Processed World #5

Issue 5: Summer 1982 from http://www.processedworld.com

AttachmentSize
processedworld05proc.pdf6.54 MB

Table of Contents

Talking Heads
introduction

Letters

Gidget Gets Fired

Sabotage: the Ultimate Video Game

Memo Of The Month

Not Just Words... Disinformation

Customer Service, Michael Speaking, May I Help You?

Charlie in Videoland
a photo novella

Help, I'm Doing Hard Time In the Federal (or state or county or city)

Bureaucracy
Tale of Toil

Fantasies of a Working Girl

Talking Heads

(introduction)

Processed World continues grow, both as a magazine and as a community of rebels from the office and elsewhere. Nearly 2,000 copies of PW #4 were distributed in the first six weeks after publication. Our bi-weekly Wednesday night gatherings at a bar in the North Beach district of San Francisco have been drawing new friends, sympathizers and fellow malcontents.

With the expansion of the editorial/publishing group, differences of opinion have multiplied. While we're all still agreed on the basics—the themes that have recurred throughout past issues and this one—we are divided on certain theoretical and strategic questions.

How to organize ourselves—and for what—is the most crucial of these questions. All of us are extremely critical of the existing labor movement. While some of us feel it can be worked with or within in certain circumstances, others are adamantly opposed to trade unions. We all agree that the revolt which Processed World has analyzed, chronicled—and, hopefully, contributed to—has to extend beyond the limitations of the workplace into an attack on the entire complex of social institutions and relations we encounter every day. This involves the development of new kinds of organization, reflecting the diversity of experience and circumstances in modern society. Be they termed councils, unions, assemblies, or affinities, these forms could be the precursors to a situation where everyone could decide on the fundamental questions of work, play, creation and enjoyment. The debate on unions continues in our Letters section with an exchange between a former social service worker and present SEIU militant, and Lucius Cabins, author of last issue's artic on the Social Service Employees Union. We welcome further contributions on this topic.

Another sensitive issue—especially because of all the other questions it raises—is that of "sabotage." While the sabotage theme has cropped up in PW before, often jokingly, this issue's lead article, "Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game" is the first time any of us has treated this theme in depth. The article has provoked intense debate among us.

To begin with, the very meaning of the word is in question. Does sabotage refer to any destruction by workers of corporate or state property? Or is it merely the disabling of machines? More broadly, does the term cover (as the old Industrial Workers of the World had it) workers' on-the-job restriction of their own output by whatever means?

Moreover, what is the significance of sabotage? Some of us, who emphasize the crucial importance of the new data-processing technology to an already-shaky power structure, see sabotage as an essential means to undermining this structure as part of a wider social transformation. A contrasting perspective is offered by those who view the usefulness of sabotage as limited at best, and which, in its individual forms at least, is potentially damaging to collective solidarity by bringing down management wrath on an atomized workforce. Most of us would stress that acts of "sabotage "should be viewed in their specific context—type of work situation, general level and aims of workers' self-organization there and elsewhere—and interpret these acts accordingly.

These viewpoints alone deserve far more extensive coverage in PW. But Out of the arguments about sabotage have come others: about what kind of world we want (especially its technological base); about what kinds of tactics and strategy are most effective for improving our conditions within the present set-up; and about how such efforts relate to the fight for a new kind of society. The technology question in particular gets another look in this issue with "Not Just Words... Disinformation, " a review of San Francisco's recent office Automation Conference and the trouble we made there, including selected comments from the press. A different slant on the VDT is also presented in this issue's fotonovela, "Charlie in Videoland, " a satirical look at kids and computers.

Along with the disquieting story of Charlie and his friend, the Visions and Nightmares department continues in this issue with "Fantasies of a Working Girl" and "Customer Service, Michael Speaking, May I Help You?" Both pieces take off from workaday situations into the realms of the surreal. So, in a different way, do the various poems, most of which deal with feelings of isolation and despondency in the office workworld. Our latest Tale of Toil, "Help, I'm Doing Hard Time... " is truelife Kafka, demonstrating just how strange this work-world can be, especially within the labyrinths of the so-called "public sector. " Additionally, it provides a useful corrective to currently-popular New Right cliches about why government doesn't work.

We go into our fifth issue a larger, more varied and contentious group, debating many of the same questions that working people have argued about for at least a century and a half. We have in common a dissatisfaction with all of the previous answers. As organizations of office workers outside the traditional unions appear—and PW is just one of them—these debates can only become more widespread and better focussed. PW hopes to go on being one context for such debates. But we would like to see others. Go us one better! And keep in touch!

Letters

Dear PW:

Thanks for helping me relax a little bit about office appearances.

I used to be embarrassed about needing even a plain ordinary cushion on my steno chair. Then, when they moved me upstairs and put me in front of the IBM console, it became a rubber doughnut, and now it's two doughnuts on my chair. I was about to agree to embarrassing surgery when I read your last issue of Processed World. going to worry about 40K rances so much. I'm going to continue to bring my rubber doughnuts to work, and I don't care who watches me perform this ritual, my putting the doughnuts, down and sitting in comfort. If it becomes five doughnuts, they'll have to raise the console because my legs are too long for a shorter chair.

C.R., Saratoga CA

P.S. The story "Prelude" by Christopher Winks, is a gem. By the way, I thought you had succeeded in helping out Blue Shield. I pictured them sitting back and reading Processed World and garbaging the mail. But I'll be damned if their computer still isn't working, because the same day your letter came I received a printout from them about why they couldn't pay for my last two office visits, dammit, Keep trying.

Dear Processed World,

Where there is a need for sabotage, it's so easy just to put an Out of Order sign on the xerox machine...

Paper courtesy AT&T.

Love, M (SF)

Dear Processed Word,

Your issue #4 gave me more laughs than anything I have read since the IWW pamphlets. You seem to be hung up in your development somewhere in the '20s, where an intelligent being could still believe Marxist bullshit.

Fantasies about sabotaging computers, fighting work quotas and assassinating bosses illustrate your failure to understand what the world is all about. Here are a few pointers that just might help:

1. Jobs are not created to provide employment. They are created to supply a service or product to someone willing to pay for that service or product.

2. All wages, benefits, profits, tools, equipment, supplies, and workplaces must be paid for out of the sales price of the goods or services.

3. If the customer can get it cheaper or better somewhere else, you lose the business (and your job). (This is the "Production for need" you desire, without the bureaucracy your scheme would require).

4. However demeaning and ill-paid you consider your job, somewhere there is someone who will cheerfully do it for half your price.

5. With today's instant communication, it doesn't matter where a company locates the clerical staff.

Denigrate if you must the "Childish" $50,000 a year executive, but realize that it may be only his childish desire to live in Frisco rather than in Colorado or Korea that keeps your job around.

On that great day when you smash the VDT's and hold the files hostage, you will suddenly find as the air traffic controllers did that society is not impressed with your tantrums. It is true that a concerted labor uprising can break a company. It has happened before, and it will happen again as long as we have people who, as we said in the old army, shit in their own mess kits. But a bankrupt company pays no wages, so where are you?

But if you can't fight business and you can't fight the economy, what can you do to improve your situation? I'm glad you asked.

1. Start out by making yourself worth more to your company than some warm body off the street, then diversify your skill enough to avoid locking in one narrow slot.

2. Your rationalization for ripping off the company is the same one used by the executive for making his secretary fuck for her job. You both feel undercompensated and so you pick up a few extra benefits. Knock it off.

3. When asking for a raise, forget what you "need". Everyone needs more. Talk instead of your proven value to the company, and if they refuse to pay for that, go elsewhere even if it means taking your precious tail onto a paper route or a janitor's job. If you are not worth what you are getting, keep quiet and hope the company doesn't find out.

4. Don't fuck your boss for a raise. Not everyone can do 60 WPM error free, but the chances are that he can hire a better lay. Stick with what you do best, if anything.

If the burden of applying yourself to your job so the customer is assured the best deal for the money does not appeal to you, then fuck, snivel, whine, cheat, steal and bullshit your way through life, because you are nothing but a fucking sniveling whining cheating thieving bullshitter, but keep quiet about it cause we already have more of them than we need.

Walter E. Wallis
Wallis Engineering
1954-R Old Middlefield Way
Mountain View, CA 94306

We encourage our readers to write directly to Mr. Wallis (send us a copy!). Here's one of our responses:

The idiocies of Mr. Wallis are too numerous to be dealt with here. But the bumptious, arrogant tone of his letter, and some of the half-truths it contains, are worth attention for two reasons. First, they reflect attitudes and platitudes regrettably wide spread among workers as well as the like of Mr. Wallis. Second, they express all too accurately the current relationship of forces between workers and business, at least in most of the world. Needless to say, these reasons are closely connected.

Let's begin with Mr. Wallis' economic notions, which are a cross between high-school Civics text and corner grocer. Mr. Wallis, with quaint stubbornness, asserts that market competition brings about "production for need". The reverse is true. The gap between profitability and real human need — for properly-grown and nutritious food, comfortable and spacious housing, efficient and safe transport and energy generation, creative and satisfying work — has never yawned wider. Two-thirds of the world's population are badly-housed and malnourished. Seven-eighths of its workforce spend their lives in exhausting, mindless and frequently useless toil. At the same time, vast sectors of the global economy are devoted to the creation and satisfaction of "needs" like armaments, nuclear power plants and the private automobile.

More compelling are Mr. Wallis' arguments for worker passivity in the face of capital's imperatives. "... You can't fight business and you can't fight the economy," he crows — because if we do the company will either go broke or leave town. At present, more U.S. companies are going broke than at any time since the thirties, though seldom because of employee demands. Meanwhile, larger corporations are indeed moving their industrial operations to low-wage areas like Latin America and South-East Asia. And in fact, the threat of mass layoffs because of bankruptcy or relocation has been remarkably successful in bringing U.S. and Western European workers back into line.

Traditional labor unions have proven completely incapable of dealing with this — except as active enforcers of management demands. Processed World is arguing for a new, offensive approach — for breaking out of the legalistic "labor" framework and creating directly-democratic, autonomous organization that cuts across the lines of income, occupation and (eventually) nation. Moreover, while Mr. Wallis' class currently has the upper hand, there are encouraging signs. The workers of San Juan, Seoul, Singapore and Soweto are beginning to resist in earnest. What if they were to force the multinationals to pay them San Francisco wages? And in Western Europe, a generation of youth has appeared that is openly contemptuous of the miserable choices offered it, and prefers to fight directly for money, free time, and the space to enjoy both.

Underlying Mr. Wallis' bullying, patronizing style is the mistaken certainty that working-class people are incapable of constructive self-organization. He concedes that "a concerted labor uprising can break a company." But he prefers to forget that "concerted labor uprisings" have also broken government after government during this century, and have several times challenged the fundamental relationships governing this society — the state and the wage system. Over and over again — in Russia and Germany in 1917-21, Spain in 1936-37, Hungary in 1956, Portugal in 1974-75, and most recently in Poland during the last two years — workers have begun taking over social power and running production and distribution for their own purposes — without a bureaucracy. That these revolutions were "lost", crushed in blood, undermined by their own hesitations and lack of self-confidence, is not the point. The present order can be shoved aside by the new, freely cooperative and communal society already latent within it. The means and the necessity for this transformation now exist worldwide, in more profusion than ever before.

Mr. Wallis, rather than contemplating such possibilities, understandably prefers to give us vulgar and condescending advice on how to "get ahead" in a world marching in lockstep toward the abyss. Let us not regret either his stupidity or his repulsiveness. Both will make it easier when the time comes.

Louis Michaelson

Dear PW,

I would like to submit more observations on the daily life of a middle-aged secretary. It's all very hard, really, that daily life. It so often demands more than I can give and takes so much that my free time is spent trying to establish continuity between who I am and what I must be. Who I am means that I must establish and maintain human relationships. What I must be makes that dangerous and painful. You know how it is. And as they say on the street, you've got to keep three steps ahead because they keep pushing you two steps back.

-J. Gulesian, SF

Dear Processed World,

It's been aeons since I wrote you about the unions — I appreciate your reply and the 2 copies of Processed World. I found it lovely, charming, beautiful, painful, tragic, hopeful. I should have responded long ago, but my despondence has superceded my ability to respond; I feel as though I am being beaten senseless.

I appreciate your perspective (i.e. that represented by "P.W.") on the unions — I see a great foresight, and seeking for the truth. I am, unfortunately — (? ) — a grasper at straws — anything — to pull myself out of the morass of anonymity of demeaning, slavish work places. I am also a dreamer, my dreams keep me alive in the pit. So when the hopelessness overcomes me, I dream of a little boy wearing a T-shirt that says "Not to try is worse.

-L.T., SF

Dear Processed World,

RE: Article in PW #4 on SSEU and the Welfare Department.

As a firm believer that history should be written by as many of those that made it as possible, I feel compelled to speak out my analysis of that huge elephant, the San Francisco Welfare Department of the late '60s and early '70s. I spent 6½ years of my life internalizing and externalizing the many conflicts rampant in that institution where hippies, acid heads, and white middle class radicals represented the Establishment to unemployed minorities, where workers were oppressed by gay and Black supervisors before the rest of the country was out of the closet or ghettos. Where social workers attempted to cut reams of red tape before it strangled them as well.

Unfortunately, it did strangle most of us, to some degree, and it certainly strangled the SSEU which no longer exists. The question is why? What could have been done differently? What did we learn that can help us now?

First of all, let me present my bias. I was in the SEIU, first in Local 400 (the Municipal Employees Union of 8,000), then in Local 535 (Social Service Union). I was politically naive upon arriving on the SF scene, but I had already dismissed the idea of social work being socially relevant back in the Midwest when I saw that the last thing the Poverty Program was set up by the Kennedys to do was to eliminate poverty! Of the poor, that is. I'd never had a health plan, a paid vacation, or a grievance procedure although I was 25 and had worked since I was 16.

In my first month on the job I was confronted with joining one of the two unions: SSEU which was anti-establishment, anti-authority, anti-organization, for individual rights (sounded like Barry Goldwater on this issue!), and gave good parties. On the other hand there was the SEIU, part of George Meany's AFL-CIO, bureaucratic, in bed with our boss — Joe Alioto, but which did something akin to "collective bargaining," and was responsible for a health plan, paid vacations, and a grievance procedure that even SSEU used and enjoyed. It was to me a choice between power (tho it be corrupt) and "feeling good" (tho not totally un-corrupt). I wanted both. So I joined the SEIU and went to SSEU parties.

During my 6 1/2 years there I joined hundreds of my co-workers (including United Fronts with SSEUers) in job actions, demonstrations, agit prop and informal occupations. We won things like the right to wear jeans and see-through blouses, bulletin boards, and carved out loopholes for our clients to go through until the then-governor Reagan or the Democrats filled them with concrete. We had fun, we protested, and we enjoyed our after-hour escapes

As part of the SEIU I went through 3 strikes, watched many SSEUers cross our picket line, while some walked the picket line with us. (They never had an official position on a strike, it would violate their principle of individual decision making.) We got sold out 3 times, not directly by our union officials but by their superiors in the Teamsters, Labor Council and Building Trades. We got between 4-9% raises when the cost of living rose 8-12%. Tim Twomey and Gerry Hipps (SEIU bureaucrats) gave up our right to strike.

We started a caucus in Local 400 and tried to change things. We made some headway and lost some ground. We ran for office, got 1/4 of the vote, and got kicked out of Local 400 into our "own Welfare Union," Local 535. That meant that 200 of us were separated from 8,000 members in Local 400. In 535 we fought Forced Work and could organize on a state level. We tried to get a Joint Council in the four SEIU Locals with representation from the ranks in order to have a chance to meet rank-and-filers in Local 400 and the Hospital Union Local 250.

We leafletted General Hospital before work and found hatred of Tim Twomey comparable to our hatred of bureaucrats John Jeffrey and Gerry Hipps. We made alliances, drank beer, nourished spirits and shared visions. We wanted to build a caucus in each local, kick out the bureaucrats, establish democratic structures and procedures, use the unions' resources to get real contracts, and learn to defend them by militant mass actions, link up with other militants in the Labor Movement, stop AIFLD monies going to Nixon and worldwide juntas who murder our fellow and sister workers, stop the Vietnam War other imperialist actions, increase social programs, work out a plan for full employment, end discrimination against all minorities and women. All this by pushing the unions to organize a Labor Party which would bring down the Nixon government like the Miners in England brought down the Tories, — and then on to socialism! Workers' control of the whole enchilada! And in our lifetime!

Why did we have such a hard time making the first step? Why don't we still have a contract here in "union" town?" Even in Marin County they have a contract, flexible hours, and a caseload maximum. (My caseload literally tripled when I was there!) Why didn't SSEU get a contract, get a dental plan, get caseloads reduced or even agitate for an end to the Vietnam War among workers outside DSS? An SSEUer told me, and that says it all: "We don't tackle the big issues because we're too small."

Well, in the SEIU we did tackle the big issues. An extra $30 a month the SEIU got made a difference in my life. SSEU scabs didn't turn the raises down as dirty pieces of AFL silver! Eventually Local 400 came out against the war in Vietnam and defended Angela [Davis] and the [Black] Panthers. A stand by 8,000 paved the way for other unions to take public stands against the government. On the other hand, yes, we were limited in what we were able to do because of the stranglehold of the bureaucracy and its politics of supporting the Democratic Party.

This is my main point: I think we could have successfully fought the SEIU bureaucracy in Local 400 if we had 400 unified workers instead of 200 and then 100 struggling in the SEIU while those in SSEU were getting their rocks off on radical highs but changing very little. SSEU in New York City (the model) did separate from the mainstream union movement, but it organized itself and got back inside the AFL-CIO. I never wanted to wear a see-through blouse, and I prefer skirts to jeans. What I wanted and we all needed was a contract with caseload limits, more workers, a dental plan and resources and jobs for our clients. For a start!

SSEU was a diversion, an interesting precursor to the '70s "Me generation." If those 2-300 people had been as interested in communicating and organizing among 18,000 other city workers whose main concern was their working conditions and not their lifestyles and own heads — then we'd be in a hell of a better position now!

If we had had a rank and file takeover of a union of 8,000 in 1970-72 what would have changed? For one, Local 29, OPEU in Oakland had a takeover in a union of 5,000 in the mid-sixties. They were isolated and had to buck two trusteeships and hostility from the Alameda County Central Labor Council (which continues to this day). They made sweeping democratic changes, took part in the movements against the war, in defense of Blacks, and the women's movement, but they were under incredible pressure to compromise. One other large rank and file local in the area would have been an enormous support for them. Local 250 has had caucuses rise and fall for 15 years. Local 400 could have inspired them to keep at it. Local 400 could have supported the drive to organize clericals instead of firing every good Business Agent. We could have instituted elected Business Agents and picked them ourselves!

Rank and file control of a large union could have made a difference as far as organizing other workers in SF and winning protection for them, for influencing the rest of the labor movement and society in general. The ranks controlled SSEU, but they were small and basically ineffectual. We needed (in the Welfare Department) to link up with the thousands of our sisters and brothers in Locals 400 and 250. That's where they were. It wasn't and still isn't easy. There is no shortcut or real alternative, like a better international or no international. Otherwise we're starting from scratch, like much of the New Left likes to do, and discard 100 years of experience along with the bureaucrats.

We've come some distance from the days of the Triangle Shirt Workers, sweatshops, the 16 hour day, and child labor. And it wasn't done by individuals. It was through the sweat of collective effort. We've come a long way from the direct militancy of the Wobblies and the unifying sweep of the early CIO.

Judy Erickson was correct. The AFL-CIO is business unionism and is sleeping with the bosses. But where is SSEU's strategy for "taking it over?" (For that matter where is SLEUTH) The Democratic Party controls SF Welfare just as it controls City Hall and the leadership of Local 400. They made a recent decision to lay off 350 Welfare workers due to Reagan's cuts which affect Medi-Cal. All SSEU could do was "unmask authority" and "feel confident in its own ideas." (Smoking a joint will do that!) Understanding and confidence only really matter when they aid us in changing the things that oppress us, especially if they're the "big issues."

In the SEIU we had a strategy, but not enough people then. SSEU had people (in Welfare) but their only strategy was for small changes. SMALL CHANGES MAKE US FEEL BETTER BUT THE BIG CHANGES ARE CRUCIAL FOR OUR SURVIVAL!

Local 400 now has a caucus that is in a position to challenge the current bureaucrat, Pat Jackson. A new, larger caucus is developing in Local 250. There have been two rank and file takeovers of SEIU locals in Massachusetts recently with a combined membership of 17,000. Workers can and are reclaiming their own unions. This will aid the unorganized workers to organize in new ways that can bypass much of the bureaucratic garbage that has held us back so long. Hopefully we all can learn from past mistakes, and at the same time be inspired by our smallest victories!

I hope this discussion continues because it's critical to office workers. How do we organize? Spontaneously, In small groups at each work site, or do we join with OPEU, SEIU, and AFSCME to be able to take on wider issues like the need to turn the defense budget into the social services budget, to defend undocumented workers, to run labor candidates instead of voting for the lesser of the bosses' evils, as well as do a good job on our own immediate issues.

If we choose the unions we have a struggle against the bureaucracy. If we choose spontaneous networking, we of necessity limit ourselves to some of our own immediate issues. I think we need nationwide structures to even deal with the banks and insurance companies, as well as the support from all of the working class, Including labor, minority and women's groups. But within the larger structures we need a rank and file democracy which encourages the most creative tactics, like the mass grievances and agit prop utilized by SSEU.

—"Dolly Debs"
UNION AND PROUD!

Weelll HeeellIllooooo Dolly,

Thank you for your response to the article on the SEIU/SSEU controversy. First, there are a couple of points of historical disagreement: Burt Alpert (exSSEUer) claims that it was due to the direct action of SSEU members that the current grievance procedure was established (not, as you assert, as a result of the contractual bargaining of SEIU), one which allows workers to represent themselves in hearings and call witnesses and introduce evidence as they see fit, rather than leaving it up to union representatives to "handle it."

Another point of disagreement lies in your assertion that the SSEU was unconcerned with working conditions, in particular that they did nothing about ever-growing caseloads. As mentioned in the article, the SSEU led a symbolic "case-dumping" to protest the increasing caseloads, and throughout The Rag Times and Dialog there are numerous articles and opinions that dealt directly with a myriad of problems and issues related to working conditions. In fact, you say yourself that the SSEU tended to focus on immediate problems at the expense of the "big issues." "SMALL CHANGES MAKE US FEEL BETTER BUT THE BIG CHANGES ARE CRUCIAL FOR OUR SURVIVAL!"

So you say, and this would seem to be the main theme of your critique of SSEU, i.e. that it didn't attempt to deal with the "big issues." According to you, the SEIU did tackle the big issues, which led to a $30/month raise ($75 in contemporary dollars), a public stand against the Vietnam war, and support of the openly pro-Soviet Union Angela Davis. I think it a bit odd that you could term these significant accomplishments. I know people who get equally miniscule raises and don't think it improves their lives at all. Anyway, how long did it last before it was eroded by inflation?

In other parts of your letter, you give the impression that the "big issues crucial to our survival" are approximately as follows:

1. Health plans, dental plans, paid vacations, and grievance procedures

2. Getting "real contracts"

3. "increase social programs and work out a plan for full employment"

4. Gaining power by establishing a "Labor Party" to take over the government and establish "socialism," which would presumably bring about all of the above

While I wouldn't dream of turning down improvements in my material conditions of existence, and at least some PWers feel they are important on-the-job struggles to engage in, these various issues, to my mind, aren't the "big" ones. In fact, I think you missed the point of the original SSEU and the article describing it: that the biggest issue is the way people deal with each other on a daily basis — the content of social interaction. After that, for us, the point is not to take power through a "Party" and increase the scope and importance of the welfare state, but rather to abolish both centralized power and the state.

You also neglect to deal with the substantive criticisms of both SEIU strikes and collectively bargained contracts laid out in my article through lengthy quotes from SSEU publications of the era. You prefer to call SSEUers "scabs" and to insist that it is the contract that could "limit caseloads, provide more workers, a dental plan, and resources and jobs for the welfare recipients." Frankly, I don't agree. The contract is basically only as strong as the workers it claims to represent. Owners and managers have flaunted contractual agreements countless times. The only real protection workers have is their collective ability and willingness to take action against their employers — which they can do with or without the contract. By now it should be painfully clear that the law is not the friend of the working class.

Then there's your other most important theme, the "what if" theme. What if a militant caucus had taken over the leadership of SEIU 400? Unfortunately, there are all too many examples of union "militants" who get into leadership positions and then proceed to act just like the people they replaced. A couple of good examples are the two leaders of national postal unions Biller and Sombrotto, who led wildcat strikes in 1970 but are now entrenched bureaucrats presiding over the automation of the postal service . Another good example is the "rank and file" militant Arnold Miller, who became head of the United Mine Workers on the strength of a r-a-f movement and then acted just like his predecessor.

Another example, which you cite in in your letter, is that of OPEU Local 29. This local, which still suffers (enjoys?) the enmity of the Alameda County Central Labor Council for its "independence," is the same local which stabbed OPEU local 3 (SF) in the back during the Blue Shield strike (1980-81) by settling for a contract which Local 3 had rejected and was striking to improve. This illustrates another point: no matter how well intentioned or militant a local is, most of the time they act as if they are in a vacuum and take actions which directly undercut other workers.

Unions are set up to do one basic thing: negotiate the terms and (sometimes) the conditions of the sale of their members' labor power. "Militant" leadership faces a myriad of institutional/legal constraints, not the least of which is their isolation in one occupational grouping, geographic area, or nation-state. Invariably, this leads to compromise with the basic setup. Even if a situation existed where a highly motivated, active group of workers abolished paid leadership positions and maintained direct control over their own struggles, it would ultimately be absorbed by the system unless a broader horizontal network between different workers and job-sites developed. And even within such a network, new tactics, strategies and goals would have to be developed.

Somehow you equate doing away with obsolete and oppressive union internationals with the abandonment of 100 years of experience. Union internationals, all of them as far as I know, are in the business of keeping workers' struggles as isolated as possible and focused on issues that can be most easily accommodated by the status quo. In fact, one could argue that union internationals (and the vast majority of locals, perhaps with rare exceptions) are among the primary institutions that have evolved in this society to obscure the connections between the "big issues" and the "little issues" of people's daily lives.

What's more, you assume. that spontaneous networking necessarily limits the nature of workers' struggles to immediate issues, and that this is inadequate. Obviously we disagree on this too. I think that if people are challenging the immediate issues that affect their lives, they will usually find themselves facing the big questions, i.e. the questions of authority, decision-making, and a society based on coercion enforced by the money system.

The overall thrust of your criticisms of the SSEU seems to be that the members should have been less interested in their daily lives. Instead, you argue that they should have joined SEIU Local 400 (even though they were kicked out for being too active on their own behalf), learned to "discipline" themselves by reducing the "chaos" of unlimited positions and ideas on every subject, and directed their energies toward establishing a "labor government" in as many jurisdictions as possible.

You assert that in order to take on the wider issues it is necessary to join OPEU, SEIU, or AFSCME, when it seems obvious that those are the very organizations least interested in seeing workers organizing themselves for things other than union-sponsored demands or candidates. Nationwide structures are useless unless people are taking action that requires coordination on that basis, or (hopefully) on an international basis. Establishing the structure before people are moving to take control over their own lives is a simple recipe for a new bureaucracy, just as oppressive and irrelevant as all the ones we're saddled with now.

Yes, the discussion on how to organize is crucial for office workers, and for the rest of the workforce throughout the world. Organizational forms that depend on the autonomous strength of groups of workers on the job are what we should be seeking, not forms that depend on lawyers, accountants, and bureaucrats. It seems to me that we should be more concerned with enunciating as many visions as possible of directions to move in, in terms of new ways to organize society as a whole, rather than merely trying to exhort people to defend what little they've got.

True in sports, but even truer in class war, the best defense is a strong offense, And in a time of deteriorating social and material conditions, the best offense is the most diverse and varied one, keeping the authorities guessing about what will happen next — unions don't provide such dynamic possibilities, but autonomous groups of workers, taking action as they see fit, do. Processed World aspires to be a part of such a movement.

For Workers' Autonomy,
Lucius Cabins

Dear PW,

As I'm writing this I'm overhearing live coverage of the peace demonstrations in NY and SF. It's exciting to hear how many people are out. But it's depressing to hear the old sixties peace leaders and other old guard leader types calling for the old basic involvement in the electoral system. Does anyone really believe that works anymore? I think just the old guard sixties lib-radical types believe that. I wish Barry Commoner and Joan Baez would explain just when we ever get to vote on whether we want nukes or nuke power in the first place. We can't vote against nuke war, the best we can do is vote for an initiative (non-binding) asking Mr. Reagan please to consider not wiping us in a nuclear war. But that seems to be all I hear coming from the radio — that and old Linda Ronstadt tunes... and mothers whining about saving their babies from fallout (for happy, productive lives as cogs in capitalist-electoral society).

—W., LA

Gidget gets fired

Introduction to: Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game, in which the author describes how she was sacked when management found the article.

One year ago the Bank of America offered me a job as a Systems Analyst. Not being a moralist, I didn't feel that my anti- authoritarian principles would be overly compromised if I became an officer of one of the largest and most hated financial institutions in the world. Besides, once inside the belly of the beast I could pursue my other career--i.e. professional anti- authoritarian revolutionary. While designing property management database systems I could drop hints to my co-workers about a "world free from authoritarian domination and exploitation.'' Without being dogmatic, condescending or jargonistic, I'd convince others of the desirability of a "classless, stateless society where decisions about daily life are made by those most directly affected by the consequences of the decisions,'' meanwhile making sure not to neglect my duties in providing technical assistance for the department's office automation project. I'd pass out copies of Processed World , I'd never cooperate with management, I'd always support my co-workers in their fights with the supervisors. Perhaps one day we'd take over the data center and take control of the Bank's assets. From such experiences people would become "capable of coping with social problems in a direct and conscious way, beyond present day "needs' like the maintenance of profits and power structures.''

I did carry on my shadow career by participating in Processed World. In fact, that's how I got caught with my theory of sabotage showing. More precisely, I left a copy of the following article "Sabotage: The Ultimate Videogame'' on my desk at work. One of the people who I should have convinced long before of the desirability of a new world found it, and turned it in to the VP of Personnel Relations.

Subsequently, I had a meeting with the VP and was asked to comment on the article. Despite my attempts to turn sabotage into something harmless he meted out a punishment of a week's suspension. At the nd of that week I was fired. In the formal document explaining my dismissal he stated that it was too risky to have a person who advocated and condoned sabotage working around expensive equipment that stored critical financial data.

Of course, it's not surprising that I got the bounce. Everyone knows that the Bank of America is a repressive institution. My firing is more interesting in what it reveals about me.

There was a subtle dissimulation in the way I presented myself to the people I worked with. I'm sure most of them were shocked when they found out why I was fired. After having worked there for a year only a few people knew that I consider myself a radical. Virtually no one was aware of my past political involvements or that my ideas about what's wrong with the world didn't spring full blown from the CRT screen. My problem wasn't that I failed to convince people but that I was dishonest.

The same problem extends to the way Processed World handles the question of who we are as a group. "Office dissidents,'' "malcontents,'' "nasty secretaries'' are all vague ways to respond to those who inquire about our politics. Like me, most of the members have definite political backgrounds that stretch back for years. (This is not to say that PW is a monolithic political organization. While we all consider ourselves anti-authoritarian, we differ from each other substantially in our political points of view.)

Our relationship as marginals, radicals and "revolutionaries'' to the people we are approaching should be analyzed. Perhaps if I had been more open about my ideas at Bank of America I wouldn't have been so isolated when I got caught with my theory showing.

--Gidget Digit

Sabotage: The Ultimate Video Game

Gidget Digit on workplace sabotage in the age of computers.

What office worker hasn't thought of dousing the keyboard of her word processor with a cup of steaming coffee, hurling her modular telephone handset through the plate glass window of her supervisor's cubicle, or torching up the stack of input forms waiting in her in-box with a "misplaced'' cigarette? The impulse to sabotage the work environment is probably as old as wage-labor itself, perhaps older. Life in an office often means having to endure nonsensical procedures, the childish whims of supervisors and the humiliation of being someone's subordinate. It's no wonder that many of us take out our frustrations on the surroundings that are part of our working life.

The current upsurge in the use of computerized business machines has added fuel to the fire, so to speak. Word processors, remote terminals, data phones, and high speed printers are only a few of the new breakable gadgets that are coming to dominate the modern office. Designed for control and surveillance, they often appear as the immediate source of our frustration. Damaging them is a quick way to vent anger or to gain a few extra minutes of "downtime.''

Sabotage is more than an inescapable desire to bash calculators. It is neither a simple manifestation of machine-hatred nor is it a new phenomenon that has appeared only with the introduction of computer technology. Its forms are largely shaped by the setting in which they take place. The sabotage of new office technology takes place within the larger context of the modern office, a context which includes working conditions, conflict between management and workers, dramatic changes in the work process itself and, finally, relationships between clerical workers themselves.

Power and Control in the Office

Once considered a career that required a good deal of skill, the clerical job now closely resembles an assembly line station. Office management has consciously applied the principles of scientific management to the growing flow of paper and money, breaking the process down into components, routinizing and automating the work, and reserving the more "mental'' tasks for managers or the new machines.

The growth and bureaucratization of the information-handling needs of modern corporations and governments has changed the small "personal'' office into huge organizations complete with complex hierarchies and explicitly defined work relationships. No one is exempt from being situated in the organizational chart. The myriad of titles and grades tends to inhibit a sense of common experience, since everyone else's situation seems slightly different from one's own. Each spot on the hierarchy has its privileges and implied power over those below it, and its requirements of subordination to those above. This social fragmentation is all the more alienating because it occurs within the context of a supposed social equality. There is a pretense of friendliness among all office employees regardless of their rank. This "nice'' atmosphere works conveniently to legitimate the hierarchy. If it seems that everyone is equal and has an equal chance to climb the ladder, the ladder itself appears as the emblem of this "equal opportunity.'' All this makes for an extremely subtle set of power relations.

Rather than through raw confrontation, power is reinforced by imbuing the entire office terrain with its symbols through things like dress, the size of one's desk or workspace, and "perks.'' In such a setting, people may try to reduce their powerlessness by playing the game of privilege or forming alliances with those more powerful than themselves. Indeed, this type of behavior is almost required for survival in a typical office.

In addition to these implicit power relations, many offices (especially the larger corporations) have formalized procedures to handle open conflict when it occurs. Most of these companies have personnel departments that try to mediate between managers and their underlings. While most people recognize these substitutes for unions as biased at best, there is often no alternative, especially when collective action doesn't seem possible. This process of taking complaints up the hierarchy is the reflection of power cliques and manipulation that hold sway on the more informal level. As such, it indicates the conscious attempt on the part of management to undermine any workers' initiatives to organize autonomously, reinforcing the hierarchy as the only legitimate framework for work, conflict, in short, for all aspects of social life.

Office Culture vs. Office Hierarchy

Given the stifling atmosphere of office life it is easy to see why white collar workers have rarely developed organizational forms (like unions) but have relied on different techniques and strategies to oppose both the reorganization of their work and the introduction of new technology. Despite the constraints imposed by bureaucracy, an informal office work culture subverts the "normal'' office order. Activities common to this culture often encourage a feeling of comraderie and collusion. For example, many clericals have become adept in manipulating the superficial friendliness and can get away with what might otherwise be considered insubordination. I recently worked with a woman who regularly called one of the managers "der Fuhrer.'' Since she was known around the offfice for her abrasive personality her behavior was accepted. While this type of "joking'' does not really undermine the basis of a manager's power it creates a potentially subversive community of those who are amused at seeing a bureaucrat insulted to his face.

Other normal daily activities in the office also contribute to the subversion of office order, e.g. making free use of xerox machines, telephones, word processors, etc., for personal uses rather than company needs. "Time-theft,'' too, is a widespread form of normal anti-productivity behavior--extended breaks and lunch hours, arriving late, leaving early, reading the paper on the job, etc.

Pranks can also be disruptive to the normal routine. For example, at Blue Cross of Northern California where I worked as a temp in 1974, there were a few hundred VDT operators. Each operator had a set of procedures to follow to bring her terminal "up,'' after which the words "Good morning, happiness is a sunny day!'' would appear on the screen. No key entry clerk is in the mood to see that at 7:30 AM. One morning someone in the notoriously weird claims input department figured out how to change the program that ran the start-up procedure. When the 250 or so terminal workers powered on their machines that morning they were greeted with the more pleasing "Good morning, happiness is a good fuck!'' On top of being good for a laugh, it caused management to shut the computer down until a systems analyst came in and fixed the program.

White-collar Opposition: Theft, Sabotage and Strikes

Beyond the daily "fun and games,'' there are some serious forms of resistance to the office routine. Theft is perhaps the most well known. However, it is often not recognized as such, largely because the media dwell almost exclusively on executive embezzlement schemes. Shaped by the nature of the work itself (the large flows of money that many clericals deal with daily), the breakdown of the close relationship between clerk and boss that formerly existed, and the rip-offs that the use of computers has made possible, white collar pilfering is another response office workers have developed to compensate themselves for lousy wages and bad working conditions. It is responsible for an estimated $30 to $40 billion in losses per year with computer crime amounting to about 10 percent of that total.

White collar crime is usually associated with a more highly skilled stratum but, in fact, access to a firm's databases motivates even those who possess minimal technical knowledge to dabble in "creative computing.'' A teller at a New York savings bank was able to steal money from depositors' accounts and then cover his tracks by shifting money among several other accounts with phony computer entries. Perhaps what is most interesting about this example is that it demonstrates the ease with which clerks and others who have access to on-line systems can destroy or alter information. In fact, "info-vandalism,'' whether committed by disgruntled employees, high school pranksters or left-wing direct action groups is increasing at a rapid pace.

Computer industry journals are filled with articles and ads dealing with the stability and security of information stored electronically. Legislation has recently been introduced that would make tampering with such data a federal crime. And, in a frantic scramble to protect their digital blips, businesses have come up with a whole range of precautionary measures. They range from physically protecting the hardware against magnet-waving maniacs to encoding devices and password functions that shield the data.

So far, these efforts have not been adequate. There have been several cases of employees vindictively erasing important accounting data. In one instance, an overworked computer operator destroyed two million dollars of billing information that he didn't have time to enter into the computer. In France, a programmer who was irate about having been dismissed, wrote a "time-release'' program that erased all the company's records two years after his dismissal date. Others who have been terminated by their companies have entered information to give themselves large severance or pension payments.

Perhaps more threatening than isolated instances of thievery and pranksterism to companies using data processing equipment is the possibility of strikes or occupations by office, communications and computer workers. While destruction and theft are more common, the more classic forms of "labor problems'' do occur among this sector of the workforce. In February of 1981 the workers of British Columbia Telephone occupied their workplace in a unionizing drive. For six days "Co-op'' Tel operated under no management. Technical workers and operators cross-trained each other in order to maintain telephone service during the action. In England last spring, computer programmers in the civil service struck for higher wages and completely stopped the flow of the government bureaucracy's life-blood (i.e. documents, memos, vouchers, data). While these acts of collective sabotage do not take place very frequently, they demonstrate the possibility of using computers against their intended function.

Business Priorities: Automated Irrationality

One might wonder why government and business are pursuing computerization with such fervor, especially if the technology is so vulnerable. Speed and efficiency (read: increased productivity) are some of the standard reasons given in response to this question. Certainly more irrational elements also come into play. There seems to be an absolute mania for this technology regardless of whether it pays off in higher profits or productivity. Many business execs assume it will even though there have been no thorough investigations into this question.

Whatever individual corporate execs think they're doing, on the level of society as a whole it is clear that a vast restructuring is taking place. Whole segments of the economy are being shifted from older unprofitable industries (i.g. auto, steel) to the dazzling information sector. This necessarily changes the details of our daily lives. Robots, word processors and communication networks are only a few of the new machines that are part of the modern information-based society.

According to liberal businessmen, futurists and computer enthusiasts a new office will emerge from the use of the new technology that will reduce regimentation at work. Remote terminals, they argue, will allow people to do their work in their own homes at their own speeds. While this vision has serious flaws in itself, it is unlikely that management will relinquish control over the work process. In fact, rather than freeing clerks from the gaze of their supervisors, the management statistics programs that many new systems provide will allow the careful scrutiny of each worker's output regardless of where the work is done. Decentralization, assuming it happens at all, will more likely bring about the reintroduction of piece work, while breaking down the type of work cultures discussed above that contribute to the low productivity of office workers.

Outside the workplace, such things as video games, videotext, cable TV and automatic tellers, seemingly benign objects in themselves, increasingly define our leisure time activities (watching various types of television screens for the most part). The individual "freedoms'' that are created by the technological wonders of tele-shopping and home banking are illusory. At most they are conveniences that allow for the more efficient ordering of modern life. The basis of social life is not touched by the "revolution.'' As in the office it remains hierarchical. In fact, the power of those in control is enhanced because there is an illusion of increased freedom. The inhabitants of this electronic village may be allowed total autonomy within their personal "user ID's,'' but they are systematically excluded from taking part in "programming'' the "operating system.''

These visions of computer utopia have come about in response to the widespread bad attitude that many people have toward the "smart'' machines. When computers were first introduced for such things as billings and phone lists, people's immediate response was one of resentment at what they perceived as a loss in power. Who hasn't had the experience of battling an "infallible'' computer that kept charging you for the same shirt, lost all your college records or disconnected your phone call for the fourth time? The point here is not that computers don't work but that this new technology provides authorities with a shield for their power. The frustration and powerlessness that people feel can conveniently be blamed on computer error.

Computers used to automate social life have also been made the objects of sabotage. Everyone has probably heard a version of the story about the irate housewife storming into the nearest PG&E office to do summary justice to a guilty computer with a shotgun. Incidents of sabotage that contain a "social critique'' have also taken place. In 1970 an anti-war group calling itself BEAVER 55 "invaded'' a Hewlett Packard installation in Minnesota and did extensive damage to hardware, tapes and data. More recently (April, 1980), a group in France (CLODO--The Committee to Liquidate or Divert Computers) raided a computer software firm in Toulouse, destorying programs, tapes and punch cards.

In the first case attacking a centralizing source of information was a way to both protest and sabotage U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. The French group, which had many computer workers as members, went further, condemning computers for warping cultural priorities as well as for being the preferred tools of the police and other repressive institutions. The implications of the repressive and socially negative ways in which computers are used need to be explored. However, in their emphasis on massive destruction, groups such as the above direct themselves too much against the technology itself (not to mention those groups' authoritarian internal structure). They do not pursue the positive aim of subverting computers, of exploring the relationship between a given technology and the use to which it is put. In this sense, pranks and theft, often carried out spontaneously and almost always individually, are more radical than the actions of those who group themselves around a specific political ideology.

All of these tendencies, the pranks, stealing and destruction in offices, strikes and occupations by computer workers, and spectacular bombing and arson attacks by left-wing groups imply a common desire to resist changes that are being introduced without our consent. The technology that has been developed to maintain profits and existing institutions of social control is extremely vulnerable to sabotage and subversion, especially in this transition period. If we are to avoid an alienated electronic version of capitalism, in which control is subtle but absolute, we will need to extend the subversion of machines and work process to an all out attack on the social relations that make them possible.

by Gidget Digit

Customer Service, Michael Speaking, May I Help You?

[SCENE: Michael, a ""temployee'' with San Francisco's infamous White Slavery Temporary Agency, is riding the elevator to the 16th floor of 525 Market Street where his phone system, a computer screen and microfiche reader await his arrival. He is tired and irritated today because he was awake all night writing this play. He overhears two other temployees, a young man wearing faded jeans and a girl with chopped hair, discussing their employment with Wells Fargo's credit card customer service department. They are also headed for the 16th floor.]

Sue: I talked with this one bitch yesterday, she said her reputation was ruined when her charge was declined at Gumps. I said, ""What reputation?,'' and released her.

Ted: That's a good one Sue. I had this old guy call up from San Jose, a physician, and he wasn't satisfied with Wells Fargo's policy so he told me that he could buy and sell me. Can you imagine? ""Young man, I have enough money to buy and sell you,'' he said. I told him that I wasn't the kind of ""man'' he was accustomed to buying and selling. I also told him that when the revolution comes I was going to drive to San Jose so he could be the first one I shoot. Then I released him.

[Note: Release means hang up in Wells Fargon.]

[The other elevator riders--a man wearing an expensive suit and holding a sheaf of declined loan applications, a woman in her early thirties wearing a gray business outfit and carrying a pot of coffee and five cups, and a security guard with a loaded .38-- all look at the two blasphemous temployees with dismay, then stare vacantly at the blinking numbers. Michael, Sue and Ted get off on the sixteenth floor.]

Michael: You could have been shot in there! They don't take kindly to dissidence. Especially when you work with computers.

Sue: We're both getting terminated today, I overhead my supervisor talking to her boss yesterday. They're getting reports that we're being rude on the phone.

Michael: Are you?

Ted: Only when people start gibbering about their precious credit being jeopardized.

Sue: Or when their accounts are closed because they didn't make their payment in time.

Ted: Or when they want immediate action even if it takes every bank employee in the whole building.

Michael:
Right. Or when they call up and demand to speak to a supervisor first thing...

Ted:...and if you can't handle it yourself--in other words, lie and get them off the line--then your supervisor resents you for the remainder of your employment.

Sue: Actually, I'm rude only about 82 percent of the time. The other 18 percent of the time the folks are bearable. At least they realize that banks hire temporary employees to answer customer service phones because they're cheap labor and they are an effective information block when the bank screws up and steals the customer's money.

[A supervisor approaches the group.]

Supervisor: You should have been on the phones two minutes ago!

[The temployees scatter like beetles. Michael goes to his cubicle. The CRT screen reads: THE APPLICATON WAS REJECTED BECAUSE OF A FAILURE IN THE SYSTEM.]

Michael: Shit, the computers are down again. [he signs onto the phone system and puts the star unit over his ear] I love this. [He makes himself available for incoming calls. The gate opens and a call comes in.] Customer service. Michael speaking. May I help you?

Customer: Yes, my number is 5.. 4.. 1.. 0.. 3.. 7...

Michael: Excuse me Ma'am, before you give me your number, I should tell you that our computers are down...

Customer: Which means?

Michael: Which means that I can't help you right now.

Customer: I've been on hold for fifteen minutes, mister, and I want something done about my statement right now!

Michael: I can appreciate that you've been on hold but there's nothing I can do. I can't even tell you your owing balance.

Customer: I want to speak to your supervisor.

Michael: I'm sorry Ma'am, my supervisor is going to tell you the same thing that I'm telling you. She's on her break right now anyway.

Customer: Then I want to talk to your supervisor's supervisor! I want to speak to the head of the department!!

Michael: I'm sorry Ma'am, he's in a meeting...

Customer: I don't want ""sorry from some snotty-nosed asshole with no brains, I want to speak...

Michael: Goodbye, Ma'am.

[Michael releases the customer. He is depressed by this first encounter. The day has begun badly.]

Michael:[Crossing to Ted in the cubicle next to his.] She called me a snotty-nosed asshole with no brains.

Ted: [He holds up his hand to indicate that he is talking to a cardholder].... Yes... I understand that Ma'am, that's why they're called double charges. You've been charged twice for the same item due to a computer error. All you have to do is write us a letter asking us to remove the double charge, otherwise it will show up again on your next statement... No, we can't just do it over the phone... I'm sorry... Yes, I understand that your time is very valuable... That's right, a signed letter... O.K., thanks for calling.

[Michael gets a drink of water. He sees a supervisor ask to see Ted and Sue in her office.]

Supervisor: The seasonal overflow of customer calls has receded according to our call-counting computer so I'm afraid that you will have to be terminated as of this afternoon.

[Ted and Sue laugh in her face. Sue goes to the womens' room to smoke a joint. Ted erases several cardholder's addresses in the computer, then starts a small fire in his wastebasket. Suddenly there is an announcement over the highrise loudspeaker.]

Announcement: Please evacuate the building. This is an emergency. Please leave via the exit nearest you. [The lights fade as Michael follows Sue and Ted through the emergency exit. Michael smirks.]

Michael: You really shouldn't have pulled that alarm Sue. You'll probably be fired for this.

Sue: Heavens.

[An apparition arises our of the corner of the now vacant office. It is HUSBY, GOD OF CREDIT.]

Husby, God of Credit: I can see you all, cowering at your desks, issuing bad checks, writing stupid letters about how you've lost your jobs, sold your junky cars, borrowed money from your goofy brothers in Toledo. Don't think I'm fooled by this chicanery... You there, Bob McDonald in San Diego. I saw your wife buy that dinette set yesterday. You know damn well that now you're way over your limit. We're not a charity, buster, that'll be one over limit charge, thank you very much... And you, Helen Troy from Grand Island, Nebraska. I don't care if it is 10 degrees below zero, you can't afford that new fur coat. Just clean the ratty pullover that's sitting on the floor in your closet. After all, you're only a vapid secretary... What's this I see, an application here from a certain Billy Dong in New York City. Look fella, I realize that they told you before you left Cambodia that this is the Land of Opportunity, but we don't issue VISA cards to dishwashers. If you want it badly enough, I suggest you either go back to school and study computers or send that knockout wife of yours over to 14th and Broadway for some quick cash. [The apparition takes on a reddish tinge and becomes more adamant.] Now let's get to the hardcore... Miss Collins, I see here that you've moved a total of twelve times without leaving a forwarding address. Not nice, Miss Collins. I guess it's time to attach the ol' wages. You'll be hearing from our tribe of bloodthirsty lawyers... All right, what's this crap with Mr. W.S. Grinder from Spokane? He has seven accounts for his salesmen but he still refuses to pay the business fee?.. Hmmm.. Can you say ""Jail,'' Mr. Grinder?... How about ""unusual experiments?'' Can you say ""untold beatings,'' Mr. Grinder? What? Oh, so those business fees don't seem so bad now, Mr. Grinder? Good, we'll expect a check in tomorrow's mail... [The apparition begins to fade].. I'm sorry Mrs. Flinder, but now that your husband is dead we're going to have to close your account... I don't care if you've been with us for thirty-five years, that's THE POLICY... and Joel Smith, I'm afraid we won't be able to replace that card for at least three to thirteen weeks. I know it's getting close to Christmas, but... [Husby, God of Credit fades away.]

--Michael Anderson