Thursday, December 1, 2016

Work Meditation

Today I had a job scheduled for 10 and a half hours. All together I was gone for 12. It's one of those ambiguous jobs that is both a blessing and a curse. Everything about this place evokes extremes. As a freelancer, and my self-imposed work quota, the job fulfills half of the week's necessary hours in one fell swoop, as opposed to filling a schedule with erratic 2 hours jobs that can start at 7am and end at 11pm anyhow, spread across several days. This kind of job appeals to the procrastinator in me, the work-hard-play-hard lady.

It's also awful. I'm paid to shadow a trainee, a new hire. And after the cursory explanations of safety and process, the trainee is off on their own. And I must simply be available if questions or adjustments come up. This ends up being hours upon hours of sitting in an uncomfortable stool with absolutely nothing to do.

That's the setup. Now here is the meditation:
My presence in this environment is disrupting to nearly everyone I encounter. And I encounter a lot of people there. This is a busy work environment, an ant farm, thousands of folks chipping away at a luxury block and shipping it away to other folk's door. The place perplexes me. The jobs are menial, but they are available. You sign up more than you apply, and get a slightly less than decent wage for easy work. They let you come and go without much ado. Not the best job, but it almost seems like the alternative for many people is no job. But. But... work policies, the management, the oversight. It's nothing less than fascist. Write up for minute late clock ins after break, loosing half a day of personal leave for arriving 15 minutes late, tracking whereabouts in the building, tracking time off work, tracking and holding you accountable for the speed in which you do that small process... repeated 1,000 times in one day. You want to go see HR about a question, well, you gota change your work code and get paid a lower wage for that 15 minutes. Seven levels of management all watching the one below for excessive talking or standing. No earphones allowed; they check your bag on the way home. I see eighteen different ways to dehumanize an individual in a day, make them understand they are not reliable or trustworthy. Then show a video reminding 'em to be grateful for the work.

Then I come in, a contractor, not an employee. And I sit where there is no place to sit, and I read my book. And when I get weary of that, I look at my phone. And when I get weary of that, I rest my head in my hand and my elbow on my knee and I stare into space and daydream and silently suffer, not knowing if I also should feel grateful or sick at my uselessness. And while I'm working hard to see our sameness, a lot of people see me in contrast. I get scolded often, for not working, being in the way. Asked to moved, questioned by a dozen people what I'm doing. I'm suspicious. I explain myself again and again. I interrupt the flow, or the fog? Then when people around me figure out what I'm there for, tell me they wish they had my job, tell me how lucky I am, how easy I got it. I get annoyed or defensive. Or just bored by the repeat. Sometimes I say, "It looks easy now, but it wasn't easy to get here, I swear." The path that started 12 years ago, school, my own menial meantime work,  self-doubt and frustration over slow progress, embarrassments, dozens of little disasters and successes, being held back, carving out a path over a decade with slow burning commitment just to be picked for this silly job. But it not worth explaining, defensiveness is weakness and I feel unworthy of the gifts I've been given: the chance to walk that arduous path. In the end this whole scenario comes down to Capitalism, which seems logical, but is not, only a close approximation, because the minimum is zero, the starting point... I don't believe we can apply that scale to human beings.

Isn't it funny how we don't feel worthy of our gifts and privileges, but that our challenges and oppressions we feel are undeserved?


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