Company Man

Chaos in Print

Several columns back, I said that there’s only one thing worse than a narc. A narc who does it for minimum wage. What is it that can inspire such loyalty towards a company? What is it that gives someone such devotion to a faceless corporation that they will lie for it, kill for it, die for it, and even enforce its inane policies on us simple customers? What about a faceless corporation will make people go in day after day after day to work hours on end? Do they hope to make a difference? Do they hope that those highest up on the chain will notice them? Or is it just the product of an outdated work ethic? I find myself pondering these questions as of late, as I recently did something that I swore against.

It all started shortly after I arrived from training and showed up for my first day on the job. At the end of the first “welcome to the job” parties, my boss extended the invitation for me to come in on Monday and start writing lesson plans. I said I’d think about it. (I should point out here that my work week is Tuesday thru Saturday, thus making Sunday and Monday my weekend.) I will admit, the offer was tempting. Show up a day early, get a jump on things. But, ultimately, I decided against it. I spent most of that Monday wandering around Kumagaya and finding every convenience store within a 40 block radius of my hotel. I did find a very beautiful park, where I sat at a picnic table and hammered out my first column.

But little did I know of the repercussions. When I showed up bright and early Tuesday morning, my boss said, “Where were you yesterday? You didn’t come in like you said you would.” I just humbly said that I decided not to, and instead spent the day trying to get to know the city. This answer seemed acceptable, and life went on. But I couldn’t shake this feeling.

I couldn’t help but feel guilty. That night, I took some textbooks back to my hotel room with me, with the intent that I would spend my evening writing lesson plans. I didn’t write lesson plans, though, and the books sat in the corner. I instead started developing a taste for Japanese television. But I couldn’t help but feel this guilt. I was feeling guilty because it was my off-hours, and I wasn’t working. It was my free time, when I could do whatever I wanted to, and I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t voluntarily using it to work for the company. And that…just isn’t right.

The guilt continued to nag at me, though. How dare enjoy my time away from the company by wasting it on myself. Why was I watching TV and enjoying the cool night air when I could be hunched over a desk giving my all for king and corporation? I was feeling consumed with guilt. The guilt continued to build throughout the week as I brought books home, and they sat untouched in the corner every evening. I had all this wonderful free time, and it wasn’t being dedicated to the company. I knew how to rectify the situation.

Monday. My day off. I showed up at work shortly after it opened, and spent most of the afternoon hunched over a desk. Yes, you heard me right. I willingly worked on my day off. Back in the grocery store, I’d make fun of people who did that. Now, here I was, doing it myself. It’s not like I spent the whole day at work, only 4 hours. Just enough to alleviate the guilt.

I still don’t know why I did it. Maybe it’s because I was thinking that I am a teacher, now, and this is what teachers do. They spend ungodly amounts of their off hours writing lesson plans, marking assignments, writing tests, and all sorts of stuff like that. I had given my all for my company. I didn’t feel guilty any more, but I was upset that I had ruined a perfectly good day off by being indoors.

When I showed up for my first day of real work on Tuesday, I was feeling OK. I had done it, not for the company, but for the students. This is what being a teacher is all about. The week went on, and I taught to my heart’s content. There was no more guilt about not doing any work at home. I was starting to plan coming back in next Monday, when my boss said that we needed to have a meeting.

The boss was a little concerned. I kept introducing myself as the “new” teacher. She said that I should quit doing that. As long as I kept calling myself “new,” people would think that this was my first time teaching. They would think that I didn’t know what I was doing. As she pointed out to me, I am not a “new” teacher, I am a “professional” teacher. So, from that point on, I was no longer the “new” teacher. She left, and that’s when it came crashing down on me.

I was just deluding myself by saying with my grand designs of being a teacher. If this were Canada, and the public education system, that might be the case. But, the sad truth is, I’m an employee of a company. I’m not here to shape and mold the minds of the future. I’m here because of few working stiffs want to learn English in their free time. I am not a teacher, I’m a McTeacher, offering up fast food for thought. At the end of the day, they’re not students, they’re customers.

As I dwelt on this fact more, I was reminded of something that was mentioned in all of the training literature that the company sent me. In it, they said that most people hit rock bottom after three months, because that’s when the culture shock becomes the worst. But as I went back to my grocery store experience, it just sinks in with the cycle everyone goes through when they start a new job:

Month 1 – You’re full of pee and vinegar, desperate to prove yourself and eager to please your new bosses.
Month 2 – You settle into the job and your routine starts to become set. You actually enjoy your job.
Month 3 – The routine becomes the grind. The curtain is pulled away, and you see the company for what it is. You start to develop nothing but contempt for your employers.
Month 4 – Reality sets in. You need a job. You’re able to suppress the contempt and bitterness towards your employers just enough to keep going to work every morning. Who knows? You may even start to enjoy your job again, but never as much as in month 2.

Right now, it’s Monday. It’s exactly one week after the Monday I actually worked. I enjoyed my day off. I went for a walk. I mailed some letters home. I read. I wrote. I didn’t go to work, though. I didn’t feel like it. I still don’t know why some people feel such loyalty and devotion to a company. In the end, what does a company do for you? Not much. It just gives you money. Money which you use to live. Does that really deserve an unending loyalty? If you lose a job, there’s another company down the street that’ll snap you up. The fact is, it’s wrong to be loyal to a company, because it’s highly doubtful that they’ll return that loyalty. But still, there are those who hang on to their company. There are those where the company is all. And those people I pity, for they will never know what a beautiful day it is when they’re hunched over their desks.

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