Sunday, December 02, 2018

I am an Office Worker and I am Human Too 

Typing Pool (MSA)
They are doomed or making a better life for their ungrateful brats who will grow up to sing about not working in an office.

As someone who spends a lot of time sitting, standing or in the proximity of desks in offices, I am personally offended by the narrative cliché of a protagonist who could imagine no worse fate than working in an office or at a desk. Songs sing the deathly fate of being chained a desk. Oh moan! Forsooth and gadzooks! A paying job that requires little more than sitting at a particular style of furniture should not cause you worry.

A recent fantasy film depicts young wizards summoning their greatest fears and of course our hero imagines working at a desk as his greatest fear. What? Popular music and films all at some point have an exasperated character whining that they wouldn't want to "waste their life behind a desk" or they'd just die if they had to become a "desk jockey". The British program and its American derivative, "The Office" both highlighted the slow requiem that is the mindless office job. Another comedic icon, Mike Judge, ruthlessly satirized American office employment with his classic, "Office Space" and now in his new series "Silicon Valley" has expanded his milieu to include office drones sitting behind dark screens typing endless lines of code. Yet I have to ask, what's so bad about being paid to sit and think?

You know who spent a lot of time at a desk and didn't waste their life? Einstein. Newton. Alice Munro, James Joyce, William Shakespeare and any other great writer you can think of, and not just scientists and authors but philosophers like John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes. Also artists like, Bill Watterson, the creator of the beloved comic series, "Calvin & Hobbes". Would you really say any of these people wasted their lives behind a desk?

The great sculptor Rodin demonstrated in his masterpiece "the Thinker" that sitting and thinking go hand in hand. Despite the health scare of "sitting", I can say I'm still alive and kicking (while sitting nonetheless), and I use a sit-stand desk, and yes I know, "standing" doesn't count as exercise. But do I complain about it ruining my life? No. Do you know why? Because this job pays for my home, it pays for food I eat, it paid for the grill on which I grilled the food that I eat, it pays for movies and shows, holidays abroad and memberships to galleries and museums. It provides a benefits plan that pays for my medical expenses and besides all that, it gives me something to do during the day.

Of course the old adage that “a desk job will kill” has actually found some (dubious) medical evidence that “sitting is the new smoking” which is codswallop. This the very definition of correlation vs causation (with a dash of deadline-driven journalism). There is definitely a correlation between someone who sits around a lot dying from heart disease but to attribute that to sitting would be like saying eating causes diabetes. Likewise don’t blame a chair for your decision to sit in it when the couch is equally to blame (as are any number of other evil upholstered perpetrators lurking in your home).

I say, don’t let the threat of an early death scare you from desk jockeying. Why just the other day, from my climate controlled office and ergonomically configured comfy chair, I spied two hearty gentlemen window cleaners ascending a 30-storey building in basically a basket, in minus temperatures no less and I thought to myself, “I’ll take the rather low possibility of desk related heart disease over a height related death fall any day, thank you.” That night I went home and kissed my university degree good night. I noticed my diploma and patent seemed jealous so I kissed them as well for good measure. Then I knocked my desk for luck and slept soundly.

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