Friday, March 4, 2005

I Wonder How Much Professional Neologists Make...

I had an epiphany this morning.

I'm waiting for security to usher me through the lobby at this job interview, imagining myself putting up with these goddamn rent-a-cops every day just so I can spend nine to five at a small cubicle in a large, windowless room, wasting away my life at some thankless task a monkey could do. That's when it hit me: why people work. I guess some people actually do love what they do and others genuinely need every last cent their sad job pays, but the upper-middle-class, white-collar folks that I'm interviewing with: they come into work day after day after miserable day for the opportunity to chill out with their homies from the office. Beats spending the time alone at home, soap operas your only companion. I can personally attest to that.

So I went to this interview in the morning, and I came away deciding that the job wasn't quite right for me. Then I realized that I should probably wait for them to offer me the job before I turn it down. I do that a lot — often enough that I think it's worthwhile to coin a new eponym. From now on, pre-emptively rejecting something is called benski-ing, after one Melissa Benski, who, in tenth grade, turned me down for a date even though I never actually asked her out on a date. Shit like that does wonders for one's self-esteem.

We also need a word for pre-emptively benski-ing (lowercase, following other eponymous words like "bowdlerize" and "chauvinism") something, a sort of Knuth notation for my self-sabotage, because I pretty much turned down the second job that I interviewed for before the interview even happened. I'm not sure what the hell I was thinking applying for a job back at Columbia. I told the interviewers that working for — I believe my actual words were "helping out at" — my alma mater would be "real fulfilling," which was an outright lie. Not only is it a two hour commute each way, but heading back there for an afternoon reminded me that I have nothing but contempt for the place. I hate the way Columbia has a four-and-a-half billion dollar endowment but they're too cheap to buy two-ply toilet paper for the dorms. I hate how Columbia rejects over fifteen-thousand applicants each year — some of whom probably cry when they get that thin envelope in the mail — but then they welcome in a bunch of boorish, drunken football players. I hate how Columbia's administration pays lawyers thousands upon thousands of dollars to prevent the grad students from organizing, and I hate how Columbia subordinates my needs as a student to their administrative bureaucracy's monstrous reach.

I fucking hate the phony collegiality.

So I can't say I feel totally unjustified in double benski-ing, or whatever you want to call it, that job. The woman interviewing me actually seemed like a pretty decent, personable human being, but then the discussion got kind of depressing: "Working here, we're like a family. We get here early, and sometimes we stay late. Remember the blackout last year? We were here the whole time, getting the systems up and running, even before the power came back on. The people here, they don't have any other family, so we become their family."

Wow. That's what I'm saying about the real reason people drag themselves out of bed in the morning and head to work. It's too bad, because I, sadly, don't meet people very well. I've never made anything close to a friend on the job, except for the girl at the theatre over whom I subsequently got fired. I'd rather not be taken in — not that believe I never worked with any wonderful people who I might have meshed with, just that I can distinguish between my real friends and family and colleagues who, if they won the lottery today, would have nothing to do with the rest of the company tomorrow.

The interviewer's speech gets better though, and by "better" I mean "more revealing." She continues, "But I work on the corporate model. If you're working here, I expect you here on time. If you say you'll do something, you better have it done by tomorrow. Because if you make a mistake, it brings the whole family down, and I won't hesitate to fire you. That's why this position is open; I just fired someone..."

As I said before, wow. That's how you treat your family? You disown the black sheep?

Do people actually listen to themselves as they talk, or do they just rattle off this mindless corporate blather? Back in September 2003, Dan Weiss, the big boss at Sparknotes, called the whole company in for a conference about how we were all a big family, and I sniffed out the fetid stink of bullshit right then and there. Five months later, Sparknotes was in a budget crunch after hiring too many full-time employees, and Dan and company dumped me on the sidewalk. I hope he treats his kids like that, too: "I don't have enough money to support my extravagant Manhattan lifestyle and you little brats, so good luck finding foster care."