This semester, I took a foray into being a real person – that is, I took an internship. Like, in an office. While this represents real life for most people, it feels more like fiction to me; turns out there is more truth to “Office Space” and “The Office” than I would have hoped – or perhaps, considering how entertaining those farcical comedies are, I could have hoped.
Being in the real world is tough. Apparently, workers can’t just decide not to show up. It’s a 9 a.m. class that you can’t skip. You can’t sneak in late. You can’t even stumble out of bed in gym shorts and an undershirt and shuffle a few yards over there. Somehow, the exemption for “but last night was Thursday night, yo,” no longer seems perfectly reasonable. You just have to go.
But the requirements pretty much end there.
While I may be the most hung over person in my office, I am by no means the most inefficient. I actually encountered that mythological, unimaginatively hideous creature, the person who habitually forwards hilariously unfunny chain e-mails to everyone he knows, despite the fact that they’re corny enough to produce a gallon of ethanol, and not only does not everyone find them interesting, but precisely no one does. The species was widely thought to have gone extinct circa 1997 but apparently still thrives in the primitive office environment.
The office world’s definition of “work” is comprised primarily of procedural nuances rather than actual substantiative work.The tremendous bureaucratic layer creates a vapid feel that seems to excuse employees at all levels from any obligation to employ thought, and somewhere underneath mounds of forms, common sense has been misfiled or lost. (Stapled your fingers together? Must not have gotten the memo that that wasn’t a good idea.) The IT technician at my office kindly educates each new employee with a 45-minute presentation on how to log in to Windows.
Another staffer was tasked with rating the frequency of each employee’s use of the break room microwave and drafting a weighted system of microwave cleaning duties.
While a college degree may be required to land a decent job, a college education is not. It is simply imperative that one never lets on to the fact that he has no idea what he’s doing. The samples touted by my managers as the sort of documents I should strive to compose were riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes – simply reading them, I coud literaly feal my riting ability dimminish (sic).
In the working world, as in the Communist Workers’ Party, the decentralization of responsibility cultivates an environment where creating the illusion of being important – or at least occupied – is more important than creating actual results. This is in stark contrast to college life, where the only thing that matters is the result, and one is free – in fact, it is his duty as a college student – to employ clever techniques such as skipping classes in a carefully calculated manner and embracing diversions as long as possible until finally spewing pure gold in a last-minute fervor of efficiency. While this technique can produce at a rate of up to 14 pages in two hours, the technique of the office world (those communist bastards!) generally performs at around the equivalent of 17 pages every eight hours.
So while it is correct (or rather obvious) that college students are indeed more unproductive than their working counterparts, they can take pride in the fact that they are vastly more efficient. And isn’t that the true measure of productivity?
The illusion of importance is reinforced in the nauseating phenomenon of title inflation. Looking for the janitor? No one here by that name, but try consulting the Director of Auxiliary Services. Who’s that, you ask? The janitor.
The typing? Done by a “keyboard specialist”- and don’t dare try typing anything yourself; she’s very territorial when you impose on her expertise. Well, promote my ass and call me Pressers McButtons, Ph.D. In theory, these euphemisms are a good-spirited effort to boost self-esteem, but in practice, they produce vicious ego battles and heightened insecurities.
Then again, the blinders of four years associating exclusively with people of strikingly similar backgrounds have been stripped to reveal the horrifying mess known as the general public, and when you take a wide assortment of people who would never willingly speak to one another and place them in a glorified cage, awkward anxiety-driven behaviors are bound to be abundant.
Indeed, most office discourse is more inane than an episode of Seinfeld and is driven by infantile and vindictive personal motives. It turns out that white-collar workers are essentially giant toddlers whose bibs have turned into ties.
Overall, I definitely learned a lot from the experience I gained using my college tuition and academic credits to work 10 hours a week without pay. I learned I’d have to be crazy not to stay in classes and out of the office workplace for as long as possibl-
Well, it’s 5 p.m., so I’m gonna stop pressing these keys now. Goodnight Bob.
Rosiak is a member of the class of 2008.