No. 156

“And here’s your employee number – 1479377. Your uniform is in the room right down the hall. Good to have you, 1479377. I think you’ll do well here,” said the hiring manager.
Richard Clarkson rose, shook the manager’s hand, and thanked him. Then he was shuffled out of the room and towards the uniform pick-up rather abruptly.
He found it without any problems. It was right where they’d said it would be. There was a girl at the front desk. “Hi, I’m new. I’m here to pick up my uniform,” he said. “Is this the right place?”
The girl didn’t look up at him. “Name?” she asked, robotically.
“Richard Clarkson.”
Now she looked at him. “No. What’s your name?” she repeated.
“Um, Clarkson. Richard Clarkson,” he said again.
The girl looked around the corner nervously. “Didn’t you read the papers?”
Richard was puzzled. “The newspaper?”
“Your contract. Paragraph 85.2,” she told him. “You signed it right before they gave you your number.”
“What about it?”
The girl seemed agitated. Her eyes darted to the door. “You gave them the rights to that name. You can’t use it.”
Richard was worried now. “I have to change my name?”
Her response was grim.
“You already have.”
Unable to speak, Richard stood with his mouth open, trying to get the words out.
The girl understood. “What number did they give you?”
Richard couldn’t remember. The memory of last several minutes evaporated with shock. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the card they’d given him. He took a deep breath and read the numbers off one at a time. “One-four-seven-nine-three-seven-seven,” he managed.
Now the girl was happy. “Excellent, 1479377! I’m 1486864.”
Then she leaned forward over the desk and whispered conspiratorially.
“But my real name is Judy.”