Somehow, between daydreams of winning the Powerball, I found myself deep inside the bowels of a modern-day office. I hadn't planned it this way. After college, I'd moved to Chicago to pursue comedy, using a carefully and brilliantly devised strategy. By day, I'd find my inspiration in hip and trendy coffee bistros, and on El trains, gazing out at the quickly passing cityscape. By night, I'd play at open mics, only to catch the ear of George Wendt, sign a development deal, and be thrust headlong into comedic superstardom. As it turned out, telling jokes about flatulence to drunkards on a Monday night didn't quite pay the astronomical rent for my 400 square-foot palace without air-conditioning. And as far as I could tell, George Wendt didn't leave the house much.
Using every contact I could drum up, I eventually landed my first job at one highly respected advertising rep firm, a billion dollar company just gracious enough to pay me $26,000 a year. The office occupied the sixteenth floor of a glossy high-rise on Michigan Avenue, conveniently situated between a Starbucks and another Starbucks. It featured the same colorless walls and vomit-inducing carpet patterns that seem to appear in every American office. I'd arrive here at 8:00 each morning, walk drowsily to my cubespace, and plop down in front of an outdated office PC.
I soon discovered that finding a job requires more work and dedication than actually having a job. It took weeks to advantageously condense all of the lies and trivial life experiences on my resume down to one page. And, several more weeks of pestering employers until they agreed to meet me for an interview, so I could lie to them in person. Dressed in a suit and tie, I took the bus from office building to office building, only to find out the complete irrelevance of my reign as treasurer of the Burke High Spanish club. I followed up promptly with hiring managers, thanking them for their time and expressing my interest in the company. And yet, now finally employed, I was doing work that could have been done by a half-trained Capuchin monkey.
Completing a day's tasks before lunchtime allowed me to closely observe the idiosyncrasies of working in an office. Accepting a job means accepting a life of "it's Monday." Ask the receptionist how she is doing and she'll simply declare that, "it's Monday." Ask your supervisor what's going on and he will reply, "it's Monday." Ask your co-workers why they've periodically been sipping from a flask and they'll explain that, "it's Monday." Similarly, pose these same questions just a few days later, and hear the oh-so-uplifting response, "I'm so glad it's Friday."
Passing the time between Monday and Friday is a job all its own, and directly related to the location of one's cubicle. Is it in a high traffic area, next to the bathroom, making it risky to search the blogosphere for the details on celebrity sex scandals? Or is it secluded, in a forgotten corner, just right for catching a midday power nap?
For most of us, work is a sad, dull, unavoidable part of life. But, it sustains us, keeps us afloat, and pays the tab at happy hour. In truth, the lucky ones don't have to work. The smart ones; they follow their passions. And, the crazy ones... well, they hope to meet George Wendt.