Light at the End of the Cubicle Tunnel

Take this job and blog it.

“Are you alright?”

That was the question from my supervisor, as I felt his hand on my shoulder. Clearly, a concern for my welfare.

The day before, he had also caught me with my eyes closed. Oh, okay, sleeping. Microsleeping. The day before, there was a progress bar making its pokey way toward the finish line. One of these operations I don’t want to disturb, out of a decades-old fear of a crash, which I justify today by maintaining the fastest tasking, for people or computers, is unitasking. So my eyes close briefly.

But today, I was looking at a printout of something I’d just finished designing. I was sitting up, and my chin was resting on my chest. I had worked through my lunch to get this design through, and was having blood sugar issues, which I had much worse four years and 40 pounds ago. I would have startled myself awake in a few seconds, had my supervisor not come along.

“I’m fine,” I said. And explained that I should just go to lunch, that I’d be ready for action in the afternoon.
He recommended I just take the rest of the day off. Which was very odd. I assured him I’d be okay, but he insisted. I was not prone to argue with a free, consequence-free afternoon off. I certainly wouldn’t sleep at home, but I supposed, since he was the keeper of the sick-day tally, and might also justify a juggling of the weekly hours, that maybe I deserved a break today.

I remembered a time a few years ago when I came in with bronchitis, and passed out at the keyboard next to a bottle of cough medicine — which made for a funny photo I never completely lived down. He let me go home early that day, too. So maybe he was showing some humanity today, I told my wife that night. She disagreed, predicting they’d use it against me. I thought she was paranoid.

Thing about paranoia is, if they’re out to get you, then it ain’t paranoia.

Today, I was called in to the department head’s office.

I was told in no uncertain terms that in today’s economy and the state of the business, that we couldn’t afford people who sleep in the office. It hurts productivity.

Mind you, that I worked through my lunch hour, to meet a deadline. That I’ve done this maybe two or three times a week, usually about 3pm, since I started working there nine years ago, with no consequence.

The skunk had written me up. The charge: sleeping two days in a row. (Yeah, I know. What’s that sound like?) His promise was that the next time I’m sent home after sleeping at work, it’ll be without pay.

Excuse me?

This begs the question, was I sent home out of sympathy for a possible medical condition, or as punishment? If it was the latter, then why did he come off as the former? Should there be a next time, can he imagine I’d refuse to leave? Would he call men with guns to take me away because he wants me to leave, because of the accusation of sleeping?

I’ve always avoided facing the binary decision of either revealing online the name of my workplace and say nothing if I can’t say something nice, or keep them anonymous and lay into them in a way that might otherwise constitute libel. I’ve avoided doing either, since the “cubicle hell” sob story is a cliché I saw coming as soon as I understood what a blog was. I knew they’d be big on problems, light on solutions. Because after all, if you find your way out of the cubicle, there goes your theme, right?

Here’s the thing: I’ve been suffering from insomnia for several months, because at about 5am it would occur to me what a hell my life is when I must report to this little corporate drone day in and day out for a living. I can see the inspiration for every soul-sucking, parasite-implanting science fiction plot projected on the inside of my eyelids until the alarm clock goes off. And how many years I’ve sentenced myself to it, and how many years I have yet to serve. Before what, exactly? Before I get a career?

When the insomnia is light and not yet cumulative — say, Monday and Tuesday — the worst that happens is the 3-o’clock drowsies. Later in the week, and I get irritable, anti-social, confused, short of memory, depressed. One Friday morning I even had a panic attack.

Over this piece-of-shit job.

With a supervisor who is reduced to following me around and getting things on me, apparently with no disturbance in his conscience.

So I did it. I put a date on it. By Thanksgiving, I announced, I’ll be in another job.

Between you and me, at the rate I’m going, it might be a lot sooner. I have a two-week vacation coming. Another woman who escaped recently went on her vacation, and resigned when she returned. I don’t remember whether or not she announced her attentions before the vacation. I may already have screwed this up!

But no matter. I have a five-figure checking account balance, a wife who, in spite of a debilitating disease, works just the same, for the extra income, and soon for the medical plan. I’d like to retire her someday, and when we get out of debt, I will. I got me the skills, and while I’m light on portfolio structure or strategy, I’ve got enough work that I’m proud of, which has gotten tougher and tougher as the years go, because what’s the sense of pleasing these people, anyway, when the reward is just more of the same level of work, no more of my brain called into play…?

I breathe.

When I got home tonight, my wife noticed it immediately. I was goofy, and kidded with her. This weekend, we’re going to experiment with something else that’s been difficult with insomnia. I’ll do that. And I’ll run, and mow the lawn, and do push-ups. And my online portfolio.

And sleep like a baby.

When the time is right, I’ll talk to my supervisor, who used to be a designer too before he became…this. I’ll remind him that the place he must call to find my replacement could just as easily be his exit strategy, too. He’s eight years younger than me, and has more of a career in front of him. In fact, he’s almost as old as I was when I started under him. I’ll tell him it’s not too late. That we work for the Titanic, and he’s the boiler room supervisor. Nobody deserves this. He should join me, out in the real world.

I wonder what he’ll say. How hard he’ll fight the symbiant at the base of his spine.


2 responses to “Light at the End of the Cubicle Tunnel

  1. Good for you! Both me and mine have been through that vicious cycle before. The job you dread, not being able to sleep because you know you have to go back there in the morning, dreading Sunday nights..

    We also know that totally liberating feeling when you say ‘fuck this. I deserve better’.

    Sleep well and enjoy that wonderful feeling.

  2. Oh my am I with you. It was once said to me people don’t leave jobs they leave people. So once my mini dictator started tapping phones and then accusing me of not immediately following up on a contact I made the same decision.

    The day they announced cutbacks and the need for everyone to re-interview, I took great pleasure in standing up in front of his senior managers and saying; “no thank you, I don’t see the need to re-interview for a role I created nor in a department where you have known me for the last five years”. The shock on their part was tantamount.

    Since I left their budget has shrunk from 285M to around 15M, so perhaps this rat had the right idea.

    Funnily I have found that my previous manager hardly ever follows up in a timely manner.

    Good luck, I’m also in PV

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