I dreamed that I was hired for a new job. My wife had a new job, too. Although they were in the same general business park, we decided to drive separately.
I arrived on time in a suit with tie, and found my new business location. True Focus had hired me, sight unseen, without even interviews. I’d submitted my resume on a whim, so I was surprised.
But I’d take it and do what I could with it. I found an HR person who directed me to a work area, a half-wall cubicle in a huge room full of like cubicles. Lots of friendly people were about. As introductions progressed, I discovered that I was the only one working for True Focus. Most worked for another large corporation, the name either not given, or forgotten.
Feeling good about being there, I was settling into my space when a man came by and dropped off several folders and envelopes for me. One had a note from my boss, Trish, to come and see them when I had the chance. Meanwhile, here was some information to study.
I was excited. I opened one of the manila packets and discovered it full of packets of new American paper money with a note, “For your work.” As other workers ogled the money and made comments, I stuffed it in my pocket with the money I already had in my pockets.
Then I opened another packet, and found more money. I shoved it in my pocket. It barely fit.
I then took off my coat and sat down to go through the materials and read. I came across the note from Trish again. They were in office number forty-six. I went looking for Trish and discovered the offices were along the outside walls. Summing up the direction, I walked along, heading for forty-six, but realized that a platoon of people were in my way. I sussed that they were senior executives, and they were holding a wedding. Not wanting to interrupt, I decided I’d try again later.
Crossing back to my cubicle, I realized that I’d removed my shoes and trousers. I knew where I’d put them, but when I got there, I discovered someone else’s pants and shoes were there. They looked similar in color and style to mine, so I tried putting them on, but they were too big for me. I figured I was the butt of a joke, but I needed my pants and shoes, thanks.
People noticed the missing attire. I waved them off with a laugh and explained, “I’ve been retired. I’m not used to working clothes like this.”
My cubicle had been moved. It was full of people there for training. That miffed me. They apologized, but they were doing as they were told. I shrugged it off, deciding that I’d work around it for now and sort it later. Someone brought me my pants and shoes. At that point, I noticed that my fingernails were painted dark gray. I laughed about that, remembering that I’d been fooling around and painted them, and then had forgotten about it.
The money felt wadded in my pocket, so I took it out to organize it. I keep pulling money out of my pocket. People passing noticed it, and made jokes. I finally got all the money out, smoothed it, put it all together in fat bundles, and put them back into my pockets.
I went to find Trish in forty-six again, but remembered that I didn’t have my pants on. Returning, I put them on, and set out again. I reached forty-six. It was a small office with a woman and two men in it set across a table from one another. They were about to close the door to start a meeting. The woman said something about who I was, that she didn’t even know me. I gave her an arch reply along the lines of my name and the fact that I was her new hire. One man, who looked like an older version of Ron Weasley from the early Harry Potter movies, said, “Oh, you’re my new hire. I’m Trish.”
He asked me if I had the True Focus mission statement. I said, “No, I didn’t know that I was supposed to bring it.”
He said, “The mission statement is what it’s all about.”
I said, “I’ll go back and get it,” and walked away.
I haven’t worked outside of my writing efforts since leaving IBM a few years ago.
The work with big blue had some pleasantries outside of the obvious of paychecks and health benefits. Some of it was challenging and rewarding, and helped validate my sense of my abilities. Some impressive technologies were being developed, and I had some very talented and capable co-workers.
I disliked huge chunks of it, though. The bureaucratic nature was stifling. Worse, though, not just with IBM, but with the other companies that employed me, were the exhortations that we were family or a team. My wife used to tell people, whenever your boss said you were part of a family, watch out.
The family comparison was always a huge reach, unless you were talking about dysfunctional families. I knew little about co-workers, and they knew little about me. That became truer as many of us worked remotely from our homes, doing telecommutes. As that happened, IBM also cut down on celebrations. No more buying birthday cakes, having team lunches, or Friday donuts, even if people worked on a campus. Few pauses were provided to celebrate and reflect on how well things were going. We no longer visited the offices for a face-to-face connection in order to reduce costs.
That was my experience. Others probably have different experiences, depending upon their division, campus, work center, manager, and middle and upper management. I had thirteen bosses at one point in that organization. I heard the top bosses, the vice-presidents and SVPs once a quarter during a one-hour “town hall” meeting where we were told the financial results. Note, they didn’t call it a family reunion or team meeting. I heard from mid-level execs more often, like whenever something went wrong. They were very heavy-handed and hands-on then. I didn’t hear from them when things were going right. It was silent as a prairie, then.
They’re right in that we were a family, because, like a family, there’s no end in sight, not unless you left. People often left without the rest of us being told. Typically, you dialed into a meeting, and gosh, folks were gone. How is that for family?
As far as being a team, if we were a team, it was a team with an infinite season. It was a team for which we played a sport for which there was no championship, no victory parades, no champions’ laurels. It was just, “Let’s go, team,” every few weeks on the phone, or every few days on an email.
So, yeah, I don’t miss either of those false labels, team and family. They were a business, out to improve revenues, cut costs, and improve profit margins. Remote and focused on the bottom line, I don’t miss that family or team.
I’m sure they don’t miss me, either.
Watching television yesterday, I saw a McDonald’s commercial. It’s surprising that I heard and saw the commercial. I’m fond of muting the commercials or leaving the room as they play. But I decided to stay and watch a few.
In this commercial, the young customer was celebrating as if he’d done something great, in this case, making a basketball shot from half-court. As he celebrated that fantasy, McDonald’s employees said were trying to get his attention to tell him his order was ready.
So, essentially, my takeaway is that you have to be delusional and living in a fantasy world to enjoy McDonald’s.
Next up was an Amazon ad. This one told me that the problems at work, such as being marginalized, can be solved by work, by Amazon. Yeah, really? Fuck me, isn’t that amazing? They’re touting that the businesses and industries that created the problems will now turn around and solve them, and that Amazon can help.
Right, I believe that.
The other commercial that made me groan aloud was a Dodge Ram commercial. In this one, a voice-over talks about how Americans love sports as different games and athletes are shown. Then, rhetorically, we’re asked, “What’s America’s favorite sport?” Their astounding answer is, paraphrasing, “None of the above. Work is America’s favorite sport.” They said, “We were born to work.”
Yes, that’s what I’ve always heard from others. “Play football, baseball, or golf? Heck, no, I want to go to work. Go to see the Olympic games? No, I’d miss work. Watch the SuperBowl when I can go to work? No way.”
Perhaps only truck owners think this, though. I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever encountered someone driving a truck, Dodge or otherwise, who said, “My favorite sport is work.”
Dodge — and the other companies — have gone into deep holes of delusion. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I don’t know what’s going on.
Maybe there are millions of Americans who do think that a six dollar McDonald’s meal is so fantastic that they dance and celebrate. Maybe there are millions of people buying the idea that Amazon can help solve the vexing problems of pay inequity, being marginalized, and glass ceilings. Maybe millions of people agree with Dodge, that their favorite sport is work. Or perhaps, these companies believe that if they say it enough, they’ll convince people of the truth behind their visions.
One, I hope no one is buying this new wave of shit.
Two, I really doubt that they are.
I believe most American sit back, watch these commercials and think, what bullshit. Most of them, getting ready to go to work, sigh, and think, one more time.
I’d just begun new employment. I wasn’t the age I now am, but I was middle-aged and experienced in office environments.
The office building was one of those old San Mateo buildings used by start-ups. It was dark and cramped inside. I don’t know what the company was doing or what my position was. Those things were being explained but a haze covers that part of the dream. Then my boss, a director, said, “Here comes the CEO.” All present, except for me, started gravitating around the CEO and his words.
Beginning to sort the situation, I discovered a huge collection of parts. Looking at them, I realized it was a stockroom of one part. I don’t know what the part was. Taking one apart, I found batteries inside. Then I found and read paperwork, and spoke to others. The gist of what I understood about the company was that it was struggling and going through a re-organization. Resources were scarce. Investigating, I learned that the parts were old stock. They’d set it aside to get rid of it. I decided I’d remove the batteries, test them to see if they worked, or recycle them. Then I go find something to do with the parts.
The CEO came along while I was in the middle of doing this. “What are you doing?” he asked. I explained my plan.
My initiative impressed him. “This is the kind of thing we need to be doing until we get on our feet,” he told the others in a little speech.
I shrugged all of that off and kept going about my business. In another room, I discovered food being thrown away. I couldn’t understand that at all. Like the parts and batteries, I decided that wasn’t appropriate, so I began going through the food, checking the dates and packaging, and organizing it by its food group. Others entered while I was doing that. Many asked, “What are you doing?”
I explained myself each time. People most often replied, “That’s too much work.”
I didn’t argue with them or explain myself. I was settling in and had the time. It was a unique time and exercise; once it was done, it wouldn’t be needed to be done again.
I knew that, so I kept at it. As I worked, the food, battery and parts disappeared, as though I was seeing it through a time-lapsed recording. The office became brighter.
In the end, I paused. I was holding an armful of food containers. Looking around, I thought, I’m scavenging energy for re-use.
Understanding that, I went on, and the dream ended.