2017-02-15 – “if wishes were curses”

(2017-02-15) if wishes were curses
The moral of the story: be careful what you wish for.

Having been raised by parents whose income was derived from jobs conducted on their own schedules in their own spaces, I suppose it’s only natural that I would struggle in the confines of the conventional work arrangement. And, being who I am, it’s even MORE natural that I would spend much of my career (such as it is) resisting it.

I was going to start this paragraph by writing, “I’m not sure why I find office life so hard…,” but the fact is that I know EXACTLY why.

First and foremost, my cycle of energy, concentration, and creativity do not mesh well with a 9:00-to-5:00 schedule (or any variation of it). I’m at my best first thing in the morning—and I mean “first thing”: I’m usually at my desk by 6:00 or 6:30 AM. I’ve never seen the point in pissing away my peak hours of productivity on a morning commute and everything else that goes along with reporting to an office by 9:00.

Happily, workplace culture generally and my last couple of employers specifically have been more amenable to schedule flexibility. I am supremely grateful for this, so much so that I feel duty-bound to make myself available essentially 24/7 for any urgent workplace needs (in a timeline-driven company of five, there are no shortages of these).

I suppose the simplest way to describe my view towards employment is to say that I regard it as an even, reciprocal arrangement. An employer that demands my office attendance from 9:00 to 5:00 (assuming I’d agree to such an arrangement, which I recently proved I would not) would get my best efforts in that window but would find me highly unsympathetic and unmoved by emergencies that regularly required me to stay late or come in early. Why should flexibility be a one-sided deal?

Perhaps an even bigger challenge is that offices are a poor fit for outgoing  introverts—or, at least, the offices I’ve worked in have been a poor fit for someone with my particular variety of outgoing introversion. Oh, let’s just call it what it is: I have a pretty high jerk quotient and being forced into extended proximity with other people increases the odds that I will inadvertently (or, sometimes, advertently) piss someone off. Also, I find rote, superficial interactions and relationships extraordinarily draining. It only takes a couple of days of biting my tongue and exchanging nothing but hollow pleasantries to completely exhaust me.

Now, I recognize that all of this is MY problem. If I was better at stroking bosses, I’d be far better off (professionally, anyway). The problem (one of them) is that I am unwilling to treat someone with reverence because he or she has a title. My tendency, for better or worse (usually the latter in workplace settings), is to treat everyone the same. But I do insist upon being treated with respect and am quite willing to call out anyone—in any setting—who I feel is being disrespectful, rude, inappropriate, dismissive, bullying, etc. This never plays well with bosses who treat people based on their position in an org chart. In my mind, it’s a very simple matter of manners and the Golden Rule.

So, for all these reasons (and more!), I have devoted a lot of energy over the course of my career fighting for the option of working from home. And then I found a job that was 100% work from home! Yay, right?

Not so much.

As this cartoon illustrates (get it?), it IS possible to have too much of a good thing.

I should probably get into the parts of office life that I miss, but it’s later in the day and the line on the time-vs-productivity chart is falling precipitously into the red. I’ll close by saying that I am particularly pleased with this cartoon. I like the drawing OK, but I am mostly satisfied to get down on paper something important to me that I’ve been thinking about a lot.

2011-02-11 – “No status at all” (Curatio CME Institute)

curatio-no-status-at-all
Come on, large straight…!

Curatio currently ranks at #2 on my job length-of-tenure list, checking it at 7+ years (close to 8 years if you count my service as Beth’s understudy).*

The company changed a lot in the time I was there, and nowhere was that more evident than in the tradition known as “weekly status.” When I first reached Curatio, this meeting was an entertaining free-for-all where all six (!) participants just let the one-liners, putdowns, and practical jokes fly (who can forget the classic Elayne D&D die roll at Denise’s expense?). It was perfect cartooning fodder, and in fact somewhere in my sketchpad I have a very preliminary drawing of a typical scene from those old status meetings. But aside from that one sketch—though the idea always nagged at me—I never got into drawing any Curatio-inspired cartoons.

One random week (much to the bemusement of my coworkers), I took a bunch of camera-phone pictures during the status meeting, and I used them to rough out this drawing. I’m not sure why I never finished inking this in. Short attention span is a pretty good guess.

This drawing does a fair job of capturing my view of these meetings. But the fact is that status meetings during the era of this drawing were pretty button-down affairs. Witty one-liners had by this point long been supplanted by beaten-to-death corporate buzzphrases, and that doesn’t translate well to cartoon. I’m not sure exactly when or why status jumped the proverbial shark, but I’m guessing it had something to do with Donner and the optospectometer.

I should note that this drawing is based on what my pictures captured. Denise—if you ever see this—you were indeed having the mini-freakout depicted here. And I am certain I was playing Yahtzee.

*The two companies that I worked for the longest were both well-established businesses…and both wound up closing. Hmmmm.

01-22-1986 – “Break time!” (Caldor)

A few minutes in the day of the life of a Caldor clerk (and his pals).

What’s Caldor, you ask? It was a department store, kind of like Target meets “Clerks” (the movie). By today’s standards, it’s hard to imagine that the chain (once the prairies were black with ’em!) ever stayed in business: imagine a Target where each department had 5–8 employees and cashiers had to enter all purchases on an abacus by hand. Anyway, it’s long gone.

This cartoon pretty much stinks. My insecurity about my inability to draw people to look like themselves was at its peak, so everyone here has a soundalike name (Derek = Eric, Kim = Lynne, etc). The few visual gags I threw in are unsubtle and unfunny.

I suppose I’m glad I have this drawing, if only as a visual record of the Caldor era.

caldor_cartoon_1986_2
Drakes cakes all around!

1989 – “One man’s hell” (Phonon Corp)

OK, moving on from the BIOSIS experience…

My first “real” (ie, post-college) job was working for a company that manufactured electronic components for radars and communications systems…or something. The job dropped in my lap courtesy of a high school friend’s dad (Ray Sawin, a great guy). Phonon’s president and founder, Tom Martin, was also the father of one of my classmates.

I worked in a clean lab, which meant that I spent most of my days putting on and taking off special clothing that kept everything particle-free. It wasn’t a particularly challenging job, and because it had nothing to do with anything I’d studied, it wasn’t a very interesting job. My efforts to make it more interesting included growing Sea Monkeys and checking them out through my lab’s microscope (they never did brandish tridents, build castles, or grow three-pronged heads).

One of the more irritating aspects of this job was having prospective clients peer into my lab as they toured Phonon’s stately facility. The windows to the lab were huge and tinted, and it really felt like working in an aquarium. One day when I knew a client tour was coming, I filled one new beaker full of orange Tang powder and another with fresh water, then waited for the tour to stop at my “cage.” I pretended not to notice them as they gathered at my window, and as I went about my business, I took the beaker of water, added it to the beaker of Tang, drank it, then staggered around the lab (a la “Altered States”). The onlookers were visibly startled by this, which made me double over with laughter, which only made them MORE visibly startled. Good times!

One good thing about Phonon is that the company brought in lunch every day and was thus directly responsible for introducing me to General Tso’s chicken (from Main Moon in Simsbury center). So that’s something. Oh, and I also won the company’s Super Bowl pool the year I was there.

Oh yes, the cartoon. This is one of my all-time favorite drawings. The lab looked EXACTLY like this. Even though it was almost 27 years ago, I clearly remember drawing this. I was sitting at my desk in my rented house in Windsor, and I just started doodling. There was no plan or intent to draw anything in particular, but this just came out.

The guy in this cartoon doesn’t look anything like me, of course, but it’s me. The only important thing about my alter ego here is the expression, which absolutely nails how I felt about Phonon.

one-mans-hell