Work Is Over

A little over a year ago, my employers at my nearly-full time incredibly cushy freelance job informed me that they had no more money with which to pay me for my services. I panicked, and then decided to see if I could be my own boss while exploiting the fact that I was incredibly nerdy in high school by becoming a private tutor.

Nerdiness, it turns out, is a commodity that some are born with and others have to pay for. Kind of like breasts. Strippers are selling people without firm breasts access to their firm breasts, and I am selling people without a firm understanding of coordinate geometry access to my firm understanding of coordinate geometry. I guess the difference is that strippers don’t have to explain their breasts over and over and over in different ways until their clients finally understand them. Also, strippers can take drugs at their job, whereas I try to avoid that, because it scares kids when you open their biology textbooks and say, “Okay, sooooo, your blood is actually made up of different kinds of cells, it’s really, really cool, the red ones are shaped like little inner tubes, so the oxygen can ride around on them, and the white ones are the ones that EAT diseases, and the platelets keep you from bleeding to death! Cool, right? Blooooooood. Whoa. Hey, check out this picture. Isn’t it weird how that’s inside your body? Tiny little cameras, kid. Tiny. Little. Cameras.”

One more way that I am like a stripper is that going into this line of work made me instantly thinner and stronger. Not because I writhe my naked body around a pole under flashing lights, but rather because I do not work behind a desk and instead schlep my ass all over New York City on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons.

It was either Rebecca or Karl Marx who pointed out that all labor in a capitalist society is just a different kind of whoring.

But before I embarked on the magical journey that has taken me from the tip of Coney Island to the suburban reaches of Westchester, I had this job, and lost this job. And on the last of day what I sincerely hope was my last job (tutoring somehow seems like more of a gig, and writing is more like a compulsion/pipe dream), I wrote this confession, which has remained sealed–until now.

Well, it’s my last day of work here freelancing web content at the education nonprofit. Or, as most people called it, “that job you have at that place,” as many of my friends and relatives did not seem to understand the nature of this job. That is okay. I never fully understood the nature of this job.

And now it is my last day of sitting here mostly not working, sending and receiving email in a 5:1 ratio, studying the subway map I pinned to the wall in an ongoing effort to memorize the entire subway system, keeping myself occupied with the thrill making elaborate snacks in the office microwave and managing my meager finances via the internet.

As anyone with a 9-5 job knows, the internet is your best friend. The internet is your connection to the outside world. People ask this all the time, but really, I want to know, what did people do at work before the internet?

I know they didn’t work, so what did they do?

I’ve done a fair amount of internet shopping from this desk, I’ve bought underwear, swimwear, jewelry, a particular kind of bath gel I favor that can only be obtained in Provincetown, Cape Cod, steeply discounted disposable contact lenses, movie tickets, concert tickets, plane tickets, train tickets and bus tickets. I have researched many things, including: the reason for the rainy spring, the meaning of the word “postmodern,” the psychopharmacology of various narcotics, the history of now-defunct punk bands, COINTELPRO, the price of airline tickets to faraway places, the location of antiwar protests, and my own weird medical problems.

I developed a nasty habit of reading transcripts of sitcoms I enjoy, convincing myself I was “saving” time by reading them in about ten minutes instead of watching them for half an hour, and it was “okay” because an amused mind would be a more productive mind.

I’ve shown up here sleep-deprived and delirious, viciously hung over, depressed, euphoric and everything in between. I admit I have done little to hide these states of mind or keep them from affecting my work. I will say that they have totally affected my work. I would say the window to my optimal work condition, barring sleep deprivation, was very small and occurred for about half of one day of each week. Sleep deprivation, however, was a major factor in my function in this workplace. Drinking until 2 or 3 a.m. two or three nights a week was a major factor in my sleep deprivation.

I’ve fallen asleep in the anteroom to the Staff bathroom on the surprisingly comfortable vinyl nurses-office couch, but I have always deducted this time spent unconscious from my timesheet.

I’ve veered off the 100 steps that lead up the steep hill from the subway to this office and fallen asleep on the grass of the park for an hour, only to wake up, climb ten more steps and pass out again, eventually waking up surrounded by people I suspect were not merely “napping.”

I suppose I haven’t taken this job very seriously. I think that’s because I am incapable of taking any job seriously. I find it both sad and amusing that people care at all about what happens in offices, be they the offices of corporations, nonprofits or media outlets. The whole thing seems to me to be a ridiculous sham, the flurry of activity and meaningless exchange of inter-office email. No one wants to be there, but everyone needs the money and the health insurance. It seems unfair to sit in an office eight hours day just for the privilege of having your cavities filled. Doesn’t anyone realize practically nothing is ever getting done, and whatever is getting done is completely pointless? Does the world really need another workshop, another report, another book about puppies?

This perfectly nice job for this perfectly nice organization has led me to a major realization: I don’t want to have a job.

I mean, no one wants to have a job. I accept that we all have to work. Well, I accept that we all have to eat. What I mean is that I don’t want to have an office, a desk, a phone line, a voicemail, an email signature that says my company and fax number. I don’t want to have bosses or co-workers or underlings. And I don’t want health insurance or a retirement fund badly enough to acquiesce to any of those things. Also, call me crazy, but if you never start having a real job, you will never have to retire. Wanting to retire is like wanting to get released from prison–something that can neatly be avoided by never going there in the first place.

I hate it all. The files, the file cabinets, the emails, the keys to the bathroom, the elevators, the refrigerators with their odd collections of cross-cultural condiments, the birthday cards that get passed around and signed on which you have nothing to say and think silently, “Who the hell is this person?” the feeling even as you leave at 5:00 on Friday afternoon that no matter where you go you will end up back in this place. I hate the fact that 5:00 on Friday is such an exciting time, though it always ends in 9:00 Monday.

But still, I did my best, in my own peculiar way, and I think it was good enough. In any case, it was good enough that no one ever said, as the DMV official on my first road test did, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

I maintained color-coded to-do lists on legal pads. This is not to say I did everything on these lists, but these lists were maintained. I carefully filed things in manila folders, which I clearly labeled and alphabetized in my file drawer. I sighed heavily and furrowed my brow whenever anyone approached my desk.

I believed in the mission of this organization, and had no desires to destroy it in any way, which, for me, is saying a lot.

True, I did use the digital camera I was issued to take photographs for the promotional purposes of this organization to photograph my friends and myself in various states of inebriation and undress, but I did in fact also shoot, catalog and edit many photos for the promotional purposes of this organization. True, I did take many of these photographs while delirious from sleep deprivation. True, I did show up at the annual major events of this organization while delirious from sleep deprivation. True, while attending the annual major events of this organization I did sleep furtively under furniture I found stacked in corners of the restaurants/public landmarks where these events were occurring.

I think I was a fun and at times reassuring presence to my co-workers. I always shared my snacks, I tried not to leave anything in the office refrigerator for more than a few days, and I never ate anything but hot sauce without asking.

All this and I never even had health insurance.

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