Thursday, October 19, 2006

Working Stiff

I'll be honest and tell you that writing this blog is a means to an end. Perhaps I'll get lucky, be discovered by a huge publishing house, and will be offered lots of opportunities to write in magazines, books, etc. You can't be discovered if you don't put your ass out there, and I am not arrogant enough to think that my writing skills, such as they are, are so mesmerizing and so delightful that a publisher will find me on this blog and whisk me away to New York City. However, I'm trying to get my writing chops, and in the meantime, I'll have to work for a living.

"Work" means "office work". I've worked in a variety of offices throughout my adult life, and oh God... it is a boring way to make money. I don't produce anything meaningful, at least to me. Rather, I am a conduit to which my boss passes taped information, the tape plays into my ear, my fingers move on a keyboard to create a letter or document to a client, and I give that letter or document to my boss. I presume the letter or document gets signed and mailed out, for I have personally never seen this happen. I will say that at the very least, this stuff I produce has information that means something to our clients, so I guess we are providing a service to them. Whatever. It's as dull as dirt.

I think a lot about how I got here. When I was seventeen, I wanted to go to music school and become a fabulous vocalist. That didn't happen. For the next 20 years, I tried college off and on, never sticking to it and getting a degree. Meanwhile, I was living life and I had to pay for things, so I found I was kind of good at working in an office. I've stuck with the office thing, and consequently, my talents and wishes were squelched by necessity.

I do know several people who do what they love to do for their work, and they also make a living from doing it. My brother-in-law is one person. He owns a design studio. He is excited about what he does. I think that's pretty neat. Another person who loves what he does is an old friend/my lust-object, who owns a music store. It's his baby. Both of these guys do not think of what they do as work. That's key in making a living, I think. It's something to aspire to in life. It's what should be taught to students, starting in kindergarten.

Working in an office requires unnatural behavior. One must be unfailingly polite to one's co-workers. One must never rock the boat or offer unpopular opinions. One must not dress as an individual-- one must dress within the accepted parameters of that office's taste. One must not reveal one's personal life at the office. One must participate in stupid office functions, such as baby showers and birthday celebrations, often for people one does not care for in particular. One must not curse at work, if one works in an office. One must not bring food to the office that will offend the olfactory senses of co-workers (fish, popcorn). I'm sure someone would argue that these "rules" keep the office on an even keel. I will not argue with that point, but I will say that these rules are stultefying.

Here are some examples of the rules I've personally broken and what happened:

I worked at a law firm whose managing partner (arrogant prick) hated, HATED, HATED the smell of popcorn being popped in the microwave. It was an average-sized firm with 12 attorneys and their staff, and it took up an entire floor of an office building. You'd think that something as insignificant as the smell of popcorn wafting out of the firm's kitchen, into the very large work area, would invite no comment or thought whatsoever. But the first time I innocently popped the kernels of hate in the microwave, the managing partner actually asked me to please never pop popcorn in the microwave again, as it made him sick to smell it. I thought, "Dude, I'm just some little worker bee trying to get through my day, making fourteen bucks an hour, and if a stupid bag of popcorn is going to help me do it, you should be happy that I've found a way to keep smiling. But no. You come to my desk and ruin my day saying such a nit-picky, bullshitty thing. You are an old, bitter woman disguised as a fat, rich attorney, and you're dressed in Dockers your wife picked out for you." Asshole.

I once worked for a gentleman who had certain convictions of a highly religious nature. I was his receptionist. He had a terrible habit of not returning calls to his clients in a timely manner. His clients would call back again and again, demanding to speak to my boss, angrier and angrier with each phone call. One day I gave the boss a note that read, "So-and-so called, and he's really pissed he hasn't heard from you." My boss held the message in front of me. He underlined the word"pissed" with his finger, and said, "Angry. Upset. Annoyed. Perturbed." He was a veritable thesaurus of words, indicating that "pissed" had offended his pure and light-filled brain. I was offended that he hadn't returned this person's call to answer his questions, after the client had paid a thousand bucks for boss's services, and that my boss kept dodging him, but I had rocked the boat by using an undesireable word in the phone message.

So fuck offices.

This is why I want to write. It's a creative outlet that's also anti-social, AND there's a possibility that it can supplement one's income. I'll be able to work in my pajamas, pick my nose, play with my cats, and drink wine, ALL while I'm working! That's awesome!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Good for you to do this. I'm happy for and proud of you. Plus its very interesting to get a glimpse inside your thoughts. I will try to check in often and even if I don't post please know I am honored to know of your writings. May it all lead to better things for this talented and undiscovered office girl.

Love from your
Brother in Law