Mustard drips from my ham-and-cheese wrap into my 3-week-old beard and then oozes onto my hoodie and jeans. I guess it’s official – I belong in this office.
Two months ago, a scuzzy guy with a foreign accent called me about a job. It sounded like he was in somebody’s bomb shelter underneath a subway tunnel. I half-assed the interview because I thought this was a scam. His cellphone popped in and out while he was saying important things like, “Your responsibilities would be $*&&*# and the pay is @#%)^ a week.”
Then they called me for a face-to-face interview. I came in and met Fred (not his real name, but his existence in the world doesn’t matter). I clad my beach body with a suit and tie while he barely covered his sugar belly with jeans and a T-shirt, which had a huge dark stain like he’d been chugging chocolate syrup out of the bottle, spilled some and then sucked out the spot while carrying on with his day.
Although he was surprisingly eloquent, I didn’t understand anything he said about the job description. They hired me, and I was desperate for work, but I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.
I’m a content developer, which basically means I write syllabi for experienced engineers who teach new engineers. Believe me, this description is a lot more interesting than it sounds. Most of what I do involves farting around with PowerPoint, rewording stuff and cutting and pasting.
There’s no dress code, so people wear shorts, sandals and yoga pants. However, sometimes I still wear a sweater, collared shirt or polo. Some of my coworkers look like people who’d prompt you to switch train cars because you’re afraid they’ll talk to you about the 1970s action figure collection they play with in their grandma’s coffin. Almost all are doing some sort of creative project, but nobody finishes because of the job.
While the bosses want us to eat at our desks to keep us “working,” they’re generally lax on time discipline. On company time, I write this column, research “Robocop 2” and take quizzes to see which Harry Potter character is my soul mate (it’s Ron).
Whenever I walk to the break room, bathroom or copy machine, I keep a tally of how many people are actually working instead of playing Candy Crush, Facebooking, Tindering or any other time-wasting activity. Usually, the workers barely beat the screwballs.
I’d say I spend about a third of my time at work actually working. For the paltry hourly wage -OH! I didn’t tell you! I get paid hourly. I’m a consultant, not a full-time employee. I’ll never get a raise, promotion or health benefits. Yippee! That wasn’t in the original onboarding meeting. The charlatans that hired me didn’t inform me about this. Gee whiz! That’s a new American scam for me. Thanks for that one. Therefore, they’re getting exactly what they pay for from me – a slight bit more than jack shit.
This job is a blessing and a curse. I can pay my bills, but this is one of the most soul-crushing jobs I’ve ever worked. Do I belong here, where I can whine, cry and tell the world I’m wasting my talents? Or should I jump back into the scary world and try to use my talents for something that matters?
I don’t know the right answer, but I do know I’ve got plenty of time to think about it.