My manager pulls me into his office. He's drunk and there are bags under his eyes that rival Droopy the Dog's.
"You haven't been in a good mood today," he tells me, speaking slowly so as not to fumble his words. The way he says it suggests I've misbehaved, possibly thrown a chair or two. In reality, I'm just kind of quiet and distant. Nothing that affects my job. Members still enter. Parking still gets validated. Just with less personality.
And that's a problem.
See, I've set the bar high for myself. I'm animated, fun, flirtatious. I remember names. I'm a fucking mascot. Anything below mascot-level is epic, epic failure in the eyes of management. All other employees are allowed to be normal and cordial. I have to be loud and obsequious. I'm permitted two emotions when I'm on the clock: happy and happier. Traces of humanness, shades of grey, big no-nos.
The three seconds I spend checking in a member are infinitely more important than anything that's going on in my life. I'm responsible for making sure they feel wanted, needed, loved, even if they're just coming in to get a blowjob in the steam room. Because, aside from BJs in the mist, that's why people join gyms -- to be validated by its minimum wage staff. Now I'm not knocking on good customer service, but this isn't the fucking Sprint kiosk at the mall. A quick hi and enough of a smile should suffice. Except my company gives 110%. It says so on my name badge, right above my misspelled name.
"The members can tell something's wrong."
"You're compromising their experience."
My name badge also says that we never compromise the member experience. The problem isn't that I'm not doing my job; it's that I'm not doing it with enough oompf. I'm functioning, not entertaining. Jogging, not running. An A student getting an F for effort.
"I'm kind of dealing with some stuff."
"I understand, but we try to create an..."
He pauses for a second to think of the word.
"... atmosphere that's better than what they would get somewhere else."
I want to ask him if that's why we have buckets out to catch the water leaking from the celing. Instead I bite my tongue. In this moment, as much as I feel like quitting, as cinematic as it would be, I realize that it's going to be the same everywhere else. Blazes of glory are impractical, and most of the time they extinguish as soon as they ignite. It's a fun story for a couple days until you realize you're unemployed and rent is due. This is why the homeless have something interesting to say.
Still, it hurts me to an extent. This is society. This is life. I didn't have a lot of faith in humanity to begin with, but now I have less. What I don't understand is this blind corporate devotion. If my manager had sat down to speak to me one-on-one, as an individual, then fine, okay. But he sat down to speak to me on behalf of the company. A motherfucking ambassador. And that bothers me and makes me a little sad. I feel sorry for him, because he isn't a bad guy, by any means. Kind of dorky, but totally cool -- one of those Uncle Jesse, high school types. Foreigner, AC/DC, yeah!
It just feels like he's been brainwashed. Infected with Ebola.
To sit here and say the company this, the company that, it's bullshit. Everyone is expendable in a corporation, and to lay back and kick your feet up and think that this giant fucking entity genuinely cares about you and appreciates you as an individual, as a person, just because last month's numbers were boner-worthy, that's a fantasy. It's idol worship. A giant stone owl that will not protect you when the skies piss fire and the earth shits lava.
But, you know, I guess people need something to believe in.
I know I do.