Monday, March 3

The Indignity of Being a Cog in the Wheel of Commerce

I gotta vent.  I should let it go, but it’s driving me insane.  I’ve gotta express all of this frustration or risk it burning me up from the inside out.

This winter there had already been one weather event which I had adamantly insisted our offices (and any other place of business that was not absolutely crucial to human survival in the region) should have shut down.  It did not.  That particular time county governments closed.  Schools everywhere were closed.  Companies were closed.

This morning the roads were worse.  I won’t bore you with the weather stats, let’s just say that we’re well below freezing and we got there as rain turned to freezing rain turned to sleet turned to snow.  There’s little road crews can do to clear the roads at this point, and, as of 9:00am, the snow is still coming down hard and it only looks like the temps are going to get into the low twenties.

No lane definition (or much traffic) on southbound I-75

Here is my concern—and a coworker worriedly expressed the same sentiment to me after arriving this morning—if I get out on a day like today and end up in a wreck due to my own misjudgment or the misjudgment of others there is a huge risk.  I can’t afford to go out tonight and buy a new car.  I won’t be in tomorrow.  I might not be in the rest of the week.  If my financial ship is sunk I might never return to this sacred cubicle, and I might have to resort to cooking blue meth.

My employer will accept no liability in this matter.  Since the office didn’t close I had two options: 1) Go to work, or 2) Take a vacation day.  I had issues with this at my job in Colorado.  There was a particular incident where I was an hour late for work.  It took me nearly three hours to push my bike through foot deep snow in single digit temps with negative double digit windchills.  I still beat all of my coworkers in to the office.  And yet when I didn’t claim annual leave for the hour I was reprimanded for “falsifying records.”

Employees are expected to absorb the full impact of weather events.  I understand economics.  I understand that employers have additional impact beyond salaries. But this type of event is beyond anything that any of us can control.  And if employees go out in bad weather against their better judgment and end up with damages to their cars* or injuries to their persons I’m pretty sure not an employer out there would feel obligated to compensate them for their trouble.  But they expect prompt attendance.

There’s nothing…nothing…I do that can’t wait another day.  Not only is my workflow non-imperative, but it’s also comprised of elements that could be accomplished from just about anywhere.  It’s not geographically dependent.  I could, on occasion, work from home.  But we’ve been instructed that working from home is not an option.  In the event of bad weather we can: 1) Go to work, or 2) Take a vacation day even though our society has rabidly developed the technological capabilities that would allow a huge portion of the populace to stay home and forgo consuming fossil fuels, air conditioning, office space, etc, etc.  No, we must inhabit the cubicles.  We must feed the Moloch of Industrial Capitalism with our proximity and body heat.

This morning I arrived at work a little too keyed up to be productive.  I know, I’m probably pretty low on the productivity totem pole.  I have other issues.  But my near white-knuckled commute left me somewhat close to traumatized.  Productivity…toilet.

Alumni Drive and Man O War about 8:00am

My unproductivity was sealed when I had to spend five minutes after I got to work chipping ice away from my wipers so they’d be usable for the drive home.  I eventually had to open the hood of my car and go at the ice from below.

I walked in and the boss’s jaw dropped, as did the coworker he was chatting with. 

You made it in?”

“We didn’t think you’d brave the roads.”

I quelled my rage.  If I’m going to get fired its going to be at the end of some day so I can justify the gas.  And since I got to work I’ve considered going home before it gets worse, but I’ve already committed to a day’s fuel to get me here and back.  I might as well make the best of it.  Right?  Oh, I forgot, today is not going to be a productive day.

I really wanted to respond that I wouldn’t have come in, except I want to use my vacation days for vacation, not for snow days WHEN THE OFFICE SHOULD BE CLOSED ANYWAY!!!

But then…something happened that sent me over the edge into what amounts to a passive-aggressive red-rage.  After two hours everyone, including the boss, is standing around, sipping coffee, and commiserating on how bad the roads were, and how bad the weather is, and how they all wish they’d stayed home.

I’m so…glad we all braved the bad weather so we could congregate and TALK ABOUT THE BAD WEATHER!?&$/!?@!!!

In response to my frustrated texts Mandy said I should take a walk and cool off (easy enough to go around the block), but I said no, I was going to blog about it to vent.  But then coworkers kept coming up to me to TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER!!!

And since I have one of the furthest commutes in the organization I have apparently become the poster child for coming in to work for all future winterpocalypses.  Despite my passive-aggressive anarchistic disgruntled internal monotribe I am to be held up as a shining example to shame my coworkers into forgoing all good sense and flinging themselves into the next such weather catastrophe.    

In an oddly lucid train of thought I have realized exactly why our society will participate in such idiocy.  We’ve fully committed ourselves to  a fossil fuel economy and we’ve extended the range of our daily arrangement to that of the car.  Since we can ride to work in a warm dry chariot that runs on relatively cheap dinosaur juice we don’t realize how insanely over-extended we’ve allowed ourselves to become.

Few people think about the reality of being stranded in the middle of nowhere in a whiteout and 14°F.  You could die.  Few people really count the cost of having a wrecked car versus taking the day off.  Employers don’t think about the complete obliteration of efficiency by insisting that employees race on ahead to beat the other rats to the finish in a zero sum game.

I’m not afraid or driving in bad weather.  I’ve done it every time the weather’s been bad in my adult life.  It’s been expected of me.  And for a time I even braved treacherous weather (Colorado-style) on a bike with few exceptions.  But I don’t condone the widespread acceptance of this type of behavior.  It doesn’t make sense.  It goes against reason. 

*This is a whole separate issue that I may try to get into soon, but for now I just need to vent.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you 100%. There is nothing that the majority of us office workers do that can't wait a day. Even though I work for a utility (the water dept.) there is nothing I do that is critical to delivering the water tot he customers and therefore no reason I should risk injury on those days which are unfit for man or beast. Now this applies less so to me now, but when I lived in the Detroit area, there were many days when it was truly unwise to drive, yet we were required to inhabit our cubicles, regardless.

    I do hope you have a safe journey home this evening.