Monday, May 10, 2004

Office Wench, pt 2

I wasn't always an Office Wench. Sure, I did office stuff to put myself through college and earn summer cash in grad school, but that was all to fund the brain trust. (Actually, it was to give me cash to buy books that weren't on the reading list and to indulge in my newfound love of alcohol.)

But when I left grad school being an assistant was the thing I fell into - I was good at it, the perks were better than those found in academic life and I didn't have to sweat, wear a hairnet or a uniform. But I also didn't realize that an academic or humanities background seriously hobbled one's ability to deal with the real world.

For instance, independent thinking, while an asset in grad school just makes you a target in corporate hell - unless you're above middle management.
Critical thinking? Well, you're just an arrogant snob with a disturbing air of condescension, who doesn't know how to be a team player. (hah, and if you're a person of color, well, then you're uppitty on top of that.)
Questioning sources (i.e., authority)? Yeah, good luck with that. Guys with less education than you, and just a few years older than you, want you to bend over and pucker on their sphincter.
Make a few references to literature written before 1995? You might as well stand up naked in a conference room and admit you fellate homeless men for recreation, for the good that'll do for your corporate social life.

Working at a Big 5 made me realize a Gen X-er working in a corporate death star is a person just seething with rage. We work hard to tamp it down (we like to use humor - or sarcasm, whatever) but it builds. Really, the only thing that compensates for it is a big paycheck-and our sense of cultural superiority. Once that goes, well, look out. Explosive rage. Anarchic tendencies forced into repression have a way of leaking out in all sorts of inappropriate manner.

Some days I wish there was one day for bosses to hear what their assistants really thought about them. Everyone remembers the kid who was smacked around by Martha Stewart but that was nothing.

I've worked with some women who are poisoned with their own hate. They smile, get coffee and schedule your conference calls (the ones you never remember how to dial into), and in strides Bob - King of his Corporate Domain - thinking his assistant Cathy is like family, Cathy has been with him for years, Cathy is like his wife, but quieter and less expensive. Meanwhile, Cathy dreams of the time she enters an intersection on a rainy night, sees Bob, and her foot slips off the brake.

I know. It seems petty. But imagine spending 8 hours a day with a human being who refuses to learn anything; who refuses to care for himself; who can't remember things you've told them yesterday, this morning or whenever; imagine a whole day spent with someone who has no sense of porportion. It's not like having a screamer for a boss or working for a Republican, but it's just those moments, the ones that collect in your gut, when you look across the desk and you realize that you have to *serve* this pathetic corporate dweeb - he's boring, uninteresting, dull, myopic and cares about...crap.

It's like taking care of a baby.

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