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the beautiful destruction

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Labor Daze Part 1

“Getting there is half the fun.” I don’t know who coined this phrase, and I’ve never, before now, much considered it. But it poorly translates when applied to the boredom-drenched, lackluster meanderings of workaday life.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Pictured: The dubious Dolly Parton, lackadaisical Lily Tomlin, and wiley Jane Fonda.

There are countless experiences that yield more tangible and exuberate results. For example: Motoring through the desert, en route to California, talking with your girlfriend while listening to an extensive catalog of music—that’s fun. Enjoying a picnic on the beach in Carmel, the rumble of the ocean inspiring a lazy, mid-afternoon nap—that’s fun too. Hiking through the Badlands in South Dakota, watching as rain sweeps in from the distance… yes, fun. Even driving through Los Angeles, picking your jaw back up and un-scrunching your horrified facial expression as you cruise past L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology—that’s even kind of fun, in a weird, cult-like, pre-apocalypse type way.

However, waking up late on a rainy Tuesday morning, pissing on the bathroom wall courtesy of a pee-rection, taking a cold shower because the hot water tank is on its way out, quickly dressing into nut-hugger dress pants, a blousy button down, and rash-inducing neck tie just to sit in 45 minute traffic for a ride that should normally take 10—that sucks. And of course the monotonous drone of the 8 to 10 hour workday that follows, spent daydreaming of freedom while you frantically toil away at your desk—that kind of crushes your spirits too.

But this is what grown-ups do. And I suppose I’m an adult now, however diligently I have resisted the transformation. And really, work is not something I’m afraid of. It’s what work does to one’s motivation and mental well-being that terrifies me.

In the opening of his book Working, Studs Terkel perfectly defines the nature of work and the worker’s dilemma with one sentence: “This is a book about violence.”

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Pictured: Studs Terkel

I’ve always considered myself to have a fairly high tolerance for pain, which is itself a rather common form of violence—or at least a bi-product. For example, after genetically inheriting the gift of bad teeth from my mother’s side of the family, I’ve managed to endure countless fillings and even a couple root canals (one of which was performed by a geriatric dentist who refused to refresh my Novocain after it had long run out; ouch). But nonetheless, I survived, only twitching a bit and sweating profusely as he tore out the few remaining nerves in my tooth. And however painful that may have been, and however formidable an enemy the root canal was, and still is, it is by far the least of my concerns.

Boredom, and more particularly workplace boredom, in all its ooey-gooey complexity, is my definitive nemesis. Sure, the symptoms are varied, affecting each individual in a different manner. For me, the affliction often manifests itself in much the same way: Mental and physical restlessness, claustrophobic feelings, frequent vending machine excursions, listless gaze, in-depth contemplation of my existence, compiling mental lists of people who have wronged me, fondly remembering my childhood—just about everything short of defecating in my hand and doodling with the excrement.

And this boredom doesn’t set in once I’ve run out of work—because I’m constantly buried beneath oodles of paperwork, menial tasks, and reports. This is boredom generated by process, routine, and pure lack of interest.

So is it fair to assume that the plight of the modern worker is to battle his or her overwhelming boredom? I’m not sure. Because, it would seem, not all people are bored by their jobs (please see: oil tycoons, the independently wealthy, German Barons, porn stars, Brian Dennehy, pirates, etc.). And for those not bored by menial work, I can only deduct the following answers: Lucky, robot, mentally retarded, or dead. (Nothing against the mentally retarded, I know tons of mentally... blah, blah, blah.)

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Pictured: The diabolical Brian Dennehy

Rather, defining the boredom is where I encounter a certain amount of difficulty. It’s about aspiring to do more with life; to travel, to engage in deep, meaningful conversations about politics and religion, life and death, or to simply breath fresh air and exhale without tasting the acidic residue of social collapse and cold interpersonal relationships.


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