This essay comes from an unhappy place that so many of us have inhabited, working a job that we don't like. I'm not the same person today that I was then, but looking back, I can see how much I've learned and grown since. Anyway, as you'll see, I left that banking job to start working full-time as a writer, something I'm doing (happily) today:
I’m getting tired of the new boss already. Yesterday, a staff member at the bank where I work left an empty paper cup on top of the water cooler. Today there’s a typewritten memo taped to the water cooler announcing that “Used paper cups are henceforth to be discarded in the trash receptacle to the right of the water cooler, not left on top of the water cooler. Your cooperation on this matter is most appreciated." Strangely enough, the new boss chose to highlight every word of this memo in yellow marker, except for his signature at the bottom. Micro-manage much?
I’ve wanted to pull this memo off the water cooler and throw it into the trash receptacle to the right of the water cooler. But I know this gesture would only bring me more trouble. I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to fly below the radar. Maybe I can get used to him, reach some sort of accommodation. I mean, if I impulsively tore off the “paper cup” memo and left it on top of the water cooler, he’d probably just write another memo announcing that memos are not to be pulled off the water cooler, and that we’ll be holding an investigation to ferret out the memo thief.
On Wednesday afternoon last week, he called an after-closing staff meeting, during which he informed us that unnamed staff members have been writing the date on bank documents incorrectly without putting a zero in front of the month and day when that month and day was a single-digit. Some staff members are apparently writing June 6th, as 6/6 instead of 06/06. "Such carelessness will no longer be accepted," he told us, his bald head reddening. We sat there smiling and nodding our heads in agreement, accommodationists all. I just sat there quietly thinking of escaping out the nearest window.
When my lunch break came the following day, I drove over to a small barbeque place that’s my regular hangout. I love the music they play -- it's old and bluesy. And nobody walks around leaving memos. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and listened to Bob Dylan singing a sardonic song about his girlfriend’s new pillbox hat. I tell Bill the cook that it’s fantastic. He smiles and hands me a CD case. "The whole album is great." he says. "It’s called ‘Blonde on Blonde.’ Go ahead and take it home.” After work, I listen to the album over and over again as I sit at home on the couch thinking about handing in my resignation. Listening to Dylan is like a balm, a way of seeing the wider world rather than being lost in the stupidities of memos and meaningless meetings.
I walk into work the next morning and the new boss has left some inspirational quote on my desk. He has a whole calendar of inspirational quotes, one for each day of the year, and he often photocopies them and leaves them on the desks of lucky staff members. Today’s inspiration is "Don’t give up, just give more." It’s funny, because yesterday’s inspiration was "It’s not enough to do your best: just get it done." I have the impulse to discuss this apparent contradiction with the new boss (do I focus on "doing my best" or "getting the job done"?), but I say nothing and quietly ball up the paper and throw it in the trash. Then I get an inspirational thought of my own – about stealing his calendar of inspirational quotes. It’s getting harder to put up with, the rampant idiocy of the way he manages.
Some days, I go into the bank and laugh and have fun -- like I don’t have a care in the world. Then the next day I’ll come in and want to scream like the guy on the bridge in that famous surrealist painting by Edvard Munch. Something’s got to give here.
Another day, at lunch, I walk out to the parking lot and sit in my car for thirty minutes listening to Bob Dylan. I keep replaying my favorite song from "Blonde on Blonde" – called Fourth Time Around (click for YouTube), a gorgeous song about a couple that argues, and the man leaves in a huff, and then he comes back because he forgot something, and they argue some more, and they make up in the end, but the hurt is still there lurking between them. It's heartbreaking and funny and beautiful all at once. I sing along quietly for fifteen minutes, trying to match Dylan's lilting cadence. Then I turn the music off and cry for five minutes, a sort of emotional cleansing. I wipe my eyes and then go back to work and sit in my chair and help customers and throw my paper cups in the trash receptacle to the right of the water cooler.
I know that tomorrow I’ll come into work and the new boss will slap my back and eagerly shake my hand and smile that unctuous smile of his and ask me how I’m doing. I’ll say "not bad" and just keep walking. But at some point I’ll realize that I don’t have to keep walking in here. There’ll be no zeroes when I type the date on my letter of resignation, and he’ll just have to live with that. Like Dylan sings, “You go your way and I’ll go mine.” When Friday comes, it'll be time to go mine.