Friday, July 3, 2009

First Friday Flashbacks

We all have times in our lives when the surreal takes over and you realize that others live in a totally different reality. Sometimes, this can be really scare. The following is not fiction, it is a true story.

I Like My Job

First Published July 16, 2008

(Edward Hopper / Office at Night)

While sitting in my private office (the restroom stall) and contemplating geometric patterns (staring at the tile floor) it dawned on me that the quality of our office life is a relative thing. While I sometimes can't stand my current job, the fact is, it is better than some of the ones I had in the past. Much better as a mater of fact. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Case in point. The Arizona Department of Insurance. This was my first job in the 'public' sector after I bailed out of the Insurance Adjuster racket. Insurance is a nasty business that reduces everything down to dollars and cents (even human life), and after 5 years of it, I couldn't take it anymore.

So I went to work for the State and found it to be a strange animal indeed. In this backwater of the economy, talent, ambition, and drive had no real bearing or relevance. It is a system of clicks and political favors that lumbers into the future based on guaranteed budgets from the tax payer coffers.

One of the primary pastimes of my new coworkers was to gripe and bitch about how bad things where. It was almost a sport, with each co-worker upping the other on why their job sucked more or less than someone else. This really puzzled me, since most of them weren't really working at all. At least not based on the standards of the private sector from which I had just come. Needless to say that morale was non-existent here.

After about six months on the job, I was required to go to a seminar on Insurance Fraud that was being held by our Division. It was one of those participatory sort of trainings where we all had to stand up, tell everyone our name, our job, description, how long we had worked there and something 'interesting' about ourselves. When it came time for me to 'perform', I rattled off my statistics and then for the final question, remembering how much folks seemed to be miserable around the office, I stated, "I actually like my job.", to which everyone in the room sort of snickered. I thought nothing of it until later that afternoon.

Around 2pm, the head of my Division came to my office and said, "The Director wants to see you."

"What for?" I asked, "Whats up?"

He didn't know, so we both walked down to the Director's office. There in her office, that could have housed 40 staff in cubicles, sat the chain smoking, Pepsi drinking 40 year old shrew that had paid her political dues to get to where she was. Behind her stood her every present 'deputy director'. It was like being seated in front of Der Fuhrer at the Reichstag.

She asked me what I had meant by my 'little joke' at the training that morning.

"Excuse me?", I responded, "Little Joke?"

"The comment you made about 'liking your job', were you trying to be funny?", she asked.

At that point, I realized that these people were living in a very paranoid and surreal world. I spent the next 10 minutes 'explaining' my statement and why I was grateful to be working their instead of in the private sector where you didn't know from one day to the next if you were going to have a job. They finally seemed to believe me and released me back into the 'cube-farm' to continue my investigatory duties.

This job had many other memorable moments, one of which can be found here, but in the end it was a learning experience and springboard to bigger and better things. I am still working in State Government, and the winds of change in the office ebb and flow depending on who the Governor is and what cronies need jobs. At least I can say that 'I like my job' without having to fear for my life, at least for the time being.