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.
It was another anxiety work dream last night, and I don’t even work! I haven’t been employed for several years after working for IBM for fifteen. I’ve been doing nothing but pursing the writing dream since then, after postponing that goal for a few decades.
The dream found me with two co-workers. I don’t recognize them from my life. The three of us were dressed in business suits with shirts and ties, the kind of attire I wore when I was in marketing. We were at a big convention to get some work, the kind of function that I was forced to endure, and that I hated. It was a familiar setting, a large but crowded and noisy ballroom in a hotel or convention center filled with tables with white tablecloths and napkins, and pseudo-fine china and flatware.
I don’t know what business the three of us were in but we were there to network and generate some leads so we could have an income. While we were talking, they informed me that I’d paid for the previous night’s meal. They were dismissive when they told me this, without humor or sympathy. They said that I had insisted.
Well, the bill was for over five hundred and fifty dollars. I’d put it on my Amex.
Horrified and shocked, I couldn’t believe what I’d done, and I didn’t remember doing it. Panic and anxiety filled me. This is when it got twisted.
I don’t have an Amex. I gave that up a few years ago. I never wore a suit and tie while I worked at IBM. (My marketing roles were with a couple previous start-ups.) Meanwhile, in the dream, I now worried that my employer, IBM, wouldn’t pick up that tab. Hell, that was completely against their policies, and I knew it. But I didn’t understand why I thought IBM still employed me even while I was there as an independent contractor, trying to generate business.
I was also sick with worry in the dream because my wife would be furious, because she knew IBM wouldn’t pay for it, so I’d need to eat that bill and pay for it myself. Funny, but in reality, that’s the sort of thing that she would shrug off, should it have happened.
Anxiety, frustration, confusion, worry, and fear. This dream had it all. Waking up and thinking about it, I knew it stemmed from my writing. I’m reaching the end of the beta version of the series, and I’m worried that all this was for naught, that I suck as a writer and story-teller, and have no creativity.
You know, just the typical writing angst.
With all of its elements, I recognized what it was all about, and laughed at how my mind works. The dream was beneficial, because it feels like a storm has blown through, leaving me relaxed and ready to write.
I followed my robot vacuum around today. Using it for spot-cleaning, I’d move it, turn it on, and then stand over it like a football coach on OTAs. “Move left,” I’d tell it. “Get that fur. Come on, pick it up, pick it up. That’s it. Good job.”
Doing this presented me with a feeling that I was cleaning, but I also felt empowered. I controlled the bot.
Maybe, too, I was seeing the future. Robots and automation are taking over more jobs each day, with plans for greater shifts on the near-horizon. But bots and automation might require intervention and guidance, as my Roomba does. We may have a new job category opening, bot-tender.
It could be the hot new thing, but I don’t think it’ll pay much.