Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sunday: Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation”
January 22, 2012, 7:27 pm
Filed under: Story Sundays | Tags: , , , ,

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Always short stories, always ones available online for free.

Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation” is a compact and perfect example of what a short story can do. In format, the story is similar to one featured here a few months ago, John Jodzio’s “This is All the Orientation You Are Gonna Get”: a monologue directed at a new employee. Orozco’s picture of the office is spot-on and sometimes hilarious for how clearly it highlights the miseries (and endless minutia) of office work:

If you must make an emergency phone call, ask your supervisor first. If you can’t find your supervisor, ask Phillip Spiers, who sits over there. He’ll check with Clarissa Nicks, who sits over there. If you make an emergency phone call without asking, you may be let go.

Orozco captures, too, the tendency of office-ese to verge into redundancy or meaninglessness:

We have our Biannual Fire Drill twice a year, and our Annual Earthquake Drill once a year.

In reviewing the office’s employees, though, there’s a certain sadness, a sense of all that goes unsaid and unknown at the office; everyone seems to be in love with someone else, who is barely aware of their existence. Orozco has his narrator review these hoped-for romances and personal problems in the same tone as he goes over copy machine etiquette. In doing he highlights not just the divide between the bland standards of office life and how each person in that office considers his or her life, but the inevitable way those inner stories and longings are tamped down. These are stories and facts the narrator considers worthy of note, but no more so than any other detail of the office.

John LaFountaine, who sits over there, uses the women’s room occasionally. He says it is accidental. We know better, but we let it pass. John LaFountaine is harmless, his forays into the forbidden territory of the women’s room simply a benign thrill, a faint blip on the dull, flat line of his life.

“Orientation” is a five-minute read by turns funny and crushing and eerie. This office, this idea of knowing – but not really knowing – the people you work alongside of, will be familiar to anyone who’s ever faced a baffling list of rules regarding everything from bathroom breaks to using the office scanner.

Read “Orientation” online


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