After six years, Todd D. couldn't take the tedium anymore — his company refused to change with the times, and Todd wanted something more engaging. Seeing an opening at a publishing company, it sounded like the ideal change. He'd be going from a big software company to a more progressive publishing company with a software department; a good place for him to show his chops and actually make a difference. He aced his interview, as did the company — they'd proudly told Todd that they were happy to work with cutting-edge technology, had brand-new hardware, and a near-zero turnover rate. It was a no-brainer for him to accept their offer.

As he was about to head in to his first day of work, he got a call from HR. "Hi, Todd? I forgot to mention the dress code earlier. You'll have to wear a jacket and tie." Ugh, he thought, wondering if his suit was in presentable shape. At his last job he'd show up in a t-shirt and shorts. I guess I'll have to go shopping tonight. He dusted off his old suit, found a tie that didn't completely clash, and hopped in his car. If having to wear a suit would be the worst thing about his new job, it wouldn't be so bad.

Arriving to the office, he was escorted to his new cube. His wooden cube. One of the owners' sons liked to work with wood and had been contracted to build several things around the office — all of the cubes, some shelves, some tables — all of which conveyed the feeling that one was working in a coffin with shelves. It sucked, but Todd could deal with it.

Next, he was shown the time tracking application, and introduced to the company's related policies. "OK, so you're just getting in, so you click here to punch in," the well-dressed woman from HR began. "And when you need to punch out, like if you're using the restroom or something, you click here."

"Wait," Todd began. "I'm supposed to punch out when I use the restroom?"

She chuckled, "of course! I mean, unless you plan on getting work done in the restroom! You have to punch out any time you're not working."

"So if I'm making a phone call?"

"You punch out."

"If I'm stopping by the snack machine for a candy bar?" Todd asked in disbelief.

"You punch out." She seemed to think Todd was a slow learner, while Todd just couldn't believe the absurdity of the policy. It was becoming clear that she thought they should both punch out for the discussion they were currently having. Ugh. That's pretty draconian. At least I'm salaried, he thought.

"Also," she continued, "you have to get forty hours of punched-in time each week. Otherwise you get docked or will have to make it up over the weekend."

...But I'm salaried, Todd thought. "And if I work more than 40 hours?" he asked.

"That's good; that's what we want."

She went on to explain what happens if more break time than is allowed is taken. That is, every day you get 30 minutes for lunch, 15 floating minutes for other breaks (bathroom, snack machine, etc.). If you needed more than 45 minutes, you had to get a special dispensation from your boss. In Todd's case, his boss was the owner's son, Quincy — who had never, ever given out a special dispensation. If you were on fire, you'd better finish your shift before you stopped, dropped, and rolled.

Todd was given internet access, but warned that it was closely monitored and that a lot of sites and services were blocked — for example all major free email services, all major news sites, instant messaging clients, etc. Todd later found a program that he could use to bypass the filter and access GMail, however.

As his training was wrapping up, he was asked if he had any questions. "Well, just one," he said, noticing that no one had left office supplies on his desk. "Where can I get a pen?"

"Oh, we'll have to get you one tomorrow."

This'll be good, Todd thought.

"Janice has the key to the supply cabinet, and she's only in once a week." Janice was the boss's wife. "She'll be in from 11:00 to noon tomorrow. I'll show you where the line starts."

He'd have to wait in line for the one hour window to get any office supplies. And if you missed the window, you didn't get any supplies — you should've planned better, slacker. Either wait until next week or buy it. After work. At your own expense. And to put the icing on the cake, you had to punch out while you were waiting in line.

The Last Straw

After two weeks in his coffinlike cube, Todd and the other developers were summoned to the warehouse. As a publishing company, they had a lot of "magazine junk" that they sold — t-shirts, logo'd stuffed animals, hats, and other similar tchotchkies — and they were practically swimming in the crap.

"The reason I called you all down here is that we need to take inventory of all our promo items," his boss began.

"So why'd you bring all the developers down here?" Todd asked what everyone was thinking.

"The warehouse staff is busy fulfilling orders. Fulfilling orders makes us money; fixing bugs in our software doesn't. I'm going to need you guys to count and sort everything." Todd rolled his eyes, knowing that most of the warehouse staff were friends with the boss's sons and had probably leveraged that to get out of inventory duty.

Todd knew that protesting this would get him nowhere, as they already had a crappy work environment with crappy management. "Can we at least wear something more comfortable while we work?"

"...I didn't say anything about our dress code changing," the boss replied with a sinister smile.

All of the developers had their changes put on hold and started going through dirty, grimy boxes under the boss's unblinking eye. Todd's suit got covered in dust, cardboard fibers, and bits of tape, not to mention that everyone was getting sweaty in the hot warehouse in suits and ties, climbing up 20 feet of shelves (that had been cobbled together by the owner's son), carrying 50lb boxes of stupid crap that no one could ever want. Todd figured that his boss had a printout of OSHA regulations and had made it his goal to break every single one. By the end of the day, everyone's clothes were ruined (as were their spirits).

Todd was so fed up and pissed off that he decided he'd treat himself to the unthinkable — leaving three minutes early. He figured that he'd earned one hundred and eighty seconds of malfeasance, plus he couldn't take another minute of being sweaty and miserable in his coffin cubicle. All that he had on his mind was his frustration, and the desire to treat himself to a good dinner, a long shower, and an early bedtime.

The following day, Todd was called into his boss's office.

"Todd, do you know why you're in here?" Before he could answer, his boss continued. "You're in here because you left three minutes early yesterday. Why don't you walk me through what you were thinking."

Again, before he could answer, his boss answered for him. "I know what you weren't thinking. You weren't thinking 'I should ask for my boss's permission to leave early. I think I should be allowed to leave whenever I please.'" The voice he was giving to Todd's internal monologue had a nasally, sing-song tone.

"And," he continued, "you were also thinking, 'I shouldn't have to do any work. I should be allowed to use the internet whenever I want, however I want.' Yeah, we know you're looking at blocked web sites." He leaned forward in his chair. "Listen, Todd. You've got a bad attitude. It's almost like you don't like working here." That was the first thing he'd gotten right so far.

At this point, Todd decided to end the relationship by formally giving his two minutes' notice. On his way out, he suggested his boss do something anatomically impossible.

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