"I wish," [Nick's] father had said then, "that we could live in a world where real tasks, occupations of real importance, still existed. In the old days men called 'craftsmen' made beautiful objects with their hands; they made valuable things such as shoes and furniture. They fixed cars and TV sets. The hands of a man were important, once. Look at my hands." He had held up his hands for Nick and Mrs. Graham to see. "These hands," he had finished, "make nothing and fix nothing. I ask myself, What am i for? Do I exist to do a job? No. The job exists merely to give me the illusion that I am doing something. But what in fact do I really do? Ed St. James, at the desk to my right, examines documents and then, if they are correct, he signs them. After he has signed them he passes them to me. I make sure that he has not forgotten to sign them after seeing that they are correct. In four years Ed. St. James has never made a mistake; he has always signed the documents before passing them on to me [. . .] What if Ed St. James does not sign a document? Will our company collapse? Will terror reign in the streets? The documents don't mean anything. They exist to create jobs. One man dictates them. Another man or woman types them up. Ed St. James signs them and I make sure he has signed them. I then give them to Robert Hall, seated at the desk to my left, and he folds them. To his left someone sits whom I have never seen; that indistinct individual places the folded documents in envelopes, if they are to be mailed, or away in the file, if they are to be filed." Nick's father, at this point, had looked very glum indeed."
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