“They call it ‘9 to 5.’ It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.” Those sentences may sound like the rantings of a 21st-century office slave, but they actually come from a letter Charles Bukowski wrote in 1986 to John Martin, the publisher who saved him from that life in 1969 by offering him a salary of $100 a month to quit his job and become a full-time writer.
In the message, which expresses his gratitude to Martin, Bukowski recalls his youthful confusion about why people would give up their lives to thankless jobs and cruel bosses. “People simply empty out,” he wrote. “They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.” We can only imagine what Bukowski must have said to his supervisor when, at 49 years old, he finally left his job as a letter filing clerk in a Los Angeles post office. Read the full, lengthy missive at Letters of Note.