Thank you for your earlier letter, but I’m not Santa Claus. I hope you get the Sharpies and the new software that you asked for, but I wouldn’t hold out for the you-know-what; I sincerely doubt that Santa’s elves have much experience working in latex.
So how are you? I hope things are going well. Just think, we’re a few days away from the dawn of a new decade. A blank page to doodle upon.
There must be a word for the feeling of frustration that comes with having one’s brain “on” all the time. Nonstop dialog, nonstop chatter — except when one sits down to harvest the expected results. Then, the cookie jar is empty. There’s nothing there. And some doubtful voice in the back of one’s head is saying, “I told you, that was just a dumb little crumby idea, and not really worth putting down on paper. Now go fix me a turkey pot pie.” Never listen to that voice, Frank. You’re a fucking genius. We’re all just waiting for you to figure this out.
Everywhere I go in this town I witness tiny jewels of dialog, flashes of moments in time; I present to you the angry staccato pop of high heels marching across a tile floor; an echoing metronome to the self-important song of an older Barbie doll wearing absurd levels of gold and perfume (desperate subluminal message: “I’M STILL PRETTY! I’M ONLY 39! I’M STILL A VIABLE OPTION!”), except barbie says terse, hurried things like, “Well, we need to language that out.” Or, “The figures from last quarter don’t reflect that.” Or, “It’s an opportunity to build synergy with their team,” or my personal fave, “What’s your throughput on this?” This last line must be delivered with the appropriately-shaped head and hand motions.
Equally baffling is the exchange of emotionless pleasantries among my fellow robots: “Hi, how are you. Fine, thanks. How are you. Fine, thanks.” Sometimes I imagine crowds of office drones marching between meetings in this fashion; lab rats scurrying through the maze of Veal Fattening Pens, muttering and squeaking a slew of official phrases. Just remember Bob Dobalina.
The city of Disco Charlie is a majestic ego library filled with dust jackets of insecurity, where casual quips are met with an over abundance of false knee-slappery. It’s important to understand that no one will question your “value” to the project if you laugh a lot and pepper your conversation with statements like, “Well, I’m truly blessed.” But you have to pronounce it as “bless-ed.” This makes you sound extra holy. No one DARES to question the project value of anyone with pronounced religious beliefs. Not here. Not in this town. So long as your god is white.
Some days I feel like a post-modern anthropologist: “Mutual of Omaha’s Office Kingdom.” For some of these wind-ups, the Office is a confidence game, a high-powered extension of Fraternity Row, a further extension of High School which points all the way back to the primordial proving playground. These drones aren’t real. None of this is real. They’ve been encouraged to believe they’re real, they’ve been given authority, and shown how to tie a double-Windsor. “The evidence points to the facts.” They remind me of primitive man, clinging close to his fading fire when the winter sun disappears, puffing up his importance to keep the wolves at bay.
Furthermore, Disco Charlie etiquette dictates that you speak in acronyms, carry a clipboard and consult your watch often. Also, when you’re going to invade someone’s personal space, possibly interrupt their lunch, and definitely ask them to do something you were tasked with in order to take the credit, DON’T politely rap on the edge of the cubicle and wait to be invited in. Hell, no. That would be too considerate. Instead, say something clever like “knock-knock” as you’re STRIDING IN. First, stand there blinking as if you’re expecting something. Then, proceed to squint at their monitor to see what they’re working on before glancing around at their personal effects, touching, pawing and commenting as your little rat brain doth bade you. No one will question your burgeoning authority if you’re a reedy little mouth-breather who favors pastel-colored sweaters. Once you’ve confirmed the obvious and asked all the stupid question you can think of, make your welcomed exit and bid a much-anticipated adieu in two or three languages. But not the interesting ones. “Aloha, ciao, adios!” (“Wow,” says Leadership from the invisible boardroom inside your tiny mind. “Clearly this person is intelligent. We need to add more complex titles to their email signature!”)
I’ve noticed, also, that the more obscure and complex the title in your email signature, the more of a hurry you can appear to be in. Feel free to make jokes about your weekend drywall installation project, but make sure to clarify “it’s just your weekend residence.”
You must master the “Disco Charlie Hang Up”, a bizarre communications ritual in which party “A”, attempting to cast themselves in an air of perceived importance over party “B”, will interrupt the conversation by smiling dentist big and nodding in agreement as they walk away from party “B”. Party “A” may also make a series of mysterious noises like, “Mmm-kay, umm-hum, all right, take care” as they walk away from party “B”. This is done to clearly illustrate that party “A” is a “mover” and a “shaker” involved in far more “important” things, and that they were doing party “B”, the little person, a favor by even talking to them. Understand, party “A” doesn’t have a meeting to go to, not at that moment. It’s just that they just can’t afford to be seen talking to someone who doesn’t have a drywall installation project of their own. Other useful phrases with which to pepper ones conversations with include: “I drive a Mercedes,” “I have a double Masters from Yale,” “I’ve got a briefing with leadership at the White House next Tuesday,” and of course, “I’ve got a dry wall installation project.” All of them delivered casually.
Maybe I’M the idiot here. Maybe things would go smoother if I learned to play the game. Well, I can’t do that. I can’t even fake an orgasm, let alone fake The Game. (Your one-line reply to this entire missive will no doubt be: “Dude, you can’t fake an orgasm? Pft.”)
“The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster.” Sometimes I feel like shaking these people; grabbing them, directing their faces to the heavens and shouting, “VAST REACHES OF SPACE! MOLECULES! SPACE DONUTS! WE ARE LOST IN TIME!” I wish that was my super power; to show them the molecules in their hands, the secret workings of plants, the blackness of space, the lights of distant quasars, the birth and death of stars, and the rings of Saturn. Then I’d step back in a hurry to avoid getting their melting brains on my freshly polished boots.
Also Typed Zarathustra,