"We were fractious and overpaid. Our mornings lacked promise. At least those of us who smoked had something to look forward to at ten-fifteen... We thought that moving to India might be better, or going back to nursing school. Doing something with the handicapped or working with our hands. No one ever acted on these impulses, despite their daily, sometimes hourly contractions. Instead we met in conference rooms to discuss the issues of the day."
We cringe as Tom Mota becomes somewhat unhinged early in the novel, wearing a corporate polo shirt for thirty straight days before being offered two more polos from his well-meaning coworkers and donning those in layers above the first; we wonder at Chris Yopp who, after being layed-off, returns surreptitiously to work two more days, clinging desperately and in vain to a job he's already lost; our jaws drop to see Janine Gorjanc sitting in a pool of plastic balls at the McDonald's PlayPlace, still mourning the loss of her daughter; and we marvel at Benny Shassburger's attachment to a large Native American totem pole left to him by a fellow employee.
Ferris knocks this point home with his first-person plural narrator. The use of "we" throughout the novel is awkward in places, but any detraction is far outweighed by how well it achieves the desired effect. In the midst of layoffs brought on by the dot com downturn, we find ourselves alongside these characters, moving from cubicle to cubicle to tell stories and gossip, fearing the loss of these jobs we're not even sure we wanted to begin with.
Ultimately, we are like our coworkers in Then We Came to the End - we need to work, and we value this opportunity most in the face of losing it. Joshua Ferris taps into this, and he makes sure we remember having worked here.