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6 minutes reading time (1260 words)

Why we stick with jobs we hate: a humorous look at office work.


Stock image by kenjii2011 on

Nowadays, kids who can barely read, or reach the middle shelf in a refrigerator, are asking their parents for the latest $1,000 cell phone. When I was in 3rd grade, I would have killed to have one of those four-color ballpoint pens that were all the rage back in the ‘70’s. I well remember the annoyance of sitting down to compose a note to a secret friend, and wanting to write it in blue ink, or a few years later, needing the red and green colors to make correction comments on a set of engineering plans I was checking at work. And of course, the color I needed at that moment would be the one that had dried out. Same goes for color printer ink cartridges.

Has anyone else here ever pulled out a big hank of their own hair when it’s 15 minutes to quitting time, your boss has told you that the Acme Giant Catapult Upgrade Project proposal has to be printed and ready to take to the mail room before you leave for the day, and the verdamnt color printer has run out of red ink, so that the deficit/cost numbers on the budget spreadsheet pages didn’t print? On 50 copies of a 100 page proposal? And the office supply cabinet is out of the red cartridges.

Stock image from Concrete Playground

So your boss now wants you to drive across town to Office Depot to buy a red ink cartridge — in your personal vehicle, and using your own money, because the office manager has gone home for the day and thus can’t give you petty cash for this — and this is because the sky will fall, and civilization will collapse, and Giant Murder Hornets will descend like a Sharknado-sized plague of locusts if this proposal doesn’t get into the mail tonight. It’s now quitting time. You ask your boss if you can charge OT for this, and he gets evasive and says “er, we can’t charge OT on the Acme Project, but I’ll give you off-the-books CTO next month”. And you and he both know that, by next month, tonight’s excursion to Office Depot will be forgotten and you will eat this time.

Office Supply Store stock image from

You start to drive to the office supply store, then realize that you forgot your anti-COVID mask on your desk, and the store won’t let you in without it, so you scream something that half-melts the plastic on your car’s dashboard, and drive back to the office. Another 10 minutes gone. You get your mask, get back on the road, and make it to the office supply store without giving any law enforcement officers an excuse to ask you for your license and registration. You rush to the back of the store where the printing supplies are, and Hallelujah! They actually have the cartridge you need! It’s a Miracle!

“Miracle On The Hudson”. CBS News image of US Airways Flight 1549 — all passengers and crew uninjured.

So you finally get the red cartridges back to your office and finish the print job. Then, you pull all the million-and-one staples out of the printed proposals so that you can insert the re-printed pages, then you re-staple them, get them into envelopes, address those envelopes (by the Grace of God the MailMerge program printed the mailing address labels correctly), and finally, at 3 minutes before 6:00pm, just before the mail room’s closing time, you rush down to the basement…to find that the mail room closed at noon, 6 hours ago now. The mail room employees had an afternoon off-site training class to go to — ironically, this class was training on new printing and binding equipment — and after the class ended at 4:30pm, their manager decided there wasn’t enough time left in the day to make it worthwhile for them to go back to the office for the last 90 minutes of the work day. So he let the mail room crew go home early. You pull out what’s left of your hair, briefly consider throwing the proposals into the recycle bin in a final fit of “take this job and shove it” rage, and go back upstairs to report this latest roadblock-to-progress to your boss.

Corporate Mail Room stock image from

He now asks you to go to the one post office in town that’s open to midnight, and once again, pay for this expense out of your own pocket. You think in dismay of the hit on your wallet: fifty of these bulky jiffy envelopes at $4.78 postage each. He promises that the company will reimburse you next pay period. You submit the expense claims for both the ink cartridges and the postage, and several weeks later, when you still haven’t received the check — nearly $400 (those God-cursed red ink cartridges cost $75 each and your boss asked you to buy two of them) — you go to Accounting, there to discover that the Junior Assistant Accountant who handles office petty cash claims isn’t there. She left on a 6-month sabbatical to Outer Slobovia the morning of the day that you submitted your claim. When you dig down in her in-basket, there it is: your claim, still sitting at the bottom of a mountainous pile of similar claims. You ask another of the staff why your claim has been sitting unprocessed for seven weeks, and she says “Don’t harass me, I just work here! I don’t manage the staff or assign the work!”. But she does inform you that, in your company, each department has it’s own designated accounting technician, and when that person is out of the office, for whatever reason, no one else will be assigned to pick up that accountant’s work, because there are already not enough accounting staff to handle their own assignments.

“Accountants Work from Anywhere — except the client’s office!” — photo by The Globe and Mail

Finally you take the last course of action open to you: you collect your purse, your coat, the Tupperware that you brought your lunch in (overcooked lasagne without enough meat in the recipe to make it even remotely interesting), and you go home. It’s now nearly 8:30pm, three hours past your normal time to get home from work. You eat your dinner, a freezer-burned Chicken Pot Pie with a stale last-week’s bagel (with just a little margarine, spread too thinly, because, of course, you are out of cream cheese, and almost out of margarine, too). Next, you feed your cat — she eats better than you do most of the time — then you water your houseplants with your own tears. You collapse onto the living room sofa, turn on the TV, and briefly consider drinking yourself into terminal liver failure. But you don’t, because then you might die right there with some brainless Reality TV show or HSN infomercial on the TV, which would embarrass the heck out of you when the Coroner’s people come to take your body to it’s final place of disposal. And maybe your cat would eat some of you, and you wouldn’t want her to know what bad taste you have. So you go to bed. Because you know that working at all, even at this sucky job, beats living in a tent under a freeway overpass, and standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign, panhandling the drivers in passing cars for pocket change.

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