As I write the latest installment of the Impala Hell Project series (in which I drive the Impala to Los Angeles to look into a gig building bondage equipment out of car parts), I realize that some digressions take too much space and/or don’t belong on a car website. Of course, everything belongs on MurileeMartin.com, so here’s an excerpt from Torment, Incorporated that shows what I learned from that 1993 road trip.
But first, a digression about the camera and T-shirt in my self-portrait from the Humiliation-’Я’-Us torture chamber: that’s my old reliable Canon AE-1 in my hands. If you’re looking at one of my old black-and-white shots that isn’t blurry as shit and/or has some semblance of depth-of-field, it was almost certainly done on this camera. I still have the old AE-1, but haven’t put film in it for at least a decade. The “I Escaped From Orange County” T-shirt is a stencil-and-spray-paint job I made for a party I held in Oakland for my friends who had escaped from behind the Orange Curtain and fled north to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Anyway, the main impression I had from my visit to the dungeon was the level of suspension-of-disbelief required by the dungeon’s clients to get off on their allegedly titillating torture. These clients were almost all mid-level corporate managers, used to humiliating their underlings in a cubicle-world setting, day after day, and they were paying the dominatrices to dish back some of that humiliation (with less obfuscated sexual overtones, of course, and totally on the clients” terms). What those guys really needed, I thought, was a “dungeon” that resembled their natural habitat… and, since I never got around to starting my own dungeon, I just added it to my novel. Here’s an excerpt:
There was no hoked-up “dungeon” anywhere in the place; except for the ex-FPSs’ living quarters, the offices of Torment, Incorporated were indistinguishable from a million other offices in the area. A glance around and you’d see about what you expected: people looking grim and typing away in cubicles or talking on phones. The smell of microwave popcorn. Cans of Diet Coke on desks. Photos of children and pets.
There was one crucial difference, however. When a client came to “work” at Torment, Incorporated, his experience was a little different than what he got in the similar-looking confines of his real office. At Torment, Incorporated, the tough-minded manager, so used to asserting his will over the poor saps below him, would be working for an even tougher boss: Charlene Cabrillo, President of the Torment, Incorporated empire (I persuaded her to ditch the stupid Mistress Carlotta name and go with her real one). And, for that privilege, he would pay us $250 per hour, cash, or $1800 for a full eight-hour workday.
She got a couple of her regulars from the Mistress Carlotta days to come in, they told their friends, and within two weeks we had dozens of the bastards clamoring to be part of the Torment, Incorporated team; it got so we had to turn potential clients away because the office was full. The business was a huge financial success almost immediately, and Charlene and I enjoyed each workday thoroughly. I took to dressing the part of CEO, wearing custom-tailored Italian suits that made our clients’ Men’s Wearhouse outfits look tattered and dumpy by comparison. Charlene dumped all her cheeseball vinyl and leather wear in the trash and came to the office clad in classy designer suits and Manolo Blahnik shoes.
I was part of the act, of course, in addition to handling all the nuts and bolts of maintaining the appearance of a genuine office environment. As CEO, I would drop in on the cubes or offices where our clients “worked” and give them disapproving glares, drop fifty-pound stacks of busywork into their In-boxes, and so on. After the first week, I got really into it, with harsh fitness reports and lengthy verbal-abuse sessions. Charlene would be working over one of the clients by the copy machine, really laying into him with a swagger stick, and I’d stroll over:
Charlene would have the fucker cringing before her wrath: “Jones, I told you we needed that report done by yesterday morning!” She’d rear back and let him have a mean shot across the mouth with the stick. Crack! “And here it is noon and you have accomplished nothing!” A couple of ex-FPSs nearby would giggle, pointing at the spectacle, then get back to pretending to type memos. We found it added a lot to the client’s experience if the low-ranking personnel witnessed his humiliation.
“Oh, I know, Ms. Cabrillo,” he’d weep, “I’m really, really sorry… it won’t happen again…” A trickle of blood running from his split lip, he’d wait eagerly for the next blow.
“Jones, you disgust me,” she’d hiss. “I’ve got a mind to make you drink your own piss! Yes, that’s an idea- strip down to your underwear and wait here while I get a glass.”
Jones would be peeling off his pants, trembling with excitement, and I’d step over to him with my confident, manly stride. Prodded him with the point of my shoe. “Jones, I’m afraid I have bad news for you,” I’d say solemnly, like it was a common sight in every office to see a man huddled against the copy machine in his underwear awaiting the chance to drink a glass of his own piss. “We’ve just lost the Toxium Electroplating account, and from what I understand we lost it because you had some strange do-gooder impulse and told them they couldn’t dump 60,000 gallons of radioactive electroplating solution into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. What were you thinking, Jones? Are we here to save the world or are we here to do business?” Then Charlene would return and we’d talk about what a girly-man Jones was while the word processors and secretaries tittered.