BY NIGHT, I dream I'm pursued by Freddie, the corporate slasher. His glinting nails swish and clink as he chases me down a hallway hung with pictures of CEOs.
He laughs maniacally, drooling green. Just as he's about to catch me, I jump into my computer screen, do a quick-change and re-emerge as -- Job Survivor, my decade's version of a superhero.
I saunter up to Freddie, put on my best smile, and say, "How may I help you, sir?" Then I awake, panting, but safe.
You see, as Job Survivor I am sweating bullets by night, biting bullets by day. I wasn't dropped from a powerful star or created at Marvel Comics. I was spawned by corporate America. And I'm just plain lucky to be alive.
Dressed for battle
Like other superheroes, I wear a Survivor Suit. The undergarments are fear, guilt and helplessness. On top of that, I wear armor in layers of courage, resignation or hysterical humor, depending on my whim. Then I cover it all with a cape of banal cheerfulness.
Going about my business of the day, I use my Anti-Splat Survivor Vision to spot other Survivors. Egad, the place is awash with them. All around me, workers hunker down and make themselves very small, hoping they will be overlooked when the wheel spins and the pointer clicks. The building is crawling with people who seem to care less about the job itself than holding onto it.
I switch my eyes to Long-Range Anti-Splat Survivor Vision and scan businesses from New York to Dallas. The Survivor faces I see are jumpy and detached. Former critical thinkers are lethargic and pandering. Their heads bob like pink weather birds as they repeat, "Yeah, boss, great idea!"
In business after business, innovation, trust and long-term planning vaporize before my eyes. Survivors aren't terribly helpful toward one another; they're mistrustful, occasionally violent. Petty theft increases.
Well, no one ever said that becoming Job Survivor, despised shadow-hero of the '90s, would be a picnic. It's a weird life to claw your way a few degrees above the bottom line.
Feeling like a widget
But we survive, and are no less heroic than Scott O'Grady when he was shot down over Bosnia last June and honed all his faculties to a sharp hook with which he held on to life. Perhaps we should be on the cover of Time. All six of us.
But, alas, surviving takes its toll. Constantly fearing for my job, being moved around, renamed and retrained makes me feel like a thing, a widget rather than a person. My heart behaves like that of a jilted lover, refusing to get involved again, even as my body goes through the motions.
My living quarters are a small box built of fear. And I have myopia; my vision extends no more than arm's length. To live with only survival in mind is to forget creativity, wildness, daring and even silly fun. Survivalism invites one to close the blinds and get through the night.
Being informed that I will be transferred only locally again, I gratefully pack up my desk, squint at the mileage on my jalopy and hope I'm retrainable.
I end conversations with, "Hey, at least I have a job."
So, even though I'm eating humble pie for dinner, I'm practicing some in-your-face bravado for my nightly confrontation with Freddie.
Tonight I'll stand up to him, yell, "Beware, Freddie, you with your merciless, downsizing, slasher fingers. Oh, you bog-brain of a believer only in the bottom line of immediate profit. Soon there will be more of us than there are of you. We won't have jobs and we won't have much sanity left. Careful that things that go snip-snip in the night don't get YOU!"
In my dreams, I'm tough.
Jan Mosgofian is a free-lance writer. She works for a corporation that has cut 26,000 jobs in the past 12 years.