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 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 random thoughts, writing

Weird Vibes, and a rant

I’ve been in a really strange mood all day. I think it started yesterday actually, in the two-hour staff meeting. Yep, two glorious hours locked in a room with seven managers, all of whom were wearing khaki-colored pants (one was even corduroy). Then, this morning when I pulled into the parking lot and parked in the space in front of another car I noticed the driver in the car in front of me was sitting there flossing her teeth in her rearview mirror. She’s kind a strange older lady: hair that is bleached too blond, too much black eyeliner. I think she’s going to show up in one of my novels.

I’ve been getting a couple of recent hires settled in, getting them set up with computers, phones, etc., so there’s been a steady stream of neediness from their manager who can never seem to understand THINGS TAKE TIME. Whatever.

Today it’s been non-stop neediness from my boss, who used to profess himself “self-sufficient” and liked to point out how he preferred to manage his own calendar, rather than let me do it. That all came to a screeching halt when I was forced to move down here to the other end of the building so he could keep his hold on his private conference room. Now everytime he needs a meeting set up I do it. This started today before I even had a chance to turn on my monitor when I arrived, just before 8:00 a.m. Good morning to you, too. And all the talk-talk-talk-talk-talk from him, and everyone around me. Seriously, people, STFU. Why is it people feel entitled to wander the aisles between the cubes, chattering away on their Bluetooth headsets? Go sit down in your cube and talk. OR go outside. Or get a conference room. Oh yeah, the birthday party in the common area the other day was a corker, I’m sure we all wanted to listen to that. Right outside my cube is an ‘open’ area where some damn fool put a table, and that got used to hold the birthday cake, where the rest of the birthday boy’s department gathered around to sing “Happy Birthday.”

I hate cube life.