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Ode to an Office Job

17 Dec

Retro-Looking Office Waiting Room

Ah, the weightless fulfillment of full-time work! After four years of contracting and freelancing, a temporary yet full-time position with a local employer has been rapturously simple. When you spend so many months in self-employment land, a numbness to the pressure of the juggling act slowly seeps into your mind, dulling but not eliminating the swirling, colliding to-do lists and goals.

From the first day I set foot in the artificially lit, cubicle-laden office in November, I could feel the burden of self-employment being silently peeled off of me. How wonderful it can feel to have a solution to empty days—an agent of deeply relaxing, frivolous weekends. I had forgotten (had I ever really known?) about the freedom of a full-time job.

It is the freedom to feel that what you’re doing is enough, and that the time when you are not at work is truly your own to do with what you like. Although my current work is not forever, it bears with it the reminder that the demands of a job are not necessarily infinite—requirements do not always span across weekends and week nights and complicated client lists.

I’ve written a poem that attempts to capture the funny reality of office work—the wonderful security, the comfortableness, the predictability, the prosaic simplicity that is both wonderful and completely absurd.

The Good Water

Back and forth behind my cubicle door
strangers silently trudge over the grey carpeted floor
to a grouping of items that calls out homey comfort
with drippers and chillers and brewers at alert.
They come to heat and fill and rinse at the sink.
They like to say hello, but mostly they drink.
Because it’s well known through office chatting and fodder
that this spot in the corner’s got superlative water.

This clear-bodied stuff doesn’t cure boredom or depression.
It won’t make you tingle or laugh.
The good water doesn’t taste special or splendid.
It’s not bubbly or sparkly, not served by carafe.
It comes out of a machine that’s plugged into the wall.
Push a button or two and it fills your glass tall.
When examined up close, the difference is miraculously small.
It’s just a bit colder and warmer, that’s all.

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Moving to China? BIG MISTAKE

8 Aug

About a month ago a made a shocking announcement to the world: I’m moving to China. However, even more shocking than the news about my relocation were the outlandish warnings or “insights” that people felt obligated to share in response (because it’s just important that you know these things).

Sometimes, it almost seemed like people relished their ability to share terrifying stories with me–things were beginning to get a little sadistic. As much as I appreciate the willingness of people to share their tales of terror, I find it hard to believe some of their advice. I’m happy to acknowledge that things over there aren’t going to be up to code, so to speak. But it almost seemed like people were trying to persuade me to call the whole thing off.

In the end, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons on this one and turn some of this hilarious “advice” into a blog post. I hope you’ll get as solid a kick out of their warnings as I did.

Note: The stories and advice below were given by real, reasonable people (some of whom I LOVE DEARLY) over the past 3 months of 2012.

What Happens in China

“A friend of mine’s daughter went to the travel clinic before she went to China and her physician told her that she should pack a bottle of American whiskey to barter for antibiotics. And you know what? She did get sick and she actually traded the bottle for antibiotics!”

“Absolutely no one bikes in China. There’s no way–the streets are way too crowded. The only way to bike is to get up before the sun rises or else the streets are too full.”

“If you live in China, you will never see the sun and you will be stuck under a cloud of yellow smoke for your entire trip. This yellow smoke will give you cancer.”

“They own America–why would you want to go there?! Sheesh!”

“Oh my gosh, I have these friends, a couple just like yourselves, who went to China. You just have to meet them–they’ve got an amazing story.” What’s so amazing about their experience? “Well you see, the husband went on an adventure weekend with his guy friends, and he fell down this huge crack in the earth. It was the kind of crack that you could usually stop yourself from falling down, but he didn’t so he got trapped down there. AND the only way to get him out was to use a helicopter, but their insurance wouldn’t cover it, so he was stuck down there 3 DAYS! So he was eventually paralyzed and lost an eye. You’ve just got to talk to them!… so you better get good insurance.”

“Never work for a Chinese company–China will SCREW YOU. Once, we had to save a group of teachers from a Chinese school in the West.”

Also, when people say that “China is ancient meets modern”, what they really mean is “you have to squat on the floor to go about your business”/”Everything is half-assed”

Needless to say, I’m going anyway.

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