He Just Couldn’t Handle The Truth

Work has always been a bit of a tedious task for me, having spent halve of my adult life traveling and doing exactly what I wanted, swimming or surfing all day if I felt like it, reading in hammocks, trekking through jungles, climbing mountains or volcanoes or just sitting around chatting with friends and partying all night, I have countless things I like to do, and none of them involve work. However I was not born wealthy, nor am I wealthy now, eventually my money always runs out and I need to get back to work again, to save for my next long vacation.

I was a car salesman for three years once, after my many years in retail, and the knowledge that the bigger the product the bigger the commission, I decided to try my hand at the top of the retail game, I sold some entry level cars, but also things like Lexus, Mercedes, BMW Audis, Infinity, Cadillacs and most of the other top brand names. The money was good, but there was a lot of competition, stealing, conspiring and injustice involved in the job,  many people were always trying to take a share of your commissions for themselves. Bullying on car lots is common, and there are an abnormal amount of fist fights.

One night after being particularly sick of my job, I watched an episode of the Simpson’s where Homer having finally paid off the mortgage, decided to get his dream job at the local bowling alley.  Since I had almost paid off my mortgage at this point, and was so tired of swimming around the shark tank I called work. I decided to take Homers lead and got a job working as IT support on contract for big business. Though the pay was about a quarter of what I was used to, there was virtually no competition, lying, greed, or backstabbing going on. It was almost shocking to step so far out of the sleaze I was used to, and helped refresh my faltering faith in humanity.

Office Space Poster

I Worked In A Place They Made A Comedy About

The job was a very interesting one to me, the building I was working in employed about 3000 people, but the company employed many more doing the exact same thing we were doing, in many other places around the globe. In order to manage so many people, we were all given numbers, mine was 512650, we had to identify ourselves by this number on all documents we created, as well as all phone calls and other interactions in the office, we very much became a number and not a person, this was Dilbert meets the Borg. I am not allowed to give exact details on the company due to papers I signed when I started work there, but the movie Office Space was actually filmed in one of its locations, and was based on the work there.

What I liked most about the job besides the many decent people I worked with, was that only halve of the time did we actually need to be working, after each phone call there was a break before the next one, and most long termers had figured out how to stretch that break as long as possible, most of my time was actually spent surfing the Internet, and chatting with the people around me, it was very social and very fun. Though the job paid very little, I was happy.

The company had a very high turn over, and there were always new recruits coming in, this story is about my interactions with one new recruit named Devin who was sat in the cubicle directly in front of me. Devin was fresh out of high school, he was a local to the town, and I don’t think had yet worked a day in his life. He sat down, put his headset on, and began taking calls.

The beginning of the job is very difficult, often our clients were groups such as Pixar, General Motors, NASA, or some other huge corporation, and sometimes the people you are talking to are not some clerk at their help desk, but some big wig himself, who’s very nature is commanding. I had gotten used to these types of clients already, I had sold people like this their luxury cars, and had learned to just speak frankly to them, not to argue, and keep control by answering all their demands as slowly as I liked.  When working on the phone, really rude customers could just be given a  little “time out”,  as we put them on hold and goof off for a few minutes until we felt like talking to them again, saying we were doing “research”

Anyhow here is Devin, this recent high school graduate, thrown into the harsh reality of work, trying to help people solve all sorts of complicated computer problems he never knew existed, and talking to loud mouth commanding big wigs from all over the world.

Devin did not adjust well to the job, he was often frustrated, slamming his headphone down on the desk and shouting at it, taking long walks to the washroom, missing some days of work, and then after a while coming to work stoned on weed, eventually he added drinking booze at lunch time in his car. I had always tried to be a bit of a mentor to him telling him why I was in the job, how it was really not that bad, and should count himself lucky that the customers are only on the phone, where you can put them on hold and not in his face.

Devin was sure I didn’t really understand, he told me strait out, “You just don’t get it.”

I was between calls, so I said, “Yeah man I get it. I have just learned to live as a corporate slave is all. I mean here we are, our government has spent fifteen years educating us, and this is what we have become, we are forced to sit in our cubicles eight hours a day, answering telephones on a flashing light and a bing, kind of like how they teach chickens to play the piano. The people on the phone get pissed off at us because they are too stupid to learn how to use their computers themselves, and cant follow our simple directions, and we are forced to take their crap because we have four layers of bosses and quality control watching our every move, with cameras on the ceiling, and listeners on our phone calls. It is a bit like a jail, we even have our numbers on our chest ” (I pointed to the ID tag we were forced to wear) ” But its worse than that, not only are we stuck in our cubicle, but we are tethered to our phone by these stupid headsets , kind of like a dog on the leash, they pay us crap, and give us hell.”

He said “Yeah that’s it !”

I was having fun by now, and had worked myself up a bit, I still loved my job, but was enjoying my rant against the corporate world, I could also see he was worked up and wide eyed about my speech, and I just couldn’t stop myself from winding him up further.

“I mean we are not really criminals or animals are we? We’re better than this? Right? This isn’t what our nation trained us to do is it? We are supposed to invent rocket ships and fly to mars, not sit here like a bunch of stupid poorly treated animals right? This place reminds me of a bunch of chickens on a farm all sitting in their little boxes and forced to lay eggs.”

He reacted in a way I did not expect, maybe it was the double chicken analogy that put him over the top, I am not sure. I thought he would just join my rant for a bit and get back to work, but something kind of snapped in him.

He said, halve to himself “No I’m not an animal, I’m better than this.” then he slammed his headphones on the desk and shouted to the other thousand or so people in earshot “I AM NOT AN ANIMAL! I WILL NOT LIVE IN THIS CAGE, AND WEAR THIS LEASH ! ”

He then proceeded to grab his stuff, and began walking down the cubicle alleys, speaking to no one, but giving the finger to all the managers and supervisors that tried to ask him where he was going,  he walked through security, then finally marched right out the door.

I never saw Devin again, I hope he is doing well, either that he has submitted to his corporate masters or found his way on his own, but one thing was sure, at that moment, in that place, he just couldn’t handle the truth.

And now a video about a piano playing chicken.


25 Responses to He Just Couldn’t Handle The Truth

  1. Janene Murphy

    “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

    Wow. If Tony Robbins ever needs an evil sidekick, I’m nominating you! 😉 Who knew you could be so inspirational. And ending with the chicken playing the piano thing? Genius. Fun story with some wicked insider tid bits. Loved it!

  2. @Janene Murphy

    Glad you enjoyed Janene, I didn’t mean to be evil inspirational, but I guess I got egged on a bit by his excitement….it was a crappy job anyhow, no one seemed to last there past a year or two.

  3. Your story is hilarious! I am certain your colleague has found his heart elsewhere, and you certainly have the gift of gab 😉 Cheers!!

  4. @SprigBlossoms
    Glad I could make you laugh SB, that was the goal. 😉

  5. Always fun reading about your adventures and your attitudes toward life and work. As far as I see, you liberated a soul, set a canary free. I flatter myself that I have done the same on more than one occasion.

  6. @nothingprofound
    Thanks NP, set a canary free, that is a nice way of putting it, I guess I did sort of let the chicken out of the coup, now I don’t feel so bad anymore, thanks for the positive comment.

  7. Hi PBS,
    Really enjoyed reading about your work adventures.

  8. @jayme
    Thanks Jayme,

    Always appreciate your visits, and polite comments.

  9. Thats the story of every person who works. Its rare that somebody love their work unless and untill it is related to some adventure or the work they love to do. I also do the same many times.

  10. @Pooja Singh
    Yes, it defiantly does relate to most kinds of work.

    I often say if work was fun, no one would have to pay us for it. I just don’t think poor Devin realized that yet.

  11. World of travel

    This is kind of everyone’s story (employee).
    You killed me when you took Homer Sipmson “bowling” desition… That should be the best desition. But anything is perfect, unfortunatelly.

    Cheer up, man! Some day you will be surfing and swiming all day long!!! don’t stop believing

    BTW, work sucks! =)

  12. World of travel

    BTW That chicken is just terrific!!!!

  13. @World of travel

    That chicken is so awesome, he is an internet star !

    I actually really liked that job for a couple of years, I would have no problem going back there again for a while sometime, I had a whole lot of fun there, I have often found the worse the job, the better the friends you make.

    Though I would truly be much happier surfing and swimming all day.

  14. Hey nice one, and do really admire the guts of your colleague, and also hope he has got what he wanted from his life.

  15. @Akanksha
    I hope so also, he was a good guy, I didn’t realize he was so defiant. I am sure he has accepted his slavery to money somewhere by now and is happy.

  16. All of the picture are funny here. Here chicken is so awesome, he is an internet star.

  17. @slogan t shirts
    That chicken should have an Elvis cape on, he is that awesome.

  18. Google Business Listings

    Really enjoyed reading about your work adventures. I thought he would just join my rant for a bit and get back to work, but something kind of snapped in him.

  19. @Google Business Listings
    Glad you enjoyed the post GBL, thanks for the visit !

  20. I loved your story…the way you told it, I actually felt as if I was tethered to a keyboard in the cubicle next door. Poor old Devin! Your double chicken analogy was at once catalytic and cathartic for that frazzled and disillusioned young man. I used to fantasize about walking out of my last hospital job; had I done that, though, I would have lost my medical license for patient abandonment. C’est la vie! Happily, I’ve found a new job that I like very much. Great writing! And, thanks for making me LOL!

  21. @kris landt
    Glad you enjoyed it Kris,

    I have walked out of a few jobs in my time, all for what I would call Just reasons. Unfortunately though, doing so leaves gaps of years in the resume that future employers want to know about, and disgruntle managers at the old jobs that can not be called.

    I guess Devin had had enough that day, I feel a bit bad that I had influenced him so strongly in such a negative way. I really did not know I had the power to do so.

    I am glad you are back at your work now, I hope they treat you with the respect you deserve.

  22. I love this story. Your rant was absolutely priceless. As was your comment, I love to do many things and work is not among them.

    I know a blogger who got a comment on her blog from a woman saying, “your post really opened my eyes. I’ve decided I’m going to file for a divorce.” Good gravy!

  23. @June O’Hara
    Glad you enjoyed it June,

    I have never been a big fan of work, in fact if they did not pay me to be there, I would not show up in the first place.

  24. Great story. Do you ever feel guilty that you might have totally screwed up Devin’s life? I didn’t think so. I wouldn’t, either.

  25. @Ely North
    I do worry about that a bit, but it was a dead end, low paying job, and I think he was still living at home at the time, so he did not go homeless because of it. Maybe he decided to go onwards to University or something afterwards? I really don’t know, but I hope he is doing fine.

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