Saturday, July 2, 2011

Role-playing (Part 3)

Ever work at a job that you didn't like, and have to attend pointless meetings that made you question your own existence? Well, I totally did, and it's the subject of the latest section of my multi-part series "Role-playing." Enjoy!



Matt Shafeek The Disaffected Employee
[Redacted] / New York, NY / February 20XX

We're called in for a department-wide meeting on the status of operations. Everyone settles into a large auditorium that seats at least 200 people. I arrive late, and quietly pick a seat in the very back row of the packed room. Nothing could possibly interest me less than being here right now. I'm an administrative assistant, my level of investment in the growth or development of any part of the organization matters about as much to me as the personal life of a tapeworm's host does to the tapeworm. This idea makes me chuckle and I scribble some notes down in my notepad:

A tapeworm being forced to have a conversation with his host about the state of his life. The host's girlfriend breaks up with him, he's depressed, and the tapeworm is forced to console him in order to keep him alive/eating. [Sketch image of tapeworm rolling his tapeworm eyes inside the host's body. Outside the host is sobbing.]

Knowing I have absolutely no role in this meeting, nor any information that will be required of me to remember, I decide to take advantage of my complete lack of purpose and status. I challenge myself to never pay attention to what’s going on during the meeting. I'm going for the high score in my game of Borderline Attention Deficit Disorder (or BADD). I play games like these whenever I can to pass the time quicker, and it usually works like gangbusters. Unfortunately, when you practice the art of unfocused behavior as much I do, the brain starts to default to this setting full time, leading to an unfortunate loss of productivity when I'm actually trying to write or be otherwise productive elsewhere. In a sense I'm actually taking my non-work home with me, which is extra depressing.

The host is sitting on his coach, talking about where he thought he'd be by this point in his life. The tapeworm initially tries not giving a shit and just suggesting delicious foods for him to eat, but the host is sullen and not in the mood to eat anything. He pops a few anti-depressants which the tapeworm HATES and forces the host to regurgitate.

As the meeting rolls along, I figure I might as well scan the room for any new attractive women in the company. Whenever I see one, I look for a wedding ring. If she's got one, I get bummed out over the fact that's she taken. If she doesn't, I get bummed out that she probably still wouldn't date a guy this far down the corporate ladder. I decide to salvage my ego and stop looking halfway through.

So the host loses his job, and is miserable and depressed, and now the tapeworm is forced to come out of its host's body, get a job, work 9-5 in order to give the host enough money to survive [sketch image of a tapeworm in a suit in a tie sitting in a cubicle. He definitely has a motivational poster of some kind].

Running out of ways to entertain myself alone, I decide to take a look at what's going on at the front of the room. Rather than listening to the speakers droll on about a new database program that the company is going to start using (shit, I just lost, now my score is reset to 0), I start paying attention to whenever people in the room start to laugh.

A passing comment about part of a project falling behind and getting blamed on a fake fall guy (who totally isn't to blame) gets a short, concentrated burst of laughter. An easy joke about a presentation being only twice as long as the previous speaker's ridiculously long presentation gets some hearty, prolonged laughter with at least one loud hand clap in the crowd. It's contextual, it's a moment of levity after a lengthy period of dry discussion, I totally get it. Still...yawn.

The tapeworm, once he gets home from work, doesn't have the energy to crawl back into his host's mouth, so he just falls back on the coach at the host's home and orders some pizza himself [sketch image of the tapeworm sitting on the coach with his belt unbuckled and his tie loose. If possible, have him watching an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond - no wait, he actually has good taste - Veronica Mars].

I realize I'm now judging business executives making six-figure salaries who are presenting plans for a multi-million dollar operation on the basis of how well they make the room laugh. Something I know I can do better than them, and something they clearly couldn't care less about it.

I start judging them even harder.

The final bit of laughter I hear includes a repeated, supposedly ironic joke about the "simplicity" of an enormously complex data chart. It only ever gets a few random chuckles. Don't quit your day job, fellas. Seriously don't, because I could not run this company on my own.

The host sits down next to him, taking up as much space on the couch as possible. When the pizza arrives, the tapeworm pays for it, sits back down, opens the box and the host looks over and asks the tapeworm: "you gonna eat all that?" SCENE. 

Soon afterward the meeting adjourns, and I quickly stuff my things in my bag and make my way out of the conference room and back to my desk.

I sit down, turn on my computer and look at my watch.

It's only 10:30am.

There's still six and a half more hours to go in the day.

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