Only Wednesday [NOT 17/5/23]

Hi, friends! How is your day going?

My day was slow and filled with reminders. As in I reminded someone via email I was waiting for their answer on a project question that was needed yesterday. Then I sat with them in a meeting and it came up again. Later in the day I replied to an email chain and asked them again to clarify things. And finally I just walked over to their desk and harassed them in person.

I would love to not have to herd cats, but here we are nonetheless.

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17 Comments

  1. I used to love working in a corporate office, the camaraderie, the inside jokes, the dressing for work and the subway commute (yes, at one point the NYC subways had appeal, because they were taking you to somewhere appealing, especially if you were leaving the job and going home or out to socialize somewhere), the petty feuds and the gossip. But then I lost my corporate job and went freelance.

    I had a client who wanted me to be on-site, but sporadically. So I’d spend like three weeks in, and then a couple of days a week working from home, and then for a couple of months worked this weird night shift where I’d show up around 3 or 4 pm and work until midnight or later, and I realized how strange and useless this whole set-up was. I got to be very close to the people in my department, but I was a freelancer so a second-class citizen. I used to run my own Art (-adjacent, kind of) Department and I could see what was going wrong but I was powerless to stop it. The department I freelanced for was run by a former sales guy, so it was all about “underpromising and overdelivering” and he’d call out stuff (it was an open-plan office, of course, the worst postwar innovation ever, second only to nuclear weapons) like “Staff, I just told [Client X] that we’d get the job to them by 3 pm tomorrow. [Mattie,] I’m going to need you to stay late tonight. You too, [X, Y, and Z.]” The guy who was the Art Director (it was a weird set-up) was my bro, and I’d say to him, “Why the fuck did he say that?” And he’d say, “Because we’re salary and he gets to go home at 5. You at least get paid by the hour.”

    And then Covid struck and the entire world realized what I learned a decade ago: many, many, many of us do not need to be squeezed into veal-fattening pens/cubicle farms to be productive, profit-generating, private-sector citizens.

    • PS: That company lost a lot of business because of Covid and I haven’t done work for them since the pandemic struck. They had massive layoffs; according to my contacts they’re down to about half the staff they had when I was freelancing there, if that. So guess what they did? You are correct. Mandatory on-site attendance the moment Emperor Andreus Marcus Maximus allowed for such a thing.

      • My company has held on to acres of empty office space just so they can justify dragging us all back full time. My guess is it will happen next year when the install goes live.
        It will not work out the way they think it will.

    • Open office plans are an abomination. The whole boondoggle was an attempt to retroactively justify not spending any money on office space. Studies have repeatedly proven that it’s horrible for productivity, but the “myth” persists. All it does is make people buy noise-cancelling headphones.

      I used to love to go to the office, too. I like the division between work and home, as long as the commute between the two isn’t oppressive. But I have to say I’ve gotten used to staying home. The only real problem is if my family is here. I find that very distracting.

      • I have this book and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I have the hardcover print edition, so the photos reproduced clearly and in context. You can understand why cubicle culture arose, aside from the obvious savings on real estate. Some of those proto-cubicles featured in the book I would gladly inhabit.

        But no. My corporate company, when my division was going into decline, and my department along with it, was in a ferocious cost-cutting mood and consolidated all of us into half the space we used to inhabit. The other half of the floors they sub-leased. We were consigned to these 1984-ish tiny stalls, rows upon rows of them, about the size and appeal of a Port Authority bathroom stall. Since I was a department head my cubicle was in the front of my row. My view was of the door that led to the women’s room and the kitchen, that no one used. Several departments combined and no one was happy, so there was no creative interaction. In fact, to communicate with my staff, I used to email them, or sneak off to conference rooms, as if we were having illicit affairs, lest I disturb the dozens of others within hearing distance.

        My first week in the veal-fattening pen I forgot myself and took a phone call from BH. That was bad enough. It concerned our cleaning crew. “They can’t come on Tuesday, like they said, they’re going to come on Thursday. You’re going to need to take the day off because I’m going to be in [wherever.]”

        “Jesus Christ, [BH], do they work for us or do we work for them? All right, fine!” It was something like that. I was gently pulled aside and reminded that half the floor overheard this conversation.

      • I agree. When I lived with my parents and I worked from home, my mom thought my job was to help her work not do my work.

        Couldn’t tell mom to sod off, but there were a few times I wanted to (I didn’t because I was living under the parents roof at the time.)

        Worse was the former housemate. As I mentioned before, he became quite antagonistic because deep down he was a jealous shit who wanted to work from home (but working in a warehouse wouldn’t allow him that.) Ironically, it was the same time I was dying from sepsis from a leaking appendix which slowly ebbed my energy away.

        The friendship might have survived if he wasn’t going deaf and refused to acknowledge or do anything about it. He would max out the TV volume so that I couldn’t think so I kicked him out of the living room which became my defacto office. When that happened, he started throwing 4 year old like tantrums which surprised me because he didn’t seem the type, but I was wrong.

        Eventually, I snapped after one too many tantrums, but by then I had lost my job and was desperately looking for one.

  2. “Veal-fattening pens”? Oh, I think someone‘s read a certain book by Douglas Coupland that just happens to be entitled Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.

    • I most certainly did, and the irony is Douglas Coupland is a Baby Boomer, just like I am, barely. But he caught the Zeitgeist at just the right moment. The movie Slacker, the rise of Nirvana and Seattle grunge, the mainstream rejection of Reaganite corporate grasping and clawing, the indy coffee shop culture, living at home into your late 20s, part-time jobs and McJobs, all of it.

      When I lived through the early 90s it didn’t seem so different to me than the late 80s, but then the first recent college graduate guy showed up in the office wearing a plaid lumberjack shirt. I remember this vividly. I remember the guy’s name. Then a couple of months later a young woman showed up wearing a nose ring and sharing photos of her pet ferret. I remember her, too. Then I ended up hiring a guy who, on casual summer Fridays, as if we weren’t casual enough at that point, would show up wearing vintage T-shirts and Teva sandals. It was then that I realized I had entered middle age. I was probably 29 or 30.

      • Since I’m in a confessional mood and way behind on my most recent project and it’s late for this thread, let me bore you with another anecdote.

        That guy with the vintage T-shirts and the Teva sandals was only three years younger than me. But it was like he was from a different generation. He would use his vacation time to go backpacking around Indonesia for a couple of weeks, stuff like that. I’d come back from mine and say stuff like, “I was at the Ivy in LA with friends and you’ll never guess who was at the table next to us!”

        Still, we became the best of friends. He taught me so much about the software I then had to train others to use. He had excellent taste in literature and we used to swap books all the time. He’s another one who fled New York, but his motivation was the 9/11 attack. This I never understood, because he was third- or fourth-generation New York, Jewish, and I said to him, “You think New York can’t deal with this?” I guess he didn’t.

  3. I have three days this week where I have to look professional for external video calls among varying platforms. Sigh. And keep the dogs quiet. Also, herding cats is maybe 1/3 of my responsibilities…maybe more.

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