For the first time in six years, and the second time in my entire life, I am a full-time, salary employee. This would obviously be a pretty big adjustment for someone who has spent a good part of adulthood culling a lifestyle that was flexible and varied, with a string of guest-star roles that made work-dread and routine less likely.
But now that I have willingly, and enthusiastically, joined the legion of folks who have health insurance and paid vacations (hooray!), I’ve been quickly reminded why The Office was, for a very long time, a popular show, and why Office Space is timelessly funny, despite Jennifer Aniston being in it: Office culture is some nonsensical, quirky shit.
My first day began like every subsequent day will mostly likely begin for as long as I’m gainfully employed here—by sitting down and turning on my computer. However, after that was finished, I was posed with my first new-job challenge: Now what? Since I was not yet given anything to do and my boss was in charge of giving me things to do and he was sitting behind me aware I had nothing to do, I needed to come up with a way I could look both productive without having anything to produce and gracious for being hired. So like all office workers before me, I stared intently at my computer.
I also clicked on stuff, like my email. I discovered 4,365 unread emails I didn’t realize were written to me when I was a freelancer at this institution. I clicked “select all” and “mark as read.” I checked my personal email. I wrote my boyfriend to tell him I was officially at my job doing office things. “That is all.” I added bookmarks to my bookmark bar and gave them codes names like “FB” and “Gaw.” Then added informative bookmarks like NPR and NYT in case management came over to make sure I was a middle-class, educated white person. I got out of my chair because it seemed like I had sat down for a reasonable amount of time. I went to the bathroom. I took the long way back. I rummaged around the Internet to find an aesthetically pleasing-yet-undorky screensaver, so I wouldn’t have to look at the evolution of blossoms or a swirly Dead Head light show every time I came back from an outta-this-chair experience. I received an email on how to set up my voicemail. I put off this singular task I had to complete until the gal sitting next to me left her desk, and then I recorded and re-recorded my outgoing message four times, only to sound like a muffled, nervous teenager. I hit up the office vending machine. I spilled Cheez-Its crumbs all over my smart-lady trousers. I received emails from coworkers sitting across from me saying “congrats.” I looked over at them to say “thank you,” but they didn’t feel the warmth of my face-to-face cue, and continued looking intently at their computers.
I could go on, but I do know one thing about corporate employment: If you want to keep it, you don’t blog about it.
(Above: New York office jobs always look cooler than the rest of the country’s office jobs. Even in the 80s, a Working Girl could ash on her desk and drink out of last night’s kegger cup.)