Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Another day older and deeper in debt

On this, the one-year anniversary of my hiring at the Hateful Job (known hereafter as HJ, Inc., I present a list of objectionable aspects of my job. To be fair, I’ll include a list of positive aspects, but don’t expect a lengthy compendium there.

1. I hate my job. Period. HJ, Inc., as an organization, is not without merit. Problem is, all the intellectual substance of it takes place outside the office, at its various conferences. We drones in the headquarters can check our brains at the door with no noticeable effect on the quality of our work.

2. I hate what I do; or, more accurately, what I don’t do. I have a double B.A. in Linguistics and East Asian Studies from one of the top liberal arts schools in the country. I speak three languages and I’ve lived abroad for a cumulative total of 2 years. And yet, for all my worldliness, my day consists almost exclusively of tasks I could probably train a teenager to do. Well, maybe not a teenager. Probably a chimp, though. But I hate screwing up constantly because the work is simultaneously boring and stuff I’m not good at.

3. I hate the office itself. Being a non-profit, HJ, Inc., is dirt-poor, so all the furniture and accessories are hand-me-downs from the ‘70’s and ‘80s. Desks that disintegrate when you bump into them and file cabinets that shriek when they’re opened are NOT conducive to productivity. It took me a month to find a desk chair that either wasn’t designed by Tomas de Torquemada or that didn’t emit a cloud of toxic foam-spore when I sat down in it. Plus, it’s so cluttered with paper (see below) that there are parts of the office in which, if you get wedged in the wrong way, you literally can’t move. I’ve had to crawl out under tables to escape from paper logjams. Then there’s the air-conditioning that kept the whole office at a nice, polar 63 degrees all summer. I would come in wearing appropriately lightweight summer clothes and then have to don a fleece, leggings and thick socks just to be able to make it through the day. And my knuckles were still blue.

4. I hate the lack of organization and the neo-Luddite attitude toward data-keeping. Paper is king at HJ, Inc., and we’ve got mountains of it. In addition to triplicate copies of EVERYTHING dating back to 1979, banker’s boxes that reach to the ceiling, reams of now-outdated contact records, molding away in no fewer than 3 drawers of a filing cabinet (working copies, backups and sources—aaaaarghhh!), there’s also a mound of ephemera on the conference table that has nothing to do with the company at all. It’s the Bossman’s “research” for his “book”. At least, that’s the most valid reason I’ve been given so far…

5. I hate the fact that while I’ve been pushing for DSL for months and getting rebuffed every time (yes, we had single-user dial-up AOL, and no one seemed in the least bit upset about it), one (male) intern breezed in, talked with Bossman for 10 minutes, and had it installed 2 weeks later. Or the fact that the female interns are routinely put on secretarial tasks while the boys are given projects like corporate target development. There is a deep injustice here.

6. I don’t hate my coworkers. Quite the contrary; I think they’re great people. But they’re no fun to work with, because they’re all older than I am. By 50 years. Bossman is 70; Grandma the office manager is 80, and the part-time program manager—well, she doesn’t qualify for senior discounts yet, but she’s still older than she would need to be to by my mother. We’ll come back to them later.

7. I hate the pay that is so low I can’t move out of my parents’ house, pay off my student loans, or afford a car. I hate the clever interpretation of the labor laws that make it impossible for me to collect overtime, despite the fact that I work 40 hours a week and they only pay me for 37.5. I hate the half-hour lunch break, the events that I’m expected to work with no pay, the fact that I had to beg for insurance and I still haven’t seen a penny of the 75% Bossman said he’d pay of it. I’m being exploited, and I hate that most of all.

8. I hate never being taken seriously when I have ideas or suggestions. In fact, I’m actively discouraged from making innovations or taking initiative on projects. I’m supposed to do my job EXACTLY how I’m told to do it, regardless of how stupid or inconvenient the process may be, or how totally unfamiliar Bossman is with the workings of computers (last time I checked, he couldn’t find the “on” switch on his).

9. I hate the fact that I took over from an alcoholic who had been spiraling downwards for months and taking the office down with her. So I was hired in a hurry, received two days of training to prepare me for running an entire office, and chucked in the deep end. This is me, remember. I can’t keep my desk at home clean, or perform arithmetic well enough to balance a checkbook. What made them think that a college grad with NO administrative or office experience could handle the organization of an entire non-profit office? Drives me nuts.

10. I hate the 40-minute bus ride each way, through some nasty parts of Baltimore. I can’t complain too much, since I’ve never gotten thrown up on, stabbed, or mugged, like some riders of public transportation I know, but I could do without the screaming children, the stares that come from being the only white person on the bus, and (in the afternoons) the suburban zombies who try to include me in their conversations about leftovers and football. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that all I want to do on the way home is read (Dictionary of the Khazars, thank you very much. No, it’s not an actual dictionary. Too complicated for you. Go back to Danielle Steele.), but the occasional idiot keeps trying. Maybe I’ll start reading Playboy.

Amazingly, that’s all the crap I can think of at the moment. So, on to the upsides:

1. Carrie, the office manager, is sweet as pie. She was once a top-notch secretary, but these things begin to diminish when you hit 80 or so. And she can’t use a computer for anything. Still, she’s always fun to talk to—tells me about her three marriages, her son in the Navy, going dancing in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, and always wants to know about my weekend. She doesn’t approve of coed dorms, though, so I can’t ever make her understand how cool they really were.

2. I like my office. Because it’s mine. All mine. It’s not a cubicle, or a desk in the corner. It’s a real room, with a door that shuts. I have a nice Tibetan wall calendar, a wind-up walking sushi, a mini-Edward Gorey theater (his work can be seen here) and other little treats to make the day bearable.

3. You can’t beat the view from Baltimore’s World Trade Center. My office faces north, and I can see all the way to the high-rises on Prospect Hill in Towson. That’s about a mile north of my own house. City College, the prison, the North Ave. education building, Govans Manor—they may not be pretty, but they’re all visible.

4. I also like working downtown. It’s nice to sit out on the harbor at lunch, it’s convenient to meet people there in the evenings, and every once in a while I can cruise the sales at the Gallery. I just wish I lived down there too.

5. It looks great on a resume (though I may not get a recommendation at this point), and it’s nice to be able to make my mistakes now, and not have them bring the world to a grinding halt. Also, I do get to see top government officials speak for free, and occasionally, they’re even interesting. And the members are cool people. They’re all really, really old (I’m afraid I’ll forget how to be 23), and there are the requisite number of batty old ladies, annoying old ladies, and creepy old men who hit on me when I’m serving them wine, but the rest are neat. And there’s a cutie-pie environmental engineer who doesn’t look a day over 35…

So there we go. Bad outweighs good 2 to 1. I’m not the least bit surprised. Fortunately, I have just over 2 months to go, and then I can walk out and NOT LOOK BACK. Graduate school can’t be any worse than this.


NightBlueSky said...

My favorite drawer in the UA GAs' office file cabinet is surely the one labelled along the lines of "Tablecloths & Paperwork."

Re #9, the temp agency I worked with most recently wanted to send me (at age 22.5, unemployed for nigh a year) to run some more-than-vaguely important due-diligence-type sub-department at a large firm. Fortunately my case worker and putative supervisors were such stumblebums that I skipped out on the chance to find out firsthand what a bad decision that would have been.

I've also always found myself getting along famously with older colleagues - notably more famously than with younger ones, really, though whether that's the way I'd want it isn't clear.

- Brian

Cad Grublygold said...

Sounds rough in that there office. Mabye you should try living with me under my bridge. Can't promise it'll be any cleaner, or that creepy old men won't hit on you. But you'll have total fredom from the cares of the world, and a beutiful view of a creek that smells like an old sweat sock. You can't beat that now.

Christine said...

That's it. It's everywhere - ubiquitous in fact. The world needs changing and we're going to have to be the ones to do it. You would think that if women can't get treated well in business (or non-profit) things would be okay in the enlightened world of academia. Not so. The things that happen here are just shocking! Grad school definately couldn't be worse - but we're gonna have to work on making it better too.

I imagine your co-workers looking like women from the Triplets of Belleville. And I'm so excited for you going to school! Going to Berkeley! the Emerald City indeed. Lets hope its a horse of a different color.

Love from the top of Kitt Peak,