The Pit of Despair

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.


Author: Rick

I'm a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.

One thought on “The Pit of Despair”

  1. Today I realized an interesting paradox that occurs in the Pit of Despair. I’ve found that increased efficiency negatively impacts productivity. This is because my productivity is based not on how much I accomplish but how much time it takes to accomplish my tasks within reasonable limits. If I work more efficiently by using checklists, tested procedures, and scripts, I can complete certain tasks in less time which means that I am “productively” employed for less time. So to meet my productivity metric, I either have to deliberately slow down my process or find new tasks to fill up the available time. If I have a sufficient number of meaningful tasks to accomplish then greater efficiency can allow me to fill up the available time without having to resort to creative enumeration.

    I dislike having to resort to “creative enumeration” because it tends to go against my principles and glorifies busyness. However, in order to keep management off my back and maintain some semblance of inner peace, sometimes I have to resort to the creative alternative.

    Today, I did manage to keep myself busy doing things that needed to be done. Days like that don’t come often enough and are almost never consecutive. At least tomorrow I have two and a half hours of guaranteed productivity even though I won’t be doing any work. I’m taking a vacation day on Friday so that will be eight hours of productivity with no work. It’s just part of the paradox.


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