I’m already late. I usually get out of bed at 7am, but it’s already 30 past that, and I’m not even drinking my regular coffee yet. Looks like there’ll be no coffee today, and there’ll be no leisurely stroll through Central Park… It’ll have to be a sprint the entire way. It’s fine.

My name is Alessandro, and I live in New York Center. If you’ve never heard of this place, I don’t blame you. It’s just one of the hundreds of thousands of major housing and employment centers throughout Utopia. Utopia is the world’s largest country that doesn’t have a president… I’ll explain later.

I grabbed as many books as I could grip in one hand, and tossed them into my bookbag. That was a mistake, because three of the four books turned out to be about Greek Architecture, and today was my class on Fresco painting. I realized my mistake when I already had the bag on my back and was putting on the left of my Shox.

Slamming the door behind me, I dashed out of my building and wasted no time on getting up to speed. By the next block, my breathing pattern was paced and I was running at full speed. My school is right on the other side of Central Park.

So let me tell you about our President… Or at least explain why there isn’t one. A couple of years ago, when I was in 9th grade, Utopia had finished its long-awaited transformation into the True Democratic system. During the eight years prior to that, the country was busy electing what the media dubbed “Co-Presidents,” although the official term is “House Official, 12th Assignment.” The assignment thing is probably new to you too, so I’ll explain that when I get past Wollman Rink. These house officials; there are 500 of them, and they act as a President would in any other country. They’re the brightest politicians in the country, without a doubt. In order to reach a position like that, one needs to receive, at a minimum, 500,000 votes from 11th and 10th assignment politicians. Then, the country holds an election every four years, where everyone with an assignment higher than two gets to vote.

Shit. We were supposed to paint a small portrait in the style of El Greco for homework. How the hell did I forget that?! I had an entire week to do it!

Oh, I don’t know if I told you yet, but I go to USA, the Utopian School for Artists. It’s the finest in the country. There are 613 of these throughout the country, but this one gets the most applicants every year. Out of every 3,100 teens that take the Talent in Arts exam, only one is accepted. And of course so many people want to go to this school… Any artist graduating from USA is automatically bumped to the 4th assignment. From there, you only have to climb one more assignment before all your living and working expenses will be funded by the government. All individuals in art (including musicians) get this privilege.

Right now, however, I still have three years to go before I can even think about graduation… All students are 2nd assignment by default, and all we get is a weekly stipend from the regional government. It’s not much, but it’s better than staying at 1st assignment and not having an education or the privilege to vote.

My buddy, 1st assignment, was one of those kids who thought they’d climb the ladder by working full-time right off the bat. Well, last I heard from him, he’s still a 1st-assignment mover. It’s a shame, because he gets paid so much less for his work than anybody on a higher assignment does. And now that he chose to bypass school, the only way he’ll climb any higher is if he receives enough recommendations from other movers who are on a higher assignment than him. And I’m not too sure about the moving industry, but I think I read somewhere that you can actually start your own moving enterprise by 6th assignment… He has a long way to go.

Jesus Christ! Why do people stop so suddenly in the middle of the god damn pathway?! I almost knocked that bitch right over! What was I saying? Oh yeah, the housing system… So like I said, people are put in locations by the government based on their assignment. If you’re asking what a 2nd assignment schmuck like me is doing in a fancy 5-and-up assignment neighborhood, my dad is an artist too. He’s been doing it his entire life, so he’s well into the teens now. He was given a choice between New York Center and Boise Center (the fifth largest center in Utopia), and he chose to live in NYC because he knew I’d become an artist too, so he wanted to be near USA.

The only difference between high-assignment neighborhoods and low-assignment neighborhoods is the type of neighbors you have. If you’re living in a high-assignment area, your neighbors are probably doctors, artists, professors, and so on… On the other hand, if you were to stroll through a low-assignment area, you’d probably see a lot of janitors, lawyers, athletes, and other people with careers that are looked down upon. Apart from that, everything else is nearly identical.

Then, there are non-assigned neighborhoods. These are areas where unemployed families live. The housing in these places is free, but only for five years. During your five years there, you have to attend career-training facilities and then pass an exam based on your career. To prevent people from taking advantage of free housing, anyone who hasn’t passed a career exam in their five years is deported from Utopia. Those people are considered useless to the society of Utopia, so we do not want them here.

There’s Wollman Rink, to my right. Great place to find chicks, because you can “accidentally” bump into them and start a conversation (after apologizing). I promised to tell you about the assignments, so here we go:

You can think of the assignments as a social ladder. Every industry has its own definition and limit of assignments. People with higher assignment numbers have more knowledge and experience than those with lower numbers. Everybody, no matter where you come from or what assignment your parents are, starts on the same level: 1st assignment. You raise your assignment by completing schools, gaining work experience, achieving notable tasks, or by significant recommendation from higher-assigned individuals in your career field.

However, you can also drop down an assignment if you’re convicted of a crime. A 10th assignment politician can instantly be dropped to 3rd assignment if found guilty of corruption. Such a vertical downgrade of assignment literally puts an entire life’s worth of work to waste. Therefore, it’s a very good deterrent of tainted individuals from reaching high social status. It’s not a casting system, because people are able to gain or lose assignments based on their actions and decisions… It is essentially a social ladder in which people can choose their step, and with enough effort, anyone—no matter your race, religion or skin color—can reach the very top of the ladder.

Having a high assignment has its rewards… Your salary is based on your assignment, along with your housing location (like I told you before), and you have a very significant voice among your piers. There are also milestones that have their own rewards. For example, in an effort to promote and support the arts, the government gives free housing and a bi-annual stipend of $15,000 to any artist above 9th assignment. This system of rewards encourages people to excel in their careers and thus be a contribution to society.

Finally, Central Park West. You’d think the final two blocks to my school would be the easiest part of the run, but it isn’t. Weaving through people on the crowded side-walk, stopping at red lights, and nearly being killed by taxi cabs that don’t use turning signals makes the final two blocks a quite difficult home stretch.

I’m half an hour late, I brought the wrong books, and I didn’t do the homework assignment. It’s fine.