"We are committed to personal service" vs. "I would prefer not to"
October 20, 2006 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Surviving office work: 2006. Surviving office work: 1853. The more things change......
posted by lalochezia (16 comments total)
Wiki on Bartelby here, for those of you who would prefer not to read the story.
posted by lalochezia at 8:04 PM on October 20, 2006

Too late. I read some of the Bartelby, then gave up on it and went to the 06 link. And I heartily disagree with much of it, largely due to the differences between U.S. and U.K. office culture. (Ride a bike to work cuz there aren't enough parking spots???)

And upon reading the Wiki version, I still don't get the point of the whole post.
posted by Doohickie at 8:39 PM on October 20, 2006

The point of the whole post is obviously to make better-known the fact that Crispin Glover directed his rat-shouldered attention to this story in 2001. The tagline as I imagine it reads, "A clueless boss has no idea what to do with a mundane office worker with an unusual connection to rats who uses them at his own sociopathic will!"
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:54 PM on October 20, 2006

Uh, there weren't any rats in Bartleby, that was Willard... oh, WOW!!!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2006

Right, Alvy, but after Willard I made a habit of retroactively inserting rats into every Glover vehicle I had ever seen. Bartleby seems to benefit especially from this treatment.

I am so happy with Robert Zemeckis right now.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 9:23 PM on October 20, 2006

I thought some of the observations in the 2006 post were quite accurate. Having once worked for a large footwear corporation here in the Pacific NW, I once made the observation that any piece of paper, regardless of how important, left untouched for a period of time will eventually become recycleable

PRB and Alvy: Crispin Glover as Grendel The Scrivener? But does he bike to work?
posted by spacely_sprocket at 9:55 PM on October 20, 2006

Offices. Here's what I think of when I think of offices.

She was already dead by the time I ran into her foyer, through the front door that she never locked because she never had anything worth stealing.
She was right there, the first thing you saw: laying flat on her back in front of the full-length mirror that had always seemed an incongruously elegant touch to an otherwise ascetic house.

I remember mercifully little of what I saw -- the only thing that
stands out vividly in my memory are the tiny pools of
blood that had formed and were coagulating in her eye sockets, the dried blood frozen like rivers down her cheeks. Some sort of celestial joke, I'm sure, because in living her eyes had always been a stunning deep blue, like the ocean far away from the coast. A halo of red surrounded her head, splattering away to one side where the bullet had gone through her skull and taken with it bones and brains.

I suppose I wasn't very surprised that she'd done it. Word was her clock had been ticking for a while -- she'd called Chris at 3am one morning, begging him to kill her, and then Jason had gone over to her house to do some rails and
found bloodstains all over her bathtub. Later on that evening, when the sleeves of her shirt had started to soak through red, she'd asked Jason to leave. We all knew it was only a matter of time.

When I first met her, it was at a Greyhound bus depot in the middle of some rotten, know-nothing town I prefer to forget. We were both out having a smoke, bracing ourselves for a long ride, when we started up a conversation on how unfair it was that the buses were non-smoking; we were unanimous
that dying of cancer was hard enough work as it is, without meddlesome companies trying to make it even more difficult. It turned out we were heading to the same destination, via the same bus, and we killed the time we had to wait by engaging in the sort of vapid small talk that strangers engage in when they're just trying to pass some time.
I shared the flask of Jim Beam I'd brought on to liven up the bus ride, and when I staggered off at the other end I had her phone number, a headache and an erection to show for it. Katie was her name.

The next week we met up at my place. We fucked, but for some reason neither of us was really into it. It didn't take long for Katie to say her awkward goodbyes, and I thought for sure that was the end of it, that I'd never hear from or see her again. But she called again, and again, and again. We never tried to fuck again, we'd just shoot the shit, take some hits off the bong, whatever. My friends got to know
her, and they all felt there was something wrong with her. Not something you could put your finger on, just that vaguely uneasy sense that the person you're talking to does not have all the parts that make up a functioning mind. It was like her emotions were on autopilot, just making the motions without any genuine sentiment behind them. Looking into those eyes was to see into a portal that lead you somewhere lost and adrift, rising and sinking on tides you neither control or understand.

Bit by bit, she started to slip away from me. I heard she'd
started hanging out with some real rat-bastard motherfucker skinheads that had tormented the neighbourhood for years. A bunch of bald guys in their 20s, with swastikas for eyes and a genetic disposition for racial hatred. Their fathers had mostly been in the same group of skinheads when they themselves were cocksure 20-somethings, on and on for who knows how many generations. The only times I ever saw her, she was walking on stilts built up of drugs and cheap alcohol, staggering around so fucked up she didn't remember who I was. She got some ink done; soon she was sporting "white power" on her neck and a giant eagle spreading it's wings across her arm.

Chris and Jason were the only ones that stayed in contact with her, the only ones that ever tried to bring her back from the short and brutal life that path had to offer. I think part of the reason she drifted away from me is because I knew too much; she had confessed many things to me that I don't think she wanted me to know. It was part of this knowing that held me back from doing anything; and a part of me thought that perhaps it was best for things to end. Like an old man dying of cancer, I thought she might be more at peace if her time on Earth was brought to a close. At the time I didn't think of it in these terms, but reflection has made me aware of what it was that I truly felt.

And so, on a peaceful, snow-capped day, she calmly called me up and told me to call the police in 5 minutes and tell them where to find her body. I still don't know why she chose me to tell.

Moments later, the silent city streets were disturbed
by the muffled shot of a pistol in someone's mouth and the howling of dogs arrested from their slumbers. The quiet
splash of blood flying across linoleum, drywall and a filthy old
rug. The gentle whisper of a soul released from a prison of suffering, to float upwards for final judgement.

Now, I know God says it's a sin to commit suicide; that those who kill themselves will rot in the hottest pits of Hell. But I think if God is fair, and He thinks back to all the miserable things He did to Katie - the father who raped her when she was 6, the uncle who beat her up so bad she had to get her jaw wired shut for a month, the foster parents that left her with $20 to live on for two weeks while they went to visit their friends - He will feel the weight of sin from His own guilt, and maybe He will go just a little bit easier on her.

So, sorry Katie. I missed your funeral (drunk), and Chris and
Jason never spoke with me afterwards. A message on an internet message board is the best I can manage. It's not a lot, but I hope it's something.
posted by kfx at 10:08 PM on October 20, 2006 [27 favorites]

Beautiful comment, kfx — if you can keep writing those things, I don't think you'll have cause to drink for too much longer.
posted by blasdelf at 3:42 AM on October 21, 2006

If that was fiction, I say keep at it.

If it wasn't, my condolences. It's definitely something, though.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 9:00 AM on October 21, 2006

Unfortunately, it was also largely irrelevant, because I somehow managed to miss pasting in pretty much the most important part - which was that she once told me she'd rather die at her own hands than ever work in an office.
posted by kfx at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2006

I work in a US office, I bike to work, and I thought the Guardian piece was hysterically funny.
posted by nev at 9:50 AM on October 21, 2006

What is the formal definition of an "office" anyway?
posted by snoktruix at 3:54 PM on October 21, 2006

lalochezia: sorry for hijacking your post with a completely irrelevant comment. the version I meant to post had a bunch of stuff about offices in it, I swear!
posted by kfx at 3:54 PM on October 21, 2006

2006 comment only. No please, this is just satiric worthlessness. Oh, here's my list: work your ass off and you will succeed. Oh, that's boring. And, maybe more interesting...you don't survive work, you kill, slash, burn, and destroy. Oh my.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2006

Being surrounded by sociopaths, who's behaviour is far-too-often actually rewarded, is what makes work so unbearable.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:14 PM on October 21, 2006

Amen, Space Coyote. In my first decade or so out of school, I came to enjoy the teamwork aspect of project work, in my first career as a peon investment banking analyst, and then my second career as a software developer cum technical project manager. I got a kick out of working with people who strove to push each other to have integrity and meet their obligations, while putting aside their egos and differences to deliver this product or that.

As I've risen to higher levels within the chain of command over the years, I have seen more examples of just plain terrible human behavior. I have worked with people that have considerable political skills, yet deliver absolutely nothing. To my shock and dismay, these are invariably the people that survive the endless rounds of cost-cutting measures. True performers, for whatever reason, are the first ones to go.

I used to have such confidence and faith in the power and dynamism of American business, but from what I've seen is the its corrupt to its very core. Lazy backstabbers get promoted two levels past their competence, and people that work their butts off, to be accountable for end product, are nearly always the ones that get screwed.

Sorry for the embittered rant, but I much enjoyed reading kfx's comment than I did the Guardian link, which completely turned my stomach.
posted by psmealey at 9:01 AM on October 22, 2006

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