Posted in commute, dystopia, Office Life, random thoughts, writing

COVID-19 and Corporate Life

I hope you’re all doing well out there. I haven’t been moved to write a blog post in a very long time, but the topic of this post keeps coming into my line-of-sight and I have a few thoughts on it.

For most of my adult life, I have been a cube dweller in Corporate America. At first, it feels like your cube is your personal domain, and most people decorate with family photos, artwork, a houseplant or two, cute desktop accessories and so on. All this to mask the soul-crushing banality of the jobs themselves. Pumping out reports via spreadsheet or written analysis, endless Powerpoint presentations presenting facts in graphic form… lots of data-crunching consuming our lives. For decades people have bemoaned this existence and tried to escape from the office and its regimentation of punching the clock to sit at a desk, staring at a computer screen for eight or more hours each day. Over the years, cubes have become smaller and smaller, or you have to share with a co-worker, or it’s an “open floor plan” with no assigned desks (cubes are so 1970s) where first come, first served, so if you show up late you have nowhere to sit.

To quote from the movie Office Space:

“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles, staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.”

And then there’s the office politics, and the enforced socializing with co-workers who pry into every area of your personal life, then gossip about anything you tell them to everyone who will listen. I like to draw a line between my work life and my personal life, although this is a concept that seems to be lost on most people today. I tend to be a trusting person, and stupidly expect things I confide to be held in confidence. I’m also apparently a slow learner, because several times I’ve had to relearn the lesson that whatever you tell a co-worker will be spread around the company like wildfire.

Let’s face it: most of us are just drones making other people rich. We’ve been taught to feel grateful for every crumb tossed to us. For almost as long as corporate America has existed, people have dreamed of escaping the mind-numbing grind, and finally in the last decade or so more of us have been given the option to work from home, perhaps once a week, sparing us a long commute where we’re stuck in traffic for hours every day. Those of us who were not gifted this little luxury watched those who were with great envy. Even one day a week freed from this exhausting routine of racing out the door at 6AM and returning at 7PM seemed like a mini-vacation. My commutes have varied over the years; some were short when I was able to find work close to home, but more often I had hour-long drives each way, lengthening my day by at least two hours in no meaningful way. The gas, the traffic, the wear and tear on the car, road rage, or avoiding creeps on mass transit did not add to my quality of life. Working from home was a privilege extended only to upper management.

Until now.

Now with the COVID-19 virus, a lot more of us are working from home. In the age of high-speed internet and a lot of work being done on computers there’s been little valid reason to clog the highways every single day, except for tradition. You would think people would be relishing this new set up of a 5-second commute. I know I am. If I never had to set foot in the office again, it would be too soon.

But… I keep seeing articles on how much people are missing the office environment. They’re not just griping about not being able to go out drinking; they actually miss the office. Why? Because they miss the socializing.


I do not miss any of my co-workers one little bit. None of them. I do not miss shallow, superficial conversations with people I have no desire to know more deeply. I don’t miss listening to them clip their nails. I don’t miss the backstabbing, the misplaced anger from bosses who get irate because the airline canceled their favorite commuter flight and I can’t make them bring it back.

There’s a novel by Joshua Ferris called “Then We Came to the End,” about a Chicago ad agency, in which he says the employees showed up for work, not because they loved their jobs, but because it “presented challenges to overcome.” I think we convince ourselves to believe our jobs are meaningful because it’s the only way we can survive them, and I believe the majority of us show up because we need the paycheck, not because our jobs make our lives meaningful. It’s a bleak outlook, but the majority of workers are treated in a bleak fashion. The only people who want to go back are the upper echelons who are trying to climb the corporate ladder.

Companies have been encouraging video conferencing over physical travel for years, yet when that’s all their left with, suddenly it’s insufficient.

Personally, I am content to work from home for the rest of my career.

Posted in Office Life, Oregon

A Little Help

I know things are tight for most of us these days, and all you goodhearted people are probably stretching to help out some of the victims of the fires in California, or other worthy causes, and bless you all for that. 

Now my friend Abby is in pretty dire straits financially. Abby worked at the same company where I work, although she was a contractor and for reasons I’m not real clear on had to be let go for a 3-month period. She also has a second part-time job. She’ll be coming back (again as a contractor with no benefits) in January, but until then she’s really struggling. As luck would have it, shortly (like, within a week) of being let go from where we worked together she had an emergency appendectomy, followed by complications necessitating a second hospital stay. She was about 3 days into another contract position when this hit. She was unable to work most of October because of all the medical issues. Making matters worse, she has fluid in her lungs, and one collapsed lung, a by-product of the surgeries. Consequently she was very limited on what she could do, and couldn’t work at either of her jobs during the initial recovery. She’s still walking with a cane. 

She’s back at the new contract position now, but it’s a rough commute (she has no car) and much farther away. 

In short, she needs help getting through the next couple of months. She set up a GoFundMe today, for a very modest amount.

If you can spare a few bucks, Abby would be incredibly grateful, as would I. I know it’s hard with the holidays coming up to try to find extra cash. If you can’t contribute, please consider signal boosting on your social media accounts. Thanks a million for reading. 

Posted in Office Life, Oregon, writing


I’m still trying to settle in to my new job. I started in late October, and it really took awhile to even begin to feel like I was “one of them.” I’m still paranoid about everything I do. There have been some shakeups in the upper echelons already just since I’ve been there (one right before I started resulted in me working for a different person than I was originally going to), which makes me a little uneasy. My boss assured me that we’re fine, there won’t be lay-offs, but my PTSD after the last couple places I was at have me ready to polish up my resume again, just in case.

Just getting to know my new co-workers feels so odd. I didn’t expect to be starting over again at this point in my career. I usually make friends pretty quickly, generally find one or two ladies that I hit it off with quickly, but I’m not finding that here. Everyone has been very nice, though I’m missing that sort of instant connection, if you know what I mean. For the first time I feel very alone at work, out of my element. I realize I haven’t been there long, and the older we get the harder it becomes to make friends. Maybe I’m expecting too much.

At the same time, the senior admin has organized a half-day off for the admin team on Administrative Professional’s Day (sometime in April) which frankly I could do without. We’re going to lunch, then to some craft shop to make signs with the initial of our name, and “date established.” For most people that would be their wedding day, when their ‘family’ was established. I jokingly suggested 1692 (the date of the start of the witch trials in Salem). Nobody got the joke. One of the other ladies poked me in the arm and said, “When did you get married?”

“I’m not married.”


I must be the only single person here.

So now I have to go out and make this thing that will likely go straight in the garbage when I get home. It should look something like this:

I was hoping we could have gone to a movie instead. Oh well.

I don’t seem to have much in common with anyone here, or really anywhere else for that matter. There’s a younger woman who recently started, 30-years-old, who told me she feels very comfortable with me and has confided things about herself to me already that quite frankly I could have lived with not knowing. I’m not sure if it’s her age, but I hope she calms down a little. She seems to have this intense desire to prove herself to everyone here (not a bad trait, necessarily) but I think she’s going to alienate others because she’s trying so hard to be right about everything, rather than listen and learn. Although she does frequently ask me for help with things. She keeps telling me she’s an “over-achiever.” Well, we’ll see. She doesn’t consider herself a “millennial” because she hates millennials, and thinks them very stupid and selfish and lacking in manners. She’s awfully opinionated for someone so young. Is that a trait of youth? Was I like that at her age, I wonder? I probably was, to some degree. Makes me cringe now to think of it.

Anyway, this non-millennial millennial may yet end up in my novel.



Posted in Office Life, Oregon, photography, Portland, random thoughts, self-publishing, writing

Non-conformist Introvert


This is so much on my mind right now. As some know, I was laid off from my job back in March. I took it pretty well, this being the third time now I’ve been through this. I knew the struggle to find a new job awaited me, but deep down inside somewhere I welcomed being freed from the tyranny of Corporate America.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my job, my co-workers, and my boss. The environment was pleasant enough, the pay, while not great, was sufficient. And in 2 1/2 years there I never once dreaded going in in the morning. I never had those Sundays that were ruined by the thought of the inevitable arrival of Monday. The only thing that got me down about this lay-off was the idea that I would not end up in such a good atmosphere again. It was pure luck to land in that situation and I know it and am grateful. I’ve been in the other place so I really do know how fortunate I was this time. Despite all that, as an introvert, the idea of having to deal with people all day long exhausts me. But society has no use for introverts.

As fate would have it, I came down with a nasty flu the week following the lay-off. It was that lingering flu that seemed to hang on for a month when anyone caught it. The first week I was just flat on my back in bed, hardly even ate. So I had that excuse for not beginning the job search right away. I thought at the time that if I’d still been employed they would have had to put me on short-term disability. I got a little severance from the job to tide me over so I had some time to pull myself together, though not as much as I would have liked.

Now I am on the dole, drawing unemployment (received first check yesterday, May 18). The longer I’m away from Corporate America, the happier I am. As much as I’m a creature of habit, I. Am. Tired. Of. It.

I am, however, dutifully applying to jobs as required by the Employment Dept., but I admit I have no enthusiasm for it. I don’t know how anyone can have enthusiasm for some of these awful jobs. I don’t want to spend my days creating Powerpoint presentations for a marketing department because I really don’t care what they’re selling. I don’t want to answer phones and listen to angry customers. I don’t want to sort and distribute mail. I don’t want to take meeting minutes. So much of what people do is useless drudgery. And yet, we must eat so off we go.

I am tired of trying to pretend I fit in with corporate culture. I’ve never managed to pick up the corporate jargon that comes so easily to others (“ask” as a noun, for instance). I put on my happy face in the office, when really all I wanted was to be home writing. I despise the conformist attire as much as the attitude. If I showed up in the office dressed like Stevie Nicks circa 1978 with my Tarot cards and crystals, I’m pretty sure they’d have a problem. Conform conform conform. I used to risk wearing my pentacle or goddess pendant in the office because I figured most of them would never know what either one was.

Am I old enough to be a crazy old lady now? Probably not quite. But I may yet decide to run around  dressed like Stevie Nicks anyway. This is Portland, after all.

Posted in art, dystopia, Office Life, random thoughts, writing

The Definition of Stress

Remember that old joke:

Stress – (n.) The confusion created when the mind overrides the body’s basic desire to choke the living shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it.


Well, my stress is partly that, but partly this:

When the desire to live on your own terms is subsumed by the demands of society to conform. When in your heart you’re a Bohemian gypsy

BohemianWhen you’d rather be this:

bohemian girl

But you’re forced to be this:


How did this become the desirable norm?

We can’t all succeed at being her. And yet that is what I go to work and try to pretend to be every day.

There may yet be hope for my inner wild child


Posted in books, Office Life, Oregon, Portland, Publishing, Vampires, writing

Can This Mouse Roar?

:::aside to Jason – If you read this, I haven’t changed my mind about wanting the cover:::!Matthias.JPG


I’m having wild swings of emotion these days, due in part to the change of jobs coming up. I have one week left at my current job, after which I will start at the new job at my former company. For a few moments in the office the other day as I was training one of my co-workers to take over one of my job functions, I had a feeling of competence that I haven’t really had for the last two years. This place has done such a number on my self-worth I’ve begun to think of myself as an incompetent screw-up.

Now, however, trying to pass down what I know to others to hand off everything I do (and you should have seen the list of job functions my supervisor was trying to figure out how to parcel out among the others) I realized how much I DO know about my job, and how impossible it will be to transfer all of it. And that’s only with this one particular task. The office manager has been particularly nice to me the last few days, not sure what that means.

Big Boss, however, has been as cold to me as ever. She knows I’m leaving and hasn’t said more than a ‘good morning’ when she arrives in the office. She’s out of town all next week, so I will never see her again. If I had any doubts about this being the right move for my mental health, that removed them. Financially this may not be the best move, but there are more important things.

So now I’m having second thoughts about this whole book thing. Can I really do this? Should I?  I’m still editing. And rewriting. And terrified, basically. I don’t know where people get the confidence to go ahead with these things and market their books (relentlessly) online. Moments of “Why not?” alternate with “Why bother?” Despite some aperiodic Leonine bravado, I am a mouse at heart.

Maybe my psyche’s not as strong as it once was. The older we get the more we realize how little we know. I think I’ll go write and play with my imaginary friends.

Posted in books, Holidays, movies, Office Life, writing

What Would Dickens Say?

The season of commercial excess is upon us, unfettered, in all it’s foul glory. Like a juggernaut, the exhortations to ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ come fast and furious now, and no matter how much we may bemoan the crass commercialization of this season, most of us will dutifully heed the call, in some measure. Stores opened on Thanksgiving Day this year to begin the buying frenzy, an unprecedented move that horrified and outraged many.

Scrooge would be so proud.

I caught part of “A Christmas Carol” on tv this afternoon and thought how little things have changed since Dickens’ time. Employers demanding people work on Thanksgiving… can working on Christmas Day be far behind? Sure, there have always been those who had to work regardless of holiday – emergency services like police, firemen, nurses, doctors, military. When I was in the Navy I stood watch on Christmas Eve, although I admit I don’t recall if I ever worked Christmas Day itself. If I had to, I did. We were very flexible with our festivities. I remember a large gathering at the house I rented off-base with three others while in Okinawa. Our whole group of friends gathered at our place to exchange gifts and share a meal. It was one of the loveliest Christmases I ever spent. I don’t remember what day it was, likely not Christmas Day itself.

Since that time I’ve never worked on a major holiday, but my current boss would probably like for us all to. The child labor that Dickens campaigned against and the atrocious working conditions of his time may be (mostly) gone in the First World, but they are alive and well and being exploited on a daily basis around the world: Mumbai, Shenzhen, Sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan…

Scrooge learned his lesson on putting money above all else, but that attitude is encouraged and expected at all US businesses. It’s all about the bottom line, profit, keeping the shareholders and Board of Directors happy. My boss allows no mention of “Christmas” or any specifically Christmas-themed decorations (when I left last Tuesday I noticed a large tree in front of one of the buildings on campus strung with holiday lights, and thought “that’s gonna chap her ass…”) so we are having a ‘Winter Celebration’ in lieu of a ‘Christmas’ or even ‘Holiday’ party this week. I wonder how she’d feel if she knew she had a pagan in the office. I want a Yule tree, and a Yule log, and lots of holly and ivy and mistletoe, and lots of wassailing…

I have to think Dickens would be none too pleased. We’ve learned nothing, we haven’t evolved one bit since his book was published in 1843. Cash (or credit) is still king. The rich get richer.

In the meantime, enjoy what I consider the definitive version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “Scrooge” from 1951, starring Alastair Sim. Just wonderful. And whatever you’re celebrating, have a happy.


Wæs Hæl! (Be you healthy!)

Posted in Holidays, NaNoWriMo, Office Life, random thoughts, writing

Survival Mode

So here we are, the last week of November, with that-holiday-that-shall-not-be-named right around the corner. Here comes the panic, and the racing around, and the fretting over money we can’t really afford to spend, and ‘To-Do’ lists growing exponentially even though time is speeding up.

Yeah, I really look forward to the holidays.

I gave up on NaNo a couple weeks back when my day-job took a nasty turn and I was too distraught and succumbing to panic attacks to even think about writing. Luckily, the panic attacks have subsided so I can sleep again, an unexpected pleasant surprise on the job front (no, not a new job) gave it an interesting wrinkle. But I’m so far behind on NaNo now there’s just no way to catch up. I can’t possibly crank out 40k words by Saturday at midnight. Oh well, no biggie. I have other things of far greater significance to which to devote my attention.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have no doubt seen me griping about a co-worker I variously referred to as Ms. Amherst, or Ms. A, or most recently, Princess. She is a suck-up to end all suck-ups, like I have never seen. She got the two top dogs in my department so completely wrapped around her little finger, and they had no idea. People are so susceptible to flattery and schmoozing, it almost made me feel dirty to watch it happen. It still boggles my brain that they couldn’t see through her. Everyone else could. People outside our department would comment that they felt sorry for anyone who had to work with her. (I say this so you know it’s not just me. She had even bragged about how much others outside our department who had to deal with her hated her. I’m sure she assumed they were jealous of her fabulousness).

So here’s the thing: She took another job at our company, and gave notice a couple days ago. After all the cozying up to the department head and office manager, she’s bailing for what she sees as a more ‘important’ position. She just loves to feel important. I could tell our office manager was a bit shell-shocked, and was reeling trying to figure out how this could happen and how she’s going to cope with the loss of Princess. I wonder when (if ever) it will dawn on her that Princess only does what Princess wants to do to advance her own career, and all the brown-nosing and schmoozing were just to ingratiate herself while she had to? But, this is the kind of person that management always loves. Toss out enough buzzwords and jargon and spend as much time as possible hanging around chatting with the higher-ups, and you’re in like Flint. Competence plays no part in career success. And I wonder how long her new boss will put up with her showing up when she pleases, and taking 8 15-minute bathroom breaks a day, along with two trips out for food, and an hour lunch break? But, maybe like my manager, they won’t notice.

I guess going in to my boss and saying “I told you so” wouldn’t be the best strategy here.

I’m still looking for a new job. I suppose I should learn to schmooze but the idea makes my skin crawl. I guess I’m just not corporate material.  What I am doing is looking into finding work doing freelance writing, with an eye to leaving the corporate world behind for good.

In the meantime, I have a short 2-day workweek this week. THAT will be fabulous. With that, I wish you all a lovely Thanksgiving, however you choose to spend it. Enjoy your turkey, or Tofurkey. Chin up, we’ll survive the holidays yet. Click the picture below for a Thanksgiving ecard from me, to you.

Thanksgiving Jacquie Lawson

Posted in Office Life, Tarot, writing

Weekly Card – Four of Wands

Four of Wands 21st CenturyFour of Wands from the 21st Century Tarot. Wands are Fire, creativity, lots of energy, ambition, drive. Fours are strong foundations, a good beginning for a project, or relationship. This card often indicates marriage or coming together to celebrate an event. The couple in the card appear to be gazing toward the future together, sharing their resolve. There’s a sense of harmony, balance, things coming together. Everything is as it should be.

I canceled a job interview I was supposed to have on Monday morning, and I’m taking this as a good sign that I did the right thing. The commute was long, really long, and as much as I’d like to leave my current job, I had a bad feeling that this place would have been a mistake. If I was even offered the position. Since I was so reticent about it, it seemed wrong to waste everyone’s time going out there to interview.  We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have. I’m so focused on finishing the vampire novel and gearing up for NaNoWriMo in November I don’t want the added burden of taking on a new job right now, too. I have to believe the right job is still out there.

Wishing you a happy week, wherever you need to be.

Posted in art, Office Life, Tarot, writing

Weekly Card – Time for Study?

Page of Pentacles

Once again I was tempted to try a different deck and pull a different card, but I’ve sort of learned to go with whatever comes up. Here we have the Page of Pentacles from the Sacred Rose Tarot by Johanna Gargiulo-Sherman. The art style may seem a little “70s-ish” but that’s to be expected. The deck was first published in 1982. Hmm. Detecting a theme here (tomorrow’s post will also hearken to that year).

So what do we have? Pages are generally indicative of young people, and in this case, a very studious, serious type. He stands on a path strewn with flowers, with a golden rose growing at his feet. The mountains behind him indicate a difficult journey, but the rewards make it worthwhile. I’m taking this as a message that it’s time to hunker down and do some work, some studying (job hunting?), if I want to reap the rewards (of a happier workplace). I know I whine a lot about my job, and if it was just one unpleasant co-worker I could deal with it. But it’s my boss, the person I directly support, who makes it so miserable. She makes it so obvious that she dislikes me, and who wants to be in that kind of atmosphere?

Another indication of this card can be a new job, a new opportunity, so maybe this is the week something will come up. If you’re looking for work, don’t slack this week.

Good week, all!