I, Robot

Chaos in Print

I just got a job. I don’t know why, but employment always gives me a twinge of sadness. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’ll be easy work. I’m a produce clerk in a grocery store, meaning I’ll have to make sure the lettuce is nice and fresh and that there are enough peaches and bananas on the shelves. But still, I’m sad. I don’t think people take enough time these days to realize what having a job means. At least, to me, getting a job means losing your independence. No longer can you sleep as late as you want and do whatever you feel like that day. Now your day is given up in servitude to the man. Or, even worse, the company.

What went wrong? When I was a happy young kid, we were told wonderful tales of what life would be like in the year 2000. Most menial tasks would be performed by robots. We’d be down to the 3-day work week. We would have so much free time that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. We’d probably travel more, and thus make tourism a boom industry. But what’s the reality? We work more hours than we did 50 years ago and having a day off carries with it the stigmatism of being lazy or unproductive. Tourism has not become the boom industry, with every small town in the province having built some kind of tourist attraction that now sits as an eyesore. Damn it, it’s 2004, now. Where the hell is my robot?

Let’s see, here. In my life, I’ve had to drag my butt out of bed at ungodly hours to deliver papers, check gravel, teach English, bag groceries, and now, wash lettuce. I’ve never gotten out of bed at ungodly hours to do what I want to do. Well, that’s not true. I once got out of bed at an ungodly hour so I could go to Disneyland. One day out of a burgeoning career/life. That’s not a lot.

My friends always laugh. I seem to come to this realization about once every few months. The last time was back in March. We were having this class that just seemed way too similar to one of the many corporate workshops I was forced to attend at the hands of the company when I was in Japan. Naturally, the instructor was concerned as to why I was distraught and withdrawn for most of the class. As I tried to explain to my class back then, we can follow these teachings and try to be happy employees who enjoy their jobs all we want. The trick is, once we’re in the real world, will our definition of a happy employee who enjoys his/her job match the company’s definition? Face it, if our definition doesn’t match the company’s definition, we’ll be looking for another job. Sadly, few of my classmates heard my argument. Since my last job was in Japan, they were quick to shrug this off as a “cultural difference.” Trust me, the corporate mentality is the same all over the world. So, I grinned, followed through with this workshop, and tried to walk out of that room fitting the NR92 definition of a happy employee.

So many corporations these days want us all to be happy drones, all fighting for the good of queen and company. And you never dare show dissent. I wonder if it’s coincidence that this corporate workshop style class came shortly after I joking referred to DJs as “reader monkeys” within earshot of the program head. I’ll never forget what another instructor told me: “You have a personality, Mark, and that’s a good and bad thing. It’s good in that most radio stations want personalities instead of voices. It’s bad in that you have to find a radio station that wants your personality.”

Let’s face it, this world is dominated by faceless corporations who don’t give a damn about you. They just want you to show up, do your job, and go home. Yes, it is the year 2004. Yes, we do have robots doing most of the menial labour in life. But, the robots are you! The robot factories are our schools and corporations! You are not a unique and individual snowflake! You are another standardized part in the machine!

A friend of mine once tried to convince me that you screw over a company more by staying there for a really long time, becoming invaluable, and then quitting, instead of just up and quitting one day. That’s not the case. It’s all the same. One cog leaves, the company grabs another one. But there’s a certain strength to that.

The company doesn’t care whether you’re there or not. You can call in sick when it’s a nice day outside and you want to go river rafting. You can take a two week vacation and go to Halifax when the mood strikes you. Hell, you can just duck out for an afternoon of burning passion with your significant other. But as much as we’d like to keep river rafting to Halifax while having burning passion with our significant other, there’s still one thing that brings us back to the company: money.

We’ve got this stupid economy based on personal wealth. We need money to live. We need it to buy food, put a roof over our heads, and put clothes on our backs. And how do we get money? We prostitute ourselves to the major companies out there. The tree is rotten to its roots.

Now, I know this is starting to sound like a communist manifesto, but as we all know from history, communism doesn’t work. All I know is I’m sick of being a corporate whore because I need a new pair of socks. And, sadly, that’s the way it has to be right now, until I either come into a huge amount of money that sets me up for life, or we move away from our monetary-based economy to the Star Trek personal-fulfilment based economy. So, let’s see. The only way to get a huge amount of money is to work for it and, according to Star Trek, the personal fulfilment based economy won’t pop up until aliens land and smack some sense into us. So, until then, I’m on the street corner.

And this is why gainful employment makes me sad. Nine hours a day is now dedicated to making sure you get peaches and bananas. But at least I’ll have money for clean socks.

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