Pull And Be Damned September 13, 2010Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
For several years I worked in Desktop Support for another Counting House, this one in Fargo, N.D. This is the sort of job where you get to visit everyone’s cubicle and while handling their keyboard, mouse and telephone–collecting every virus and germ known to man–you often spend long times looking at what are called crawl bars, those small screens on which a bar slowly advances as some mundane, under the hood task completes.
During my time as a LAN Admin (basically a bit and circuit Mr. Fix It, a man with a convertible screwdriver and a penlight in my top pocket at all times) you can get a feel for a person you don’t know well if you spend some time examining what they’ve put on their desk or up on their wall while waiting for that crawl bar to reach the end of the line. (No, I will not come over to your house and help you get the virus off your computer. I’m terribly rusty at that sort of thing. Nothing personal).
One of my favorite bits of cube wall art was a copy of a bit of Counting House correspondence someone had posted up on their wall, sent to an address on Pull And Be Damned Road in somewhere in Washington State. While slaving away in the Corporate Cube there is something just perfect about that name. New Orleans has its share of Odd street names (I was born in a hospital on Perdido Street, and I can find it any time, even give directions to it but mostly by landmarks) we have nothing to match Pull And Be Damned.
Instead we have–along with the usual complements of trees, mythical figures and World War I generals who replaced Germanic sounding names–streets named Pleasure, Humanity and Desire. The reward at the end of the day for laboring on Pull And Be Damned Road is knowing I can walk out the door, turn left and in a block’s space step onto the former Calle Real and proceed until I reach Toulouse Street. A left will take me to Fahy’s (Vaguely) Irish Pub for a drink (it’s your basic townie watering hole but I can get Guinness and Smithwicks and it’s a congenial sort of local so perhaps “vaguely” is unfair, just because it isn’t some national chain marketing and art department’s idea of an Irish Pub.) I can’t think of a better idea at the moment than to be there but I’m not. Pull and Be Damned and no pints at lunch here in The Cube.
There is at my current employer a craze for Germaneurotic* homogeneity in The Cube. I am allowed two pictures, and must stick nothing on my wall with tape or push pins. My cube should look like any other cube except for a specified number of items that I could conceivably pack in my shoulder bag should they decide to abrupt relocate me. Yeah, right. The properties police have not been by to check on me since I threatened to climb up on my desk and rip the wires out of the ceiling speaker when the promised pink noise (a dull hiss like an untuned AM radio) in our new quarters turned into Soft Rock Classics. This was bad enough until the loop got stuck on the same three songs. I used to be a fan of the Moody Blues but go into twitchy convulsions now if I hear Nights in White Satin.
If this sounds insane, compare it with U.S. Bank, the place I worked in Fargo, N.D. (Everyone I need for a reference from there now works somewhere else, and I signed no non-disclosure agreement so if they don’t like this story that’s just too bad). Some bright wag decided to save money on office supplies and an edict came down that no one should have more than two pens or pencils on their desk at any time. Post-In notes were also banned. The reported explanation was “don’t they have paper and tape?”
This was a job at which, during our monthly large department briefings we had to keep our Policom on mute the entire time, and frequently wipe up the coffee we spit all over the table in convulsive laughter. Hint for folks in H.R.: this is a sign of excellent moral. It’s when people stop laughing at senior management that you have to start putting in the metal detectors and reminding people that firearms are not allowed on company property, including the parking lots.
That was one of my better jobs–two theatre majors and an English major running a project management team. And we were damned good at it, because if you major in Theater or English or Art History you get very good at reinventing yourself, or at keeping your orders straight: one or the other. We did not fit the Culture that looped endlessly on our screen savers very well, but we invented our own that made our jobs not just bearable but enjoyable.
All new assignees to a project who were not clearly bread in some corporate basement from carefully selected genetic material for Enthusiastic Compliance were required to adhere to certain rules. For example, you were required to watch the films Office Space, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and The Princess Bride. The first two make some sense. The latter was originally on the list only because the youngest member of our team (dance and theatre arts) was a cult fanatic about the movie and could recite the entire thing.
And it’s not a bad movie, really. Project Management (my current self-invention of a career path) is itself a quest fraught with peril, monstrosity and the bizarre. The Counting House iis thick with rodents of unusual size, executives of Humperdinkian scheming, fawning dishonesty, along with hordes of of mid-level devious and diminutive Sicilians, (or people who at least would have made call back for the role of Vizzini based not on an particular acting skill but a natural resemblance to the character.). If you manage projects in corporate America, the Cliffs of Insanity are never far out of sight.
And until the lottery comes through it’s Pull And Be Damned Road for me. It’s OK, as long as I’m still laughing about it, and can dream of the promise of a pint or a glass of whiskey at the end of the day somewhere along Toulouse, where I can dreamily reconnect with real life in a place where Pleasure intersects with both Piety and Desire.
* An I think self-explanatory neologism for which I can’t take personal credit.