Thanks for the pen.

I was talking to a friend tonight about her crap office job, and thinking that about half the people I read on the elljay have crap office jobs of one kind or another. They all work for neurotic incompetent failures who bully them, are paid badly and screwed on their benefits, and get impossible workloads followed by blame dumped on their heads.

This is because I know lots of people who are around 25, and if you’re a smart 25-year-old finding a career you end up being the slavey for 35-year-old failures who’ve topped out at the supervisor level. They may start out human, but quickly decay into little Napoleons in chinos. There’s a pompous, patronizing sadism this sort of toy emperor practices that’s just the thing for grinding down younger, smarter employees.

I used technical skills to get out of this mess quickly and only had a couple of jobs this bad. Most of my friends, though, spent the 1990s working in places like this: temp office gigs, entertainment companies, variants on Innotech. Greg worked in a mailroom at a movie company for a while. His supervisor was too old to be the mailroom supervisor and be going anywhere, but had delusions of a future. He dressed for success, combined over his bald spot, and lied to his bosses about his skill at cost-cutting and improving efficiency. He made sure that no one got raises or got to use their vacation time, and never paid overtime, to show that he was made for the corner office. Once, unbidden, he decided to let everyone in his domain know what he was destined to achieve: “I see myself, in ten years or so, in an executive position. Because that’s my goal, and I achieve my goals. I am going to have a mistress, and my own jet, and three houses”. The young musicians and artists and soon-to-be graduate students sat there as the 35-year-old single mailroom supervisor from Burbank told tales of his future empire.

Greg wrote a song for him that was recorded on the Ferdinand CD Demoted to Greeter, a record that more than any other tells the story of all of us 80s kids getting fucked by the 90s. Here it is:

Thanks for the Pen (mp3, 2.9 MB). It’s pretty loud and thrashy.

Let’s call it as it is
You don’t care
You won’t back me up
Thanks for the pen!
I got it right here…
Thanks for the pen
Gonna throw it right back at you

My Corporate Anthem

From 1998 until 2000 I worked for a dot-com. kraq, lesboot, and amorpoeta did too; that’s where I met them. It was a pretty damn good job. I learned a lot there, met some people who are friends for life, got paid pretty well. It was unspeakably horrible right at the end but not until then.

Typical for places like this, it went from 25 to 500 people during my tenure there, and odd things happened as a result. Bizarre and incompetent people were hired, including a Business Communication Course Writer who couldn’t find the ampersand on a keyboard and applauded himself after he urinated. Salespeople went into the field to push products that did not and could not exist. One employee sent poems to everyone to encourage us, including a hymn to customer service called “May I Help You?”.

One day it came time to completely reorganize the technology department, which not only made the product but also supported all the other employees’ computer use. Everything was going to be turned upside down, new groups were formed, responsibilities shifted, and most important of all the whole procedure for tech support was to change. My boss prepared a presentation on all of this material.

At the meeting, though, we didn’t go right into that. After the CEO had told us how big and wonderful these changes were, another employee stepped up. This guy was a teacher with a master’s degree who wrote courses for us. He was also a model and actor, and a very …enthusiastic guy. He had with him a guitar. He was wearing a cowboy hat.

At this point a more sensible person would have made cramping motions and fled the room, but I was hypnotized. What the hell is Rob about to do? He introduced himself by saying that we were about to have a lot of changes in our workplace that would be hard to understand and probably annoying, so he was going to help us into it with a song. Strum, strum, grin. And off he went. It started something like:

Come gather around employees
Of this company we share
I’ve got a song to sing to you
Because I know you care

Mike wrote down a policy
Tom and Alec did approve
We’re gonna change Technology
‘Cause the company’s on the mooooove

I think I may have destroyed a ceiling tile with my mind at this point.

Tech support is different now
Everyone’s got to change
We’re going to move together
Together and forever
Just like you and me cowboy
Out.. on.. the.. RAAAAAAANGE

There was a silence that that of the grave when he finished. Then the CEO began clapping and laughing enthusiastically and most of the people in the room did also. I concentrated on keeping my vagus nerve from going into a spasm and stopping my heart.

I should have realized then that it was time to get out of that place. Later on we had horrible power struggles, the departure of the useful and crowning of the incompetent, and then finally a tragic dénouement involving an anti-semitic CFO, his crypto-nazi stooge, sexual and racial harassment, mass resignations, email break-ins, and fraud. The company changed it name and then spectacularly shit the bed a year or so after I left.

That guitar should have been enough, though.