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« The Orgasm Diaries...cont'd | Main | Smiles to Strangers »

June 23, 2008

Birthday Wishes & Quitting Time

It's a scene that some people may dread. They are within a work environment that makes the Exxon Valdez oil spill a health spa, and their birthday approaches. This event, as many are aware of, is the office birthday or the day where you cannot outrun your birthday because the office, or department, out of a show of faux friendliness decides to gather all birthdays to show that it cares. I

If you try to outrun your birthday by calling in sick, no worries, they'll make it up the next day; you walk in, faced with silly decorations around your cubicle, thinking 'oh no.' Should your birthday fall on a weekend, you can always look forward to Monday, having people who go through the motions to wish you a happy birthday, before they hand you a K-Mart gift voucher – depending on how much money they have gathered from the other staff on the floor. If people have a beef with you, they won't donate to your birthday or farewell party, as I found out last year when I was gathering monies for a co-worker that was leaving. The moment miffed me so much that I added money from my own funds (the person was also a friend of mine) to buy a decent present for if I left it up to the office drones, I too would have been faced with the glamorous choice of a twenty to thirty dollar shopping voucher/gift certificate, and nothing confirms a lack of imagination more than a gift certificate as a birthday/farewell gift.

I achieved one of my wishes this week. It had been on my mind for much of the past year – I didn't want to experience yet another fake office birthday at the office this year, and I haven't. The faux show of office goodwill last year was enough. My birthday fell on the Saturday in 2007, and I didn't kid myself. I knew that I'd see the silly metallic 'happy birthday' poster decorating my dull cubicle. I don't even know where I put the work birthday card I received last year. The Cancerian part of me hoards things, but my rising signs tend to blot out the memory and drain the significance of the hoard, but I do recall some of the silly things that were written in the card. For one, my manager forgot to sign the damned thing on time – a show of immense like, huh? So she decided to do it at the last minute, after the lame singsong and gathering, wishing me not only a happy birthday, but writing something to the effect of 'may you find Mr Right,' like it was my mission that year or lifelong mission – I'm no longer a teenager or the twentysomething cockeyed optimist I formerly was. I have to admit, I don't have much respect for people whose entire existence is based on finding Mr or Miss Right. Call me Miss Callous, but that's the way the cookie crumbles for me. Living life on a singular track blots out every other opportunity or experience. When life is measured against on single variable, life tends to become routine. Living life with a one-track mind isn't my idea of living a life.

I'm yet to use the Target/K-Mart whatever gift certificate I received last year. I think it has expired, but my diminished care factor says more about me. I don't hold false emotions in high regard. Having to force people to celebrate their birthday in a workplace is a sign of occupational desperation for some workplaces that want to be perceived as friendly, loving and affectionate. It's difficult to believe such things when the average day consists of managers that live to belittle others, or achieve their daily quota of putdowns to keep the team 'in line.'

So I am more ecstatic about spending my birthday away from the office this year. Today is Monday. I am at home, and there is no chance I'll be looking at the false smiles and wishes of a portion of the office crew, although I did personally entertain their facial expressions for 2008, after I formerly documented my office grievances, including an EEO issue. I'd think, 'will their faces crack beneath their false smiles and birthday wishes?' but I didn't want to be there to find out. I wanted to a transfer from the vortex of antipathy and nonchalance.

Tomorrow I return for 'the meeting' or the one that is supposed to be like a bargaining chip, that is supposed to put me in some sort of hellish predicament based on alleged 'sexually explicit' word documents found on my personal hard drive. Admittedly, I have rehearsed my sarcastic mirth numerous times, with nuggets such as, 'is that all you've got?' and 'it took you six months to come out with this stuff?' Tomorrow is my quitting time. I've made a list of all the things I will be bringing with me:

1.    Security ID
2.    Work photo ID

And it will be the last time I will be carrying the above items, and this is not due to the alleged word documents, which are most likely nothing 'big deal', but more due to the length of time it takes to have something heard and something done.

In the last six months I have lost work related knowledge, and have had a job placed in limbo. When I was told, last Friday, 'that the company does want to hear any complaint,' I laughed and responded with, 'yeah, so people making the complaint wait months for an answer – without any income.'

It's not so much about corporations wanting to make the workplace 'better', after all they want obedient people who will toe the official line, even if certain people step out of line and torment subordinates. The fancy elements or legislation: Equal Opportunity, Anti-Discrimination, etc, are all fancy add-ons. A mask, if you will, for the very moment you experience anything that requires a EEO investigation, it will mean something else upon your return as the person most likely to discriminate is the person who has been in a workplace for many years – to feel comfortable enough to say the most inappropriate thing. They are the person who has the set group of work mates, the outwardly 'nice' person, and when you upset the balance, by reporting them for something that oversteps the line, then their minions don't like it. It's only human for the group to push the perceived 'trouble-maker' out. Perhaps I am still naïve, but I didn't dream of encountering chauvinism at this point of my life, but I did, and I didn't take it lying down, and not taking it lying down has seen me on leave for the past six months, because I also didn't take the subtle hints to return to the origin of the shit lying down.

Now that I'm a year older, as of yesterday, I am not going to wait for impossible – a job transfer to another department, because Friday confirmed the fact that the company prefers to string things out. I am apparently required to attend another official 'evaluation' by the insurer's professional/shrink for that professional to decide if I can return to the exact locus of the cause. I'm now wondering if my response to that will confirm my inability to return to the same locus: "I will flatten the individuals who pissed me off – take no prisoners – should I return."

That may seem crazy, but I'm betting that the professional will discount it, and officially announce, 'yes she is able to return to the same place where her 'alleged' troubles' began.

On Friday, I laughed at the proposition of another evaluation.

"I wish I had his job," I began, "get paid thousands for a one hour consult that barely scratches the surface. He hardly asks anything."

"B-But we are not in the position to make conclusions," said the HR manager, surprised at my bare cheeked sarcasm.

Of course not, but as the company doesn't seek to transfer me, and is hell bent on promoting the department I worked in as a great environment, what other alternatives are there but to say that nothing is amiss? Such company insurers are like the health insurers in the United States, where a HMO is quoted to confirm that a particular course of treatment is 'unnecessary,' and eight months later, the person will die or suffer a relapse – because the insurer doesn't want to pay for a particular treatment. It's like saying, 'well you may have cancer, but we don't feel that it warrants treatment A, because –in my humble opinion – there is no definite proof about its efficacy.' The HMO makes a commission, and life is great –for them.

That is how insurance companies are, and the professional/shrink representing my company will do it again, except I don't plan to consent or be there. The stupidity of such an exercise is amusing to me. A company 'professional/shrink' is paid a few thousand dollars for a consult, when my original request was to be transferred. What is cheaper? And then these sorts of companies go on about cost cutting in the office, where everything –including water cooler cups – is downsized. I'm not kidding.

In my workplace, the water cooler cups were removed, the official excuse being 'the environment.' I don't know about them, but I do know that external visitors aren't going to use their hands to cup water as it flows from the water cooler. It costs way too much for plastic cups for the water cooler, but hey, a multi-million dollar bonus for a CEO is an expected treat – when staff don't receive a Christmas bonus or any other bonus, or have to come up with creative fund raising techniques to raise monies for their Christmas parties because the CEO doesn't really want to approve monies for certain departments' Christmas parties. I've worked in smaller companies that paid Christmas parties, but this staggering corporation I'm soon to abandon? Tight-arse central. Totally ab-fucking-surd:

You work thirty five to forty hours a week, uphold all the company requirements, endure the sarcastic and sadomasochistic tendencies of your managers day in and day out, together with a poor career development plan (because your managers can't be bothered), to be told that you have to donate to the Christmas Party fund for your own office Christmas Party. The said corporation earns tremendous profit (sure, they go on about having competitors, when they're close to being a monopoly)  and can afford to pay its imported CEO more than five million as a bonus (salary is another separate astronomical amount), as well as sponsor frivolous elitism – like sponsor a ballerina, and they can't spare funds for a Christmas party for a particular small department that does most of the grunt work.

So there were no more questions for me last Friday. The only reason I'm attending the last meeting relates to my personal curiosity: will I receive a formal warning for the alleged word documents – after six months of being away or in limbo? You bet they will. They follow procedure - no matter how illogical - in the same way a suicide bomber follows procedure: maximum output and arrogance, with no empathy.

Come tomorrow, and I'll fulfill the next wish – the big 'screw you, I'm out of here.' It's long overdue, and yes I really do curse my occasional flirtation with optimism when the scenario doesn't fit. My 'exit interview' will be in the form of a perfectly typed letter outlining the absurdities I have experienced, observed and endured, and I'll hand over my ID cards and tell them that they can sponsor a hundred children in third world countries with the money they are prepared to throw at a greedy asshole insurer's shrink to make themselves feel better and absolve themselves from responsibility.

By the end of this week, I'll remove the millstone that has been hanging around my neck for the past six months, and be better able to focus on things that I ought to be focusing on. No more corporate numb nuts.


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© Anastasia Mavromatis 2005 - 2008