So Much for the Dream Job

In Escape Everything! I’m pretty sure I say something along the lines of “even if your job is to eat chocolates or to watch sexy films, forty hours a week for forty years of your life is a breathtaking commitment.” Excuse me while I misquote myself, but the gist is: “so much for the dream job.”

As soon as something becomes a job and has to be done under supervision or on someone else’s schedule or in an itchy uniform, it has the potential to become a bit of a bind.

Reader Tim draws our attention today to an article by Clio Chang that explores the “dream job” problem very well.

The concept of the dream job still persists, likely because so many of us are working in what the late David Graeber called “bullshit jobs,” or are simply not employed at all. Finding your dream job is a seductive idea: the do-gooder, Protestant version of the FIRE movement—rather than trying to escape work, why not try loving it instead?

I like that the FIRE movement is specifically excluded from the Protestant Work Ethic here! It is hard sometimes to convince people that all the bean counting and self-education is actually in service to sticking it to the man and living well!

The article points out that the whole idea of the dream job is open to abuse, and might even be why it prevails. American park rangers, for example, don’t get paid well and aren’t given the year-round private health insurance that Americans tend to get through their employers:

A common mantra among park rangers is, “You get paid in sunrises and sunsets.” The implication is that if you’re working your dream, you’ll take any conditions that come with it.

It looks like a trade-off, doesn’t it? Depressed office workers are compensated for the lack of stunning vistas with a decent paycheque while park rangers get the open skies but hopeless precarity. But this is where my angry Socialist side comes out: it’s a wholly artificial, manufactured trade-off. It doesn’t have to be like this and there’s enough resource in the world for everyone to have sensible hours (allowing for vistas) and sensible pay (allowing for safety). And as for nudging everyone into bullshit jobs, does anyone really think there aren’t enough genuinely useful tasks in the world to occupy us usefully? Just look out the window.

Chang’s article seems to be part of a series called Work Sucks. Cool. And if you’d like to read my lighthearted critique of non-dream jobs, The Good Life for Wage Slaves is ready and waiting.

An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 63. 2020 Review.

Ah God. 2020. What a year. All that handwashing.

Was this year worse than 2016? Well, yes, but I have a feeling that 2020 was when we began to reap what was sown in 2016. Ask me how. (Please don’t).

So here goes. The annual statement for my imaginary shareholders. For 2020. Urgh.


Read the rest of this entry »

Leonard Cohen on Career

The word ‘career’ has always had an unattractive and burdensome resonance in my heart. My idea mostly was to avoid participating in that activity called career, and I’ve been pretty much able to avoid it.

You know something? It’s been four years. I miss that guy. Thanks to Louise for sending the quote (which comes, I believe, from this book).

The Coupon Malfunction

The coupon code I’ve mentioned no fewer than three times at this blog hasn’t been working properly and I only just found out.

It seems to be working now and we’ve also extended the offer to December 25th.

So if you’d like £2 off The Good Life for Wage Slaves, here’s where to go. The coupon code is RAGEQUIT3.

Sorry to anyone who has been trying and failing to redeem the coupon this past week.

We are now back to being a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine. You’ll see!

Number of days without a disaster: 0.

Scarpering Monthly

I’ve been watching some ’90s comedy as part of my vow of idleness. During a particularly pungent episode of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, I sat bolt upright with alarm.

Vic and Bob describe a magazine called Scarpering Monthly and a competitor called Leg It News:

Scarpering Monthly is dedicated to those people who like to do a bunk, withdraw, or abandon any particular scene or incident.

[…] the part of Scarpering Monthly I particularly enjoyed is the inclusion of a pattern here, a suggested route plan, for if you’re escaping from someone perhaps firing a rifle at you.

Well, that’s essentially the gag at the core of New Escapologist, isn’t it?

I would have seen this sketch back in the day and it does faintly ring a bell, so I wonder if the idea became lodged in my brain like a splinter of the One True Cross after it exploded?

It’s possible. Their version was funnier though.

Not completely without comic merit is The Good Life for Wage Slaves. Two quid off this week with coupon code RAGEQUIT3.

Peering Over the Shoulders of Junior Staff

From Rachel Connolly in today’s Guardian:

One of the worst jobs I have ever had was made particularly bad by the micromanaging efforts of my manager’s boss. He seemed to spend all day skulking around, peering over the shoulders of junior staff to check that whatever we were doing looked like work. If he spotted someone doing something he considered untoward (usually reading the news or, on slow days, perhaps online shopping) he would come up behind them, point at the screen, wag his finger and say: “Not work!”

Sometimes it actually was work, but there was no point in arguing. It was a frustrating and corrosive environment, and not conducive to getting things done. His measure of productivity was clearly a blunt instrument and, instead of fostering a motivated workplace, he created an atmosphere of jittery paranoia and low-level resentment.

Amen to that. The writer goes on to reveal that, with most office work taking place online this year, there has been a surge of interest in technology to monitor the activity of remote workers, yet again leading to “jittery paranoia and low-level resentment.”

This is the Anarchist in me speaking but it’s also the psychologist and the economist: leave people alone!

Whatever happened to results-led practice? i.e. treating adults as adults?

In the event that a worker isn’t doing their job, regularly failing to deliver what they’re contractually obliged to deliver, then there’s a problem (and there are productive solutions to match it). But until that day, leave them alone and let them do their job at their own pace and according to their own methods.

It’s bad enough that they have to work at all, let alone be bullied and hassled around the clock, suspected of petty slackery when they’re probably just taking a brief pause, cleansing the palate before moving on to another task.

My old boss was an extreme example, but in any open-plan office it is normal to be watched almost constantly by your superiors. […] a common experience is trying to orientate the appearance of your productivity around what you think is being measured, rather than trying to do your work to the best standard; dragging out tasks to stay late so your boss will not think you are shirking your responsibilities by leaving early, for example.

There’s currently £2 off The Good Life for Wage Slaves at the publisher’s website. Delicious! Just use code RAGEQUIT3 at checkout.

The Art of the Rage Quit

I’ve been enjoying this thread on Twitter.

It’s a torrent of stories of workplace woe (from offices, kitchens, media outlets, grocery stores) and how the worker abruptly walked out one day, leaving a ball of fire in their wake.

There are some funny stories here but most of them just make your blood boil. It begins by marking the three-year anniversary of a positively scruptious “rage quit”:

3 years ago, I was late to work b/c a man set off a bomb in the subway. Most of my team hadn’t arrived when I got in, but my boss YELLED at me anyway. I let her finish, smiled, then told her I quit b/c I was starting a job at The New York Times. […] There is nothing unprofessional about making fun of managers who disrespect you or your work. Silence around abuse only allows it to propagate.*

That’s the way to do it!

Hundreds of other people have chimed in with their own rage quitting storiess. Here are some highlights:

I can top that one! 9/11 was on a Tuesday. My office was closed Wed, Thurs and Friday. We all came back Monday. On our next paycheck we were all docked pay for the missed days.*

Can you imagine? Docked for days not worked during 9/11!

I rage quit 3 years ago. I was laughed at in a meeting for asking for help & told that if I didn’t have things that were back filed put away I would be fired. Immediately walked to my desk, wrote a resignation, and told them I quit. Moved to a new city & started over the next week.*

My personal favourite:

A job colleague did a planned rage quit. She left a whole side of raw salmon in her locked desk drawer, crazy glued the lock, locked her office and crazy glued that lock. After a week they called the hazmat team. The office never really smelled ok after that.*

As much as I dislike going to work, I never had bosses as bad as those ones. There was the coffee shop manager, I suppose, who threatened to fire any team member who went home for Christmas (and thus be unavailable to work as usual on Christmas week) but I’d been planning to quit anyway so it didn’t exactly come to a rage quit. I enjoyed how this manager passive-aggressively failed to reply to my notice letter in any official or unofficial way though: I was just gone.

To counter the idea that bosses have to be awful (i.e. because being awful is a choice) here’s a nice one:

my best friend died a few years ago and my workplace gave me a week of bereavement leave. “But we weren’t related” I said. “You were friends for 22 years. Close enough. Go be with the family” said the boss. It’s possible not to be a jerk, bosses!!*

For an extended rant about workplace misery, you might also enjoy The Good Life for Wage Slaves. In fact, to celebrate this guy’s three-year rage-quitting anniversary, how about a £2 discount? Inspired! Use code RAGEQUIT3.

Our Friend, LD Beghtol: 1964-2020

Uncle LD twice wrote for New Escapologist and he sang at our final party. He was a force of nature.

His enthusiasm and spontaneity were something to behold. That he should fly all the way from New Jersey to Scotland to play at this event with our Reggie Chamberlain-King was entirely his idea. It was an important and beautiful, highly memorable, event. We’ll miss him and his ineffable presence. Thank you for the good times, LD.

Escapology Becomes a Vital Skill

As life on our beautiful rock grows louder, more disturbing, and more absurd, escapology becomes a vital skill.

So writes Jonathan Simons in a personable letter accompanying the latest Analog Sea Bulletin. It’s always good to see our parlance used in the wild.

The Bulletin is a willfully offline publication and you can send for a free copy by writing to Jonathan at one of his offices. I love the mischief of this.

The Bulletin is just 25 pages long but it’s beautifully presented and typeset, containing food for thought in the form of short writings by Virginia Woolf and Wim Wenders. It serves as a calling card for the main publication, Analog Sea Review, which is available by post or from an impressively large number of local stockists all over the world.

Bang Head Here

Reader Graeme writes by email:

I recently moved into a new office. It is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of having an office all to myself – thanks to Covid. The space was previously occupied by a revolving door of procurement and administrative staff. Many of their personal effects remain. The hard hat of a man fired three years ago still hangs on the wall. As I was staring off into space this morning at my desk I noted a faint message on the poorly maintained whiteboard. It read: “Bang Head Here.”

“Bang Head Here” is a classic of “defeated office worker” humour, isn’t it? It tells the story of executive know-nothings being impossible to satisfy and ever-expandable, constantly changing project briefs. Fuck it!

The specifics of the white board message aside, I love this sort of thing. “Left-behinds,” I call them, and there’s a sort of forlorn magic to them. I ache slightly when I see things like the sacked man’s hard hat: it’s a minor version of the eerie feeling one gets when looking at pictures of abandoned places. I can only imagine the magic of such items has intensified during the pandemic for people like Graeme who are currently working in deserted offices.

In every office I ever worked in, I became slightly preoccupied with staring at the tiny pieces of Christmas tinsel (or just blu-tack or push pins) in some corners of the ceiling. My name for this sub-genre of left-behind is “Ghosts of Christmas Past.” The story they tell is of the decorations being put up as a time-wasting exercise while the end-of-term spirit prevails and then being torn down quickly and unceremoniously upon the staff’s return to work.

Graeme’s message reminds me that white boards are actually a very good place to find left-behinds: the impressions of meetings of yesteryear. Meeting room white boards, in my experience, aren’t used very often so when the someone in a technical team draws a diagram of how a website or an arrangement of computer servers will work in theory, it’ll be there for us non-techies to wonder about for months while we try to survive our weekly team meetings or annual appraisals.

There were also the bits and pieces I wrote about in The Good Life for Wage Slaves (in a slice of memoir called “put the office in the bin” about a wonderful throwing-out session when we were forced to downsize our department). We found the left-behinds of a long-ago-retired colleague in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet. It was quite the archaeological adventure and it brought to mind the image of her fleeing on her last day. “Leave them, just go, go, go!” Here’s where to buy the book if the story appeals to you.

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