Hosing Down the Alleyway

…As Carl glanced around, he recognized people from the office converging upon the building, but nobody he cared to talk to.

Directly to his right, something curious was going on. Two men in tan uniforms were hosing down the alleyway–a small dead-end loading dock between our building and the one next to it. Carl watched them at their work. White water shot from their hoses. They moved the spray around the asphalt. The pressure looked mighty, for the men gripped their slender black guns, the kind seen at a manual car wash, with both hands. They lifted the guns up and sprayed the Dumpster and the brick walls as well. They spot cleaned, they moved refuse around with the stream. For all intents and purposes, they were cleaning an alleyway. An alleyway! Cleaning it! Carl was mesmerized. It was the sort of thing, six months ago, that would have sent him right over the edge, seeing these men, these first-generation Americans without much choice in the matter, spend their morning in the dark recess of a loading dock, power-spraying the asphalt and the Dumpster–good god, was work so meaningless? Was life so meaningless? It reminded him of when an ad got watered down by a client, and watered down, until everything interesting about the ad disappeared. Carl still had to write the copy for it. The art director still had to put the drop shadow where the drop shadow belonged and the logo in its proper place. That was the process known as polishing the turd. Those two poor saps hosing down the alleyway were just doing the same thing. All over America, in fact, people were up and out of their beds today in a continuing effort to polish turds. Sure, for the sake of survival, but more immediately, for the sake of some sadistic manager or shit-brained client whose small imagination and numbingly dumb ideas were bleaching the world of all relevancy and hope.

Ferris, Joshua. Then We Came to the End. NY: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company. 2007.

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