He Just Couldn’t Handle The Truth
Work has always been a bit of a tedious task for me, having spent halve of my adult life traveling and doing exactly what I wanted, swimming or surfing all day if I felt like it, reading in hammocks, trekking through jungles, climbing mountains or volcanoes or just sitting around chatting with friends and partying all night, I have countless things I like to do, and none of them involve work. However I was not born wealthy, nor am I wealthy now, eventually my money always runs out and I need to get back to work again, to save for my next long vacation.
I was a car salesman for three years once, after my many years in retail, and the knowledge that the bigger the product the bigger the commission, I decided to try my hand at the top of the retail game, I sold some entry level cars, but also things like Lexus, Mercedes, BMW Audis, Infinity, Cadillacs and most of the other top brand names. The money was good, but there was a lot of competition, stealing, conspiring and injustice involved in the job, many people were always trying to take a share of your commissions for themselves. Bullying on car lots is common, and there are an abnormal amount of fist fights.
One night after being particularly sick of my job, I watched an episode of the Simpson’s where Homer having finally paid off the mortgage, decided to get his dream job at the local bowling alley. Since I had almost paid off my mortgage at this point, and was so tired of swimming around the shark tank I called work. I decided to take Homers lead and got a job working as IT support on contract for big business. Though the pay was about a quarter of what I was used to, there was virtually no competition, lying, greed, or backstabbing going on. It was almost shocking to step so far out of the sleaze I was used to, and helped refresh my faltering faith in humanity.
The job was a very interesting one to me, the building I was working in employed about 3000 people, but the company employed many more doing the exact same thing we were doing, in many other places around the globe. In order to manage so many people, we were all given numbers, mine was 512650, we had to identify ourselves by this number on all documents we created, as well as all phone calls and other interactions in the office, we very much became a number and not a person, this was Dilbert meets the Borg. I am not allowed to give exact details on the company due to papers I signed when I started work there, but the movie Office Space was actually filmed in one of its locations, and was based on the work there.
What I liked most about the job besides the many decent people I worked with, was that only halve of the time did we actually need to be working, after each phone call there was a break before the next one, and most long termers had figured out how to stretch that break as long as possible, most of my time was actually spent surfing the Internet, and chatting with the people around me, it was very social and very fun. Though the job paid very little, I was happy.
The company had a very high turn over, and there were always new recruits coming in, this story is about my interactions with one new recruit named Devin who was sat in the cubicle directly in front of me. Devin was fresh out of high school, he was a local to the town, and I don’t think had yet worked a day in his life. He sat down, put his headset on, and began taking calls.
The beginning of the job is very difficult, often our clients were groups such as Pixar, General Motors, NASA, or some other huge corporation, and sometimes the people you are talking to are not some clerk at their help desk, but some big wig himself, who’s very nature is commanding. I had gotten used to these types of clients already, I had sold people like this their luxury cars, and had learned to just speak frankly to them, not to argue, and keep control by answering all their demands as slowly as I liked. When working on the phone, really rude customers could just be given a little “time out”, as we put them on hold and goof off for a few minutes until we felt like talking to them again, saying we were doing “research”
Anyhow here is Devin, this recent high school graduate, thrown into the harsh reality of work, trying to help people solve all sorts of complicated computer problems he never knew existed, and talking to loud mouth commanding big wigs from all over the world.
Devin did not adjust well to the job, he was often frustrated, slamming his headphone down on the desk and shouting at it, taking long walks to the washroom, missing some days of work, and then after a while coming to work stoned on weed, eventually he added drinking booze at lunch time in his car. I had always tried to be a bit of a mentor to him telling him why I was in the job, how it was really not that bad, and should count himself lucky that the customers are only on the phone, where you can put them on hold and not in his face.
Devin was sure I didn’t really understand, he told me strait out, “You just don’t get it.”
I was between calls, so I said, “Yeah man I get it. I have just learned to live as a corporate slave is all. I mean here we are, our government has spent fifteen years educating us, and this is what we have become, we are forced to sit in our cubicles eight hours a day, answering telephones on a flashing light and a bing, kind of like how they teach chickens to play the piano. The people on the phone get pissed off at us because they are too stupid to learn how to use their computers themselves, and cant follow our simple directions, and we are forced to take their crap because we have four layers of bosses and quality control watching our every move, with cameras on the ceiling, and listeners on our phone calls. It is a bit like a jail, we even have our numbers on our chest ” (I pointed to the ID tag we were forced to wear) ” But its worse than that, not only are we stuck in our cubicle, but we are tethered to our phone by these stupid headsets , kind of like a dog on the leash, they pay us crap, and give us hell.”
He said “Yeah that’s it !”
I was having fun by now, and had worked myself up a bit, I still loved my job, but was enjoying my rant against the corporate world, I could also see he was worked up and wide eyed about my speech, and I just couldn’t stop myself from winding him up further.
“I mean we are not really criminals or animals are we? We’re better than this? Right? This isn’t what our nation trained us to do is it? We are supposed to invent rocket ships and fly to mars, not sit here like a bunch of stupid poorly treated animals right? This place reminds me of a bunch of chickens on a farm all sitting in their little boxes and forced to lay eggs.”
He reacted in a way I did not expect, maybe it was the double chicken analogy that put him over the top, I am not sure. I thought he would just join my rant for a bit and get back to work, but something kind of snapped in him.
He said, halve to himself “No I’m not an animal, I’m better than this.” then he slammed his headphones on the desk and shouted to the other thousand or so people in earshot “I AM NOT AN ANIMAL! I WILL NOT LIVE IN THIS CAGE, AND WEAR THIS LEASH ! ”
He then proceeded to grab his stuff, and began walking down the cubicle alleys, speaking to no one, but giving the finger to all the managers and supervisors that tried to ask him where he was going, he walked through security, then finally marched right out the door.
I never saw Devin again, I hope he is doing well, either that he has submitted to his corporate masters or found his way on his own, but one thing was sure, at that moment, in that place, he just couldn’t handle the truth.
And now a video about a piano playing chicken.