This is a tale of three parts, the first old, the second new, and the third being the result of their combination.
In 2006, I was working for a AA+ game company that no longer exists, whose headquarters were in the wildlands of far northwest LA. If you were to travel for another 5 minutes, you would no longer be in the city limits, and the only things close by were a freeway leading to LA proper, and a freeway leading to the ocean. And brown hills covered in sun burnt grass.
The building for the QA department, the Game Testers, was located on the other side of a road with no crosswalks and across the street from the Headquarters. The Headquarters had a parking lot large enough to make Disneyland proud, so it’s no wonder that most of the testing staff chose to drive to eateries instead of walking to the Headquarters to eat at the cafeteria. But I preferred the daily variety of the cafeteria, and would enjoy a meal a day with my buddy (until he was fired for having an underwear model on his computer’s wallpaper, then I ate alone).
One day during late summer, where the reflected heat from the parking lot combined with the sun’s to form an oven typically reserved for firing pottery, my friend and I arrived at the entrance to the headquarters to find a Ben and Jerry’s truck parked there with free samples for employees of the company. My heart was obviously uplifted, and I asked for one, to which the driver/operator said, “I dunno. I’m only suppose to give these to the employees. You guys work here?” He asked because we approached the truck from the parking lot, and not from the headquarters building.
If the day had been a little cooler, I might have said what was in my heart, being “Who the fuck would come to this out of the way shit-hole of a parking lot, where it would be no surprise to see some dude wearing a poncho smuggling coffee beans on a mule over the hills, it’s so far removed from civilization, and walk their way through this heat to try and scam half a scoop of ice cream from you? Of course I work here!” Instead I just lifted the employee ID card hanging around my neck and said, “Dude,” in a manner to point out the obvious.
For some strange reason, my buddy wanted to just let the matter slide, abandon the ice cream, and enter the building. Almost as if he were afraid of something. But my convincing argument of “Dude” won the worker over and we got to enjoy some free ice cream as we walked into an air conditioned building. The combination was very refreshing, but I’d had better.
Fast forward to the present day. The best part of a decade has passed, and I never really pondered too much about that Ice Cream Truck day, until I read a lot of the Tales shared by other people who have survived the Trenches. And many of them talked about these completely foreign concepts. Trucks rolling up to the offices to give free burgers, milkshakes, and etc. to express the gratitude of the company those people work for. Basically, tales about people being shown signs of gratitude period. How department heads would announce these visiting truck to the employees, or emails about their time of arrival and departure.
We QA never got a one of those. So I thought those must have never happened at the company I worked for. And then I remembered the ice cream truck, vividly. And I realized that my company that I often worked double shifts for had been intentionally excluding me from those acts of kindness, generosity, and expressions of gratitude.
I instinctively denied the possibility that QA was the only part of the company that was intentionally left out of it’s generosity. But then I remembered that it actually passed an order to force QA to advance their lunch break by one hour to keep our meals segregated from the other employees because of “complaints.”
But why…? Why would they intentionally not want their employees to enjoy their gifts? We were all in it together, right? But then again, the QA department was the only one in the company where the employees were hired for a maximum of 1 year, and bound by contract to never be hired by the company again. Told right from the beginning that after being trained, gaining real hands on experience, and providing a meaningful service to their projects, that they were going to be tossed out like garbage and never given a second thought.
And then I realized that the company didn’t see us as employees. They didn’t even see us as people. They saw us as property to be disposed of on a whim, to be used and discarded without a thanks of any kind during or after our term of employment. That we were not meant to be seen, heard, or thought about. That we were too far below the “real” employees to be given an equal shake at the ex gratis food celebrations.
We were just gears, being used until we broke. And then replaced in the assembly line that was a corporate founded video games company.
And that was the moment I realized. The ice cream I ate on that day was the most delicious ice cream I had eaten in my whole life.
Because I wasn’t suppose to eat it. It wasn’t meant for me. It’s existence was intentionally kept from me, yet I found it anyway. I ate what was reserved for my betters. It was like I’d had a chance to sample a king’s banquet table before he could, and he would never be the wiser.
That revelation was as delicious as the ice cream.
So there you go, you soulless corporate assholes.
I ate your. Fucking. Ice cream.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.