September 6, 2001
Load Fatigue


I think I've finally figured out what it is about The Totem Pole Company that still has me grinding my teeth into little pointy stubs, day after day ... week after week ... month after month ... long after all of the obvious stressors have been removed.

(Read this: since I moved to the fourth floor.)

It isn't my boss that's causing it. Sure, he's impossible to 'read,' he's never really figured out what to do with me, and he's in an even bigger hurry to leap from the Totem Pole than *I* am ... but he's basically harmless. 

It isn't my co-workers, either. I actually don't completely hate nine out of 247 of them. (And I probably wouldn't accidentally back over the other 238 of them with a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger ... unless they try and force me to join the goddamn FOOTBALL POOL again, I mean.) 

It isn't the moldy ventilation system, or the hideous coffee, or the absolute lack of anything resembling a computer support department. (I'm still waiting for that Windows 95 upgrade.)

It isn't even the fact that I've already climbed as far up The Totem Pole as is possible for me to climb, and now I'm working my way back down again.

No ... the thing about The Totem Pole Company that attempts to suck all of the *joy molecules* out of my life, for nine and a half hours each and every weekday,  is the fact that it is the most painfully, mind-numbingly, excruciatingly boring place to work in the entire history of boring workplaces.

I'm not kidding.

The TPC is the workplace equivalent of a hot cup of chamomile tea, a handful of Nytol and a Cowboy Junkies album. I've worked for a lot of boring companies during my twenty-plus years in the *admin business* -- carpet cleaning, alumininum sales, tuna labels, elevator music installation, sport knives -- but nothing, and I mean N-O-T-H-I-N-G, is more coma-inducing than sitting in a roomful of transportation engineers, listening to them discuss topographic field survey analysis options.

I'm feeling narcoleptic again, just writing about it.

It's not the company's fault, of course. It's a flaw in me. I think that unless you are vitally, fundamentally, 100% engaged in your industry/your service/your product  --  or at least willing to fake it convincingly  --  you are doomed to terminal workplace boredom.

And that, unfortunately, is the case with me and the engineering industry.

I knew nothing about engineering when I first started at the TPC, four-hundred and seventy-two years ago. I know even less about it now, if that's possible. My theory is this: I'm equipped with one of those brains that actually deflects certain types of information -- sports scores, blonde jokes, algebraic formulas, card tricks, engineering terms -- similar to the way UV rays are deflected by a thick greasy layer of Coppertone SPF 45. The information attempts to process itself -- Time to think about half-street cross section data points! -- but is instantly repelled by an airtight layer of *No Way Jose* molecules, lining the outer cortex of my parallel cerebellic flange indicators. (Information about waterproof mascara, Hostess snackfood products and/or anyone who has been nominated for an Academy Award in the past twenty-five years, on the other hand, is not only processed immediately, it becomes permanently lodged in my memory banks.)

It's not that I haven't tried. I've plowed through technical manuals and trade magazines. I've asked questions. I've almost stayed awake during industry presentations.

It's no use. It all reads like VCR instructions to me.

The irony here? The delicious, delirious irony? I know that I've probably got somebody's dream job. I'm sure that somewhere out there, right this very moment, is the woman who should be sitting in my chair ... typing on my noisy keyboard, drinking my cup of Smart & Final Restaurante Blend, ignoring my ringing phone. Someone who actually feels passionately about street flow capacity and load fatigue. Someone who can instantly spot the difference between Subsection 1.07.2 of Section 07510 of the Technical Specifications and Section 1.17.2 of Section 07510 of the Subtechnical Qualifications. Someone who cares about stuff like thrust blocks and desilting basins and gutter depression.

Someone who would come into the TPC every morning and shout "Yes! Yes! YES! I get to collate Right-of-Way Assessment Criteria today!!"

Furthermore ... I'm sure that somewhere out there, right this very moment, is a woman who is sitting at her desk, looking at her word processor and thinking "If I have to write one more article about Matt Lauer, I'm gonna lose my fudking mind."

The trick, of course, is to find each other -- and to swap employee badges/direct dial numbers/computer passwords -- before the balance of the universe is dangerously tilted in the direction of Karmic Career Inequity.

And before either one of us slips into that irreversible coma.

three years ago: i confess

throw a rock