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  LIFE AS A LOSER #125: "CLOCK PUNCHING."  
   
   
 

 I don't like to talk about my job. It's not that it's a bad job, one of those soul-crushing, life-extinguishing corporate slogs bathed in dead light and empty pallor. It's not particularly fascinating or compelling, and I don't wake up full of piss and vigor, ready to conquer the world, do some Great Work!, let's go. I feel I'm too young to be expecting too much of that, though. It doesn't make me so tired that I can't concentrate on anything else when Iím away from work, allowing me to indulge in any and all extracurricular activities without worrying whether or not I'll be able to finish that report by Friday. It's a job, and that's that. I do it, and I go home.

Last week, I met a few friends of mine after work at this rooftop bar in midtown, right next to the Empire State Building, with a breathtaking view that turns even the most hardened, weary New Yorker into a mullet-bearing, Nascar-T-shirt-wearing, jeez-will-you-look-at-that! tourist of the first order. We met a friend of a friend, a mid-30s haggard woman who looked like she stopped caring all that much about life six or seven years ago. She was wearing a bland, dreary "professional" outfit, one of those drab white shirts with a big collar and gray pants that, despite a baggy nature, probably should have been abandoned about 15 pounds ago.

I grabbed a drink and was introduced to her. Not all that compelled, I nevertheless tossed out the obligatory, so-how-are-you-ma'am. I don't even think she paused to ask my name because she was off and running. "Oh, boy, what a day at work I had! You know how some people, no matter how well you explain things to them, still don't get it? Well, there was this woman, and I tell you, I don't understand some people. I told her I needed the file by 3 p.m. and she told me she'd have it, but then she was avoiding my calls, and I dunno, our office is real formal, but I feel like people just don't pay attention, because there's this one woman in accounts payable, and I donít know what her problem is, because she can't seem to figure out her inner-office mail, so this jpeg I needed didn't arrive until 4 p.m., which is just way too late for anyone to be able to do anything with anything. You know what I mean?Ē

I was surprised she hadn't noticed that, halfway through her absorbing dissertation, I lit fire to myself and leapt off the roof. And still, I could hear her yammering about Sue in HR and Cindy from the office down the hall, all the way down. To be honest, I think she was waiting for me when I met pavement, talking about how people just don't really respect their coworkers these days, you know you know you know?

That day, I had written two summaries on venture capital activity in the last 24 hours, interviewed three CEOs, edited some PDF reports, emailed public relations contacts about recent deals, and sat in on a meeting about upcoming events sponsored by our magazine. Does that strike you as anything even slightly noteworthy? I mean, it doesn't strike me as noteworthy, and I work there. With occasional exceptions, our jobs are pretty much the most boring things we do. My job is what allows me to do fun, challenging activities; to expect the job itself to provide them is awfully presumptuous. And even if it did, they'd only be of interest to me. I certainly wouldn't want to force anyone else to put up with it.

My father has the right idea about work. He had one priority: raising a family and providing for them. Whatever he did during the day to make that happen was beside the point. Sure, he tried to be as good at his job as possible, and he took pride in his work, but I don't remember a single dinner-time conversation about Bob Buckley's constant screwups, or cumbersome paperwork, or some new tool some guy brought in. When I was a senior in high school, my father's electrical company when through a change of ownership, and it could have cost my father his job. I found this out years later. It just never came up because that wasn't what mattered. What mattered was the Cardinals, and my sister's grades, and why my room was a mess. There is job, and there is life, and they needn't mix.

But some people just can't stop. What amazes me sometimes is how people who claim to hate their job can't stop talking about it. In fact, the amount they seem to despise their work seems to be directly proportional to how much they seem to insist the rest of the world cares. One would think that if someone were miserable at her job, it would be all the more reason to shut it out of her mind when she goes home. It never works out that way.

Your friends consider what you do for a living so little in their assessment of you as a human being. It's not like my friends liked me more when I worked for The New York Times and less when I was unemployed. With old friends of mine, the ones who live in different cities and I talk to six, seven times a year, any conversations about our jobs are cursory. What's important is that we have one, so we can live our lives.

My job provides me with income, Web access, headphones, and constant access to pirated music. I just summed it up. Someday, I'll have a job that provides me with more income. Maybe someday, I'll get to a point where I won't have to work at all. Until then, though, I'll wake up, shower, take the train to work, go home at six, and shut up about it. It is amazing how earth-shattering a concept this is to many.

 

*BT*

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