August 28, 2001
The Anti-Vocation

countdown to jaymi & joel: two days
miles left to go: one

Frank is gone ... and I didn't even see him leave.

It dawned on me in the middle of the afternoon yesterday  --  as I sat at my desk, Scotch-taping 43,897,621 credit card receipts to individual sheets of 8-1/2" x 11" paper  --  that I haven't seen Frank in a few weeks.  Since before I left on my honeymoon, I think. Usually he is the person who processes expense reports, once I've finished Scotch-taping the receipts and airlifted the whole mess downstairs to the Accounting Department. (Whose brilliant idea WAS this, anyway? Scotch-taping bazillions of receipts to individual sheets of paper?? What the hell was wrong with the *old* system of stuffing the receipts into a manila envelope, attaching a scribbled Post-It note -- "Sorry this is such a jumble" -- and hiding it at the bottom of the Accounting Manager's *In* Box?!?)

Come to think of it, I realized, there haven't been any of Frank's cheerfully deranged messages in my voicemail box lately. No triple-urgent/quadruple-forwarded virus warnings in my e-mailbox. No interoffice envelopes with little smiley faces drawn on them.

"What happened to Frank?" I whispered to Bob The Engineer Guy.

He made a slashing motion across his neck. "History," he replied tersely ... and then he walked away without another word. What else was there to say, really?

By now, of course, this doesn't exactly qualify as news  ...  the capricious and distressingly regular way that people seem to fall off The Totem Pole, I mean. (It probably doesn't exactly "qualify" as INTERESTING JOURNAL READING, either, but sometimes you've got to work with the raw material life gives you.)  It's certainly not news around the office. By this point we all know what to do when someone suddenly *disappears* from the TPC. You cross their name off your office phone list. You remove the nameplate from their door. You quietly redistribute their mail to other departments. You steal their leftover office supplies.

And you never ever speak of them again.

The thing is ... and I know this as surely as I know that Jenny McCarthy is secretly plotting her sitcom comeback, even as we speak ... one of these days it's going to be *me.* One of these days it will be *me* they're discussing in hushed and conspiratorial tones (if I was pushed off the Totem Pole) ... or in hushed and reverential tones (if I jumped of my own accord). One of these days it will be *my* name they're crossing off their phone lists. One of these days it will be *my* empty office that they're battling over.

And one of these days I'm probably going to have to finally figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

Preferably BEFORE they sneak in and try to steal *my* stapler.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

I took a magazine quiz during my lunch hour today ... one of those vocational quizzes designed to help you figure out what it is you should be doing for a living. You're asked to take a sheet of paper and number it from 1 to 10. Then, without taking time to think about it, or to weigh your responses, or to write what you think you "should" be writing rather than whatever comes off the top of your head, you're supposed to jot down ten things you love about your current job ... even/especially the stuff that isn't even particularly job-related.

Somewhere in this list, supposedly, is your calling. The thing you were born to do. The career that will bring you joy and fulfillment and personal satisfaction.

Your *Dream Vocation,* as it were.

My list looked like this:

  • Drinking coffee.
  • Listening to the radio.
  • Looking out the window.
  • Typing really really fast.
  • Reading magazines (as long as it isn't "Hot Mix Asphalt Technology Monthly").
  • Surfing the Internet.
  • Closing my door.
  • Designing groovy new fax cover sheets.
  • Making tidy efficient bulleted lists of everything.
  • Taking quizzes during my lunch hour.

I don't know. Looking at my list, it looks like I should be designing neatly-bulleted Internet quizzes for a radio station. Or sitting around a waiting room all day, reading back-issues of People Magazine. Somehow I doubt that either is a particularly realistic -- or lucrative -- career option.

I'm thinking it might be even more productive to make a list of the stuff you DON'T love about your current job -- the stuff that makes you cranky and resentful and psychically exhausted every day, to the point where you want to hurl your Swingline Deluxe out your fourth-story window (before anyone can steal it) -- and then using those results to determine your *Anti-Vocation* ... the thing you absolutely positively should NOT be doing, even if they pay you almost what you're worth. Then you at least know what to avoid when you're perusing the classifieds/surfing the Monster Boards.

Here is my list:

  • Making coffee for other people.
  • Listening to ten-minute voicemail messages all about soil contamination remediation recommendations.
  • Changing fax toner cartridges.
  • E-mail porn ... especially when it's from my boss.
  • Gossip.
  • Chit-chat.
  • Mandatory Happy Doodle Fun Time (company picnics, company Christmas "parties," company duck-hunting teams).
  • Watching people I like get pushed off the Totem Pole.
  • Watching people I don't like jump off the Totem Pole (mainly because I know that *I* am going to inherit their shit-jobs ... if not their stapler).
  • Scotch-taping 453,897,621 credit card receipts to individual sheets of 8-1/2" x 11" paper.

See what I mean? This makes things so much clearer, doesn't it? All I have to do is find a job where I don't have to deal with pesky co-workers, smarmy supervisors, malfunctioning electronics OR office supplies.

(FotoMat ... here I come!)

one year ago: where does it hurt?
[i hate it when they go home]

throw a rock