I don’t write about work. When I started this post a year or more ago (there’s a backlog), the next sentence read, It’s too dangerous. Which made me laugh for a couple of reasons, one of which is thinking how dramatic I must have been feeling that day (what had happened to make me write that?) and the other is because I’m currently reading Wine and War, about French wine and champagne production during the German occupation in World War II. That was dangerous. Anyway, it’s true: I don’t write about work, not necessarily because it’s dangerous but because it’s unnecessary and, more to the point, uninteresting.
And yet, it’s what I do most all day, most every day. So is it really all that uninteresting? Can it be? Probably not. Hopefully not. But in an attempt to preserve my online integrity (and at one point, my anonymity; I only recently included my name here), I draw a line. It’s not so much that there’s nothing to say, or that there aren’t serious character and fashion flaws that lend themselves to frank analysis, or funny stories — I once had a post about my nemesis-colleague who spread the nasty rumor that I hate children, but it made me so nervous I took it down. It’s more that it’s just not that smart. I don’t want to have to worry about it.
All of this writing about work think stemmed from reading Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris’s deceptively layered debut novel about, well, work. The way he captured the malaise and banality of the everyday-workaday was moving, sad, and at times incredibly funny. My friend AR loaned it to me last year, and I was excited to read it. Then around page 70 I thought: wow, I really wish something would happen. I looked to see how far I was from the end, then reluctantly turned the page when it hit me. Of course, I realized. That’s the point. Nothing happens, in spite of the fact that there’s always something going on — gossip over the cubicle wall, copies being made, endless meetings scheduled and attended, people being fired, economies tanking, children dying … it’s amazingly dramatic in its mundanity.
And, in many places like this one, like most days when I’m paying attention, it was also kind of beautiful.
“The funny thing about work itself, it was so bearable. The dreariest task was perfectly bearable. It presented challenges to overcome, the distraction provided by a sense of urgency, and the satisfaction of a task’s completion — on any given day, those things made work utterly, even harmoniously bearable. What we bitched about, what we couldn’t let lie, what drove us to distraction and consumed us with blind fury, was this person or that who rankled and bugged and offended angels in heaven, who wore their clothes all wrong and foisted upon us their insufferable features, who deserved from a just god nothing but scorn because they were insipid, unpoetic, mercilessly enduring, and lost to the grand gesture. And maybe so, yes, maybe so. But as we stood there, we had a hard time recalling the specific details, because everyone seemed so agreeable.”
This somehow seemed appropriate for a Friday. Have a great weekend.