Veal (n): meat from calves that are, “…fed an inadequate diet and confined to a cramped crate to keep their muscles underused and tender.” (Teresa Farney, Colorado Springs Gazette)
Buried deep within the bowels of our own Pentagon are hundreds – maybe thousands – of military and civilian personnel being held in small enclosures for hours on end, every day, with no windows, no exercise, and nothing to do except stare at unblinking LCD screens. I know. I’ve been there. They call it the Veal Factory.
I’ve seen the pasty skin, the bloodshot eyes, the futility. I’ve seen the candy bar wrappers, the nachos crumbs, the empty soda cans scattered around the desks. The only sounds to be heard are the muffled clicking of keyboards and the sporadic meeting announcements.
The worst cases are kept in the basement. Like the Morlocks in The Time Machine, they are the ones who keep the military machine rolling along. Think about it. They only emerge from below ground at night (they work long hours). They feed the sunshine-loving Eloi (more commonly known as the chain of command) – dwellers of the upper floors – who live out their tours blissfully unaware (at least it seems that way) of the work being done “down there.” But I digress.
Just as animals have PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) watching out for them, Pentagon workers have PERS (People for the Eventual Replacement of Staffers) working to free them from bondage.
So to those who toil in the glow of phosphorescent lights, take heart. There are others who will liberate you some day. They’re out there right now – flying, sailing, submerging. Many don’t even know they’re the chosen ones. But come they will. Not all at once, but little by little, increasing in numbers as the days get warmer…especially after school lets out. They are spoken of in hushed voices, vague legends shared between cubicle walls – they are the Ones of Whom We Must Not Speak. Even when you KNOW they’re coming, you dare not mention them, for fear of jinxing things.
Out there, they’re known as reliefs. In the Veal Factory, they’re known as…well, reliefs too, but with an emphasis on the “relief” part.
Until then, the Veal Factory will be there, its inhabitants consumed with building Power Point briefs and crunching numbers. None are faceless, none are nameless. Sometimes it just feels that way.