It was the first Monday of the new year on the Planet Euphemista and the employees of the giant government agency, the Center for Rules, Regulations and Protocol (CRRAP) were hard at work. Tom Watson, a veteran employee, was as usual the first one in his office and now he was working through his lunch time while eating a sandwich at his desk. Watson was the acting head of his department’s technology unit, this following the retirement of the longtime head the year before. In an ideal world, or on another planet, where promotions were based on merit, he’d have been promoted to unit chief on a permanent basis, but on Euphemista, as everyone knew, all promotions were based on gender, color, sexual orientation and insider influence. Watson, who was a middle-aged white man, therefore had no chance.
CRRAP had come into existence when the planet’s central government had begun to regulate most, if not all, of its inhabitants’ activities. Now it had expanded to the planet’s largest agency with its tentacles reaching into every aspect of life. Watson’s department was called the Literature Appreciation Program (LAP) and it reminded him of the government agencies in George Orwell’s book “1984, ” it’s mission being, not to enhance appreciation of books, poetry, etc. but to regulate the public’s reading of them. His Division was charged with overseeing Earth literature 1900-2050. Needless to say, Orwell’s book was among those banned.
Watson’s phone rang. It was his Division’s head, Ruby Watanabe, asking him to come to her office. What did she want? he wondered. He hoped it was not another rush project, like a re-evaluation of Hemingway’s work in view of new revelations about his personal life. Watanabe motioned him to a seat in front of her desk, a large one covered with books. She was a tall, imposing black woman who might have obtained her position through the decades-old temporary Job Fairness Law, but had worked hard to obtain the skills and knowledge to hold it. She looked up from her papers and said, “I’m going to recommend that you be promoted to permanent chief of the Tech Unit.
Watson was shocked. “But I’m a middle-aged white man,” he said. “You know there’s no chance.”
“We’ll see about that. Anyway, you’re doing a fine job and I wanted to let you know.”
“You might get into trouble with the higher-ups.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
“Well, thank you.”
“Keep up your good work. The Promotional Committee meets Friday. I’ll let you know.”
At home that night Tom Watson told his wife Mary the good news, or, at any rate, the possible good news.
“That would be nice,” said Mary. “If you get the promotion maybe we can send the girls to college.” The Watsons had two teen-aged daughters and college costs had gone out of sight.
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
“I think it might happen.” Mary was an eternal optimist.
“Well, I hope that was the last item on the agenda,” said the chairperson of the Promotional committee, Guy Fortnoy, who was a bisexual. “It’s been a long day.” Fortnoy had a dinner date with someone he’d met on the internet whose name was Jerry. He wasn’t sure what sex Jerry was but it didn’t matter. He was anxious to get to the dinner.
“Only one more,” said Nancy Passmore, the Committee secretary. “The promotion to chief of the technical unit of LAP.”
“The Literature Appreciation Program.”
“Oh, yes, that. Hardly important. Who reads books any more?” He laughed.
“Some people do,” said Ruby Watanabe. “I’ve proposed that Tom Watson, who’s been acting Chief, be made permanent.”
“So I see. Well, let’s vote and get it over with.”
“Wait a minute,” said Hillary Snickersby, head of the Television Appreciation Program (TAP). “Watson is a middle-aged white male.”
Fortnoy looked shocked. “Hardly suitable. As we all know, we aim for diversity. Surely, we have other candidates.”
“Yes,” said Snickersby. “There’s a gay man, a lesbian and a trans.”
“Well, that’s better. Let’s hear about them.”
Ruby Watanabe quickly said, “The gay man is probably posing as such to get ahead, the lesbian knows nothing about computers and we have an overload of trans people in the Department.”
“Ah, yes,” said Fortnoy. “Ever since the breakthrough in sexual transformation, transgenders have become the flavor of the month, so to speak. So what do you propose?”
“I propose something radical,’ said Ruby Watanabe. “We promote Tom Watson. Middle-aged while male supervisors have become so scarce that would almost qualify as an affirmative action. Even more radical, we’d be promoting the most qualified person.”
“Promoting the most qualified person? That is radical. Well, It’s getting late. Let’s have a vote.”
When he got home that night Tom Watson told his wife the good news. “That’s wonderful,” said his wife Mary. “We might be able to afford to send the girls to college after all.”
“If we scrimp and save.”
“We’ll manage. And who knows, maybe it will be the start of a trend.” Always optimistic.
In the capital of Euphemista, a meeting of high-ranking CRRAP officials had ended. “Oh, by the way,” the agency’s head said to his secretary, “bring me the file of Ruby Watanabe.”