Finding Fidelity – Everybody Wants to Rule the World
I hiked the parking lot, climbed the stairwell, and traversed the nondescript grayish industrial carpet squares leading to my cubicle. As I snuggled into my perfectly ergonomic chair, I glanced at the vintage analog clock frittering away time just below my dual monitor cleavage. It was a miniature brass Dunhaven mantle clock with a ticking second hand. The narrow brass sliver rhythmically lapped the roman numerals second by second, minute after minute, hour through excruciating hour.
In its previous life, the clock was perched atop Leo’s desk at the Valentine Lake home. I recalled staring at it—eyeballs fixated on the second hand—as I did homework. When the hand perpetually stepped clockwise, it emitted a satisfying clunking noise which instantly soothed me into a near meditative state.
The bright white Dunhaven face was registering almost 2:00 PM. I had a few more hours to kill with no weaponry in sight. I leaned back as far as my chair allowed and just marveled at the spectacular inefficiency and gammon that were the cause of corporate American bloat.
In an office where all 600 employees ostensibly worked 40 hours a week, only 25% of them were present on Friday afternoons during fleeting Minnesota summers. And only about 10% of the MIA were actually using PTO. The balance were just shaving a little silver for themselves off the edge of the mighty corporate American coin. The ironic flipside of the heavily nicked coin was that even when all 600 employees were in the office, the average efficiency level of the typical employee waivered around 25%.
There were plenty of reasons for this: coffee + smoke + bathroom breaks, pre-meeting technical difficulties, mid-meeting technical difficulties, post meeting malaise, co-workers showing up late to meetings, sports + weather + traffic hallway + “pantry” + “watercooler” discussions, extra-long lunches eating, extra-long lunches exercising, extra-long lunches napping, extra-long lunches thrifting, “brown bag” lunches featuring guest speakers on a myriad of superfluous topics, detours for early-morning caffeine, extra-long trips for mid-morning caffeine, extra-long trips for mid-afternoon caffeine, “private” appointments of all varieties + flavors + colors, company-wide meetings that were nothing more than glorified pep rallies, division-wide meetings that were nothing more than glorified pep rallies, department-wide meetings that were nothing more than glorified budget updates, workgroup meetings that were nothing more than glorified coffee klatchs, on-site conferences, in-town conferences, out-of-state conferences, mandatory safety training, mandatory security training, mandatory first-aid training, mandatory fire + tornado + active shooter drills, wellness initiative annual check-up days, wellness walks, AM group stretching (for wellness), on-site seated chair massage events, on-site flu shot clinics, bloodmobile donation opportunities, software vendor sponsored outings (mostly to sporting events), consulting vendor sponsored outings (mostly to sporting events), company sponsored outings (mostly to golf courses), sponsored 10K fun runs, sponsored 5K fun walks, sponsored 26.2 mile rollerblading races, all manner of company picnic events during work hours, all manner of extra-long celebration lunches, all manner of extra-long quota-achieving pizza parties, costume contests (Halloween), pumpkin carving contests (Halloween), pot lucks (Christmas), teambuilding days that generally involved some sort of pseudo sporting activity like laser tag or whirlyball or bowling, volunteer days that generally involved feeding some manner of starving child, sick days that generally involved faking illness after a disappointing Vikings loss and accompanying fierce hangover, washing coffee mugs in the “pantry”, making coffee in the in the “pantry”, just hanging out and/or chatting in the “pantry” while fetching more coffee, answering unsolicited (spam) phone calls, responding to unsolicited (spam) emails, opening a slew of unsolicited (spam) snail mail. and engaging in a whole slew of unnecessary and irrelevant co-worker interactions that chewed up at least 10% of any given day.
By my assessment, as long as the majority of aforementioned pork could be trimmed from office work, 75% of the employees could be safely cleaved, and the company would still operate swimmingly.
As I stared at the metal lattice that kept the drop celling panels from crashing down on me, a new thought struck me. Ironically, pondering corporate American unproductivity was itself unproductive. Also, I would need to add “literally staring at the ceiling” to my exhaustive list of unproductive work activities.
I stood up to groundhog a bit—also unproductive. There was someone at the corner of the farthest away row from Deadpan Alley talking on the phone. Besides him, pretty much no one else occupied the vast expanse of space where our group was temporarily incarcerated.
I sat back down and looked at my trusty clock. It was 2:12 PM. I’d managed to kill off a whole twelve minutes pondering inefficiency, staring at the ceiling, and groundhogging.
Excerpt from Finding Fidelity, a forthcoming novel from Blake Charles Donley