Office of Deck Seating, RMS Titanic

We’ve all heard it said so many times our eardrums want to vomit:

“You gotta love what you do.”

For me, work is an ongoing exercise in fighting natural and innate human tendencies. For example, if you think your boss is screwing you in a myriad of ways, you might be tempted to embark on a route of passive resistance. Maybe something like steal from the boss? After all, he/she deserves it, right? I’ve felt the allure of this particular demon but so far I’ve found the urge to resist. It’s a little something to cling to: Even in this bleak landscape I can find at least one little thing to feel proud about. I am still me and they can’t change that.

Sometimes the boss can task you in other ways. A perennial crowd favorite is meaningless bullshit work. In one job I was part of a crew, a bunch of mostly good guys and we did a good job, even though there was friction between us and management. They treated us like shit but the job paid well. Viewing the employee as bad was part of the company culture.

There was one guy on the crew, though, who was a total nitwit. He didn’t fit with the group, was weird, and wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

We all know what happened next, right? Yep. He was promoted to our boss. Talk about a quintessential buzz kill. Morale? We don’t need no stinking morale.

The dude didn’t last long, thankfully even management can sometimes see the writing on the wall, but during his tenure he did some serious damage.

One day he came to us and said, “See that pile of widgets stacked over there? I want that pile moved over here.”

We were sometimes a feisty lot. “That makes no sense. What possible reason is there for doing that?”

“Shut up and get it done.”

So we formed a line and moved everything from Point A to Point B. It took a couple hours.

Later in the shift our former cohort turned boss reappeared. “I’m going to need those widgets back where they originally were.”

There was almost a mini-rebellion right there on the spot, but as always it boiled down to who could terminate who, and we pulled together and restored order to his universe.

Over the last few weeks I’ve taken to using the phrase, “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic would be a marked improvement over this.”

Think about it. At least by rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic you might theoretically be accomplishing some useful function.

  • The ridiculous activity would give scared passengers something to look at.
  • They can be wielded as blunt weapons by passengers trying to secure a seat on scarce lifeboats.
  • They might float.
  • When stacked properly they make a bitchin’ fort.
  • An unusual arrangement might confuse James Cameron 85 years hence.
  • With the addition of rubber bands and/or bubble gum wrappers McGruber could have saved the ship.

You might find yourself, like me, in a situation where rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic would make much more sense than the things your boss actually orders you to do.

At my job, the employees have a resigned air about them as they go through their pointless duties. Yes, it’s true we get paid equally to do exciting things or twiddle our thumbs, but eventually that shit catches up with you. Psychologists, I’m sure, could explain the basic human need to perform fulfilling work. To live a life full of actual meaning.

Somehow the career equivalent of working in a factory pumping out whoopee cushions, plastic fake vomit, and faux dog poop doesn’t fill that prescription.

I now describe my job as the BBQ operator/steak griller on the Titanic.

Let’s say I’m a master chef. I take pride in every steak that I grill. I pour my heart and soul into the final product because I want it to be delicious. I need it to be delicious. So I tackle the task with (figurative) relish. I do my best and produce an awesome steak.

Then my boss shows up and orders me to throw it overboard. “Now get to work on that next steak.”

I realized recently that this is a fitting metaphor for my work life.

How long could you keep this up and continue to do your best? Every single thing you produce ends up as, admittedly delicious, chum for the sharks.

Would you continue to make the best possible steak you could, no matter what? Or, human nature being what it is, would you eventually say “fuck it all to hell” and start going through the motions. Would you come to resent your boss? Would you eventually begin to have fun with the grilling process, out of sheer defense of your existence? Like pee on it once in a while? Use sugar instead of salt? What fucking difference would it make?

My wife says slacking off on that steak says more about me than my boss. I am a logical being. If my boss wants to pay me to twiddle my thumbs, I say, “Fine. You’re an idiot.”

But for god’s sake, please save the fucking steaks.

3 responses

  1. Aren’t you eating vegan now? With all this talk of steaks and grilling, I think the boss should watch out. It’s obvious you’re working your way up to Act Three of the Donner Party. ;-)

    1. Just vegetarian. But the other day I was eating a delicious saltado and someone said, “You know that’s vegan, don’t you?”

      It rocked my world. “You’re right! No cheese. No cheese.”

      I then burst out in one of my favorite vegetarian songs, “What A Friend We Have In Cheeses.”

      I may make the best steaks anywhere on the decks of the Titanic (my usual hangout was the poop deck) but the moral of the story is that a truly gifted boss can even make me not give a shit.

      “Steak overboard!!!”

      Donner? Have you seen my left column recently? Stay out of my freezer.

      1. And this is why I’m an atheist.

Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

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