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Workin’ for the Man

The past year has been a whirlwind for me, really, what with my dizzying leaps from Unemployed Person to Unpaid Working Person to Working Part-Time Person. But nothing prepared me for the seemingly small step to Working Full Time Person, With, Like, Benefits and Everything OMG. I took this step a few weeks ago and I’m still recovering (incidentally, this may serve to explain my recent Persephe-hiatus, HI GUYS!).

The hardest thing about shifting to full-time work, of course, is the schedule. Oh, the schedule. Despite the fact that we, as a workaholic society, have agreed that 9 to 5, Monday to Friday is an acceptable timetable, my new employer decided they could squeak an extra 30 minutes out of our daily lives. I work a bare minimum of 9 to 5:30, y’all! Livin’ the dream! (Don’t worry, I drown my sorrows every payday by smearing my paycheck all over my face and laugh-crying like a mad person in the Wells Fargo lobby.)

But almost as hard as clocking in and out like the office drone I’ve become is having to deal with an entire office full of”¦people. Part of the problem is the oft-discussed regression of interpersonal skills that comes with spending most of your time with a series of tubes separating you from the people you’re interacting with. But another part of the problem is that I have this battle-hardened way about me from having spent so long being un- or under-employed. Few of my coworkers share this quality. Most of them have been working there for at least a few years ““ some have been there for decades.

Some level of complacency is expected, not to mention perfectly understandable. You stay in one place long enough and you get pretty good at figuring out how to do everything as quickly and easily as possible. And with little payoff for churning your work out with greater speed, you just kind of settle into a routine where you get an average amount of work done with an average amount of effort. And perhaps, while the national economy crumbled around you, you were protected by a buoyant city, or a bulletproof industry, or a loyal employer. Who could really blame you for looking at the overeager new hire like she was some kind of Martian?

Because that’s how it feels sometimes. I go charging around the office, asking people where I can find things, or to give me some documents, and they look up at me from their desks like I woke them up from a nap. I’ll admit it hasn’t won me many friends so far, but I honestly can’t stop. It’s just still so invigorating to be so busy, so productive, and to get paid well for it. I’m perfectly aware that this will wear off someday soon, but for now I’m chewing the inside of my cheek to keep myself from screaming at them “Do you even know what it’s like out there?!” And then after the screaming I’d probably go drink more free office coffee, which has also not gotten old. (Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I have so much energy at work.)

So for now, I try to smile and be a little apologetic when I have to disrupt people from their hibernation. And it’s sometimes fun; I like to entertain myself by trying to guess exactly how long certain people have worked there by counting the single-panel comics on their wall or the number of tchotchkes on their desk.  One woman has a goddamn tree in her office that allegedly used to be an unassuming houseplant. This is a metaphor for something, I just know it.

While I’m grateful for this new job, I know it’s not my life’s work. But there may still be an office out there somewhere that’s waiting to welcome me into its warm, lethargic embrace. When it does, I’ll try to remember to be nice to the new girl.

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