Five days a week I spend eight to nine hours in the Pit of Despair, named for Count Rugen’s place of torture in the film The Princess Bride. There I am metaphorically attached to a machine that sucks the life force out of me. The machine consists of management driven procedures and accountability. Management is Count Rugen and my direct report is the Albino. Often, after the end of a day or a week in the Pit, I feel, in the words of Miracle Max, “Almost dead.”
In the Pit, I spend my time filling little squares of time with packets of productivity. Sometimes, if there is meaningful work to be done, I fill the squares with that. However, most of the tine I fill them with empty packets of superficial busyness that passes for work. It rarely matters which I use to fill the squares as long as I can fill at least eighty percent of them in a week. If I can fill the squares with actual work, I will but if that is lacking, then the filler is used instead. It’s interesting to note that squares filled by approved time off are given full credit and are considered to be one hundred percent productive.
There was once a more joyful time in the same place when I didn’t have to enumerate my time in such precise detail. It was a time when it was understood that I provided a service and it only mattered that I was available to perform that service when called upon and to perform it well. In the beginning I enjoyed a certain level of independence and autonomy in how I provided my services. As time passed, management sought to have numbers on spreadsheets to show the executives and the clients just how “productive” their service providers were. Thus began the enumerations. My perceived value as an employee came to be represented by a number on a spreadsheet.
I am no longer a young man and I don’t recover from the stress as quickly as I once did. Miracle Max’s chocolate-covered pill takes longer to take effect and by the time it does, it’s time to get back on the rack. I really don’t mind the actual work, it’s the life-sucking machine and the loss of my independence and autonomy that I detest. I only wish to work a few more years at something that brings joy to my heart and raises me up, a job that provides for my needs but without undue stress. This is no longer that job. I need to be free from the machine.