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.

1991-12-?? – a very EID Christmas

Bah humbug; no, that’s too strong…

Found this unfinished strip in a random box in my closet. The presence of Dave and “Riley-tron” in EID dates it to 1991.

Another Celia-driven EID holiday activity—the time-honored tradition of the Christmas gift exchange. I know all these presents were actually received by the people as shown here.

Note the Michael Jordan poster in Joe’s cubicle, as well as the poster of the swimsuit model (whose identity has been lost to time). Amusingly, from the Wite Out, it looks like I was having trouble “figuring” out a way to draw her…”gifts.” Ah, Joe, you rogue.

I like the way the cartoon was coming out and can only conclude that this was yet another strip where I didn’t have a clear idea of a punch line or ending (it’s weird that I didn’t always know what I wanted to draw when I started one of these). What’s especially odd about this is that this is the only Cubicle Count to span more than four panels (maybe this was the Sunday color strip). That’s a lot of drawing for no payoff.

Another weird thing is that I think I may have drawn this with pen and ink…as in, with a dip pen. I know that was something I played with at one point. I like the look here.

I’m sorry I didn’t finish this one, as it would have been nice to get John Parnell—who was probably Cubicle Count’s biggest fan (he always stopped by my desk to look for new strips)—into the “canon.” As the pencil note indicates, that’s John in panel 5.

Was the whole “Happy holidays” vs “Merry Christmas” battle the big deal in 1991 that it seems to be these days? I know it was something I thought about long before it became such a thing; it’s exactly the kind of thing I waste thought and energy worrying about.

unfinished business

Cubicle Count was something I’d all but completely forgotten, but now that I’ve revisited them I’m feeling irrationally proud of the strip. It’s certainly not an issue of thinking the drawings are good or that the strips are funny or clever, it’s more just the satisfaction of having stuck with a project like this for a while.

Before I close the book on the original (!) Cubicle Count run, I should throw the few unfinished strips I found onto the pile.

None of these strips have dates, but I can tell from what’s going on in them roughly when I drew them.

“Dazed and unenthused”

This first one dates to October 1991. I can tell this for the following reasons: the protagonists (Joe Riley, Kathryn Kerby, and Beth Ahrens—sorry Beth, your only CC appearance got left on the drafting table) are from the department I would eventually transfer to, Special Analysis (I know, I know). This was before Joe (“Riley-tron!”) was temporarily transferred to EID and before Kathryn and Beth left the company. Also, this was supposed to be a Halloween-y strip. The idea (which I am surprised I remember) was supposed to be along the lines of Dawn of the Dead, with the EID staff (here represented by me and Celia) in the zombie role and Joe, Kathryn, and Beth the outside observers lamenting our sad plight.

Though I remember the concept, I DON’T have any idea how I intended to wrap up this strip…which is probably why I never finished it. I also have no idea what dialogue I had in mind for the characters, though Joe (panel 2) and Kathryn (panel 3) are obviously speaking. Without remembering what I had in mind, I can say almost for certain that the panel 4 drawing would have had Beth delivering a punch line. Beth from that era seldom failed to get the last word (a trait she shares with Beth from this era).

Drawing-wise I’m pleased with how everyone translated into their cartoon alter egos (though Beth in panel 3 has that slouchy, short-armed posture that I dislike in a lot of my drawings). There’s no way anyone but me would know this, but Beth in panel 1 is reaching to open the door to the fourth floor.

“Fly (off the handle) boy”

This next one was from around December 1991. I was starting to hang with Tracey more, so we had a little bit of a workplace pal routine starting to take shape.

I’ll be damned if I can remember the story behind the “no baby” callout in panel 1. If I remember correctly (no sure thing), Tracey was pregnant with her first son at this time. As I understand the biology of it, pregnancy is kind of the opposite of “no baby.”

As with the previous unfinished comic, I have no idea where I was going with this one.

“Them’s the breaks”

This one dates to June-July 1992, and it answers the question of why there was a several-month gap in the strip: I broke my left wrist and arm playing softball that year, so I couldn’t draw. The proof is right here: my one attempt to draw the strip right-handed.

Kind of a gimmicky, stupid idea, but I was probably dying to draw at this point, so I’ll cut myself some slack here.

“Squirting the law”

And, finally, the one storyline I really wish I HAD finished. This was to be a multistrip wrap-up to the Cubicle Count run. I had gotten my transfer to Special Analysis (“yayyyy!”), and the plan was to leave EID in a blaze of glory by using a squirt gun full of Wite-Out to deliver Tracey, Celia, and my other EID friends from the nefarious grip of…I don’t know. Paul was hardly a villain, so I don’t think I’d have Wite-Outed him. Perhaps I would have drawn Bernadette Freedman (the EID department head) or Joel Hammond (arrogant perpetually self-satisfied EID section chief). Well, we’ll never know now.

It amuses me to see how little I’ve changed. Tracey’s panel 1 dialogue is unfinished, and I just KNOW it’s because I wasn’t sure how “Wite-Out” was spelled. I’m OCD enough that I would HAVE to get that right. But at least I’d finally learned to leave toom for the strip’s title: see how Tracey’s talk bubble politely leaves space at the top of the panel.

1992-11-30 – “Pool party”

That’s a wrap.

Here, a few months after the previous one and all on its own, is the last original Cubicle Count.  

(“Last original…?!” Could there be Cubicle Counts of some other type still out there somewhere, asked absolutely no one. Could be!)

So here’s another pretty standard-issue office theme: the football pool. It was run by—and almost always won by—Mike Costello. I actually regret featuring Mike Costello in a strip, though I’m glad I did “capture” Mike Hilden, truly one of the BIOSIS good guys (and an exceptional softball first baseman).

I think the idea here is that Mike C. is supposed to be holding a wad of bills in the third panel. I’m not sure that comes across, which is probably why I drew the character making a “number one” sign. Whatever.

I’m not certain why I stopped drawing the strip. I don’t think it would have been because Dave Sturgill left—not directly, anyway, though it’s interesting that I didn’t draw another strip until several months after the “farewell, Dave” strip. I don’t remember much about how the social ebb and flow of the BIOSIS experience went for me, but I suspect that I was bumming with the loss of the last of my work peops. Anyway, I do know that I transferred out of EID not long after this strip was drawn, and my new department was way less dysfunctional than this one, so I probably didn’t need the escape of the comic strip as much.

1992-08-03 – “An honest day’s work”

(1992-08-03) an honest day's work
Be good, Jonny!

I’m noticing a theme here in these 1992 Cubicle Counts. I guess my  attitude toward the job nosedived a bit. I don’t remember when I transferred out of the department, but I hope for Cartoon Jon’s sake it’s soon!

Really a pretty cliché-y strip when you come right down to it, but–well–I’m sure it felt good to vent.

“Editing & Indexing” it still is, I see.

Hmmm, I’m throwing a right-handed punch. Perhaps the film got flipped…

The lines look blacker and stronger here, and there are NO sketch lines. This might have been drawn when I was experimenting with actual ink pens instead of fine-line markers (Pigma Micron 0.03). I’m liking the cleaner look.

For the record, I never actually ripped up journals, spray painted walls, or smacked my boss.

Poor Paul. He was actually a good guy who deserved better than to have had the likes of me in his group. According to the Google, he’s running his own photography business these days. That’s a good thing. I think photography was always his passion (being a BIOSIS group leader was a close second, I’m sure.).

1992-07-21 – “Break it down!”

I just noticed as I started this entry that the comic featured here was drawn several months after the previous ones. I have no idea what would have caused the hiatus: I seem to have been going at an every-couple-of-weeks clip prior to this break.

Also interesting (to me, at least) is that this strip focuses solely on me and my activities. Yes, I’ve appeared in a lot of my own comics, but for the most part I was at best a co-conspirator in the various goings-on. Perhaps my cartoon alter-ego was as much an introvert as I was/am…

To any HR personnel stumbling on this site while doing a background check prior to making me a lucrative offer: ha, ha! This isn’t reflective of my work ethi–oh, who am I kidding. Cartoon Jon here didn’t have any pressing deadlines and worked 15 hours the day before. Probably.

I’m noticing an increasing trend toward background-less panels, which I’m not sure I like. I wish I’d thrown in a cubicle wall or a bookshelf in panel 3. On the other hand, the sinking-ship/Batman-villain tilted-camera perspective in panel 1 looks a little weird.

Finally, The talk bubble-less dialogue suggests to me that I was experimenting with different cartooning styles. Being a fervent disciple of Charles Schulz, I always incline toward closed talk/thought bubbles.

Addendum: It just occurred to me how ridiculous, in the light of having been in the workforce for almost 30 years, the idea of assigned break times are. But BIOSIS had ’em! 10:15 and…2:30 (I think). I don’t remember if lunch was also scheduled for a particular time. Also don’t remember whether group leaders had to hold our hand and walk us to the potty.

(1992-07-21) break it down
Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping…



1991-11-25 – “Dawn and out”

Always hard to lose a main character.

Poor Paul didn’t make the final cut, probably because of my preference for four-panel strips. Well, nothing major lost by leaving that first panel out.

This one just tugs at the heart strings, doesn’t it?

(1991-11-25) dawn and out
[sad music]