Work is the only the thing in Jim's life. He has no significant other, no kids, no hobbies, no cultural interests. Nothing but the nine-to-five and whatever mental residue from the working day he takes home each evening.
That home, of course, is merely an ante-chamber of Jim's office, a place of suspended animation until he returns to his desk in the morning and can once again focus on paper pushing. And Jim still does push paper, despite the cloud-based conveniences of the digital age.
He spends hours at the photocopier making triplicate copies of documents nobody wants. Jim probably costs the company more in toner and ink than he does in wages and benefits. Staples, ring binders, sticky notes, notepads, highlighter pens, and a cobwebbed Rolodex, Jim's office could be an exhibit at the Museum of Work.
In fact, I often imagine him made of wax, standing perplexed beside a filing cabinet in a lost folder diorama with myself as docent: "This is how we used to do things in the twentieth-century." I tell a gang of incredulous young apprentices. "Notice the overflowing wastepaper basket and general lack of productivity."
"What are we going to do about Jim?" This question is always raised at staff meetings he's not invited to. The answer is obvious, but it's like deciding to put an old dog to sleep because its owners can no longer care for the wretched beast.
"You have to be cruel to be kind," some who is exclusively the former suggests. But we would not be ushering Jim into the Fields of the Lord, we'd be condemning him to the Hellhole of Social Security instead.
After all, an old has-been like Jim could never get another job. What would he do with himself then? Unemployment would be a kind of solitary confinement for Jim; a limbo of listless inactivity and mounting depression. Contract termination would not just take Jim's economic livelihood away, it would wipe out his only reason to actually live as well.
For not only is work the only thing in Jim's life, the people at work are his only family too, and I guess we have decided to become our brother's keeper, even if such blood-is-thicker-than-water loyalty puts the company out of business. How magnanimous of us.
But perhaps there's a selfish reason, too. Perhaps we're worried about our own positions as we anxiously watch the rise of the robots and the explosion of 3D printing. We are Jim's family, after all, and the apple does not fall far from the tree.