R269-653

Flashback

R269-653

I hate that.

I hate that I can remember that one letter, six digit combination almost eight years after it ceased to be relevant to me.

Let me explain. I used to be in the Ministry of Defense. Or rather, I used to be a civilian working for the ministry of defense, as an electrician. The number above was my reference number to the MoD, my code, my tag, my unique ID in the sea of bodies that work for the great lumbering organization that makes up the MoD. We needed it for everything you can think of; call in sick and you need your number, ask for leave and you need to quote it – miss a college class and your number gets taken down. Then it all goes in your file. File R269-653.

At the time it was pretty useful, I suppose – I don’t remember feeling any opinion either way on the fact I was just a number to the personnel people. There’s another funny thing – most companies have an HR department. The MoD has a personnel department – they deal in persons, or numbers, not humans which are not.

But in later years it irks me somewhat. Knowing that in some filing cabinet somewhere, under a tab marked R269-653, there’s a whole load of information documenting my every move for five years. Which days I was late, which days I was sick and the reasons for them. Every time I wanted to take holiday, except that it was called “leave” in the MoD, I filled in a form which is now in that filing cabinet, where ever it is.

I didn’t leave the MoD in the best of ways. I was stabbed in the back by men I respected – my boss and his boss, two people I really thought I could count on. When it came to the crunch they closed ranks and hung me out to dry – even lieing in front of a panel of people who were judging my future. And for what? To keep the “integrity” of the MoD? To save their own faces?

Hey, it didn’t matter anyway – I’ve moved on and made a success of my life, to a point far beyond I could ever have gone with the MoD. So I don’t really want to dwell on what went wrong, how I carried the blame, how my entire family used to talk about me at family gatherings, saying I’d screwed up my life because a job with the MoD was a job for life. I mean, why dwell on that? It would only make me bitter in a way that frightens me.

To forget completely, though, I would need to forget that number. And that’s the difficult part.