September 6th, 2007

Elisabeth's Theory of Offices

This is a multi-part theory. Ready?

1. Offices are counterproductive.
2. Most people go to offices with very little intention of doing anything of societal value there.
3. Cubicles are Satan’s gift to the workplace.
4. You can be a girl and yet still be a curmudgeon. (That’s only peripherally related to the Theory of Offices. But I just thought I’d point it out in case you weren’t sure.)

Most of the time I work at home. Not as much of the time as I used to before I got two regularly-paying gigs, though. So nowadays I spend way, way more time than I ever have in my history of working… hanging around offices.

Today I am playing hookey from one office gig to complete another office gig. (Ah, the life of a freelancer.) When I got to “my” desk, it was coated in stacks of paper. Stacks of neatly organized paper. With writing on them. Stacks I hesitated to disturb. (But I did it anyway.)

I’ve been working away for five hours—my work “partner” got here more than an hour after I did, so my soundtrack has been pretty much set to “Grrr!” for… four point five hours—and now I’m just sitting, waiting for more work to come my way so I can get it done and get the hell out of here.

And that pretty much sums it up:

When you’re self-employed, you work when you’re “at work.” Because if you don’t, you’ll end up working when you could be goofing off, like on weekends. Also, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Which is for many people a pretty big encouragement to work.

When you get a regular paycheck just for showing up, my observations tell me that “work” is something that happens only rarely—and often by accident—when people are “at work.” 

I’ve never had an office job before, and these two gigs don’t really count; one of them I only have to go to one day a month, for Pete’s sake.

My only previous office experience was a two-week stint at the more popular daily paper in my Major Metropolitan Area. I was often the only one in the newsroom, because I figured if I didn’t sit there, how would they know I was working? And every time I had to leave for an interview, I told my supervisor. It was like a combination of prison and spending the day with my mom. Shopping for school clothes. (Horrors!)

I ditched most of the second week because my car had a meltdown (not the first—not the last! It was a terrible car). And the freedom was glorious. And that’s when I committed to freelancing.

They say you don’t appreciate what you had till you don’t have it anymore. That’s human nature, I suppose, and after all, it’s not that I don’t have freelancing anymore. I just have less of it.

But I tell you this: my office experience is doing little for my general magnanimity toward the rest of the human race. Calgon, take me away!

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