A. CHANG – Sunnyvale – 2018

March 9th began with a meeting. People tend to like meeting on Fridays, I think, because it’s a good excuse to turn off a bit before the weekend. I’ve found work meetings to be a little like Japanese Noh drama, as described to me by somebody who was definitely not Japanese. Accurate or not, the basic idea he outlined was an interesting one: a drama where the same themes are played out in a seemingly infinite number of variations.

Perhaps you can relate:

There is a problem at your workplace.

  • Internecine political strife has prevented anything from being done about it.
  • Management calls in an outsider, either paid (consultants, quite possibly the bane of the new corporate world order; nevermind, I take it back, the rights to this questionable throne may belong to investment bankers or institutional investors; but then again, maybe it’s marketers or digital advertisers; is it depressing that there are so many candidates for this?) or non-paid (friends and family, which could possibly be worse than all of the aforementioned parties, when the pleasure of their company is mixed with the stresses of work).
  • A meeting of “stakeholders” are gathered to listen to said outside party’s supposedly expert opinion on everything you, the sufferer of the day-to-day operations of the firm, are doing wrong.
  • Nothing is decided upon. Many opinions are made and much time is wasted.

I’d like to assume that SMBs (small/medium sized businesses) aren’t as afflicted as large corporations by this type of ridiculous phenomenon; however, my recent work experience has dimmed my view of humanity enough for me to give this assumption the benefit of the doubt. So on this March 9, in the year of our Gregorian calendar 2018, my belief in humanity died a little bit more as 30+ highly paid professionals of the tech industry gathered to figure out how to simultaneously prevent people from doing stupid things that fuck up an internal system, yet allow them to do any sort of silly stupid thing they want to play with numbers for their own career benefit. I was rather quiet throughout this meeting, since there were more muckety-mucks than per usual.

My only chirp was when said outside consultants cried out, “You all should use [technology our firm is famous for], you are [firm name]!”

Me: Hold on, so are WE implementing that, or are YOU going to do it?

Consultant: You, of course. You’re [firm name]!”

Somehow it seemed offensive to me to pay so much money to somebody who knew nothing about anything to come in and tell us what we were bad at. Furthermore, to tell us we should do what we’re good at to solve the thing we’re bad at and to not offer a hand in the effort struck me as particularly indecent.

After the meeting, I walked with my manager and another one, whom I have always liked and respected, up to our area. It was a depressing walk, and we had a little discussion in the cube, details of which I shall spare to the reader. I would like to say I sat down and did some work, but that’s not true. This inane obsession with “collaboration” – culminating in the fad of “open offices” – made it impossible for me to, you know, actually work, as people came by to chatter and chirp. I continue to feel that the modern age seems predicated on the great fallacy that by giving folks what they want, they’ll be free to be productive and explore and all that other kind of crap. I tend to think it just gives people what they want: a mechanism to escape from the unpleasant realities of life and work (such as: it’s probably more productive to not be distracted by socialization; sometimes work is boring, rote and unpleasant).

And so on and so forth – another day passed, replete with the vicissitudes of our modern lives, supposedly better and more enriching and fulfilling than all those that came before them. Despite my grousing about things, it would be unfair for me to say that I am not complicit in the global human mechanism that yields so many of the depressing results I observe with increased frequency. I also can’t deny that, outside of the scene I’ve described with such disgruntlement, I rather enjoy my job a lot, which is more than most can say.

I think that what I saw on March 9th is what I have been seeing on all the March days and all the day days in my recent memory, and in my studies of history that I’d recently taken to: people trying to get by, trying to make a living while they waited for their girlfriends to fly in from New York City, so they could enjoy a weekend away from the very machine they had had a hand in creating. I don’t profess to understand why things are the way they are. They just are. So I may as well just be, too.

My girlfriend wanted In-N-Out. In the drive-thru, I turned on the interior lights in my car and read a book about the history of UNIX. The food smelled good. I marveled at the beauty of the UNIX operating system design, though I am admittedly biased, being a little worker bee in the sprawling tech industry that this invention, alongside many others, spawned.

And what can I say. In-N-Out makes a damned fine burger, so there’s always that.

After I picked her up at the airport, my girlfriend and I went home and slept next to each other, fully appreciating the fact that we could do so. All lives have their little pleasures and moments of unhappiness. And if you’re lucky, you have, also, the deep joy of falling asleep next to someone you care about, even if it’s only a few nights out of the month. This particular month was March. The specific day was Friday. It was the 9th, in the 2018th year of our Lord the Gregorian calendar. And as Vonnegut cryptically but beautifully once wrote: So it goes.