From 9:30 to 11:00am I am in constant motion. That’s good. Busy days are always good. The more I’m moving the less time there is to think. I can’t dwell on my situation if I’m trying to calculate the quickest route from Kyle to Workstation 184 and all drops in between.
While I’m not thinking, that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling; the cold zones of the spotty air conditioning coverage, the warmth of the sunlight through the windows on my bare skin, the sensation of my breasts bouncing as I go, well-worn carpet under my feet, the feeling of eyes on my backside as I rush pass. I feel all the joy, all the judgment. I’m not actively thinking but I am actively feeling everything.
A brisk trading morning means I don’t have to think about anything more than the job and how to get it done as soon as possible. A good run keeps me away from the copier for five minutes at a time, a rough one ten. The majority of the traders don’t have time for chit-chat or petty derision, not when there is money to be made. Most barely give me a glance as they take the order or confirmation from me, click ‘received’ on the desktop app, and go on with their work without paying me any more attention than absolutely necessary. I love that, indifference is acceptance, I’m just part of the process. It feels like the way things are supposed to work.
If half of the traders ignore me completely I’m having a great day.
Then there is the thirty percent or so that have to do something extra; a “thank you”, a nod or a wink, maybe a judgmental sigh or roll of the eyes, something that acknowledges my existence as something unusual. I hate that. Whether they are being polite or prudish, I would rather have a few extra seconds to complete the next run, or if you want me out of your space faster click ‘received’; that’s the best way to say either “thank you” or “f*** you” for a busy mailgirl. Trust me, we get the intended meaning.
But then there are the others, the minority that wants to remind you of your place in the pecking order with any chance they get. They act like somehow trying to do your job well is being uppity. They are the ones that keep me up at night, when my tired body just wants to rest but my unquiet mind won’t stop thinking about the jerks that simply had to hit me with an extra demerit or waste time out of spite.
“A. Schranz – Workstation 85 – Floor 10” was one of the latter. Shorter than me, maybe five-foot two and almost as broad as he was tall, balding, middle-aged, with a face twisted in contempt every time he looked at me. I don’t remember him when I was a trader, but he had apparently been around for years before I started. A career stuck is sales is one of extremes, feast or famine as traders live on sales commission. Mr. Schranz looks like he hasn’t missed many feasts, and I thought being a mailgirl was better than famine. You would figure we were kindred spirits, each doing their best to keep food on the table. But that’s not how it is. At worst I should be tolerated if not enjoyed, an attractive nude woman who comes running when called should be a kinky thrill to a thoroughly unattractive man like him. Instead he goes out of his way to laud his position over me, seemingly getting a charge out of keeping me down.
As I collected the next batch of trades from Kyle, six deliveries in total, I saw Mr. Schranz’s name pop up in the task window and suppressed a shudder. On his best day he was so busy he ignored me, on his worst I would hide in the bathroom and cry.
To make things a little worse, his workstation was near the exact middle of the trading floor. In a building whose footprint took up an entire city block, his workstation was neither convenient to end a run on or begin one, meaning I could not easily bank time before or make up any time after attending to his delivery.
I exhale, deciding to just bite the bullet and get Mr. Schranz out of the way first. I moved quickly up Main Street, feet pounding on the coarse carpeting, eyes down so I could not see who was taking in the fullest look. Mid-mornings are all crazy, after the initial rush of orders at market opening the phones and keyboards start to fade into a background din. Nothing stops but it all becomes part of the heartbeat of business, my feet move in time to the pulse.
I make my way through the maze of cubicles and arrive just outside Workstation 85. Mr. Schranz is on the phone, energetically talking with whoever is on the other end, most likely the client. I take an extra second to make myself as presentable as possible, feet planted more than shoulder width apart, chest out, belly in, eyes down, as textbook a mailgirl as the example right out of the manual. The other trade confirmations behind my back, his the lone one in front. I wait patiently for a moment…
I risk a little look at my MMU. The countdown clock persists. I’m staring at his bald spot, losing time as Mr. Schranz is yammering on the phone about Saturday’s UConn game.
I hold fast for another moment, finally venturing to speak. “I have a delivery for you sir.” I said as politely as possible and held out his confirmation.
He doesn’t turn. Instead he extends a finger in my direction, wordlessly telling me to hold on.
I don’t know what to do, I really don’t know. The Mailgirl’s Code prevents me from being disrespectful, but above that we are supposed to be prompt. I have five other deliveries and barely three minutes left to get them done. There is no way to keep everyone happy. I made the only logical choice.
Knowing that this would come back to bite me, I used the on-the-fly feature of the MMU to bump ‘A. Schranz’ to a later delivery. “I’ll return as quick as I can sir.” I said as I ran off, arms and legs pumping to make up some time.
I knew what was waiting for me when I got back, but I couldn’t waste the whole run on Mr. Schranz. If I stood there for the next 3 minutes I would get 6 demerits for not making any of my deliveries on time, by jumping him in the order I might save 3 or 4. Either way I am screwed. This might hurt more now but cost me less in the long run. At least that’s what I hope would happen.
Once you get off Main Street the cubicles are arranged in a confusing labyrinth organized in such a way that traders specializing in certain financial instruments are grouped near each other. Tech stocks, real estate investment trusts, perishable commodities, it is all laid out in a patchwork system that is completely indecipherable if you did not know where you were going. That was one of the perks of having a mailgirl who used to trade on this floor, I mostly knew what went where without having to look it up.
None of that meant I had more time than was allotted on the clock. I scramble, cutting it so close on the corners I actually got rugburn from grazing the partition wall with my right hip. Mailgirls can’t run flat out, not like an Olympic sprinter or anything like that. We are mostly carrying something and it was never a straight path, not to mention the office pedestrians that would obliviously get in your path. I could not run flat out but I could move my ass at a pretty good clip if I had too. This was one of those times.
I delivered to “R. Saladin – Workstation 123” in 22 seconds, “G. Donahue – Workstation 108” in 18 seconds, and “H. Curtis – Workstation 96” in just under 28. All of them were great as far as I was concerned, barely more than a smile or a leer before releasing me to the next stage of my run. Getting that done in a little over a minute helped.
But now I had to double back, the other two deliveries were on the far side of Main Street, and the fastest way was right past Mr. Schranz’s desk. Wonderful.
On the return run I resolved to decide on the fly, if Schranz was still on the phone I could hustle past and triple back after the other deliveries, if not I would deliver his and take my tongue-lashing now. In a way it was up to him. It wasn’t a good plan but it was the best I had.
Slowing as I approached, I listened for his gravely voice from a few cubes away. He was still on the phone, loudly laughing with the unknown party on the other end. I dropped to a trot and then a walk as I came to a stop behind him.
He turned his eyes to me as he sneered into the phone. “The bitches in this office; Impatient, rude, and lazy. You wonder what they are teaching kids in school today? That they are ‘unique little snowflakes’, ‘everybody’s special’, what bullshit. Where are all my tax dollars going, right?”
He laughed. Laughed while I stood there and the clock counted down and talked about me to his friend on the phone.
I did the only thing I could, stood with my feet wide apart, back straight, chest out, belly in, eyes down and with his confirmation extended in my right hand, others concealed behind my back.
Mr. Schranz stared at me as he spoke into the phone. “We got this one girl in my office over here, she really thinks she is hot shit, like she was hired for her brains or something. She struts around here with everything hanging out for everyone to see, thinks she owns the place. Wouldn’t know a winning stock from chicken stock. Total moron. I doubt she’ll be working here this time next month. I only hope whoever hired her is pounding her on the regular, it’s the best use of her talents you know, boost company morale.” Mr. Schranz laughed a gravely, obnoxious, perverted laugh. He couldn’t stop staring at me in sick glee, laughing with his buddy on the phone like they were two chums in a locker room or something.
I couldn’t take that and shouldn’t have to. “I have other deliveries sir. I’ll return as quick as I can.” I said as I bumped him down the delivery list on my MMU. I caught the look on his face with the briefest glimpse, Mr. Schranz was gawking in flabbergasted shock as my naked booty disappeared around the corner.
Once free of his sight I broke into a run. All I can do now is move, the damage had already been done.
Maybe I could have gotten away with little more than what was said already, but I just couldn’t stand there and take it, not with deliveries left to do.
I ran across Main Street, into the cubes beyond, arms and legs pumping to make up for lost time, narrowly dodging around the file cabinet drawer that someone left open at ankle height.
I suppose fear is a good motivator as I delivered to “D. Shafkey – Workstation 61” with just under a minute to spare, rolled back up the side alley to “H. Carringer – Workstation 66” only nineteen seconds after that.
“Maddie,” came a voice I’d forgotten from the lady at Workstation 66, “is everything okay? You look terrified.”
It was Cindi Carringer, the only friend I had made in the whole eighteen months I was a trader at Columbia Mutual. She was born well off with a nice body and a pretty face, a Wharton grad with everything going for her. And I mean everything. All the things I had to scrimp, save, and strive for in life she was just handed. I thought I would hate her guts once I was assigned the workstation next to hers, but she won me over with her personality. Cindi did work hard, she was grateful for the advantages she had, and she was not in the least bit full of herself. That was part of the reason I barely recognized that I was delivering to Cindi’s workstation. Her first name was “Hyacinth” but she preferred to go by the much more common sounding “Cindi”.
And now she looked up at me with her bright blue eyes under the yellow bangs with nothing but concern on her face.
“I’m…” I’m freezing up. I’m not scared, not of judgment from Cindi. In fact when I blew my sales goal last quarter she was the only person I told about the mailgirl job offer. We laughed about it, did a whole ‘imagine if’ scenario, but when reality crept in she was the only one who encouraged me to go for it. And to her credit she had never judged me for it either. This wasn’t my first delivery to her. She had always been pleasant and tried not to stare or anything to afford me a modicum of modesty.
My stupor was snapped as my MMU buzzed. That shouldn’t happen, I still had a little time. It could not be a late delivery penalty.
Indeed it wasn’t. 00:22 seconds were left on the countdown clock. The MMU perked up and said, “1 Demerit Issued – Conduct Violation (Designation).”
Cindi had called me by my name and not my mailgirl number. I did not correct her. Someone must have overheard. Giving a quick look around the area I didn’t see anyone paying attention, everyone adjacent seemed to be doing their jobs.
Then I felt eyes on my back and looked over my shoulder. Like an evil prairie dog I could see the top of Carol Nelson’s face as she eased back into her chair, glaring at me over her glasses like the fat, angry librarian she was at heart. The edges of a smile where visible in her crows feet around her eyes, before she dropped out of sight.
How she heard the exchange over all the phones and keyboards I could not know, she was a whole bank of cubicles away. This day was going from bad to worse.
“Maddie?” Cindi whispered. “Are you alright? You’re trembling.”
I was shaking like a leaf, broke out in a full body sweat. My heart was racing. Maybe it was out of fear at first, but now it had morphed into anger. I was trembling with rage, a completely unfamiliar feeling for me. All I knew how to do was work through it. I stood straight up, feet apart, tits puffed out almost as far as I held out Cindi’s trade confirmation.
“I’m sorry ma’am, everything is fine. And as I am on duty please refer to me as “Mailgirl 10”, “Number 10”, or simply “Ten”; whichever you prefer.”
Cindi gave me a cross look. She knew I was lying. I knew that she knew I was lying. But she also knew enough not to push me for answers right now. I was better off a robot than an enraged nudist.
“Well,” Cindi started as she took the offered confirmation, “I’m sorry to throw you off your game Mailgirl Number 10. If you could relay a message to Ms. Madalaine Aubrey please let her know that I am available to get drinks tonight if she wants to blow off some steam, or she can give me a phone call if she just wants to talk. Is that permissible, Mailgirl Number Ten?”
“Very well ma’am.”
She smiled. I smiled. Cindi clicked ‘Received’ on the desktop app with a second to spare.
The face of my MMU turned red, buzzed, and displayed a clock clicking up. “1 Demerit Issued – Late Delivery (00:00-00:05).” Only one delivery left. Cindi clicked just in time or I would have a second demerit.
I didn’t have time to waste. The clock was always ticking. Mr. Schranz was waiting. I gave my secret friend a thankful nod before running off.
By the time I got back to Workstation 85 my MMU had buzzed a second penalty; “1 Demerit Issued – Late Delivery (00:06-00:15).” I was halfway to the next level before I stood at the entrance of Mr. Schranz’s cubicle for the third time; feet apart, chest out, tummy tucked, eyes down, his confirmation extended out in my palm.
“I have a delivery for you sir.” I said trying to hide the dread in my voice.
Mr. Schranz snatched it out of my hand and slapped it onto his desk. “It’s about time, don’t you think Number Ten?”
“Don’t you think it’s about time I got the trade confirmation you were supposed to drop off three minutes ago?” His voice dripped with malice and sarcasm. I knew better than to argue. This would not be a dialog. “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?”
My MMU buzzed as the countdown clock on his desktop app blinked red and continued relentlessly upwards. “1 Demerit Issued – Late Delivery (00:16-00:45)”.
“Listen Mailgirl, I will take shit from customers, I will take shit from management, I will take shit from my ex-wives and all my ungrateful kids, but I do not have to take a single ounce of crap from you!” Mr. Schranz got up abruptly, so quick I flinched like he was going to hit me. “Of all the things I do for this company, of all the sales that I bring in, they can’t get competent help to deliver a confirmation from the photocopier to my desk in less than three minutes.”
I wanted to argue that I was there and waiting twice already, but any lip would just anger the little troll-man more. Instead I lowered my eyes as much as I could, chin down to my chest, eyes staring at the tops of my breasts, but with my slightly above average height and his short stature Mr. Schranz was right in my face, backing me up until my butt hit the scratchy fabric of the cubical wall across the way.
“I was on the phone with an important client, the client who just gave us another $12,000 to invest. I’m sorry if generating investment capital is inconvenient for your naked-prance-about duties. How fucking inconvenient that you have to wait twenty seconds while I say a nice goodbye to the guy who just gave us 12k.”
I tried to back away, but he advanced for every inch I gave. He just kept pushing and I kept giving, the harsh fabric of the partition liner scraping my ass checks like a Brillo pad.
“Seriously, what is wrong with you?” He stuck a finger in my face as I continued to back away. “Are you jealous? Is that it. You couldn’t hack it as a trader and so you have to take it out on successful ones?”
“No sir.” I said as I was backed off the last link of the cubicle wall, now slowly retreating across Main Street. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m just tying to do my job.”
“Shut it!” He yelled loud enough for work around us to stop. “You don’t think I remember you when you started here, the hot young honey that had the world in her hands. You used to strut around then just like you do now, like you own the place. Well you don’t! And you won’t, ever!”
He was furious, off his rocker more with every word. I didn’t fight back, couldn’t in fact. Not with so many pairs of eyes watching us. I couldn’t defend myself or run away. All I could do was take it.
I dropped to my knees, resting on my haunches as was permitted by the manual and made sure my legs were far enough apart for regulation. Back straight, chest out, my hands on my thighs as the little troll-man continued to berate me.
“You got the gall to think you’re better than us, better than me, but look at you; I have daughters your age! And here you are setting back the women’s rights movement to the Roman Empire? Please.
“The difference between you an me is more than age and gender. It’s more than clothes, Missy. I produce. I get results. I’ve been making my sales every quarter for ten years; and ten more years at National Fidelity before that. I produce revenue.
“You, you just take. You bounce around here for a year and barely make your quota. Then the second year, when things get tough, you fail. No mommy or daddy or boyfriend to bail you out. Left all alone in big, bad reality and you failed. But it’s only one quarter, you got a whole financial quarter grace period, you can make it up… until you failed that too.”
He was ranting, raging, getting personal. He wanted tears. He wanted a big ugly cry in front of all these people, to break me down and prove how much in control he was. But fuck that. I didn’t have to. Yes I have to sit here and take it, and I will, but nothing in my contract or the Mailgirl Code says I have to cry for anyone’s amusement.
“So here we are,” he continued, “me and you. Producer and parasite. The maker and the taker. That is the difference, that is the real difference. When the going got tough I passed. I keep passing. I’ve proved my worth. But you, you fail. You’re a loser. You’ve lost your position and your pride and all that you’re qualified for now is what? Stripping? Pizza delivery?”
He got right down next to me, right in my face. I could smell the rank-ass coffee on his breath. My body involuntarily quivered in disgust at the thought he might actually touch me. I braced for his tirade but instead when he spoke he was menacingly quiet, “I guess you found the best of both worlds, didn’t you? You get to run around here and show everyone the goods, your minimally difficult job enabled because employees like me get big money through the door.
“Is that how it is?” He smiled like he had a brilliant idea. “It is, isn’t it? You like showing off your goodies. You get a real kick out of it. You’re a real exhibitionist, or nudist, or pervert or whatever. You LOVE this job…” He said the last with a disgusting flick of his tongue.
“…but if somebody doesn’t give you the attention, if someone is more focused on their job than staring at your big round tits and your big round ass, well that must really piss you off!”
God my heart was racing. I felt like crying but refused to give him the pleasure. He was exactly wrong. I know I’m the opposite of what he’s describing but he’s whispering loud enough that thirty people must be staring at me right now. I wish I could just fade into the floor and disappear, but the relentless troll-man had to down-dress me in middle of the whole tenth floor.
“That’s it isn’t it. Admit it. You want everyone staring at your body all the time; And when I ignored you to make my customer happy you just had to run off with my confirmation, trot around like a trollop and make me wait to finish the trade. You wouldn’t let me do my job, get the commission I earned! Not without giving you the attention you think you deserve!”
His words dripped with venom. “You you have all the attention now. It’s the Mailgirl Ten show! Everyone can see you.” He pointed left and right but I didn’t follow his finger, I didn’t need to look to know people were staring, “Does that make you happy? Do you have enough attention now?”
I could feel the eyes of every head above every cubical burning into my bare skin, my lip quivered. I had to put an end to this if no one else would. That was the only reason I said what I said…
“What was that?” He mimed to speak up, “Are you happy now?”
“Yes sir,” I said from my place on the floor, “Yes I am happy now.”
“Well good.” He stood up to tower over me, confused and befuddled to have won so easily. “Then let the rest of us do our jobs.”
Finished with his grandstanding, Mr. Schranz strut back to his cubicle. I sat there on my haunches, waiting for the next shoe to drop. Everyone else slowly went back to doing their jobs, the show was over and now it was just the naked girl on the floor.
I chocked back the tears and rage and tried to stand. My MMU buzzed again as Mr. Schranz finally hit ‘received’. The whole escapade had net me 5 demerits. I had actually saved one.
I pulled the tie out of my hair, shook it out and pulled my wavy hair back into a pony tail. My MMU buzzed again and I looked at the face: “1 Demerit Issued – Positional Violation”.
I looked first towards Carol Nelson’s cubicle, then Mr. Schranz’s, neither were paying me any attention. It wasn’t worth looking for the culprit, not now. I had to move.
That is life as a Mailgirl, take it and keep moving.