Working at home
I used to work for a corporation. I refer to it as The Dark Age.
Most of the time I'd stare out the window, praying for earthquakes, floods, meteors. In a building across the street sat another window gazer. Sometimes we'd catch eyes and stare at each other till the pain grew too rich and we both drew the shades.
I should have turned back on the first day of work, when my boss led me to a filing cabinet and said, "Welcome aboard, Jason. Your job is to figure out what the hell happened here."
But I kept the job on account of my loathing for interviews. Something happens to your sphincter when you're forced to reassess your market value.
Why did you leave your last job? What can you bring to our company? Who do you think you are?
My interviews were especially trying because they'd say things like, "I see you've been doodling Ziggy here on your application ..."
So I stared out the window knowing that someday, before the fluorescent lighting did me in, I would work at home. Not the "working at home" that managers do when they take the day off, but something full-time that brought me delight. Complaining perhaps.
Then one day I was summoned by Ann Gitch, whose last name conveniently rhymed with her true nature, and she asked why I had missed so many meetings. I had her imagine how much work we could get done if we weren't always sitting around talking about how much work we could get done, and she asked how I would like my final paycheck.
That day a dream was born.
People fantasize about working at home, free from The Man, but it's really uphill and snowing both ways. When you have computer issues, for instance, you don't call IT and go outside to play; you have to fix it ... yourself. A computer crash is when you finally throw the damn system out the window.
You have to buy your own benefits. In case that's not enough, you have to BUY YOUR OWN BENEFITS. It has become my number-one priority not to bleed for any reason for the rest of my life.
But the worst part about working at home is that people -- and by this I mean my wife -- think you're at home when you're really at work. The two can look alike. In my field, closing your eyes to consider which is funnier, "pee" or "urine," is a legitimate business need. When it looks like I'm nodding off altogether, I'm on the brink of genius.
Unfortunately, my wife doesn't see it that way. When she finds my eyes closed, she figures that it's time for me to take out the trash. If I protest, she uses those five words that will haunt me through the afterlife: "It'll only be a minute." Everything takes only a minute. That's why I have no minutes left.
Here is what this column would look like had I written it in real-time:
I used to work for a corporation --
Hang on. My wife needs me. It'll only be a minute.
Most of the time I'd stare out the window --
I don't know, Love. I'm writing.
I should have turned back on the first day --
They're clean! You washed 'em this morning...
I've stopped shushing my wife, finding that "yes" satisfies 89% of all questions. Of course, my wife isn't dumb. She waits for me to get extra-busy and then asks for jewelry and vacations. One day I agreed to immigrate her mother to the U.S. So it goes.
Another pitfall to working at home is that no matter which way you turn, you're always ten feet from the kitchen. If you listen closely, you can actually hear it calling: Jaaason... Cream FILLing, Jason... This presents a pickle for someone with an active lifestyle like keyboarding. Mmm. Pickles.
It's true that people who work at home can wake up whenever they want. Alarm clocks are meaningless. But then so are holidays, weekends, overtime, and did I mention BENEFITS? You work 60 hours a week to make 40 hours' pay, and your mom still asks you when you're going to get a job.
My hygiene has suffered as well. I haven't shaved in days, and I've got everlasting bedhead from the ear muffs I wear to block out my wife. I spend entire days working in swim trucks, not because I intend to swim but because the elastic obliges my ever-growing waist. I have also come to talk about myself in the third person ... while alone!
Getting the mail is the highlight of my day, mostly because the mailbox is outside. I read the junk mail right there on the sidewalk, half-expecting to find my own picture: Have you seen me? I'm the man who thought he wanted to work at home.
But the thing that really gets me is --
What, honey? I can't hear you. I'm wearing the ear muffs. NOW?
Sorry. I'll be right back. It'll only be a minute.