I wrote this a few months ago, but never did anything with it. Instead of just letting it rot in my Google Docs, I thought I’d just dump it here. In case the title didn’t make it clear, the following is fictional and should be digested accordingly.
A long bow seemed ideal. You read about their historical military prowess, their unmatched ability to rain death upon hundreds of enemy soldiers, but in practice they are awkward and inaccurate. Even more so in the close confines of a corporate office. I wish someone had told me this yesterday; I probably would have opted for the more traditional bullet and gunpowder combination. Now I’m stuck here with a quiver of razor sharp arrows and a 6 foot tall bow that barely clears the ceiling of this hell hole. This is the last time I let a video game influence my method of genocide.
I sighed deeply as I drifted back into reality, silently chastising myself for chastising myself in a day dream. A long bow would be an excellent weapon with which to stealthily murder my coworkers, if I worked on a farm. Two nineteen. What time did I get here this morning? Does it even matter? I checked my email, the usual stream of malformed sentences was noticeably slow today. A few more hours and I could upgrade from bored to frustrated as I sit through mile after mile of purposeless traffic. My life is sweet.
In America, the constant driving idea from birth to pre-college is that we are special. We are unique. We are glorious aberrations of the norm, capable of curing world hunger after we score the game winning touchdown. But we are not. We are for the most part completely average piles of wet cells, only made slightly identifiable by whatever act we manage to put on daily. The only thing that distinguishes one from the bunch, is the acknowledgment and acceptance of this idea. Where they go from there, no one really knows.
I always wanted to be a dragon. They did say we could be whatever we wanted; no exceptions. They also failed to mention the fact that this idea is complete bunk, and we are relegated to a select number of roles in life, heavily influenced by our socio-economic standing and emotional stability. Isn’t it odd that no one ever dreams of being a technical writer as a kid, yet there are tens of thousands of them trudging into their poorly lit cubicles daily? And what of the poor garbage men, who aspired to be pirates and lion-tamers? All the childhood lies; no wonder everyone in this country is so self-destructive.
Three twenty eight. I opened an attachment, pretending I had something interesting to do. A shadow passed behind me, likely a coworker stomping noisily to a meeting. I returned to my casual web browsing, occasionally bringing up a random word document if I felt someone coming to spy on me. Three fifty six. I sent an email to my supervisor, explaining for the 12th time the situation with our web server; it was still down, as was to be expected with no one trying to fix it. I had previously offered to repair it myself, but felt the swift hand of politically driven bureaucracy slap me for having an independent thought. God forbid anyone use any applicable skills in this office.
Four forty eight; close enough. I shut my computer down hurriedly, wanting nothing more than to avoid the almost inevitable confrontation with one or more of my coworkers. The sign out pen was missing, again.
I entered my normal commuting trance; something that flirts with both danger and necessity. Forty minutes had passed before I was startled back into full cognition by steadily approaching brake lights. After gathering myself, I realized I was still a solid thirty minutes from home. In what properly functioning world does it take roughly 110 minutes to travel 30 miles by car? My mood began to sour, and with it my opinion of every other driver on the road. I took to another ritual, creating correlations between car types or accessories, and their subsequent driving skills. A rear mounted Jesus fish normally meant oblivious and erratic, where as a cardboard spoiler and giant muffler normally meant aggressive and arrogant. After a few minutes all of my stereotypical assumptions were confirmed and I sat once again mindlessly bored in a sea of red lights.
I remembered I had one pale ale left in my fridge. My mood lightened significantly. I managed to clumsily locate an audio book I had stashed for just such traffic emergencies, and fumbled to insert it into the CD player while shifting into 2nd gear. I zoned back out as Doug Bradley began a whimsically archaic reading of HP Lovecraft’s “The Tomb”. Before Jervas Dudley had even began his true descent into prophesied madness, I was pulling into my driveway. Another day, another dollar.
Sixty twenty. The same ritual every morning; get up and turn off the alarm so that I can argue with myself for another 40 minutes if I am going to work that day. The sleep deprived, real me, argues a brief respite; the pragmatic, robotic me, argues necessity and duty. The robot normally wins. I shake back to life in an overly hot shower, hoping nonsensically that a stream of water will somehow wash away my perpetual apathy. I neglect shaving for the 5th day in a row; I often take for granted that I am blessed with generally non offensive facial hair, and can get away with a trendy “scruff”. A button on my shirt is missing. My pants are wrinkled. I don’t care.
Another 50 minutes of concentrated hell, predominantly filled with brakes and honks and caffeine crazed maniacs. The behemoths of the road bellow their polluting roars, deafening those unfortunate enough to be alongside them. Ribbons of black smoke drift into the sky, and I can’t help but lament the futility of my yearly emissions check. I noticed a woman who was actually asleep while driving about 40 miles an hour; I didn’t know whether to be terrified or impressed. I honked out of sheer curiosity. Her head flung forward as to say, “Yes! I am here!”, as she looked around confusedly. She seemed shocked to be in a car, never mind driving said car. She looked my way; I smiled. She frowned.
I took my usual parking spot, close enough to the entrance that I could avoid a chance meeting the little angry woman who runs the deli in our building. I had stopped frequenting the store after I discovered a packet of ranch dressing predating 9/11, and she had actively noticed my absence. It all came to culmination when she cornered me near the elevators, berating me with malformed interrogations like, “Why no you come no mo?”, and “We need customa; how we make money with no customa?”. I tend to just avoid eye-contact with her now.
Back to my cube. I must confess that I am one of the aforementioned tens of thousands of technical writers who trudge into their poorly lit cubes each day. The irony is that I do not technically write, in terms of the workload and the pun. I get assorted odd tasks that sometimes border on something I’m actually qualified to do, but mostly fill my day with menial tasks that I could have done at 13 years old. I find myself trying to draw parallels to my work throughout the day, comparing levels of difficulty to other things I do in life. Burning CDs because no one else seems to know how is about as difficult as making pasta. Updating the website rates near Left4Dead on Normal difficulty. The cognitive attention needed to complete these tasks is probably a better comparison, but the absurd analyst inside me loves to create ridiculous mental associations.
The drudgery and florescent lighting make me drift off from time to time, mainly to realms of reminiscence and fantasy. Day dreams of the latter are normally uninspired recreations of movie scenes or video game levels where I have somehow become the protagonist. The prior is much more interesting, as I find myself reliving what I dub “The Salad Days” of my youth. My “youth” seems like a silly term as I am barely a quarter century old, but I do long for the time of loose responsibility and emotional freedom. My spreadsheets blur into memories of bad but fun decisions and first beers. I look fondly upon my days of reckless abandon, when I relished every second of life. Sixteen year old me would kick my ass if he saw me sitting here, wasting away, taking orders from cretins in power suits and ties.
My supervisor came to my cube. Nine thirty two. He was interested in the web server. I explained to him, for the 13th time now, that the server was down, and would not come back up until someone restarted the IIS service. He nodded. I assumed he had no idea what I was talking about. I had to bite my tongue to withhold a passive-aggressive remark. He told me to submit at IT ticket, as if I hadn’t thought of that myself. I let him think he had the situation under control; I had already requested the IP address for the server, and was going to fix it as soon as the IT overlords granted me access to their precious out of date hardware. To hell with “proper procedure”. Nine thirty nine; another worthless 7 minutes.
Surreptitiously fixing the server proved harder than envisioned. It took me a solid hour to locate the root issue, but once I did, all was well in the kingdom. I reported to my supervisor that the IT team must have finally fixed the issue, and closed my outstanding ticket. Selfless fixes seemed to be my modus operanus, so I shrugged off another accomplishment that someone else would now get credit for. The IT team could use the good news, either way. I went back to my duties, sloshing through HTML and thrown together documents, doing what I could to edit them into something better than, “crap”.
How do people do this for 40+ years?