Work, life

Yesterday, at the cafe, I watched a woman place a convoluted order for beverages and sandwiches, with a number of insufferable substitutions. When the cashier repeated her order, I ran through the list in my head and concluded that she hadn’t missed anything. Here is a job I’d be good at.

I seem to have ended up with a large database of vacancies, based on what I see when I walk around. The little pizza place that wants a Pizza Artist, the other restaurant that’s looking for line cooks and drivers, the shops that ask you to enquire within for all positions, the salon that will only hire a licensed hair stylist (I’m not eligible). I didn’t realise I was doing this, matching my skills to openings—I learn quickly and I remember things; I am very clean, in fact, when I wipe down surfaces, no streaks remain.

A long time ago, I volunteered at an organisation that took its green credentials very seriously. I didn’t think I was saving the world, I thought it looked good on my applications. So we explained recycling to tailgaters and spoke about life cycle of products. One day, we were responsible for waste segregation at a marathon finish line. We stood guard near the dustbins, swooping in when people tried to decide which bag deserved their empty plastic water bottle. I spotted a couple of familiar faces, flushed from exerting themselves all over the hills, high-fiving each other on completing the race. I hoped they wouldn’t see me.

Recently, I was somewhat alarmed and amused by the completion of a project I had once worked on. It was once an Excel sheet, and now it stands as a structure in the physical world. Is it functional? Does everyone know what kind of people have laid their hands on this? Those who couldn’t wait to leave, and those who weren’t happy with the money, those who continue to be exploited; managers and middlemen, arrogance and greed.

I am always curious about what people gain from their white collar employment, possibly in an attempt to ensure I’m not missing out on anything. When they say they want a life partner with an MBA, what do they mean? Does a business degree turn them on, would they settle for generational wealth instead? Why aren’t more people honest about their job being the means to various ends, why are they consumed by their artificial sense of purpose? What are they thinking of when they talk about ambition? Is it the drive to control eight hours in the lives of other human beings?

I’m afraid I do not have any such visions for myself, except perhaps a vague feeling of wanting to do something fulfilling, but even that is without much meaning. When I am presented with different opportunities, I am certain I will be another cog in the capitalist machine, eking out minutes for fleeting hobbies. But when I imagine this future, maybe it is one in which I can afford a life that allows my partner time and space for personal development, not because of an archaic law that disadvantages spouses, but because I finally can.

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