Bad news in the Mail
So Helen says I should start by putting my feelings down on paper, starting with the arrival of the letter and at least up to the first night I was here. So here it goes.
What were my feelings when I got the notice? I was in shock.
All my life I have been blessed, with perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect legs and a metabolism that won't let me grow fat. I am not a "dumb Blonde", although I do have my moments. I was Honor's and Deans list from elementary school all the way to getting my masters in Computer Science at U of Ill, and I also am working on my MBA at Kellogg. All the right moves. I am the top systems business analyst for Services Plus and the number two person in sales support globally. I am on track to be VP of Sales before I am thirty.
And now on Monday, I get this "Notification to report for termination under the rules of the Population Control Act". And I am supposed to report for termination to a processor of my choice within one week. And for the first time in my life, I suddenly discover everything I had been doing was all for nothing.
Now, I don't mean to say I am totally shocked. I mean the one percent solution is well known in the U.S. Every year we select one percent of the female population from nineteen to forty for termination, globally. And it's in the back of every woman's mind as we go about the day. And the Meat Market has a totally different view from what our mothers and grand mothers saw daily.
And every hen party, the subject of how you want to go and what you would be graded as comes up. And we all have nervous survivor laughs when we walk past the grill or look at a Human Roast at a conference or party. I have to admit I have eaten my fair share.
Beginning in college was when the impact really hit us. Almost every week we had kids flunk out. But we also had them get removed due to selection. So I mean, I know what the thing is all about, in a disconnected sort of way. But now, at twenty-six, it is real and in my face.
I remember calling some of my BFFs and popping the news.
"Well, I guess we got to get Christmas cards out now" I told a few of them. And I had some gallows humor too. "I'll see where I am going if you want a piece of me."
An ex said that she always wanted one some day.
One of the senior account executives found out and reached out to me and asked me what I was going to do, and I asked her "What could I do?"
"Well, research it. There is a lot of stink going on here in Chicago about process plants and one of them seems to be doing a job of treating people right."
"Yea, Findley. I heard. But how do I get some real information? I mean, the people who go there are not able to come back out and do a findings document" I said with a laugh.
"Well, let me see what I can do to get an extension beyond this week, Mel. I will get back to you later today. But you owe it to yourself to find the right way to go if you have to. Check if they have a Web site."
So Wednesday night, I did. And I was shocked. They had a whole lot of information that included an intake questionnaire, a FAQ section, Legal aid, lawyer referral, possible exclusions and the forms for application, and a whole bunch of stuff.
They had a section of testimonials. Over thirty women who had come in, had intakes, and then given their impressions on how they were treated and what their expectations were.
They had a page on Grading, and talked about how they actually looked at your body (after you didn't need it any more) and also what restrictions they had on food, drugs and meals before you were admitted. (Not having to skip breakfast was funny.)
Then they had a Chat Room for selectees, and a Chat session for questions.
In the Chat Session, (Where you talked to a representative) a woman named "Cathy" told me that I should look first at the FAQ on extensions. "At least get a few days to get things in order".
So I checked there and saw that there were no loopholes open for me. After two glasses of wine, I started reading through the questionnaire. Phew. There is a lot of stuff on this form. Much of the information was for women with kids, as well as links to social services for minor kids assistance and a lot of other things. More then I knew. I realized I needed to talk to my lawyer at least. Then there was a whole section on Housing, checking and credit card accounts, and wills.
I popped back into the mod chat and asked "What are issues for Scheduling". I got an answer from "Cathy" that they were pretty backed up but they were still on a push from the PCB. So I should go to the scheduling module and get a firm appointment, and print out the confirmation and keep it with me.
So I did. Only this week was full. I went back to the Chat again, and Cathy asked me to give her my SSN. So I did. She said that I would have to do combined intake and process on the following Tuesday, and to be in for the morning session. My termination would be by five PM. That was the longest delay they could get me to get into Findlay. Otherwise I would have to go to H&S or M&H.
Screw that. Tuesday gave me a morning after my drop-dead date, so I grabbed it. Next thing I knew, I had a confirmation of appointment for intake and processing at Findley for Tuesday.
Now I grabbed my third glass of wine and dropped into the Findley chat room. There were a dozen of us in there blabbing away, and I saw a video link as well for some. I ended up in a hen party with a half dozen girls who were all due like me.
Let me tell you, knowing you were on your last week, and after three glasses of wine, you really get a little funny. It was gallows humor. And everyone was a stranger and still we were friends too. I was up until almost three in the morning chatting. We were laughing, crying, yelling, listening, and all sorts of things you can imagine. If I could record it I could have "The Worlds funniest Conversations" for sure.
I passed out at the keyboard at about three, and was kind of creaky when I got up. Going to work seemed kind of pointless, except to do the "clean up" that the questionnaire told me to do. I guess it made sense, getting all that stuff done early so I didn't think about it later.
My lawyer appointment on Thursday was brief. She said she was sorry (of course) and that these questionnaires seem make life a lot easier for her and the survivors (having a checklist that covered everything). She also told me that Carol Burns was the author of the questionnaire and checklist and that I didn't have to worry about any legal issues left loose. And if there were any legal extensions possible Carol would find them for sure.
I thought it was funny. My lawyer said "the best lawyer on extensions and exemptions runs the legal aid group at Findley". Struck me as weird that the slaughterhouse would employ people to keep them from being processed. Kelly (my lawyer) said it was nutty as a squirrel turd, but that was how Findley did things.
The rest of the week was kind of a blur. I remember doing chats every night for at least an hour. And meeting new people every night, as old ones dropped by and were processed. There were "Postcards" sent out by everyone their last night to their chat buddies talking about choices, and last wishes and last minute advice.
I got to admit it, all of this was supportative in a macabre way. It was pretty good about getting me back up to my normal self.
And I have to talk about that now. I am described as one of those "Perpetual Perky People". I was a great Pom-Pom and Cheerleader in high-school and college, and was actually considered to be on the Bears Football team as a professional Cheerleader. But my MBA studies got into the way. Besides, I wanted to be taken seriously in business and you can't get that if you flounce around on Sunday's and address the board on Monday. At best you are seen as a lightweight. Worst a piece of fluff and trophy wife.
Except for the first couple of days after my notice, I have almost never had a down or depressed day in my life. I am just not one to break and panic. There is a silver lining on every cloud. And if I am going to go away and end it, at least I will with a smile.
I have to tell you, being convinced by everyone at Findley that the styles they had were all "minimum pain" (except for the Gallows) off loaded a lot of stress. They won't talk about the "standard" process, but everything else on the menu is pretty open and clear to see. I don't see a lot of pain involved with any of them. It dropped a lot of angst off of me finding out that they took pain management so seriously.
The other things I kept hearing (from the testimonials and from the on line people) was that I wasn't meat until I was dead and that they weren't treating me like that.
(One of the gag lines is that you got more abused by Airport Security then you would at Findley.)
Gradually, it began to suck less with each day. Or maybe my mind just glossed over it. I do that. Really unpleasant things I sort of put in the back of my mind and put things around. My mom called it my Oyster behavior. If I got sand stuck in me, I wrapped it with juice until it hardened and was smooth. Just like an oyster does when it makes a Pearl. I managed to put things in the back and cover them up. So when I did deal with it, it was smooth with no rough edges.
Over the weekend I partied like a mad woman. I desperately wanted to enjoy what I had left. Even went for a long, long drive on Saturday and went out on the Lake on Sunday. I had lots of tears and angst with the family. Got all the good byes and I love you stuff out of the way.
Monday, I was pretty much all cried out and I was pretty settled and into being my normal self. Hi Ho, Hi Ho. It off to die I go.
Showing up on Tuesday
Tuesday, I got up, showered, shaved and dressed for success. Then I caught a cab down to Findley on Tuesday morning. I was meeting up with some women I had met Sunday night and we were all going to go through this together. Misery loves company. So when I got there about nine thirty, I met up with Dani and Phyllis and Barbara and we all walked in.
Findley did a whole group of photos on their web page for the reception room and a lot of other places. You saw on line what you expected to encounter on your way. Right up to a revolving door. It included the photos of many of the people who worked there, and I noticed that none of them were men, except for David Findley, the owner. So when I walked in, it wasn't too strange. We walked to the desk and presented our forms to the woman there (Helen) and she gave us our envelopes and suggested we grab a table and have a seat.
After a few minutes a nice naked brunette came over to us and asked if she could sit with us and go over our forms. Her name was Nancy and I remembered her from U of Ill. She was one of the Feminist studies chairs and I had read a couple of her books. I guess all of us are fair game.
I have to tell you, I thought I was a salesman. Nancy did a hell of a presentation job on the menu at Findley's, including keeping up the mystique of the Standard processing. She said it was dignified, sane and with minimal embarrassment. And it was only done with personal one on one attention.
Dani and I were not too worried about being embarrassed. Barbara was more of a romantic. Phyllis was engaged and spritely. I think she was a little edgier then us.
When Nancy talked about spectator events, and the different images she was presenting to us I got a little excited. I wanted to see. I had never wanted to before, but if I was going to be the star of my little show, then I wanted to see it for myself now.
Nancy flagged down another tall, slightly heavier woman and introduced her as Vicky. Nancy asked Vicky if she could set up an appointment with someone for our "Special Events" after lunch. I figured "you don't know if you don't ask" so I asked for a spectator view first.
I was juiced when Nancy looked up something and said "We have a group in ten minutes." Wow. Talk about immediate gratification. Next thing I know we are following this Vicky down a hallway to a small room and she tells us to leave our purses, document folders, and shoes here. Then we follow her down the hallway to a door at the end with a safe lock on it. Following her through it and up a set of stairs to a gallery at the top of some bleachers, we went walked over to a window overlooking a small auditorium.
And we all saw two naked women standing on the gallows platform. (I recognized it from the photos on the website.) I realized that one of them had a rope around her neck. Then the other walked over to the side of the platform and pulled a lever. Suddenly, the woman in the middle dropped to below the platform with a rush, and we heard a wet "Crack" sound from speakers in the gallery.
I watched in shock as the woman at the end of the rope twisted and turned and slowly spun, listening to her choke. After a few minutes, we heard the dropping of water as she released onto the floor. In the meantime, the other woman walked down the stairs to the people standing around at the base of the platform and talked with them for a few moments, and then led them away.
"Well, do any of you see yourselves going out that way?" Vicky asked. The sound of her voice broke my reverie and I turned to face her.
"I'm not sure what I think. It sure was real" I replied. I remember that word for word. I remember also thinking that I had some hard decisions to make.
Vicky left us alone for a few moments while she went and got us some water bottles from a cooler at the end, and when she came back she stood with us and listened to our chatter.
After a few moments, she broke in and said for us to pay attention, because the act we wanted to watch was about to start.
So we watched as these guys rolled a guillotine on a platform over to the middle in front of the Gallows platform. We had missed the whole taking the dead woman down and get her out of the way thing while we were talking. We were chattering like monkeys there for a while.
After Vicky told us to pay attention, we watched two men take the tarp off of the Guillotine, and saw a pile of baskets next to the business end of it. And I got a swelling in my throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach.
A few moments later, a few naked women came in from the side door, and a fellow came up with a wheelbarrow from a hallway at the back of the auditorium. I remember hearing it squeak. And he stopped next to the guillotine while the women crowded around the end with the baskets and a set of stairs.
We watched the whole choreograph of women picking straws from a cup, until one of them was red. Vicky explained that you were the looser and next when you did. There must not have been a lot of red straws because the cup went around twice before one of the women said "Oh Shit".
This was real. She was lead by the woman in the orange collar (Goats. I got that from the web site too) and then her arms were tied, and she was laid on her stomach on the table and slid up into the machinery. A minute later we heard a loud "Whock" sound as the blade fell, and saw her head fall into the basket.
I remember thinking that this was the ultimate reality play right here in front of me, and I would have peed if I had anything in me.
Then very carefully, the guy operating the Guillotine rolled the body off of the table and toward the edge of the platform. Another man next to the wheelbarrow rolled the woman off of the platform while the body was still leaking fluids onto the wheelbarrow. And picked up the basket, set it on the body and started walking the wheelbarrow toward the rear.
We watched this scenario repeated three more times, getting more and more stunned with each fall of the blade. At the end, we were all kind of numb.
After the fourth woman was decapitated, Vicky asked if we wanted to see any more. I was pretty much in shock. Dani and Barbara were kind of quiet too. Then Phyllis asked, "Could we get something to drink and talk about this a little?"
So Vicky lead us back to the reception area, and we sat and talked. Vicky had to leave us alone and said she would be back to see us later.
I wasn't sure how to reply to that. Polite didn't seem to quite fit.
That is when we found out that Findley's served Lunch. They were serving Pasta and wine, with Brochettes.
Last Meal, ladies. Enjoy.
Drinking a quite surprising Chardonnay with some great pasta salad was not a bad way to spend the lunch hours. And the company was great. We even invited Vicky over to sit with us. She laughed with our jokes a little, and we found out that she was here herself as her first day at work. We all were kind of shocked that she was a selectee, and that the reason they had her working here was so legally they could get her exempted. Talk about weird. We all peppered her with questions about how this place was like, and she laughed with us at the jokes about "Wine affects on the Meat". She said we weren't Kosher anyway so it didn't matter.
Barbara was a member of a Reformed Temple and she asked "how do you handle Kosher?"
"Simple. They butcher a few Moslems" was Dani's reply.
Vicky said "I am not sure. Do you want me to make a special notation on that for you?" She said it with such a serious face, that we all laughed.
Barbara said "I don't think they have human on a kosher menu yet. Probably treat it like Pig and we aren't able to eat it."
"It would make a hell of a meal for Passover" was Dani's comment.
After a few moments, Helen came over and asked Vicky to help a group of women at another table, and sat with us for a few. We got a bit silly for a while and then a message popped up on Helen's portable. "Ladies, we have a bit of a quandary. Do you mind if we shift arrangements around a little? I have a woman that wants to talk with you a little more, Melanie, and I also have a woman that wants to go with a special group. Do you ladies mind if we have Beverly join you while Melanie and I go to interview room two? And Melanie, bring your envelope and purse, there is some issue we have to talk about."
I was a little worried for just a moment. Then again, the wine was talking and I had enough Dutch courage to not really care. So I followed Helen while the woman I recognized as running the hanging came over to my table with another woman I had not seen before.
Walking into the interview room, I saw a tall, grey eyed blonde sitting behind a table eating the remains of her lunch. "Oh, Good. You are here," she said putting the fork down. "I'm Candy and I was hoping you would consider doing us a favor."
For the next thirty minutes, these two women, Helen and this girl, Candy, asked me a lot of questions that you would get in an interview. Suddenly, it hit me that it was an interview.
"Ok, girls. Is this a demographic capture, or something else?" I asked.
Candy kept a poker face, and Helen cracked a smile. "More like something else."
So, then next ten minutes they took the time to explain to me what a Goat was, why they did what they did, and asked what did I think of that. "More specifically, Can you do that for us here?" Candy asked.
In sales, you have to sense everything that is going on around you and do it quick. And I suddenly realized that the older woman was not in charge. The younger one in front of me was. As I realized what was going on here, I suddenly saw a hint of a smile on Candy's face. God, she was reading me like I was reading her. "That depends on what all is involved, I guess. At this point, I don't have a lot of choices, do I?"
"Good Answer. Helen, I will take Melanie with my next group, so she can see what she would be doing here, and let Cindy meet us in processing in a few minutes."
"What will I tell the women I was with?" I asked. Then I felt funny for asking that.
"I don't think that is a worry." Candy said, looking at her tablet. "Barbara is the only one left alive right now and she is next."
Wow, I thought to myself. I will have to think about how I feel about that later.
So, I followed Candy and three other women, who were different and strange to me, and we went down to the blood draw, the bathroom, and into stripping. The whole time nothing was said about me being different from the other three and I got a little nervous about that when I had to get naked and put my label on my box. My heart was racing when I followed the others through the Door and when Candy called my name I walked forward and.
Behind the Curtain
And I woke up with a nasty taste in my mouth, upside down, and with a bump on my head. I was staring at feet. And blood on the feet and legs. I remember saying "What the heck happened?"
And then I looked down (I guess it was actually up since I was hanging upside down) and saw Candy and another woman with her.
"Hi. I'm Cindy. And you are Melanie. Would you like me to let you down?"
"Sure. And can I get a drink? My mouth tastes terrible."
In sales you have to remember what the client says. In this case, I was remembering a LOT. Up to this point, I was remembering almost everything.
I am kind of woozy as I am lowered onto the floor, and the two women help me stand up. I look around me and see the women I came in with hanging up like I guess I was a few minutes ago. But they are missing their heads.
Wow. So I guess this is the standard. No wonder they say no pain. So Cindy asks me if I am able to walk, because there is another string coming and she really needs to get me away from the process floor. And so she helps me get away to a bench next to a door that is marked "Hallway". Cindy gave me a water bottle and said to get the taste out of my mouth. Then I see some motion as the door revolves and a Hispanic woman with a orange collar steps off next to Candy.
I watch as suddenly, it revolves again and a tall black woman is brought around. I hear a name called, and as she steps forward, suddenly she drops to the floor. And I see her ankles tied to a bar. I see her raised upside down and the bar dropped onto a track. Then she is slid forward and I hear a loud PSSSST of air. And then her body bounces on the hook a little and I see it slid down the overhead track. But her head is gone. They have cut off her head while she was upside down.
"See? No muss. No Fuss, Fast and painless" Cindy whispers into my ear.
Her voice shocks me, and the only thing that comes to mind to say is "Shit".
"Yea, they do, but we clean it out farther down the track. Usually they don't drop anything and we can tie it off in the intestine. Makes cleanup easier."
I watch as three more women are done in the same way in quick succession, and all I can think is "Wow. I never would have known."
Like I said, everything up to now, I remember as clear as glass crystal. But now it becomes a little hazy.
My escort took me out of the process room floor (didn't know that was what it was called at that time but I learned) and down a hallway to a set of stairs going up. Then she took me down a short hallway to a bedroom she identified as hers and said I should sit there for a while. "Sometimes the zapper can make you really tired and stuff".
So, I guess you could say I was in shock from being shocked, and all of the rest of the shit of this week. But I was alive. And I had a cute redhead to talk to so I could get some idea of what was next.
"So. What is next" I asked. Yea, I am showing my intelligence and maturity. So much for a Masters degree and most of a MBA.
I remember her smiling for a moment and then answering, "Well, Next we further indoctrinate you. We get you a collar. And we bring you down to dinner and introduce you around tonight. And then we get you settled in a room, and make arrangements for your personal stuff and put you to work. And welcome aboard."
So at dinner that night, I got to meet the rest of the crew. And I found that they were interested in me for more then just my body.
Wednesday Morning. My first week in Customer Service.
Sleep was wonderful. I didn't realize how much stress I was under until I laid down and just plain died. I woke up under great sheets, a good comforter, wonderful pillow, and the sound of someone taking a shower.
The sudden sanity check of feeling the weight of my necklace with the big heavy lock was a shock. It all came rushing back to me. After a few moments of mental adjustment I shook myself and said? "I wonder where I can get some coffee?"
Wandering into the hall I followed the smell of coffee and the sound of people downstairs to the recreation room. There were half a dozen people up and eating all ready, so I figured I should join them.
One of the things I remember most about that first morning was Elizabeth saying to me across the room, "Oh, Melanie. Come here and we can get you set up with breakfast."
Food was pretty good. Some very interesting onion and pepper stuff on sourdough bread and slices of what looked like bacon. I wondered who it was, but figured I could ask about that later. Fresh Orange Juice! The coffee was in a plain white ceramic cup. "We will get you one with your name on it later" Liz said. I remember thinking to myself "Well, breakfast didn't suck".
I remember sitting with Liz eating and listening and wondering what I was going to be doing. And how I was going to fit in here and for how long. I had gotten a journal last night as a "Welcome aboard" present from Helen, and I did write down a lot of things about the last week.
After sitting there with Liz and Nancy, probably the most important thing I that struck me was how close knit everyone there was. Even as a newbie, I remember feeling like I was becoming part of something. Now if someone would only give me the goals, rules and playbook, I would be all right.
Shortly Cindy and Candy came in and gave everyone the day's assignments. Cindy was going to be paired with me, running and doing escort. "Pretty much do with our people what we did with you yesterday." Cindy said.
And it was that easy that first day. I did escort and did my best to keep my groups relaxed, at ease, and moving from exam to stripping and call out their names in the back. After Cindy worked with me for the first two trips, I was pretty much on my own. When a group was finished Screening was done in front, Helen, Nancy, Margaret or Candy would point them out to us and we would start to take them on back down. We had enough to keep all of us busy all day. I did two assisted and five groups on my own. Total of seven walks around the building. I actually helped to pop twenty eight on my first day.
That night, sitting and relaxing, I thought back on myself for a moment. Helen caught me starting to fall apart and she took me over to her "couch". (It really was a corner of the couch in the recreation/lunch room.) We talked about the day, and at one point I stopped crying and had laughed a little about the weirdness of it all. Then she gave me the antidote for Guilt.
"You helped every person here get through the worst experience of their entire life today. And you helped them have dignity and the knowledge that they weren't alone. And you didn't abuse them, or demean them, or insult them. That's the Mantra. You can't give them what they really want, but you can give them what they need from you at the time."