Cubicle Farm Life

About 9 years ago I worked for Satan. Satan is a large office supply retailer, and I worked in their Risk Management Department. It was one of those experiences where it sounds like a really great choice at first then you realize about 24 minutes in that it was a terrible terrible terrible choice.

There were some benefits to working there. I met one of my favorite people there, James, who you’ve heard about in a prior blog post. They also had an omelet bar for breakfast, which sadly is something that kept me there longer than I should have been. If I ever start a company I’ll demand an all-day omelet bar. I think the impact of an omelet bar is grossly underestimated.

But I digress… They were located in a nice spot right off the highway. They had daycare programs for vacation weeks so parents can bring their kids to work during school vacations, which I took advantage of and still think it’s pretty cool. It’s also a very well-known brand so there’s a sense of pride in working there, until you realize you work with Satan, then the pride sort of stops. Sounds like my prior pizza slum lord stint eh? Yep, it’s a trend.

So, after my 3210723th ethics argument with Satan and his followers (ie my refusal to do clearly unethical things) and after James found herself as an unexpected passenger in a car ride with our very drunk (driving) boss after a company golf tournament, we decided this wasn’t really a cultural fit for us. We are averse to silly things like knowingly financially harming claimants, ignoring privacy laws, and being subjected to almost dying at the hands of a drunken driving boss. James and I are weird like that I guess. The other ~7K home office employees seemed to be going about their business.

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This is all fine, just keep walking. It’s fine. 

I’m not the type to burn bridges necessarily. It’s a small world and I’m very diplomatic. But I do stick it to the man in small ways. My friends and family argue that I am “the man” so if I’m sticking it to the man I’m sticking it to myself. Oh well… I still do it. So, James and I both left and before I left I changed all of the passwords to the systems (both internal and external governmental compliance systems) to “JimIsADoucheInSheepsClothing666”. Oh and one login was too an ACH system for transferring large funds, and I changed the password to “MyNameIsJimAndImGrosslyUnderqualified” It’s the little things, right? Hey they told me to leave him the passwords, and I kept my word.

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Then I said good-bye to cubicle farm life. I started working for a large property and casualty insurance carrier in the field. i.e. I had a company car and was on the road 4-5 days a week. FREEDOM! The freedom from the cubicle farm was awesome. I worked many more hours but I made my own schedule and that suited me just fine.

About 3 years in I changed jobs to a home office position, but continued to work from home for about 5 years. Then this year I offered (aghem) to come into the office 3 days a week. Yes yes I know… poor Marie Christine has to go into an office THREE days a week. Light a candle for me at church this Sunday, will you? I also get to choose which days they are, and if for some reason I didn’t make it in for the 3 days, literally no one would notice or care. But STILL… a candle, please.

I will add that with no traffic my commute is exactly 1 hour and 1 minute long. There is never no traffic, so it ranges from an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes each way. Candle please…

It’s only been 2 months and adjusting to #TowerLyfe has been interesting. The first few days I felt like an actual rat in a cage. I didn’t realize how much freedom I had until I didn’t have it. I mean realistically no one is telling me I can’t leave… but I’m not in my Jimi Hendrix Shirt, yoga pants and ponytail in my basement… so… it’s different. Ok by Jimi Hendrix Shirt & yoga pants I meant nightgown & bathrobe… tomato tomahto.

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Not gonna lie it’s pretty much like this. “Can you skype?” “Sorry my camera isn’t working, tech issues!”.

Deleted paragraph about the fact that people don’t work as much as they used to was previously found here… public blog equal edited blog… sigh. 

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I also forgot a few fun facts about working in an office. People chew. Loud. People talk. Loud. People leave the kitchen a mess as if the facilities staff are their personal housekeepers. People can be totally un-self-aware. I was waiting to get hot water last week and the hot water is part of the kitchen sink. There’s a nice side tap for hot tea water. This woman was washing her coffee mug forever. Not forever but I timed it and it was 3 full minutes, as I’m standing there waiting to take maybe 10 seconds to fill my cup. Has common sense and decency also left the building? Don’t get me started on the bathrooms. It’s 2018 and we haven’t solved the mystery of having bathrooms that don’t smell like low tide?

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Thanks to companies like Google and other millennial-grabbing forward thinkers, our office was recently renovated into 22 floors of collaborative space. This means tiny cubes with low walls and lots of open collaboration areas. It looks cool. I feel like I’m on a space ship when I walk into our lobby. There are “pods” you can sit and work in and it’s all very millennial-grabbing and whatnot. I will say the cubicle walls are higher than I’ve seen in some areas so it could be worse. Most closed office space was eliminated (another deleted scene) I’ve never cared about titles or offices. You can’t eat a title. Pay me more, call me whatever you want and I’ll sit in the basement on the floor if you want.

Overall the open space concept is ok. I’m not unfriendly, I think people would say I am friendly. But mostly I just want to do my job and have most people leave me the fuck alone. Ok maybe after reading that back I’m not as friendly as I think I am. Hmmm.

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One of the major upsides is being with my team and our business partners. It’s great to be in person for meetings and we get a lot done when we are together. I feel less disconnected and better understand people being able to get to know them better.

Parking is free, but pretty crazy. I’m used to parking in my driveway, or parking at a client’s office. For the tower, I need to park in a lot then take a shuttle into the office. Not ideal. Allegedly when I get my next promotion I’ll be able to park in the attached garage, so that will give me one less thing to complain about. But I assume the increased level of responsibility will give me more to complain about in general. It’s a complaint balancing act. Our company requires, for branding consistency, that we only use Arial font. As a small way of sticking it to the man is that I use Calibri font on everything. Take that beuracracy! I figure Calibri is a much better way to manage work complaint angst than some other potential options.

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I currently sit next to one of my favorite people at my office, Papa-P. We’ve been working on a project together for almost 5 years. He is super smart, very nice and very productive. He is also thoughtful and doesn’t get nearly the amount of credit he deserves for the level of work he does. That said, he had the audacity put in a request to change desks (ie not sit near me) ALLEGEDLY before I started coming into the office. He will be moving tomorrow to have a window seat, essentially abandoning me in the cubicle farm subject to an unlimited list of possible future seat mates. He’s dead to me at the moment but I’m sure I will get past this unexpected set back. Maybe I’ll forgive him if he starts using Calibri font? This doesn’t happen on the road. On the road it’s you and you alone and your work.

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The upside to this is that I get to hold this over his head until he retires. Or actually until I die, whichever comes first. He also hates attention so I should probably bring attention to this whenever possible. It just makes sense. For all of our co-workers reading this, feel free to guilt trip Papa-P until further notice. Sincerely, gold is from aliens.

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Probably less than a 1% chance of this type of conversation occurring PP (Post Papa-P). The window will not get your sense of humor, because it’s a fucking window. 

Things I hope to avoid with future seat mate:

  • Loud Chewers
  • Late Arrival Early Departure (Lazy people)
  • Negative Nellies
  • Braggers/One-Uppers
  • People whose happiness is associated with the success or failure of a sports team
  • Hygiene Issues (Wear deodorant, don’t clip nails)
  • People in positions they don’t deserve
  • Name Droppers
  • Personal Over-Sharers
  • Hoarders
  • Crossfitters (#BasicBen Exception Applies)
  • Assholes
  • Fad Dieters. No shakeology, paleo, south beach, bone brothers please. I know you believe you’ve discovered the key to life but you sound like an idiot. It will all be over soon when the bacteria from your raw water kicks in.
  • People who don’t stop talking about the weather
  • Up-talkers
  • Shape-Shifters (I’m kidding I would love to have a shape-shifter as a seat mate)
  • Anti-Vaxxers
  • Women who don’t help other women
  • A mom who talks about her kids all day
  • Close talkers
  • People who constantly state the obvious
  • Man bun
  • No sense of humor
  • Huggers
  • People who come to work while sick

Good night folks, if you remember nothing else, remember that gold is from aliens. #Peace

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Day Trading Drug Dealers

How to use hillbilly skills to explain to people that you aren’t a day trading drug dealer…

Click Here to see the blog that inspired this post by the interesting and dynamic Jeff Cann. Thanks Jeff!

In one of Jeff’s recent posts he talked about a family in his neighborhood that people didn’t know well. What they did know was that they didn’t leave the house for work every day, and that they gave out full sized candy bars for Halloween. The neighborhood consensus was that there were two, apparently employable, adults living with a couple of kids in this home. Neither adult left for a 9-5 work schedule, or any regular schedule for that matter.  So… they must be either Day Traders or Drug Dealers. That’s when I realized that I’m in the same situation.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably figured out that I work… A LOT. My daytime job is in strategy for a large insurance carrier. My part-time night job is working as an Economics teacher at a local private college. Not-Tom-Brady is a stay at home dad, or “Mr. Mom” as he calls it… as well as the Keeper of Family Sanity. He does every single thing you all hate doing on your time off so that I don’t have to do it… and I stay sane for my two jobs. I have literally never used my washer or dryer. Enough said.

This picture is totally unrelated I just love it so much. 

What I haven’t told you is that I only go into the office a couple of times a month. The rest of the time I work from home. Our new home in Anytown USA has a finished basement, which is my domain during work hours. For school, about 1/3 of my classes are in person and the rest are online.

We just moved from a city to a small town. This is the first time I’ve lived in a neighborhood setting since the 1980’s. In the city, my neighbors were just happy that I wasn’t leaving garbage in their yard or assaulting them. They probably never even noticed that I didn’t leave home for work. In Anytown… not so much. Not-Tom-Brady leaves several times a day, delivering children to school in 2 different school districts, music lessons, football games, sleepovers, dog walks, picking up items from the store 10x a week, dry cleaning, post office, liquor store (jager!) and other things I have no idea about because it’s been about 6 years since I had to worry about things like this.

I think Jeff is right, the neighborhood has obviously decided that we are either day traders or drug dealers. Let’s face it, we have a decent house and decent cars. We have a package delivered from Amazon pretty much ever hour on the hour. We have no apparent set schedule. Are the neighbors peeking through the blinds whenever we leave the house to catch a glimpse of a scrap of evidence that we have gainful employment? Jeff thinks this is a yes. He’s probably right.

We met one of our neighbors on day 2. They seemed very nice. They seem understanding, but it’s hard enough (sadly) for people to understand a Mr. Mom household, but in combo with remote work for the wife, it seems to melt brains. There are two houses across the street. One is a family who appears to have a regular family schedule going on. The other house has at least 6 cars in the driveway at all times, with no sign of a normal schedule. These are either “our people” OR they are day trading drug dealers. My neighbor that I met asked me if I thought it was a boarding house. What I didn’t say out loud, but was thinking, is that it’s probably a meth lab. I imagine them at the dinner table tonight asking themselves if WE have the meth lab. I’m not that interesting… are they?

 

The people across the street? 

We are in a small town. People talk in small towns. I’m just getting to know a very small handful of people but I’m getting there. We went to the local Chinese food restaurant last weekend. We walked in to pick up our order and the owner said “Marie”? Clearly very obvious I’m the only person who has a name he didn’t recognize or a face he didn’t recognize. I tried to have a “productive member of society” look on my face. I’m not sure if I accomplished that.

I recently met a woman in town who fixed my shoulder and also has a super positive smart-person-in-a-small-town vibe that we will call J-Healer. She is amazeballs and she reminds me that I made the right decision moving here. I’m also going to also try to do something I’ve never done before. I am going to a board meeting at a non-profit 4H camp in town to see if I might become a board member. Fun, good for the community, making friends, and also spreading the word that I’m not a day trading drug dealer. Hey guys I can totally save your non-profit with this new finance strategy in exchange for you telling all of the life long residents of Anytown that I’m not a day trading drug dealer. #TheMoreYouKnow

So, line of defense #1 is to just be a good person and spread the word that you are a productive member of society. Line of defense #2 is to let go and let your hillbilly reflexes kick back in. Again I’m not sure if the correct term is hillbilly, redneck, working class or just regular person. Either way after living in two cities for decades I’m going zen and bringing back the hillbilly street cred.

Using Hillbillly street cred from my real, original life, to inform people that I’m not a day trading drug dealer: (And if I was, which I’m not because I’m not that interesting, they wouldn’t care):

  • Say “Mornin!'”.
  • Just order “tea” instead of “Earl Grey” or any other such nonsense. Tea is fucking tea, end of story. You get what you get when you order.
  • Eat fried hot dogs (Disclosure: I fry turkey hotdogs now which is only half hillbilly)
  • Say “How’s it going?” to at least 50% of the people you see.
  • Give a half-head-nod to people you know from town but don’t know well enough to approach.
  • When you don’t have to ask why there is a fan next to a bucket of ice at the convenience store.
  • Jager: Enough said, this is the tie that binds. (Jager post pending I swear. There’s a lot of material here but I’m trying to find a way to present it that won’t make me seem like a raging alcoholic. Good luck me!)
  • I learned to drive a standard transmission in a corn field.
  • My high school boyfriend was arrested because his father had 2 acres of weed growing in their back yard.
  • My 15 year old daughter recently asked if I could show her how to open her orange soda with a lighter. NO. A good redneck has a bottle opener on their keychain. Jesus christ kid get with the program. Kids these days! (Side note: Remind me to post later about not getting a social work job once because I had a bottle opener on my keychain when I was 22).
  • High school friends had nicknames like Beaver, Fish Bowl and Puddles. In case you’re intrigued: Buck Teeth, Bad Breath and what you’d turn into if he started punching you.
  • You might be a redneck if you’ve ever been in a car on a frozen pond (Lauren, do NOT do this… )
  • 9 year old smoking and drinking… normal
  • Ever have massive credit card debt just to be alive?
  • You can identify rashes without ever seeing them. Yup, it’s impetigo so you don’t need  doctor just some dial soap and warm water.
  • You’re constantly preparing for winter, and talking about preparing for winter. Never. Enough. Firewood. Is the generator working? Just a little more firewood. Venison. Meat freezer.
  • We can’t tell you were Idaho is on a map (geography: Nope: Fail) but we know the spectrum for alcohol content without google. The chart goes from Coors Light to Grain Alcohol. It’s a special, and useful, skill.
  • Even if you’ve never smoked pot you can offer suggestions for something to smoke out of as if you’re a pot-Macgyver. I’ve seen everything from a tampon case to an apple. #OhThe1980s  I don’t smoke but I wish I did/could #LegalInMass
  • If you need to start a literal fire you came to the right place. Not only can we start a fire anytime and anyplace but we can keep it going as long as you need it.
  • Know what doesn’t scare us? Blood. If you want to eat, you’re going to have to kill it, skin it, cut it up and cook it.
  • We can let rich people patronize us and pity us so we can take advantage of them in some way. I don’t do this anymore because I live a double life. Not day trader / drug dealer but redneck / non-redneck simultaneously.
  • Food has three categories: Killed, Grown and Grocery Store. The less you rely on the last they more you’re winning. When you’re 9 years old and your favorite food is trout. #RealTalk

I’ll leave you with one of my fondest hillbilly cred stories. I was working out of a gift shop in a small town as the box office manager for the Big Apple Circus. I was literally in a closet at the gift shop it was pretty sweet. This was in the early 1990’s so I had a computer but it wasn’t linked to anything (ie. No internet). I took reservations via phone or people walking up to an external facing window at the “box office” aka the closet. I had  a boom box from which I played the Eagles and The Guru almost all day because they were the only cds I had that weren’t metal or hard rock.

As the circus came close, the carnies arrived. They set up trailers and tents on the property next to the gift shop. It was really cool. The trailers had awnings and window boxes of flowers. These guys were very used to this. They had the complete set up it was awesome. They were also true carnies. Some were acrobats, clowns, elephant trainers and the set up crew.

Some of the younger guys approached me and asked me what people did in town for fun. Of course I laughed. There was no where to go and nothing to do. I told them the truth that we survived by spending time with friends and laughing. One of them noticed I was reading Dennis Leary’s book “No Cure For Cancer”. I LOVED this book. It was a great escape for comedy and reality. Irony: I moved to Dennis Leary’s home town and lived there from 2006-2017.

Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant READ THIS BOOK. Stands the test of time. My friend Lisa met him once and said he smelled amazing. #TrueDennis

He asked me if I would come to their pop up village and read them the book that night. I did. This was my first official public speaking appearance. We had strange soup that someone had cooked that I think was soba noodles and miso. We had some kind of wine that in hindsight I think might have been plum wine. I’m not sure who was cooking but there were people from at least 10 different countries of national origin present. I read page after page and chapter after chapter of Dennis Leary’s brilliance as a crowd of carnies.. men/women/children…  laughed hysterically and stared at me in eager anticipation for more. Smoking cigarettes, drinking wine out of styrofoam cups, enjoying a united moment in time… before snapchat, iPhones or anyone even considering documenting the moment other than in our memories.

In an interview 20 years after that a hiring manager once asked me “Have you ever done any successful public speaking?”. I said yes, and told him about the time I conducted a training class at my first insurance job. What I really wanted to say was… there was this one time… with this bunch of carnies….