's not far away, and I've been eavesdropping on her conversation all night, and she's really cute, but like my age? So later she asks me what I'm reading and I show her and guess what she says? "I was listening to Alice Cooper when all those pussies were listening to all that mellow shit in like the early seventies. Where'd you get THIS?" And I told her, I snagged it out of a job I ran at Infinity, on one of my 5090s. She tells me she's a copier at the Columbia Print Shop, in-house on the West side, 5090, Docutech, 5100, the works.
S So, you got a date?
A Not yet. I mean we both go there all the time. We've been there simultaneously a lot. We just never met. Alice Cooper is still changing my life.
[Allen lights a GPC Light 100, takes one quick hard drag, sets it down in a broken smokeless ashtray, and rushes out to the floor.]
Cubit and Sealove in a bar having beers. A waitress serves them and exits.
Cubit We need more bars that serve at 8 AM.
S Depends on who you know.
C She seemed nice.
S She used to come into the store.
C Uh huh.
S I think she's in a band.
C Aren't they all.
C what'd you play?
C wrote the songs
S all of them
C What'd this other guy do
C the hell is that mean
S he'd play power chords. Get a new rhythm section when the old one'd quit. Teach them the parts. He knew a lot of people. He kids he brought would invent little nuances, make the old riffs seem fresh again.
C He knew good musicians
S Better than him.
C Let's not bullshit too much, Sealove, I want to start a union.
C I meant a collective. I want to somehow organize our shop to give the copier a better sense of who they are. That you should be proud of the work you do. Professional. Consciousness changes the world. How do we inspire the coworkers to take control of their destinies? A lot of them will probably stay in copy shops for most of their lives. Why can't they have some workingclass pride? Be proud of their jobs?
S Infinity is a non union workplace.
C OK boss, listen, I'm not talking about the Teamsters, are you kidding me, those slobbering mobsters and their lobbyists. I'm talking about something new. I truly believe in the core values of Infinity Copiers. We take care of each other. This union would be on our own terms.
S Which are?
C You tell me.
S [ha ha ha]
S How could we be proud of working at Infinity? This workingclass doesn't even believe in itself. Most of the workforce is like me, a fugitive from the middle class, pursuing the ever elusive capital A Art in a fickle city of horseplay. A few of us no longer have immediate plans, and quite frankly I understand them less. Allen: you love him, I love him. He's here forever with out a doubt. He deserves something better, maybe higher wages, quicker service on his machines. But I don't get what keeps him and the rest of the permanent Infinity copiers here. I can see them actually getting the retirement plan someday.
C Which you are too good for?
S I know it's a good plan. But look at the way people have dreams, to be different. And things blown apart. You have immediate dreams, and means to pursue them in the immediate city. But the means are people, who are unreliable.
C It's dangerous to dream with inferiors. Maybe you should aim higher.
S It's heartbreaking. But what are you saying, join the union as an alternative to living out your dreams? Wouldn't it be a committement, a writing off of the rest of your life? How permanent a committment would it have to be? Because if it's like management track, that kind of #1 priority, forget it.
C I'm talking Closed Shop. So either you join, or you can't work here. Recognize we can't produce more profit for upper management, but together, we can cut costs. Efficiency is what we've after. Less waste. We can't work harder for them, but we can work smarter. And that means more bonuses for all of us.
S But who's gonna buy it? Those who don't care enough about their destinies to get out of the store? Those who wan't out immediately, whatever the terms of the beautiful people on colored stages? Who's gonna sell them a union? If you make manager of this thick swirl, people will distance you with respect, you know?
C I know. I want you to be in charge of it.
S Fuck me.
C What do you say.
S I'm interested.
C An informal collective now. Meetings can replace and build upon the old store meetings. Do you really need managers reviewing the order-form again?
S Right. Jesus. You are so right....can I ask you something?
S Weren't you into politics for a while?
C mmm. Well back in college I was in a band too. But it was kind of a propaganda vehicle for militant social-democratic political group. We played Sabbath and Pistols and Clash at benefits and parties. Granada...Libya...Reagan's little wars.
S I marched against the Gulf War.
C The kids in my first Infinity weren't working their jobs with any kind of consciousness. No hope for it. It wasn't like New York. They were in the shop working for a little beer money. When the band broke up I went full time more or less for the political group. Determined to reform the entire South, smash the Klan, radicalize the Democratic party. But I got set up and busted for a relatively small amount of pot my Junior year, and had to have this Senator I'd volunteered for intervene.
S Lucky you.
C Eventually I learned this country is not ready for a revolution.
Next Week, first shift.
Middle of a normal business day at Infinity Copiers.
The place is packed. Big crush at the front counter. Customers in front are in pain from the pressure. Key-Op Allen is working the spectacle, and thriving like nucleus. He is fast and sharp and impatient with the machines, in a way that is entertaining to watch. You get the sense he is distracting the crowd from riotting. After many years, Allen has internalized the pattern of the Xerox 5090 and slaps them, and punches them percussively.
Orders are taken on blue stickies, placed in plastic folders, and carefully passed over to the glue table, by Sealove, Lulu, Julius and Cubit.
Sealove Current wait time on 5090?
Allen 25 minutes
C1 But that's practically half an hour.
S Oh but your job will be done WITHIN 25 minutes. Job Down.
A Thank you.
C2 Hello! There are spots on these. There were no spots on my original.
S Yes mam I see. We'll re-do the job immediately. RD Down! Clean the glass.
Allen My current wait time for 5090 is 35 minutes.
S 35 on 5090
Cubit There's a redo up, Allen.
A I am aware of that thank you.
C Need any glass cleaner?
A I know what we've got here. We have a 5090 about to go down, that's what we've got here.
C Anything I can?
A That binding job in back? Been sitting on the binder for an hour?
C I'm on it.
A It's due in like five minutes. [turns, places job down on glue table.] RD Up! Thank You!
Sealove Thanks you.
A Sealove, I ever show you this trick? All of them are loaded... [Allen runs to the two 5090s and the 5100 in sequence and starts them all up within seconds of each other. He re-turns to glues table.]
OK I'VE GOT THREE JOBS UP HERE I NEED THESE NAMES CALLED OR I NEED THESE JOBS BINNED COULD WE PLEASE CLEAR MY GLUE TABLE THANK YOU.
Julius Thank you
C2 These copies STILL have spots. They are STILL SPOTTY. You've twice now given me spotty copies.
A That's it.
S I apologize ma'am.
C2 A blind man could do a better job.
S If he was quick. [he turns] RD back up!
A Tell me about it
A No shit I'm getting on the horn.
A No need. It's the belt. i cleaned the glass. I'm calling it in. Maybe somebody should swap the photoreceptor. I'll do it. back me up.
S 45 minutes?
A at least.
A 10 minutes on resumé. Always. You know that.
S The RD?
C I'll take the RD on 5100.
C3 You see, I'm in quite a rush.
C3 How long for just two copies of this collated and stapled.
J 45 minutes
C3 I have to catch a plane in 45 minutes! I have to jump in a cab five minutes ago! This is really important!
C You sure it isn't just dried glue on the glass?
A I do not see how. I cleaned the glass three times? Here's a brainstorm, call Petey at Xerox, tell him we're going to spend the hundred and ten bucks and to bring a NEW BELT.
J Allen, I got two copies about 75 pages collated and stapled.
A 45 minutes? OK? Please.
J she is saying she has
C3 I HAVE TO CATCH A PLANE
[dead silence. all eyes on Allen.]
A Oh, give it to me.
[the crowd of customers cheers.]
Cubit RD up. Lulu would you go direct on this for me?
[Lulu takes it direct to C2]
Lulu Here you are ma'am. I proofed it personally. Should be perfect this time.
C2 You'd think so.
Lulu I know so. How do they look?
C2 All right.
Lulu Anything else we can get you?
C2 Try not to upsell here on me sweetheart. You messing up my job twice has made me late for my next appointment.
Lulu Again, I apologize. Again, we have a 5090 going down.
C2 Don't try and confuse me with numbers. Where do I pay for this?
Lulu At the register. Sealove would be happy to ring you up?
C2 Which one is Sealove?
Lulu I believe the line for the register starts right over here.
C2 This is the LINE?
Lulu You're right. Take it. Just take it. Thank you for coming here. Be well.
Allen I need to replace the photoreceptor on Milo. [to Cubit] Have you Key-opped before?
C It's how I cut my teeth down South.
A Could you take over for me while I go find one a photoreceptor maybe, in the back?
C OK [moves around counter.] Everyone, attention please, I have a three hour wait on 5090.
A That's it.
C Three hours on 5090? Could everyone repeat that?
S Can I give you some feedback here?
C Later, sure.
S You're panicking Cubit. A good key-op never panics.
A [off stage] I am dying out there!
C I need three hours on 5090
S We're oppressed by your panic.
C Then organize dammit.
S I'm an anarchist. To me, class consciousness means we still run the machines. Making garbage and death. Workingclass pride means I'll eventually be an alcoholic with a bad back.
C Life is a war. You choose to win, or lose. We're backed up. Someone still has to run the machines. The revolution isn't about smashing technology. This isn't some college-rock mohawk sexrock
project. We're in production. Turn around, and take some orders. Now, please.
S I quit.
C I don't buy that.
[Sealove storms off to the back room. Allen is there. Allen stops him and hands him a cigarette.]
S I don't feed off the stress. There's got to be some better way to make it. I like the adrenaline. But it makes me forget all the things I could be doing.
C2 We have needs
C1 They are difficult
C2 We are complex
C3 I want to fly far away in an airplace
C2 I want a good dinner. With red meat. And a loved one. Who is complex.
C1 I want to be appreciated for my wit.
C3 Looking down on the clouds and pretending I see the sking of the oily surf, haggard, corroded, frozen stiff. The rough sea we all come from.
C1 & C2 You'll never make it.
C3 Phone someone.
C2 Someone fat and smart, on the radio
C1 Someone lean and cruel, preferrably with political power.
Sealove Overcome? This? Win? This?
Allen When people come in here with their projects they're bringing in their lives. You gotta remember that.
Sealove I don't like their lives and I don't want to be a part of their projects.
A Well, you're getting paid. So I guess you're like a whore. Sometimes if you smile, you can pretend to yourself you like it.
S I don't like the way they write. They squabble about every detail.
A Because we charge for every detail.
S Their grubby money is soft and rotten.
A What do you expect? This store was never designed to do this kind of volume. My machines were not meant to be ON 24 hrs a day. I mean c'mon. You're part of the formula. It's the Infinity Way.
S Maybe we should organize a way that's our own way. Create the copiers way, turn it all glorious and like a song, and smash the stress generators in the death star of the heart of Cubit and all the panic we get from the management track. Right?
A Right. What time is it?
S Right. It's time. For you and me to get out of here. Bury our fluorescent dry mouths in a pint....
A Or two
S And just think about it.
Sealove and Allen in a bar.
S I heard they're talking about adding rules to the dress code.
A I heard that too.
S Khaki pants?
A My Ass.
S Masterpiece theatre
A Safari adventure
S Preaching to the natives
A Fuck me.
S I also heard Lulu said something to Cubit about trying to find a way to ask you to shower more often...but I guess it's hard to find a nice way to put that.
A Thank you.
S Maybe it's a question of getting more sleep.
A You need less the older you get. What's my phone number.
S It's like 924, um, 0802. And ask for the guy in the backwards hat. I've used that before. Sometimes you're not here.
A But probably. You can check. You can call the pay phone. I will probably pick up. Or Ralph there will. You can't find me, AND you can't find the job, hell, ask them to call Cubit on his pager. You have a problem with the machines, call Petey. My time is my own. And you know what? The way it's been lately, I need to get as far away from that store as possible. Home is way up here on the West Side. Lately, I just need to go to the river. I'm only clean after coming up, and smelling the river.
[Sealove tries to give Allen a little back rub.]
A Sealove, I like you. But stop touching me so much. I know you're cool and all. It's just the way I was raised.
S Oh OK. I understand.
A I'm sorry.
S No hey that's all right. I just feel close to you tonight. I want to be close. ...I've got an idea. How about later we go outside and fight? C'mon Allen, whataya say? You'n'me dragging ourselves through the alleys a couple of times? Someday all of us can come up here, all the kids in the store, talk about what we need from our jobs that we're not getting. Take us all to your special bar, we'll form this union, drag each other through the alleys, scraping our scalps on the rusty dumpster, splotches of bruises on the soft corners of our sockets. We'll relate to each other in a rough way. [he grabs and kisses Allen on the cheek.] Fuck you don't you ever tell me not to fucking touch you.
Allen I'm sorry man, I didn't know what I was thinking.
S All right then. It's all right.
A It's weird.
S No it's
A You know I'm an alcoholic right.
A Don't tell me you didn't know that.
S What are you talking about?
A It's in my blood. Nothing I can do about it. You ever see me take a shot? No. No. Just beer. Just long necks. Crystal clear. Nothing fancy. I know what I'm doing. I'm classic Infinity. I'm old school. I'm going to live to be Infinity.
[Allen coughs and holds his heart.]
Allen is on the glue table in a casket. Cubit and Sealove stand by.
Sealove What's good about a funeral is that you have a body, expected to speak, constantly being spoken for, while waiting.
C Look at his face. It's natural to expect him to say something.
A It wouldn't be too clever.
S It wouldn't have to be sobering, just distinct. I miss his noise.
C His exasperation.
S All the drinks
C All the work.
S The two feet of snow that fell today fell in his honor. I watched it turn into pieces of foam chewed up in taxicab tires like it was pulp in a paper plant. They still could have come.
C Even we aren't here this way
S We're waiting for them, too.
A I can't accuse anyone in particular but I am prepared to make an inspirational statement for general purposes. They are busy people....
C This is a bad funeral.
S Yes it's great.
A Cold. I am cold and hard. I always wanted to be harder. I was always so giving. Some nights I would ask the river, why are they all looking at me? I like the job but I want them all to stop looking at me.
C What kind of car did you hire?
S 50s Cadillac hearse.
C for 12 noon right?
S They said they would honk twice
A Don't blame them. They can't be organized to really take over. I've been around. They deserve better but they think of their lives like they're sitcoms. Ha ha. It's just the way they were raised.
S Is it scary to die?
A God, it's such a relief. I'm totally relaxed.
S I want to help you form you co worker's collective idea.
C Infinity is non union
S You said this could be something new, on our own terms.
C Two days ago the Regionals had us met an ex-marine union buster type consultant. A real ball breaker. There's a list now of the language we all have to listen for to detect if your shop might be starting to organize. By a real union. Or whatever.
S You said this could be new. An independent experiment in organizing.
C You can't even inspire the coworkers to attend this little fiasco. How are you going to inspire them to work smarter.
S We're talking about our lives here Cubit. We can make the time.
C No, you're talking about your life. They're talking about their jobs. Their lives are off the clock.
S You die now Allen. They thought you had a hearing problem because you liked to be loud. You loved this space that you could be loud and fast in. This space aches without you. I loved everything about you.
C I'm crying now.
S No one else is here. No one else is crying. You're crying because no one else is crying. You're not really crying.
C It's pathetic how little emotion I have anymore to invest in this.
S It's upsetting how well I'm taking it.
[A horn beeps twice. Sealove moves to the casket.]
C Wait. Before we go to the cemetary. It's a random set of switches that keeps a person from being fired for some things and getting made management track for others. You call in the Teamsters now, I will fire you on the spot. Is that clear? And I know very well all the higher-ups will rubber stamp it so fast'll make your head spin like a coin. I will tell them what you are: a middle class anarchist.
A I die now.
S You die now
A "Lines form on the left and right..
Lines form on my face and hands.
I'm in the middle. Without any plan.
I'm a boy and I'm a man.
In the headquarters of the Teamsters, downtown. Ralph is behind a desk opening and eating a salami sub. With mayo and all the extras.
Ralph I tell you always try and lose weight.
S Well I never...
R Sure no you're thin as a rail but you get older it creeps up
S So I was thinking about coming in here for a while and
R Yes yes what can I do for you?
S Well we've got kind of a situation. Everyone is told to love this company we work for, because it's fast, and cool, hip, sort of, and loves you. But they make us work hard and so quickly on machines that have problems, in space that's too small, for wages that started small and got smaller.
R But what can I do?
S Oh. Um.
R You all aren't Teamsters.
S Well then MAYBE we should JOIN the Teamsters.
R You said the majic words. In order to call in the brotherhood of the Teamsters I need 75% of your store to fill out these cards, signing on the line. This means you designate the Brotherhood to represent you. When that happens I go in and meet your manager. He'll tell me to get lost. I tell him I can shut him down right now. That's when you got 'em by the balls.
S Wasn't Hoffa a Teamster?
R Hoffa? Why Hoffa?
S I just thought of it.
R I knew Hoffa. Good guy OK? Don't believe everything you hear.
S But what happened to him?
R Well, Hoffa was a little wild. Kind of a cowboy. Liked to run with the heavyweights. And this is business OK? You can't always get what you want, like they say.
S But happened to him?
R I'll let you in on a little secret. I like you. They say they never could find the body? It's under the goal posts at Giant Stadium. Meadowlands. And let that be a lesson to you. The Teamsters to this day is what you call business unionism. It's about knowing who to know. Keeping the wheels lubricated, OK? Our office on Capitol Hill? We built it with the same quarry of marble as the Capitol. You should see it.
S Well, we've got a situation where my manager is kind of an excommunist. This is the 90s the corporations know a lot more, about workers rights, you know? They know where socialism comes from. Capitalism! And they saw socialism run into the wall in Eastern Europe and Asia. And yet they know why it got invented. If the workers get the shit kicked out of them too many times, they know we'll eventually organize not to take it. So the bosses try and sell us the management track, or the benefits package. But the priority for them is still profit for the owners, not justice for the people on the machines. Put the sandwhich down. I am trying to talk to you.
R Nobody says that to me.
S I work in the service industry. I work there and am good at it. The only way to get good at it is to enjoy helping people. I would never eat a smelly salami sandwhich in front of a customer.
R I'm sorry.
S This was supposed to be my lunch. I gotta go.
[he gets up]
R Don't forget the cards.
[he takes them but looks at them before exiting]
S You misspelled "Pending."
Sealove in the back room of Infinity. Ashtray. Plate of Cookies. Enter Julius looking for cigarettes.
S Lately whenever I'm sad I end up making something out of cornmeal.
Julius pokes at the cookies. Sealove lights a cigarette, takes one drag and puts it in the broken smokeless asktray.
S Cornmeal is the kind of thing that never comes up in a dream.
J Ok I'll bite. Why not?
S No terror.
J No terror...
S Have a cookie.
J Is this a cookie?
S No really they're more like little cakes, what the French call cookies.
J They're heavy
S Very filling...you sleep well I find if you eat them with jam at night. When you're depressed.
J They're not very sweet.
S Lots of cornmeal
J No sugar
S Two different kinds, and starch. Cornstarch.
J What's that? [taking a bit off his tongue.]
S RICE. I cooked rice and also put it in the batter with eggs and cornmeal.
J thought you said LICE
S Last night these helped rock me to sleep. From inside. Heavy snacks because I'm not sure who my friends are anymore. With Allen gone.
J Oh shit. The funeral.
J I'm so sorry I was tied up at the house.
S It's real. He's dead. As real as food.
J I know. I get it. OK.
S Why not like bland foods. Textures and spices, slimy overcooked vegetables? That's just a complication. You shouldn't have to react in complex ways to the fuel you need simply to get up in the morning and go to work.
J I know I been doing take out more and more.
J Must be another customer.
C Got a cigarette?
[Sealove hands him one. Cubit lights it.]
C These look weird. Where'd they come from?
S Somebody made 'em.
[Cubit smells them.]
C Breakfast cereal?
S You could have them for breakfast.
C I've been smoking instead.
S These are better for you.
C Yeah but the company. Smoking is good for the company it creates.
S If you've got the time.
C A good key-op doesn't?
C A good key-op leaves one in the ash tray back here?
C I'm not a good key-op then? Well maybe that's how this smokeless ashtray the store paid for got half melted.
S Allen is dead.
C Haven't I said I'm sorry in enough ways?
S [Sealove holds his cigarette in front of Cubit.] This. Better than food, this too is a little memorial. Toxic heavy metals, cadmium and tar, but nicotine too be still my beating heart. He wanted it. The habits of the job made him think he could do it forever, that he was the perfect employee.
C Ok isn't this a LITTLE mordid?
S I'm just a "middle class anarchist."
C But you make under17 K a year.
S I was conditioned, and being conditioned in the middle class makes you overly dramatic, and therefore free.
C Please resist your conditioning. You're the key-op now.
S An honor. But no work today. The machines would never have it. The machines have said keep us draped in these black shrouds. He's gone.
C I have got some news for you my friend, that funeral for Allen was a bad idea. The coworkers were freaked out. Allen didn't look dead under the lights in here, and quite frankly I think a number of our regular customers heard about it and didn't 'get it.' And decided to go to Duke's Duplicates this week. They forgot to account for your broad sensitivities.
S That could go out now and make you and the Regionals 700 dollars in a single hour. It wouldn't take me two minutes to run one of those double sided cardstock club pass jobs. With cuts, that's 22.50. What''s that times 30 or 40?
C About seven hundred dollars.
S And I get $7 for my hour?
C What are you, some kind of Structuralist?
S Do I have some "structure" oppressing me? Well if I do, I wouldn't know it in this company. Your ideas and your love for Infinity are mixed up pipe dreams. You know this corporation is fiercely anti-union. But you like to think you're this grand excommunist who can talk about organizing us so that we become more motivated to produce more for Infinity. You treat class like a safety valve. You wanted to organize us first before we could do it ourselves. You're the ultimate union buster. And I am your cash cow. You want me to love Infinity. Your love is nothing. To a cow, love means food, feeding, getting milked, breeding and dying. And I have really gotten into it. I'm a copier. That's what I do. I could do it for the rest of my life. I have the inner reserve of my mother, the daughter of a sausage maker. So wouldn't it be great, if I could be a good cash cow, if I could be happy.
[Cubit hands Sealove his name tag.]
C I'm a cash cow too. I just work a bigger job for them. Someday, you'll understand that.
S [rising] Have you had a cookie?
A nightmare of a day on the shop floor. Sealove is still on counter.
Customer 1 Copyright?
Sealove Can't do it....
C1 This book is about....
S ....Can't do it....
C1 ...The Gulf War, I was there...
S ...nice war...
C1 C'mon, gonna take you outside.
S You can't just DO that.
C1 Show YOU what WE did surgically to those sand niggers.
S Look all I'm saying is that I don't want to copy it.
Sealove grabs the customer and is suddenly striking him repeatedly.
He runs out of the store. Lulu follows him.
Lulu You want to tell me what is going on?
S I lost control
L I'll say. Cubit wants you in his office.
S I would like to climb up the barricade of used appliances and trip down the other side. And I want you to come with me.
S You're good in a crisis.
L This crisis is not my crisis.
S Mi crisis, tu crisis.
S You keep saying I should be on the management track, and I see your point, in fact I think I'm already there. But on the cowcatcher, not driving the train. Come on Lulu, up the hill we go.
L We'll fall.
S Just a soft tumble.
L Gee why do I think out of all this I'll get hurt.
S We'll kick old things out in front of us to step on as we stumble down. Will you marry me?
L Why that now?
S I think yr awesome.
L Who do you love? You love yourself.
S I love ideas.
L You love food. You'd make a flaky husband. You have a lot of growing up to do.
S I know what I want.
L What do you want? And not who.
S To be real. I have drempt so many times about breaking through and really smacking, I mean really JACKING One of those nasty fake ass customers. Don't they see how hard I'm trying? Don't you?
L I do. But you won't let us reward you if you don't want management track.
L You were raised by educated people.
S Who themselves were not raised by educated people.
L So then what's your cause.
S I'm only a generation away from being in a place where it's possible to be true to the people.
L You have a problem with making a ton of money?
S When you have to ignore obvious problems.
L People actually from what you call the Working Class don't even call it that. My father gave us plenty of love. Maybe there wasn't always a lot of money. That's OK. Love is bigger than money.
S Infinity is your father now. Same promises. Same love. But the higher you go the more powerless you actually become. Look at Cubit. Who's going to actually push society forward? Who's going to make life better for the majority? Who's going to execute poverty, starvation, money, bad TV?
S I'm not if I get management track. There's been loose talk about a union.
L WHAT? Who? When? Who told you?
S I'm not at liberty.
L Don't tell me things I will have to use.
S Don't you threaten me. Company policy says that in the event of a bad break-up in an ill advised coworker/manager relationship, the manager will be held responsible for any fallout.
L Maybe we went out. It was brief. Maybe it was fun, at first, because it was against company policy.
S I can't stay in love with someone who loves a company more.
L I can't stay in love with someone who doesn't realize, that to be a boyfriend, you have to satisfy her. Remember that next time.
[Enter Allen, driving a car, dressed in a leather jacket and Alice Cooper make-up.]
A Sealove! Baby! Get in the car!
A You jacked up a customer. I heard.
S It felt really good.
A Don't tell them that. We can still keep this professional and sharp if you don't admit you connected a punch.
S It was a war. It was like fighting the cops in a protest against a war.
A Say it was a dream. You never connect in a dream.
S Then it wasn't a dream
A This does not look good does it.
S It's kind of a situation.
A We've got kind of a situation here. Do you remember where I got that?
A Neither do I. Well, who cares? ha ha. Later.
Lulu I'm sorry
S Which means
L I feel the loss.
L Fallen comrades
S Of ours?
L Of yours alone if you insist.
S Let's walk up the little hill of pretty junk. Teapots with rust.
L He's not in heaven.
S I know, he smokes.
L He's not happy.
S He's not in motion.
L Quite frankly I don't think they're going to take you back.
L I don't see how they could.
S You all can't fire me. I loved the job, the machines, everyone. Getting fired is for other jobs where I am a stranger sniffed by snouts. I always come back to work here for a reason.
L I have a feeling, that's all. But look, this company cares for its coworkers. We don't call you employees. We don't bend people. To employ is to bend. We don't bend. And we don't appreciate people inviting in third parties to "represent" the coworkers. Any questions?
S What's death like Allen?
A Hell, I don't know
S Come on.
A You go backwards. I transferred out of out store. To slower ones. I became slower. I moved backwards, back uptown, before I knew crowds. My first crowd. And eventually I was back in Maryland, in this big trailer on a lot working for American Thermoplastics again. Nothing but a Konica and a Toshiba and a GBC binder and I'm making huge proposals for two million dollar deals on machines with no document handlers I have to collate the whole thing by hand, spread out on the floor, each page, boom, boom, boom. Only this time, I'm doing it backwards. I tear apart the perfect bindings. I pick up the pages of each document. I stick the copies back in the Toshiba, the toner rolls off the sheets back into particles in the bottle. I'm becoming cleaner, easier, younger, smaller. I'm getting warm again. I'm innocent. I was never part of a swindle. Before I even ever got swindled, like I never fell for the ball of hash under the three cups trick at the bus station. Never did too much work for too little pay. Never believed in something that ultimately forgot me.
S Death, huh.
A That's about it.
S Sounds a lot like life.
A It would be forwards. Look at my arms. My blood is still and black. Do you have a microscope? Xerox toner, you can see the logo on every molecule in me. They call it Butadiene Copolymer. I heard it caused cancer in lab rats.
Lulu Well, I wish you luck
S Don't fire me. I'm learning to embrace permanent tedium and exploitation. I'm doing penance for my sins.
L Boring catholic boy guilt.
S Allen, if you could have done one thing when you woke up this morning, what would it have been?
A Honestly? I'd like to run machines.
L Time doesn't run like a clean engine. You have things like leap year because time is a damaged inaccurate rule. Don't trust time. Now, for you though, it's time to wake up and go to work.
Sealove still on front counter at Infinity.
Customer Two has a faint French accent that builds with the scene.
C2 Hello Mr Sealegs!
S Hi how are you can I help you
C2 I can't cut this I don't have a steady hand. Do you have a razor?
S I think so, let me see, yes, here.
C2 Oh I don't know I'm not good at this sort of thing.
S I don't want to be cruel, but it's company policy not to cut your original for you. We supply the tools and let you take care of it.
C2 My hands aren't steady.
S We just don't have the time. We've got a pace to withhold.
C2 Oh PLEeeeease.
Sealove grabs the razor and slices the article out of the magazine.
S It's company policy also to treat you like you have a mental defiencey. It's company policy to baby you, pamper you and make you feel taken care of. Until get in the way of the production schedule. It's a fine line. I'm under orders to educate.
C2 You are the rudest young man I have ever met. You cut my original. I could have done it so sloppily. I wanted a straight cut.
S Your tears demand damage control. Damage control is also in my skill set. Just say the word.
C2 Manager! I need to speak to your manager.
Lulu OK! What seems to be the problem ma'am?
Cubit Is there anything we can do to make it up to you? Free color copies?
C2 I need to speak to someone who can understand. Where are the people who are usually here?
S I don't know what channel you're on.
C2 It's a generational thing, isn't it?
S My youth is irrelevant. I speak to you as a fellow sentient being. But you won't accept that.
C2 You are heartless
S My heart was buried here.
C2 Obviously You've had nothing published. He slash my article. Fifty and Fucking! I demand you relieve him of his duties.
C Sealove, you want to tell me why everytime someone around here is crying you are in the middle of it?
S Oh that is rich.
C You've got exactly two minutes to explain just what the hell is going on.
S Your honor, what we have here is a sexual advance frustrated by intelligence. I've had a straight two weeks of these overgrown infants demanding my full attention when I am trying to multi-task. Cubit you yourself have said efficiency is what we're after. Less waste. We know that here in Full Serve, it's all about giving us jobs ready to be run, and letting us do them, on time. Special needs get in the way. We built Self Serve and stocked it with tools for these affection addicts but they can't seem to get it. I want to help of course, but a lot of the time it's better to draw clear boundaries. If you want to contract for affection, well, that's not my core competency. I've been there and I'm not there any more. I'm still young and healthy but I can't suck off the entire planet. Certainly not at these wages.
L So you're not denying treating this customer in a harsh way?
C But it was in the interest of efficiency
S And awareness. You yourself have always said we should help train the customers.
C2 I think you are a peeg. I would not fuck you for nothing!
Lulu You're fired.
Sealove and Julius are in the check cashing line at the bank.
S Cabbage, potatoes, onions, yams, carrots all boiling in a big pot because you can get them with your last dollar, days before pay day.
J Yeah, my wife says I don't manage money well.
S Today we finally go to the diner. Cash is our friend. How about we say the enemy is anything over six hundred.
J No enemy of mine.
S How would you know
S But what did YOU do for the last four days when the cash ran out?
J The Fast Deli egg on a roll. A buck fifty. Yesterday, the buttered roll. A buck. Tomorrow of course we go for potato and egg. On a sub roll? Can't beat it. For two twenty five. Cause this time, I'm going to spend less right away. I decided. Like Allen, he woulda been in the bar by now. So this week, I decided.
S What happend to his paycheck I wonder.
J Next of kin. Or whatever.
S We were his next of kin, man.
J Yeah I'm sure we get his paycheck.
S That's what I was thinking.
[he shows it to Julius]
S We can split it. He would have wanted us to.
J Man I don't know. Split it on what?
S We can build a statue. Or go get drunk by a statue in the park. Go to the park with a case of Bud, pass a few out to the hangers-on and tell them his name.
J I don't know about that. It sounds OK a couple years ago but I don't drink anymore. Drinking makes you smoke, and smoking makes you want to find harder stuff to smoke. The thrills make sense just to themselves, you know? And I become a piece of shit. I'm working third shift this year 'cause I did this kind of thing a lot last year.
S So instead what?
J Softball? Me and the guys I used to play with in Queens are in the amateur leagues. You can get a home run without too much difficulty. It's not pro distances. With a clear head, you can do it.
S But we're talking about Allen. Isn't there something in you that makes you want to tell the world what he meant to us.
A You're fucking 23 years old I oughta smack you in the head. You're going to have so many other opportunities. You stay up late thinking maybe you should go on management track. Stay free. And don't blow off the break times. Use your break times to get out of the store. Get a breathe of fresh air or a smoke. For now, here's what you do. I don't know, do something everyone can be part of. Here's my check cashing card. Get back to the store. Whatever you do. Don't let it look like you're having drinks on your lunch break on your payday.
J It's almost our turn
S OK, the case of Budweiser is out and with it all my fake preconceptions about our class consciousness. How about meat?
S Pork, ground beef, chick-een.
J You want to load up your freezer on a dead man's paycheck?
S I don't want to waste good cash. Not for me. For everyone. Watch.
J Well, maybe.
S So sick of soft grains, boiled plants. If I don't eat something with a little juice, I'm going to loose sensation in my tongue. It's time. For a feast! A carnival. Carnivorous music.
J Do you know his signature?
S I got his check cashing card.
J Gimme. He had this crazy fucking signature. No one could read it.
[he signs. gives it to Sealove, as Lulu enters ]
L Guys, have you heard?
J Jeez, you scared me.
L You haven't, right?
[Sealove turns around.]
S Oh hi.
L Cubit got fired.
L At nine this morning, before they took off for a conference, the Regionals requested Cubit's resignation by noon today. And they got it. He hand delivered it. He's on his way back to California.
S What happened?
L A lot of the Regionals just didn't like his management style. There's also a military tradition a lot of them follow. Officers don't fraternize with the troops.
S They mean drink.
L Plus, they said he wasn't screening the store for early warning signs of union activity.
S Yes he was.
L Not enough.
J Jeez Louise.
J So what about you?
L Am I going to apply for Manager?
L I don't know anymore. Two months ago I really wanted the job. Now I'm not so sure. The Regionals really suck you in and spit you out. Your Profit and Loss statement every month has to keep payroll under 24% of your total costs. It's hard. You either totally serve them or you get fired. Maybe I'm happy where I am.
[Sealove is called back to the bank window. He comes back with a stack of cash.]
L Where'd you get so much cash.
S I'm a hard worker. C'mon. We're going to the grocery store. I'm getting the cab. Taxi!
Sealove in front of the customers, with Lulu and Julius working the store. There's a barbecue grill on the glue table.
The lights go off occasionally.
Sealove My coworker friend Julius is turning off the lights. Fluorescent lights actually aren't good for you. I heard they are timed to beat on your brain. I say this in the spirit of a new honesty. There are many other things here that aren't good for you. But for now, not the least of which is, MEAT.
J[cheerfully] We're closed!
S Thank you Julius, yes it's true. Allen is dead, Cubit has been fired, and the Regionals are all down in Florida on a big golf and coke trip. And you, me, here we are! But it is FUCKING Fri-day in a shop that never closes, so,
J We're closed.
S Thank you Julius once again. But seriously folks, we have a door prize for all of you loyalists who have stood by through this grand series of accidents. Your consolation prize is a large piece of meat. Take this, all of you. This is the spirit of the system that sacrifices for you and your screenplays, your proposals, your resumés. Remember who worked here. That's all we ask.
C2 Where are the people who are usually here?
S I've worked here for quite a while now. I mean, mostly fulltime. Off and on.
C2 Where is that guy?
S Oh, Allen?
C2 The one, he did the
[imitates hand motions]
S We lost him. He's in the ground now. He will live again in the plants that grow from the body that was so richly soaked in the world.
C2 Did he have children?
S Nope. Like Jesus, his example and his style were his legacy.
J He had friends. Especially in this one bar on the Upper West Side.
C2 What bar?
J The Blue Marlin.
C2 I know the Blue Marlin. Been there forever
J Oh Yeah
C2 There's talk about closing it down.
C3 I heard that.
C2 It's so old. Where was Allen's funeral?
S Well, it was here. We put up a few posters around town. But it snowed. How was your trip, did you like L.A.?
C3 I should have stayed. The copy shops there have a lot more space.
S I've heard that. I had a tough week here though. I had a dream about that Gulf War Veteran in Self Serve
C1 I heard that. What the hell is going on here? Is this some sort of political statement?
S Infinity is a very political company. It's just a question of which politics. In some ways, we're all ex-anarchists. You see how the free market and the ruling class will make you run your copy shop and you want to really organize somehow to fight it. I think we're getting there. Have you had the terriyaki steak? Julius, would you? Thank you.
J Thank you.
S here you go and you can call me Dad. Payday ends in about eight hours, only then do I plan to have a drink. Right now it's feeding time in Infinity. Cut down on your habits with me. Your satisfaction might be delayed a little while. But it's still early. We have time. Julius, the lights!