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.

 

Prisioner Of Consumerism Shirt

Prisioner Of Consumerism

Prisioner Of Consumerism Shirt - Click Image $19.99 USD

A man relaxes day in day out, for many years, under the shade of a tree, on the edge of a beautiful tropical beach.

He enjoys  watching  the waves break on the shore, the bird flying,  the clouds shifting through the sky, and the eventual sunsets of each passing day.

When he gets hungry, he feeds himself on the delicious falling fruits of the surrounding trees.

He does this day in day out for many years.

One day a man in a suit comes along, and sees this man sitting under the tree.and asks, “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, hello, I am just sitting here watching the birds, and the waves” replies the Tree Man. ”

The Suited Man asks “Well, what do you do for work?”

“Oh, well I don’t work” the Tree Man replies.

The Suited Man looks astounded, “Why don’t you pick up some of these fruits and take them to the market, you could make some money from that”

“OK, well after that what do I do?” asks the Tree Man.

The Suited Man “Well after you sell enough fruits you can buy yourself a wheel barrow, and take more to the market faster”

“OK, so after that what do I do?”

The Suited Man “Well after you do that for a while you can get yourself a truck and take more to the market.”

“OK, so whats after that ?”

The Suited Man ” Well after you do that a while you can come back here and sit under your tree.”

Measuring Life in T-Shirt Hours

I read an opinion the other day,  that when you grow up, you should put the t-shirts away, buy a shirt with a collar, and get a job.  This really is a sad reality for most people, as  there are just so few decent paying jobs that allow t-shirts.

I like to wear t-shirts though, they are more comfortable than collars and I can get interesting ones that others don’t have.

After childhood it seems that usually only on weekends and holidays can you still enjoy a full day in a T-Shirt, and of course in retirement, these are the times in your life when you are your most free. Freedom to wear a T-Shirt. The rest of the time you are usually working away for the big corporate grinding wheel in your silly collar and tie.  In a world where you are forced to wear a tie, productiveness becomes more important than comfort. and you might find the freedom to start a conversation,  get a drink,  eat, or even visit the washroom the moment you feel a desire to is gone.

I would say most of us can measure the amount of true freedom we have in our life by how many T-Shirt hours we get to experience.

However,  a collar, tie, and job are all better than being unemployed and wishing you had a job. After all, employment is really not all that bad, there is usually a lot of socializing, company parties and other things.

But you lose the freedom and comfort of a T-Shirt.

Treat A Friend Like A Friend

The idea of treating a friend like a friend may seem like an obvious one to most people, but sadly it is not followed as much as it should be.

I come from Vancouver Canada, and growing up there had a lot of what the English might call, “Taking the Piss”, we would jokinly point out other peoples poor choice in clothing we laugh at their mistakes, and generally make fun of our friends every chance we got. If there are three of us in a room, and only two chairs, we tended to race for the two chairs and laugh at the guy that doesn’t get one.This was pretty normal as a kid, and although it pretty much causes everyone some unhappiness, most of us eventually get over it, and get on with life.

As I have gotten older, I find most of all my friends gave up this poor behavior, they offer their chairs to friends, and become complimentary and supportive, generally, good friends. A small minority though continue to be a poor friend.

Eventually after many years, you might find there is only one person who still treats you like this, the joke is old and tired and no longer funny. With that particular person being the only one in your life that is still trying to take the last doughnut, insult you, talk behind your back, laugh at you, and generaly undermine your every move, you realize “With a friend like this, Who needs an enemy?”

If all someone does is act like a jerk all the time, isn’t that what they really are?

Sometimes it is just best to treat your friends like friends, otherwise people will eventualy get tired of you, and spend their time hanging out with better people. No one likes to put up with abuse. We all need to begin acting like adults once we grow up.

Different Priorities

Almost two decades ago, I veered sharply away from the track that hosts the rat race, and started to cut my own paths. Nobody really understood why I did it, and some people feel they can no longer relate to me because of it.

Back in 1994, when I was 22 years old, my financial life was going pretty well, I already owned most of my fully furnished 1200 sq foot, 8th floor condo overlooking both a National Park, and the city of Calgary. I had just become the corporate sales trainer for an international electronics company, a job which included the responsibility of hiring, firing, and training about 150 people at any one time.  I was on track for a $60,000 income that year already, but on a recent business trip to Los Angeles, stock options had just been offered to me, as well as a substantial raise. The real serious money was about to come rolling in.

The beginning of my corporate life was like sitting down to play the first two levels of a video game I had been anticipating for quite some time, only to discover it was just too easy for me to invest any more of my time in. As far as I was concerned at that moment, I had already proven to myself that I was going to win the game. The constant business trips eventually became boring to me. Though the meetings were all in different restaurants and cities, I was always meeting with the same people usually we would order the same things, talk about the same business, and have the same discussions after too many of the same drinks.

I decided it was time for me to step out of the rat race for a bit, and try and live a more interesting life than I was living. Making money, talking about how to make more money, training people, and in general just getting the business done was pretty boring after a while. My father had worked very hard until the day he died, and I did not want this to happen to me.

Before I could quit my job, I decided I should sell all my stuff, so I proceeded to sell my condo and car, big screen TVs, my CD and movie collection, my couch, my stereo systems, my dresser, microwave, coffee machine, waffle maker, dinner table, pots, pans, plates, knives, forks, spoons, phones, my bed, bedsheets, and even my towels.

With everything I had accumulated with my five years of productive work since I had left my childhood home turned into cash I was able to buy my backpack, quit my job, and begin my travels.

I bought a one way ticket to India. Why India? you might ask. A very well travelled friend who had hired me at the electronics firm originally had recommended it to me, of course by this time he had actually become one of my employees, but he was still a friend, and wasn’t resentful of me moving up so fast.

One night in a restaurant as we discussed my trip to India over steak and beer, some woman at another table, chose to interrupt us just to tell us that India was a horrible place and asked us why would we go there. We asked her if she had been and she said “No”. I chose to ignore her.

Kovalam India 94

Kovalam Beach In India

India was amazing, I could type story after story here about things that I saw in India, did in India, and experienced in India that are probably well beyond most peoples imagination. So I will skip that for now, but will give a few reasons why India was the best place I have ever been, of course I could also give you the same amount of reasons why it was the worst, but here I will just add the best.

I love beaches, I love waves, and surfing, I love snorkeling and scuba diving and India has the longest coastline in the world, the beaches are incredibly beautiful and usually almost completely unspoilt. It has the oldest cities in the world, with the oldest temples in the world in it. It of course has jungles, deserts, and the Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world. An amazing history of being the birthplace of most of the major religion in the world. The first churches and temples of every major religion, always seem to be in India. Every jungle topped hill you can climb in India, has a view of ancient temples, stupas, churches, mosques, castles and fortresses, most of which are older than Western written history. It was a fantastic trip, I was present at many astounding parties with thousands of westerners in some amazing places, no one could ever understand without going there.

Hampi India 95

Hampi India in 1995

Ten months into my first trip, I returned to my home country of Canada for my brothers wedding, I had suffered a nasty parasitic infection called giardia in India that nearly killed me, I lost a third of my body mass, and looked almost like a walking skeleton, my short business haircut had grown ungroomed and uncut for almost a year. I tried to tame the hair for my brothers wedding, which had caused it to look really horrible. I guess I didn’t look as much like a winner as I did before I went traveling to at least some people. At the wedding one of my brothers friends came up to me, and said, “Why did you leave it all man? You had everything? ”

“Why did you leave it all man? You had everything? “

I didn’t know what to say to him, he had just finished university studying commerce, and I guess to him I was on a path to having everything he wanted before I left, namely Money.

I said “Everything man? I had nothing.”

I didn’t know what else I could have said, where would I start to explain to him that a life of working under fluorescent lights, and having only slight variations of the same experiences every day was not a life at all. Without the freedom to do what I wanted and go where I wanted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is just an existence.

I could not write a book about the life I used to have, but the life I have now I could.

Obviously my money could not last me forever, so I often need to work, I returned to my home country in Canada to make a living two times. Although I was able to make good money again, I was not really able to adapt back into life under fluorescent lights. I preferred working in Japan, Korea, and Thailand, although the lighting is pretty much the same, being a stranger in a strange land is always exciting.

I am blessed that I can now work on this website and write for this blog for a living. I enjoy it. I am happy. The best thing about my current job, even though I am not writing about where I am, this particular article has been written during my travels to three different countries, I have been sitting in Kuala Lumpur for part of it, another part I was on a white sandy beach on Ko Samet Island in Thailand with my son, and part of it was written on the edge of the Mekong river in Lao where I sat and enjoyed a meal as the sun set over lush green tropical Asia.

I don’t make a lot of money doing this, I have to take the second class train, and buses where ever I go, but at least I am going somewhere. This to me is more important that being some rich corporate big wig.

I mentioned to a good friend of mine what my brother’s friend had asked me about “Giving it all up”, and he said to me something that seemed to explain the situation completely.

He said “You and him just have different priorities, that’s all.”

Maybe he was right, maybe that is all it is, just different priorities.

I have traveled a lot since then, seen a lot of things, and taken a lot of pictures, these are two of my favorites.

Mentawin People of Siberute 1995

Mentawin of Siberute

Khmer Jungle Temple Angkor Cambodia 1995

Khmer Jungle Temple Angkor Cambodia

Go to top
Translate »