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Eulogy for Cubicle Life

I have written before my thoughts and experiences on my first job in Corporate World, and I would like to announce that I am officially finished with it. And here is the why, and here is the how: I will write like it’s life or death, and I will not return.

For the past four months I have been working for a large, globally located teleconferencing business where they sell, well ... telephone conferencing. My day begins when I log in, bring up about fifty different computer screens, and begin to answer the phone as calls come in back to back to back with tiny increments of time inbetween. I am allowed to get up for ten minutes in the morning, then again for ten minutes in the afternoon. Lunch may be fifty minutes, thirty minutes or none at all. All this for $10.25 hourly job. Okay. No problem. People have to eat, right?

My brain began its slow implosion about the third day when the novelty wore off.

I guess that the general idea amongst those top level executives and their entourage who call into customer service lines and wreak havoc upon our mental states is this: they really think that some people were just born for cubicle life, that these workers thrive under the fluorescents like African Violets, that they enjoy immersing themselves in the abuse heaped upon them as day after day we hear their tiny, angry little voices pour their hateful verbiage into our ears. The customer service person becomes the unwilling vessel of frustration for the side-worries about the late mortgage, the cheating husband, the fraud perpetrated by a financial planner, the loss of someone dear, the loss of their dear vacation home. Yes, we can still hear you when we turn the mute button off ... that button is for our protection while we curse you under our breath.

I will write like it’s life or death, and I will not return.

Listen, people! For all of you who are guilty of doing this, me included, Listen! These disembodied voices are real people! They are the un-ordained ministers of your raging corporate rivers that have overrun their banks. They are your priests, you high-voltage, impatient, and condescending women and men. They are wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and everything that you hold dear in your own life. These people you hold in such low esteem (or otherwise you would never be so rude) often are college-educated, thrown out of their native industries by incompetent money-handlers who brought this country to its knees. You know who you are.

The overseers of all this negative energy flowing through cyberspace seem to be people who smile vacuously while stomping out your creativity at first signs of life; free thinking employees are enemies of the state; they might give the little people the idea that they are more important than they really are. They speak out of the side of their mouths both ways, each saying entirely different things. They are Keystone Cops on corporate adrenaline. They inspire no one, they aspire to nothing noble, and they want no back-talk. They are fixed in place by giant stones of mediocrity.

I will write like it’s life or death, and I will not return.

I feel a great panic in this atmosphere, in this great whorl of lost identities and misplaced dreams. I am bewildered at those who choose to stay within the cubicle walls for years and years, never leaving, never moving forward, always being paid silly money for the hard and painful work. To be demoralized from eight to five, daily, weekly, monthly, to be called stupid, liar, dumbass, etc., and still walk away at the end of the day like none of the crap thrown at you has stuck ... I will say, that is a hard trick to maneuver. There are instances of caged animals who, when offered freedom, will refuse to leave the bars that surround them. They longer I stay here, the more I am convinced that I am throwing something valuable away.

I write like it’s life or death and I will not return.

There are many people who will tell you that you have to conform to their sense of what “work” is, and that simply boils down to a time clock, a fleeting lunch and vast stretches of afternoons under the strain of predatory bosses and insultingly small paychecks. They will not be happy with you when you balk under the strain of this kind of bondage; they will predict ruin and failure, they will want to say that you are lazy, that your dreams are silly, that you are obligated to do the same kind of work they have done for all their lives. They will tell you that you are no kind of artist or writer or not much of anything at all except a warm body taking up space on this over-crowded planet. But I will tell you that work must mean something to you in order for you to put your whole heart and soul into it. How someone can put their heart and soul into answering telephones all day, I simply will never understand.

And so I write like it’s life or death and I plan on never going back.

Having had such a small taste of the boorishness of people in general, I have to say that the impenetrability of those surrounding me during my cubicle days was tremendous. They still smile, every day, those who labor under the heavy breathing of impatient bankers, secretaries, salespeople, etc. etc., ad nauseum. They manage to conduct their lives responsibly, take care of their families, stay on the straight and narrow and quote Bible verses to make it all better. Maybe they are happy this way, maybe not everyone in the world has a pack of wild dogs in their head snapping and biting and snarling away at their brain matter, maybe they don’t need anything else, and that is okay. But me, I am going to write like my life depends upon it, and …

I am not going to go back.

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