It was an 'Office Space' type of day today. I work at Inetech.
The last few days, I've been running around my department, making sure that our agents are caught up on the new promotions and teaching them how to use a new tracking system. This software isn't replacing anything but is an addition to the multitudes of DOS, Adobe, Java, and internet based programs all ready in use. Not only do I get to train its usage, but also (to an extent) enforce that usage. Fun.
So, while typing an e-mail to send out floor wide stressing the importance and necessity of the new system, I had an epiphany of sorts. My place of employment is a clone of Inetech, Office Space's fictional programming company. Granted, my coworkers are not software programming gurus, rather they are customer service phone representatives.
However the needed elements are here: the confining and impersonal cubicles, the evil copy machine/printer that never works, constant seating rearrangement and relocation, new agents that are enough to make you second guess hiring standards, frequent requests for overtime, and of course...the TPS reports.
And the characters. These characters are prevalent in everyday life, and I’m assuming in every occupation. Peter Gibbons: the slacker who gets ahead. Bill Lumburgh: giant tool. Lawrence: the half-wit neighbor. Joanna: the muse. Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton: the everymen. Milton Waddams: the oppressed and ready to explode loser. Brian: the overachiever that no one likes. Stan: the guy that never should be given any power or authority but somehow gets it anyways. Drew: the jerk who thinks he's cool. Tom Smykowski: the dreamer who will never get there. And finally Steve (Orlando Jones is brilliant): the post tragic failure and closet savant.
Most of us wish to be Peter. The man thinks his girlfriend might be cheating on him, hates his job, and his employer is downsizing. Suddenly he decides he's not going to go to work anymore, but when he does he's late, dismantles his cubicle, guts and cleans fish on his desk, and blows off his boss. While this is happening, he falls for a beautiful and delightful waitress, and gets a promotion into management while everyone else is getting laid off. Human nature wants something for nothing and Peter defines that desire. "I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be."
None of us wants to be Milton. The one who's always left out and pushed around, stepped over and about as volatile as a Molotov cocktail. Being looked down upon and treated like trash is humiliating. Enough pent up frustration after years of professional abuse will lead to destructive behavior.
But somehow, none of us end up at either extreme. Neither Peter nor Milton. We end up (or become) someone else. Preferably the friend who would do anything for another friend like Samir and Michael. Or even Steve, making the best out of a life that is less than what you always hoped for.
Inevitably some of us will become Lumburgh or Stan. It may be greed that gets us there, or maybe we're doing all the wrong things with good intentions. Some of us become Drew and Tom. Despite being annoying, the American workplace would be boring without them.
And, if worse comes to worst, we could be Brian and show off our "flair."
Above all, we need people like Joanna and Lawrence. Someone who challenges us and someone who makes us feel better about ourselves.
Here are some classic lines from the movie. Or maybe I just heard one of my coworkers complaining.
"What if we're still doin' this when we're 50?" A common thought throughout pop culture, media, and real life. I.E. Michael Rappaport's lament about Pete, Rizzo, and Sammy in Beautiful Girls.
"He was laid off five years ago and no one ever told him, but through some kind of glitch in the payroll department, he still gets a paycheck." Ah, logistics and payroll... The problems you can’t live without.
"We're bringing in some entry-level graduates." Keyword: entry-level. A call center is a great job but it's not for everyone, especially if it's your fist job. If we're trying to lower attrition, maybe hiring a bunch of high school kids whose only short term goals are to start school in the fall and no longer continue their employment after a couple months is not such a great idea.
"They've moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels." I have moved five times since last September and will be moving a sixth time later this week. For a while, I didn't even have a desk because it was given to someone else.
"I can't believe what a bunch of nerds we are." How true.
"Sounds like a case of the Mondays." We all get the Mondays, please don't make it worse.
"I believe you have my stapler." As cheap and easy to replace as they are, staplers are a valuable commodity and magically disappear from people's desks. I keep mine hidden and deny its existence.
"Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses." Unfortunately, as long as people need technical support, have difficulty reading bills, and want to order something from one of those infomercials during a long night of insomnia, there will always be multiple bosses, useless forms, and cubicles.
If you want to know what Office Space character you are, there is a random personality quiz on the web somewhere. (I was Stan, my wife was Milton) Google it.