What Would Durkheim Think?
Basically, I'm a bureaucrat. I spend my day indoors, working at a desk, researching things and fielding questions from around the world. It's a good day-job, pays well, and has the added benefit of not being supervisory, so I don't have to deal with the endless puerile nonsense so many of today's so-called adults bring to the workplace with them.
It's not that I'd like to work in a place like that one above, but to me, work is where I do, well WORK, not where I go to have a social life. Unfortunately, in today's America, socializing is often deemed more important than the work, even though quite often it actually interferes with one's personal life by bringing added stress and distraction. I would (and could easily) work at home, but my current supervisor is old school and believes that if he can see me at my desk, I must be doing something productive, whereas if I were working at home, he wouldn't be able to 'feel' the joy of running his little kingdom, or verify my workage. It's kind of like the difference between playing with a handful of quarters and having thousands in the bank. The latter is better, but doesn't give you the same sense of having
As to the value of working at home vice the office, I am just not as productive at the office as when I work at home. Aside from the routine sine-wave flow of work, calls, e-mails, and meetings, the constant interruptions by people who are between tasks and free to socialize are a domino-effect productivity killer. Bob strolls over to visit Mary, who was being productive up to that moment, but now isn't. Afterward, Bob returns to his work or strolls on to distract someone else, but Mary has decided now's as good a time as any to get a snack, and stops by Fred's desk on the way to see if he wants to go for coffee, and Lou in the next cube leans over to ask if they want company, and so on until before you know it, the entire little herd has become restive and several paid hours are thereafter lost to socializing. All because Bob was bored or lonely, and like a pebble plopped into a pond, disturbed the entire placid ecosystem, utterly unsettling the happy, contented flow of nature. For everyone except someone like me, that is, who, with noise cancelling headphones on, ignores the interruptions, declines to go for coffee, doesn't smoke (or 'vape'--how stupid a habit is that
to take up?), and so on.
The problem now, of course, is that I'm labeled antisocial, grinch, unhappy, troubled, or the person most likely to go postal. No kidding; some office flitterby got offended once because I suggested somewhat snappishly that she needed to go do what she was getting paid to do and not spend so much time organizing fruit-basket raffle sales to subsidize the cost of the annual office 'holiday gala-boredom-fest.' I must have snarled or scowled really hard because she immediately shared that with several other pouty-lipped 'mean-guy haters' and personality-deficients and voila, I'm tagged a homicidal maniac-in-waiting. Seriously? As if I'd do violence rather than ask the boss to deal with the problem, or if worse came to shove, rather than just quit? Idiots.
Which brings me to something I wrote after one particularly virulent outbreak of seasonal social-itis a while back. I was going to send it to ALL via office e-mail, but the part of me that likes having a job overruled the part that detests stupid, annoying coworkers, so I didn't send it. I still wish I had, and I might yet in some morphed form when I'm about to retire. In the meantime, I decided to post this here in the hope that it might somehow seep into the American office worker's psyche and, eventually, our workplaces will become places of work again and less like high school home-rooms the month before prom night.
I Don't Really Care if you like me.
As hard as it may be to believe, some people just really don't see the point of all the social glue that keeps people genial and connected. Even when they do see the point, it doesn't necessarily follow that they want to be part of all that, or that they benefit from it. For some people (more than most people realize, actually), engagement with other humans can be stressful and exhausting, even during the most superficial interactions, say over a coffee in the snack bar. I'm one of those people. In fact, for those who know what it means, I am a strong INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
index (also known affectionately as the Myers-Briggs Asshole Index
). For those who haven't a clue, that pretty much just means I generally don't care about the things most people care about and I prefer my company to yours most of the time.
This is not the same thing as being a misanthrope. I don't hate people, you all just wear me out. I tend to be congenial and I can be amicable when I have to, but mostly I am very much an introvert who prefers to eat alone, drive long distances without listening to the radio or any other external voices, and is very much happier at 2am than at 2pm (unless I happen to be alone somewhere at 2pm). I enjoy social gatherings well enough, but from the periphery (the fewer people, the better), and I cringe inside when forced to mingle, or to be center stage. My favorite day at the office is when everyone else is out, which is why I don't take leave on the Friday before a long weekend, but almost always on the day following one. I would be a terrible ant, like the discontented fellow named Z in the animated movie, An Ant's Life
No! No! A Thousand times No!
And so, for those of you who just can't understand or abide that some people just don't want to participate in your soul-sucking vapid little group-gropes, here's notice:
I don't participate in group lunches, pot lucks, parties, going aways, fondues, barbecues, chili contests, promotions, retirements, shindigs, hoe downs, picnics, Thanksgiving and Christmas events, or any other form of office-related social gathering. I don't sign cards, letters, or going away gifts (or want my name signed for me, thank you very much). I also don't donate for flowers or presents; buy coworkers' kids' candy, popcorn, cookies, or Easter bunnies; sing happy birthday; allow my picture to be taken for any reason other than IDs; compete for anything-of-the-month; wear team colors, patches, or seasonal costumes; decorate my work area, or otherwise get involved in anything at work that is not work-task related. I don't give or want birthday or Christmas presents, and I don't want you to bring me something from whatever country you just travelled to--I'm not in first grade and I don't need a gift when mommy or daddy comes back from a trip! I despise being at the center of public 'recognition' ceremonies, and I have no use for trophies, mementos, trinkets, and other landfill--especially not for a ridiculous unspendable resource-wasting unit coin. Also, for the most part, I don't associate with folks from work away from the office, I really noshit dislike being touched by anyone, I hate practical jokes with a passion, and I am generally not known for having a great sense of humor. I also can't stand cats, while dogs are just ok, but for God's sake don't bring them (or for that matter, your slobbery kids) to the office; it isn't a kennel! I also don't celebrate St. Patrick's day, Pulaski day, Columbus Day, Cinco de Mayo, MLK day, birthdays or anniversaries, or Hallmark holidays like Valentines day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or (are you kidding me?!?) Grandma's day! And I just don't care about your lawn grubs, your sex-life (real or imagined), your in-laws, your car problems, how much the baby weighed or how long it was, and I definitely don't care how it was delivered. I don't really even care what gender it is. Knowing if it has all its parts is sufficient for me to be glad for you. I also don't ask 'How are you?' because I don’t want to know the details of your medical condition (please, please! don't tell me), and especially about the old-guy afflictions of the over-fifty retired military guy claque. When asked how I am, I just say I'm 'Well' so people won't ask anything else. I don't smoke or drink alcohol, I think team sports are dumb, and team logo clothing and seasonal ties are just silly. Also, I do not want to buy into your fantasy what-ever office pool or be forced to listen to your music or watch your favorite youtube 'jackass' video. Last, but by no means least, please don't inflict your personal fragrance on me, stink up the office with your lunch of kippers and home-made deer sausage, or stick your phone in my face to show me pictures without asking if I actually want to see them (I usually don't).
Get the picture?!?
I could, of course, also go on about bathroom clean-up-after-yourself etiquette, washing one's own dishes, coffee-fund cheating, actually getting trash into
the trash cans, storing damp gym clothes under your desk (or worse
, wearing them at your desk until you cool down!), science projects in the fridge, fossilized exploded food in the microwave, and so on, but that's mostly about being a decent coworker, which a lot of you just aren't. Suffice to say, that sort of ill mannered office behavior is as off-putting as all the rest, but after 60+ years, I've learned that some folks really can't be trained any better than a pet hamster. Sad, but true.
As for me specifically, if there is any doubt about whether I would like to share in the group fun, just go ahead and assume the answer is always "No, thank you." I don't mind being left out, not knowing some bit of gossip, or missing out on the holiday fun. Honest. We work together. We're not family and we're probably not friends and, truthfully, I'll most likely forget many of you within six months after I leave. Such is life, eh.
Did you catch the part where I said I really hate
being touched by anyone for any reason? Basically, if you don't have my explicit permission (meaning you actually asked
), keep your hands and other body parts to yourself! This includes hugs, pats on the back, shoulder squeezes, neck rubs, fist bumps, high fives, elbow pokes, commiserating shoulder nudges, euro-fake kissy-face greetings, and overlong handshakes! This is not a joke and I don't take well people testing the waters to see if I'm serious. Trust me, I am, and you may not like my reaction.
1. David Émile Durkheim 1858–1917, French sociologist, social psychologist, and philosopher commonly known as the father of modern sociology. Focused on modern social structures.
2. If you smoke, you stink afterwards, and when you come back into the building, you leave bad air in your wake and you stink up the workplace. If you spray yourself with perfume or the like, you just smell like perfumed cigarette stink. Really. After some cigars, some of you smell like a dog that's rolled in a dead snake.
3. It was Antz
, which came out just a short time before A Bug's Life
4. No! No! A Thousand Times No!! is a 1935 Fleischer Studio animated short film, starring Betty Boop.
5. I actually have a pretty decent sense of humor, but none at all when it comes to harassment, violence, hate, or other people's misfortunes. I stopped seeing the humor in cruelty decades ago. My daughter taught me that.
6. My favorite pets are ceramic or carved stone animals and bendy-rubber Chex cereal cow bowl spoon friends.
[ The two images on this page were not created by nor belong to me, though I did crop and fiddle with them some. These were among the results given by Google in response to "office cube hell." I'm not sure who to cite for them, but I believe the bottom one (highly retouched) is from the movie "Office Space".]