The Company

January 25, 2009
By Maria Seravalli, Daytona Beach, FL

To the passerby, the one story building merely looked like your average insurance company’s residence. The day’s sales were plastered inside the windows, as if the company was hoping to draw in potential clients. There was the cliché greeter at the door, a friendly, elderly man. The men and women behind the desks, each with their mug of coffee and personal business cards, wore flawless suits and sleek dresses. They smiled as they gave their pitches, as if the company cared about their reputation. However, the company cared little about any of these.

Rarely have I even been inside the insurance building above, though I work in the company’s most important division. The similarities between the people upstairs and me end with my crisp suit and the coffee on my desk. Coffee, they call it the drink that fuels America. Really, that’s only true indirectly.

My Mac pings, and I jerk my head up instantly to read the message:

Thirteen year old schoolboy in Illinois. Caught in Vandalizing act. Two broken bathroom windows. Permission for expulsion requested.

I sigh heavily; these trivial matters reach my department often, whenever there is high activity around the country. Some days, there isn’t much work at all, such as Christmas, when everyone is relaxing. I usually deal with government matters, but its no use wishing things could be changed. After all, I have to make my own decisions.

I type two words in response: Permission Denied

I know whoever is on the receiving end of the message (one of the many company workers placed around the country to make sure our decisions are carried out) wouldn’t agree. Not many of us would. The rest of my department think I’m losing my nerve, getting my priorities mixed up. They all know why we do this. It’s for the people’s own good. They need to be controlled. They are dangerous without guidance. They don’t cut anyone slack, and they don’t understand why I do. Are we really any better than them? With our heightened senses, lightning reflexes, and crystal clear judgment? The gray area that clouds most humans doesn’t exist in us, just black and white, decisive thinking. Our emotions don’t enter where they shouldn’t. It is the gift we were given to use. None of them think twice about whether this gives us the right to decide how someone lives their life. Except me.

I could be home so much faster if I just ran. Instead, I move forward with the traffic, keeping with the façade, just like the insurance building that hides the company. I know I can run at least as fast as a car, but I haven’t tested it farther than that. I wonder vaguely how many of us there are. A thousand, maybe a little bit more, in each of the major countries. Those scattered in the smaller areas. Just a minute percent of the world’s population, and yet the most important by far.
At least, that’s what we are told.

A horn blares ahead of me, magnified by my extremely sensitive sense of sound. Looking farther ahead than those next to be would be able to do, I search for the cause of the commotion.

A small child, about four years old, runs into the street., while an out of control car spirals toward him. I flinch, surprising myself. I know he has no help now. The company will not go so far as to interfere with death. That is only for the one who put us here to run the earth to decide.

A schoolgirl riding by on a bike sees the child, and I realize what she is going to do before it happens. The girl throws down her bike and runs into the street, scooping up the child and bringing him safely to the median, narrowly missing the car. I see a woman pull over to the girl and offer to help find the child’s parents.

Maybe some of these people don’t need as much controlling as others.

I am just sitting down to a solitary dinner when the doorbell rings. It’s a family of four, two school aged boys and their parents. “Evening sir,” says the oldest boy, “We’ve been living here for a year and we’ve never met you. Don’t you think we should have met you?” The father laughs and explains more thoroughly, “Our boys like talking to the neighbors, getting to know them, but we’ve never seen much of you. We just thought we’d bring over this cake and,” “Its green ‘cause it’s St. Pat’s Day!” the younger boy interrupts excitedly. “Thank you,” is all I can think of to say.

The company didn’t form decisions out of nothing; they just controlled situations the normal humans got themselves into. These people weren’t being kind because a company worker was standing just out of view, manipulating their lives to make things come out as the company decided. They were just being kind because it was the right think to do, and they knew that without any help. Just like that schoolgirl who pulled the child out of the way of the car, or the woman who stopped to help her.

Maybe these people did have it right after all.

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