Our Heroes are Socialists
By Bill Arnett
The electric car stopped in front of Nakajima Tower, a building that soared into the clouds. A valet opened a rear door and out stepped Kurt Thompson. A tall, muscular man who looked awkward in his business suit. He was nervous. This was his first day on the job. Orientation, actually but since he had so thoroughly impressed everyone with his skills to land this job, he was worried that he might falter today and make them regret selecting him from all of the the other highly qualified candidates. Automatic doors opened and a glass elevator rushed him up to the 98th floor. His job would be in the trenches but today he was at corporate HQ to meet the management.
“Pleased to meet you, Kurt. Nice to shake a hand after having only video conferenced with you.” Eccentric millionaire Chaz Crockett insisted on many non-traditional things. From his casual dress to his vulgar language in interviews. He also insisted on personally meeting all new hires. “We’re all on the same team! Even if you’re just scrubbing toilets.” He would say.
“Thank you sir. Nice to meet you as well,” replied Kurt.
“Wow.” Mr. Crockett placed his hands on Kurt’s upper arms and drank in his impressive physique. “You are a big man, Kurt. That’s beside the point. You are here because of your your brains.”
Kurt had been warned about Mr. Crockett. He’ll buzz around the office like a bee, carrying on three hands-free phone conversations at once while keeping an eye on several vid screens. In this moment, though, after releasing Kurt’s arms, Chaz just looked toward the ground and bit his lip, lost in thought.
“Ah! Step one. I nearly forgot.” Mr. Crockett indicated that Kurt should sit in one of the chairs, if they could be called that. They were thoroughly modern and it was difficult to know which way was the front. Mr. Crockett sat on the edge of his plexiglass desk with all of the drawers also plexiglass revealing their contents. To the air he called, “Jean. hold my calls,” and a pleasant, though robotic, female voice replied, “Certainly, sir.”
“I have this conversation with all new team members. It’s about compensation. Jealousy and petty squabbles happen most often over money. We don’t need to go over exact numbers but if everyone knows the system we use to determine compensation I find that it cuts down on the grumbling. Make sense?”
“Um, sure.” replied Kurt, though he wasn’t.
“Great! As the new guy, a rookie, we are limited to what we can pay you. Hands are tied. So no use complaining. In truth there is some wiggle room around the margins between base salary and bonuses, but that’s small stuff. The longer you are with us, your salary will increase, again, within some predetermined ranges. Good?”
“Sure. Yeah.” Kurt had been over all of this before and wasn’t sure why Mr. Crockett felt it necessary to do it again. “Before I accepted your offer I spoke with, I guess one of you competitors, a Mr. Ressler about—”
“Gonna stop you right there. Tony Ressler is a good guy but he’s talking about that ticky-tac stuff along the margins. You have a 20th century mindset, Kurt, and need to understand how things work now. All of us CEOs and business owners get together, with input form your union, and essentially decide what everyone's salary will be. I’m assuming you’ve met our union rep?”
“I’m supposed to meet with them next, actually.”
“Good. They can cause some headaches around here but, in all honesty, they will take care of your every need. On the job safety, compensation, healthcare, you name it. And everyone is in the union. From superstar to bench warmer. No way out of it. It’s a partnership, really. Management and labor working together.”
There was a silence as Chaz just stared at Kurt with the face of a father about to offer his son a beer for the first time.
“Thank, you sir. That’s not the answer I’d expect from a successful capitalist.”
“Ah! That’s a bad word around here. I bet Tony didn’t tell you this: I wrote him a check last year. That’s right, his business failures — as our competition — got him a check from me! It’s something all of us owners agreed to. You see, competition only spurs development when there actually is competition. We work our tails off to embarrass the other guy. And then at the end of the year we all throw a healthy chunk of our profits in the pot and split it up.”
“I guess that runs contrary to what we learned in business school.”
“It’s your brains coming out! I love it. The old way was winner take all, year after year until one winner had it all. It may feel unamerican but our industries success can’t be ignored. And we’re not the only ones doing it. Ever watch an NFL football game?”
“Yessir, I certainly have.”
Chaz Crockett stood and extended his right hand.
“Great. Here’s my last question: are you ready to be a hero to the six million people that call New York City home?”
“A hero? Big shoes to fill but I’ll try my best.” Kurt grasped Mr. Crockett's hand and gave a strong shake.
“In this nation, athletes are heroes. In bedrooms all across America, boys and girls have posters on their walls of Tom Brady, Lebron James and Tina Charles. All of them card-carrying socialist union members. Imagine that, Americans of every stripe cheering on socialists in bars across the country. If they only knew... With that, let me be the first to welcome you as the newest member of the 2019 New York Knicks Professional Basketball family. Coach may disagree but I think you're our next starting point guard. With your size, you'd be a match-up nightmare."
“Thank you sir. I just have one question: Why did you have that electric car pick me up?” Kurt asked.
“Thought it would be fun. Make the reader think this was taking place in the future.”