[THE NAMES MENTIONED IN THIS POST ARE FAKE AS TO PRESERVE PEOPLE’S PRIVACY]
In commemoration of the great David Graeber, I thought I’d once again vomit all over the contemporary working culture. His book “Bullshit Jobs” is as enlightening to the inattentive as it is cathartic to the rest- I truly recommend it.
The phenomenon of bullshit jobs, I’ve learned, is extremely subjective. You’ll rarely extract the exact same definition from multiple people since it largely depends on their working experience(s). I noticed that asking this question to people who have rarely, if ever, worked always yields the same response; that each job is important since it wouldn’t have existed had it not been. From personal experience, the demographic that believes this is mostly old people yet Graeber also believed that CEOs share the same opinion.
I, on the other hand, can write a bible on the nuances of bullshit jobs. A recent experience was my job at the library, which I frequently refer to as not only bullshit but also “crispy horseshit with flies on top”, “pungent elephant shit that can be smelled from miles away” and the succinct “pigsty from hell”. This is mostly because that job was, in every sense, bullshit yet it also spilled into the definition of “toxic” thanks to my despotic boss and equally-malevolent coworkers. Completing my work in 45 minutes out of a 9 and a half hour day quickly drove the point home when it came to identifying bullshit jobs, despite my having zero experience in one and never reading about one in its advent.
What I will attempt to deconstruct in this post is people’s ability, or sometimes lack thereof, to not only survive bullshit jobs but to adore them and cradle them until retirement. I got to know many people with the latter mindset during my stint at the library. So inexplicably comfortable at their bullshit jobs that opting to move on to a more hands-on environment was considered nothing short of daft and myopic.
An interesting phenomenon, surely, but one which I believe is inextricably tied to a person’s ambitions in life. While I, aged 21, was ready to paint my wall with my own brain matter to avoid going to work, others in the same building (with equally-bullshit jobs) had been there since I was born and will remain there until retirement. There seemed to be a pretty blatant disconnect in reasoning between us- one which made me posit that I could be crazy to think that life could offer more than just the bullshit job I was stuck with.
As a brief digression, I’d like to elaborate on the jobs held by the people who seemed extremely content with them, despite them being absolute donkey shit levels of bullshit. Three were (and to my knowledge still are) lab assistants whose jobs are to “maintain the order of the laboratory” which is roughly the size of a house basement. Their jobs are demanding throughout exam periods, which only constitute for a few days each year. When there aren’t any exams, their ability to pass the time borders on the fictitious.
Brian (28) heads off to his favourite bar immediately after clocking in, only to return a mere hour or two prior to the end of his “working” day. When he doesn’t fulfill his penchant for drinking, he’ll go on “errands”- to everyone’s befuddlement. Some of us assumed that he’d either go home or go drinking, or both.
Rick (37) spends his days stopping by almost every room in the building to chat with the workers inside. His lunch breaks last for hours on end, almost reaching until the end of his “working” day. On occasion, he forgets about being at work altogether and quickly runs back to his work computer to clock out and head home.
Fred (34) is someone that warrants copious behavioural studies. Being the leader of a perpetually-absent working crew, he invents things that he feels need doing and sometimes assigns this make-work to the others who always brush him aside since, despite his leadership position, Fred is extremely awkward, socially-inept and ready to shoot up a school had he been a decade or two younger.
An honorable mention goes to our delivery guy Paul (31) who, after delivering the required books to and from a few locations, used to go home to play video games for many years before getting caught. After a quick reprimand, he was chucked behind a desk to be kept “under a microscope” by management. He spends his days scrolling on Facebook and taking hour-long coffee breaks.
I truly believed that I was working in a dimension separate from reality. A circus whose audience was the performers themselves.
Employees like those were abundant and I intend on sharing more of their tales in the future. Their capability of not only withstanding the hollowing nothingness that their horseshit jobs entailed but also thriving and managing to enjoy their lives in spite of it was like finding living organisms in the deepest parts of the solar system.
My conclusion is that they, unlike me, find tranquility in their insipid, if stable jobs. Their bleak government-job perpetuity grants them a peace of mind that escaped mine. Like them, I’m not career ambitious yet I like to believe that I’m life ambitious. Why the fuck this is the case is beyond me.
Their ages do not soar too high above mine and none of them have a family. Both would have been plausible reasons for one to anchor in a job like that but I guess it boils down to personal preference. Taking their jobs away would be akin to killing their mother. Conversely, I spent most of my time there looking for a way out. This dissonance induced inside of me a substantial level of psychosis. I felt that everyone around me was hypnotized, indoctrinated to believe that the summation of life was…this- constantly glancing at the clock and taking hour-long toilet breaks only to go home, squeeze the last remaining hours of your day and prepare to do the same thing the next day. I’ll concede that relinquishing your ambitions and aspirations is extremely easy when your life is dominated by a bullshit job that grants you basic feel-good perks (such as stability and low pressure) and, for some ostensibly ambitious reason, I decided that life can offer me much more than a comatose-inducing job like that, and I ultimately left.
Despite what I am told, experiences like these serve only as fun tales to recount whilst having coffee. They don’t embolden a person’s character nor serve as any substantial life lesson whatsoever. What this humiliation did to me was depress my hopes of ever finding a job that grants me any semblance of fulfillment, or to a more preoccupying extent, it postulated that a job that I find tolerable in the long term might not even exist.