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 random thoughts, writing

Time, Time, Time

Someone asked the question on Twitter today: As a writer, what’s the one thing you’d ask Santa for?

My answer: To win the lottery so I could quit my dayjob and have time to write.

I honestly don’t know any other way to get more time. I spend two hours a day physically on the road commuting, and while I know other people have worse commutes, that doesn’t really make it any better. It’s a crazy way to live, giving up 10 hours or more every week to simply traveling to and from our jobs.

I can hear people saying, “Well, if  you really wanted to do it, you’d make the time.”

That’s great that you can function on just a couple hours of sleep a night. Not everyone can.

It’s nearly 10:00 Sunday morning. My ‘weekend’ is essentially over. Time to start laundry, take a shower so I can go to the store and get food and things for the week, do housework, pay bills. And so the week begins again.

Posted in books, dystopia, fantasy, horror, Office Life, Publishing, Tarot, Vampires, writing

Dispatch from the Zone – My Excuse

It’s been an odd couple of weeks for me. Starting with the Thanksgiving holiday, where I grumbled about having to take Friday as personal vacation because my company doesn’t give it as a holiday (as my previous companies have done), all was well until that Sunday night. I’m only telling this now because a lot of you know already and if you don’t it will no doubt be mentioned at some point in the future and I can get all the explanation out of the way now.

In short, I laid the bike down that night and sliced my leg open, resulting in six stitches and a couple of missed days of work. I spent Sunday evening in the ER, hence no post last week. It was a fairly deep lacerating and “heavy bleeding” according to the paperwork I got. I took one quick look at the gaping hole in my leg and that was enough.

I’m not posting icky pictures here of the wound, there’s not much damage to the bike so nothing to see there. It was a low-speed accident, luckily, and no other vehicles involved. I jumped a curb, hit a small tree and went down. I didn’t even realize I was injured until one of the kind people who had stopped to help me saw the blood. I thought it was just mud on my pants (which by the way are still intact). So, long story short, I’ve been hobbling around for the last week, and getting grumpier about it by the day. Another week and the stitches should come out.

At any rate, I made it in to work that Tuesday, and managed to get around well enough. I was supposed to have had my review that Monday, but it was rescheduled to Wednesday. After that I got grumpier. It wasn’t horrible, but I am still steaming over being reprimanded (in the nicest way possible) for not being ‘helpful’ enough to some entitled bitch who ran into the office looking for some conference that she had no information on (no title, room number, who was putting it on – nothing), and felt I should simply have known where it was. Well, there are a lot of conferences and symposiums and lectures that go on there, and sadly I am not an electronic display board that lists them all. So she bitched to someone in my department, who in turn came to my manager to express their displeasure over this. I am told I did not ask enough, or the right, questions to figure out where this self-important nobody needed to be. This wasn’t the only criticism sandwiched in with praise, but it was the biggest one (I was also told I wasn’t displaying enough enthusiasm for the job. I’m an admin assistant, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to express enthusiasm for this). The interesting thing is I never heard a word about any of this until the review the other day.

To sum up, I am more desperate than ever for a new job.  Maybe it’s my paranoid imagination, but it feels a little like they’re building a case.

All that aside, I’m back to polishing the vampire novel with the goal of having it ready to start querying agents in the new year. I need to get on with this. I need to at least say “I tried” even if it never gets published.

Getting back to our weekly card draw, this one ‘jumped’ out as I was shuffling.

Ace of Pentacles

The Ace of Pentacles is the Root of the Powers of Earth. Aces are beginnings, and pentacles deal with money, and material concerns. This is good, some new venture kicking off, hopefully a lucrative new project. I have some ideas for a new venture, I hope this is a good omen.

So, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been dealing with for the last week. How’s it by you?

Posted in Angels, art, dystopia, Office Life, Tarot, writing

Feeling Creative?

Here’s our lovely card for the week, the Ace of Wands from the Victorian Romantic Tarot by Baba Studio in Prague.

Ace of Wands

The Ace of Wands is the root of the creative powers, a beginning, fire energy. This could be good. A new creative undertaking about to take off? Maybe Prometheus has some fire from the gods for us all. The LWB suggests “Bravery and courage in the face of something new.”  How apropos. I’m about to get saddled with a new duty at work, one I truly dread (I’ve already seen my ‘revised job description’ so I know it’s coming). Six more months and I can bail. I can’t believe I’ve been at this job nearly six months already. By Zeus, there has to be a better way to make a living. I really need to get moving on the escape plan.

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

She’s HEEEEeeeeerrrrrree

I stopped in at Powells on the way home tonight to get my copy which I pre-ordered way back when. I can hardly wait to dig in to this one because OMFGILOVEGLENDUNCANSOMUCH. For those who missed the first installment in this man’s soon-to-be trilogy, you can read my take on it here and the beginning of my love affair with this man’s writing here. The first book, The Last Werewolf, had a black cover with red edging on all the pages. This one reverses it with a red cover and black-edged pages. Duncan has mentioned his love for the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad so I also picked up a copy of that (one of the critical editions full of essays on the rather short book and it’s symbolism, etc.).

The bus ride from work was…erm… interesting. A largeish girl sat next to me all the way, and she didn’t quite fit into her seat, sort of spilled over onto me a bit. That wasn’t the worst of it. Either she was passing gas the whole way silently or she needed to change her underwear. Not kidding, it was gross. She kept up a steady stream of really boring conversation with a woman across the aisle who kept leaning over to show her pictures on her cell phone of a hike she did up at Mt. Hood. But you couldn’t really tell from the picture that they were at the summit, she was quick to add, because it was just a close-up of two faces. The one next to me had a voice like Bernadette on “The Big Bang Theory”, that cutesy little girl, kewpie doll kind of voice. Unbelievable how long some people can talk about nothing.

But anyway.

I guess I’m doing ok at work, or else they’re out of options since the woman training me gave notice and her last day is July 6, because I was told late this afternoon (like at 4:45) that I was going to be picking up calendaring for another one of the people there that my trainer had been taking care of. Hrm. Luckily he seems like a nice person, and I’ve actually had more contact with him than with the primary person I’m supposed to be supporting. Things are getting easier now that I’m understanding the job better. And who knows, this could be my ticket out of the adminisphere someday. Since I’m so heavily involved in purchasing for the place I may someday be able to parlay this experience into a buyer position. The money would sure be better.

But just having the new Glen Duncan book has cheered my day. How are you all?

Posted in Office Life, random thoughts, writing

To Whine, or Not To Whine?

Eh, what the hell, why stop now?

This place just makes my head spin. We have it all here: Drama, intrigue, grandstanding, backstabbing, power grabs, politics. Dilbert’s got nothing on us. Another reorganization of our entire department, worldwide, went into effect this morning, causing some peripheral damage but also some potentially good news. Let me try to sum up.

Cast of Characters:

  • Hawkeye – Good manager that I like (he actually does remind me of Alan Alda as Hawkeye from M*A*S*H*, same acerbic wit, same cynicism, and clear-headed, logical, smartass).
  • Nebbish – I think everyone is familiar with him by now
  • Overseer – ditto
  • Nebbish Minion – one and only direct report Nebbish has
  • Ol’ Sonnyboy – jerkwad who told me I look like Tonya Harding and thinks he’s a ladykiller. He’s gotta be pushing 70, just started growing a goatee, no doubt to try to look hip. Rides one of those monster motorcycles.
  • She Who Must Be Saved (SWMBS) – Co-worker I like who is a very classy, very nice lady.
  • HMFIC – (Navy acronym for “Head Mo-Fo In Charge”) my direct boss, the one who likes to hear himself talk, currently having coughing fits and choking on his phlegm after which he goes outside for a cigarette. Yep.

As you may recall, back in May HMFIC decided he needed to move to the other end of the building, away from the rest of our department so he could have his own private little conference room for all those important, super-secret phone calls with the head cheeses back at HQ. I dragged my heels, waited a full month after he’d moved to finally make the move myself because

a) I liked sitting where I was, near the group, and directly across from Hawkeye, with whom I have shared tons of chocolate and endless cups of tea (I had an electric tea kettle and teapot at work here to brew up fresh tea for us, it was that good of a work relationship. Honestly, best boss I ever had), and I tend to think it’s partly because Hawkeye and I get along so well that HMFIC decided to move away from that area, and try to stake his claim since I had been reassigned to report to him;

b) Big downer: It meant I would be across from Nebbish, who would have a direct view of me while in our respective cubes. It’s just creepy. So no one cool to talk to, and lots of creeps. Made my skin crawl. I never did put up the bead curtain, even though I went ahead and ordered them, because then everytime Nebbish came over to talk to me, it would effectively create a private little space, where whatever happened would be unobservable. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Fast forward six months to yesterday. Hawkeye finally decided to make the move over to another building on campus where he has direct reports. Of course I gave him a ration, accusing him of abandoning me, told him he sucked, etc. But I dutifully set up the move for him, AND THEN, just to add insult to injury, HMFIC got wind of this and decided he wants to MOVE BACK to the area we were originally in. Can you see the smoke coming out of my ears?

I was so good, I didn’t hit him, I didn’t spit in his eye. I told Hawkeye I was going to call forth Cthulhu to deal with HMFIC. He had no idea what I was talking about so of course I sent him a link immediately. He already knew I served the Dark Lord and wanted to know if I had the dark mark on my forearm. That only comes with the first kill, I told him.

So then today, when doing an empty-cube recon mission to find out how many spaces we have available in the area, I stopped in with SWMBS (who I’m trying to get moved down with us, because otherwise she will be completely isolated down here by herself, with ol’ Sonnyboy in the cube next to her) we stopped by to say hello to Hawkeye. He gave me the astonishing news that he may not go ahead and move over to the other building after all. After the shakeup this morning, one of the developments is that he and HMFIC are now reporting up to the same bigwig back at HQ (it’s all been very fragmented and strange). Things were looking up, I thought this is good! I can survive HMFIC a little longer if I have Hawkeye to laugh with and help me keep things in perspective (and let me tell you, it’s been nip and tuck lately). There is other potential fall-out to come later, but one thing at a time, I guess. Drawbacks to this scenario include being once again seated kitty-corner to Overseer, and the Nebbish would be moving down as well, to the cube next to my former/future location. Ah well, at least he wouldn’t have a direct line-of-sight into my cube like he has now.

Now I’m trying to convince HMFIC that Nebbish should move to another building, where Nebbish Minion already sits, and where there is space available, rather than try to squeeze the two of them into the few open cubes we have left in my former area, thereby also saving moving costs for one additional person. Especially since I’m trying to finagle a spot for SWMBS so she’s not left alone down here when we pull up stakes and head east. She was very excited after we went down there, she got to meet a number of folks in the department she had never met before and liked them all.

Maybe calling forth Cthulhu like I did yesterday wasn’t such a bad idea.