Thursday, September 18, 2008

Doomsday in the Office

Well today is doomsday for me. I have a meeting at one o'clock where I will supposedly find out what will be happening with the project I've been working on. About two months ago the manager of my department called us to a meeting out of the blue and told us we'd be putting everything on hold for sixty days while they determined what our future would be.

It was one of those moments of exquisite alertness. Prior to the sudden meeting, we had all just read the president's quarterly report. It was full of awful metaphors about the workplace being like a dance and other terrible pop culture references to things like reality shows. On the one side we're congratulated for being so fruitful and making loads of money and meeting goals, and on the other side he slaps us across the face with a 2x4 for not making MORE than the goal.

And then out of nowhere, in this report, he mentions my unit and says there's room for improvement with us.

And so we were all talking about that and fretting sarcastically that we were about to get the axe as we walked to the meeting -- because why would he even mention my unit if it wasn't some kind of corporate foreshadowing? And one person* brought up the incredibly funny stuff from Arrested Development about Black Fridays, and how George Bluth had everyone take their computers out to a moving truck, telling them they were going to be getting new computers, only to close the door of the truck once the old machines were in and tell everyone they're fired. Hilarious.

Office humor is the best, except for when it's your reality. We joked about getting the axe and then the manager of my unit told us, her face grim and unreadable, that they were putting a hold on all new contracts and other stuff. I was listening mostly to my breath and how quiet it was. Noticing how everything froze and instead of feeling upset, I felt this horrifying calm. I was shocked. I've never been so aware of how my chest rises and falls with each breath. I was suddenly aware of the sickening sound of the white noise they pump into the office.

I don't even remember a time when I imagined my life would be part of a corporation. I never did. I never knew what it meant. I never understood that my mom and dad would leave for work and sit in cubicles or offices and tap at keyboards and make up ideas and design things and get paid and get benefits, all to come home at night and feel a measure of security.

It makes sense to think of the farmer out in the fields, tilling and planting and hoeing and harvesting. It makes sense to think of a man herding sheep and tending them for their wool and feeding them grass and hay and caring about the weather because it affects his livelihood in a way much more urgent than whether or not he'll need an umbrella to keep the rain off his business attire. Those things, farming, herding, taking care of animals because you both benefit, those are intrinsic. They've been a part of our identities far longer than the cubicle and concrete.

When man relied on Nature to provide rain for his crops and sunshine and good health for his animals, it inspired reverence in him for the power of the unseen. There was spiritual potential for him because there were forces beyond the realm of man at work. People took part in the role of creation and something spiritual went on.

The office life is dead. We work in cold hard spaces with cold hard machines and it makes us cold and hard inside. Doesn't it feel that way sometimes?

Anyway, I know I'm romanticizing the things of the past. I know there were probably lots of lonely farmers in the world who really wished to buy a suit and go to Wall Street and sell their souls for wealth. I'm just really bitter for feeling like my future is possibly in the hands of someone who doesn't know its worth.


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