Thoughts on Socializing While At Work

I wanted to originally do this in one post.  But I had to break it into two smaller posts.  Consider this my buy one, get one free promotion. I do enjoy having good conversations one on one or with small groups.  But far too often we are kept apart from people on an individual basis.  We seldom have in depth conversations with our coworkers because there isn’t enough time during the work day to just sit down and chat with your coworkers.  And most people are usually too tired to spend time with coworkers at the end of a shift or they have family obligations.  We work with these people every day, sometimes for years at a time, yet we rarely get to really know them.  The irony about most jobs is that much of what is done during an eight hour work day is redundant busy work, especially in most office jobs.  Most of what is done in an office, from my experience any way, seems could be done in half the time the work shift demands people be at their cubicles and acting busy.  I found the same thing in high school and college.  Some of those classes could have been only half as long and almost all of them could have been more stimulating.  I had a couple friends who were homeschooled for part of their academic careers and they said they usually had only four hours of classes a day while I had at least seven.  And they still did better on tests, and later their careers, than many kids I went to regular school with.  Unless you are working in the trades, working in the medical field, or working in a factory, most jobs could probably easily be done from home via telecommuting or with only four to six hour work days.  Even store clerks have to always look busy.

During the years I worked in retail I was told it was bad and tactless to chat with my coworkers while we were on the clock.  Who decided this?  I wasn’t asked for my opinion. Can’t have coworkers knowing each other and getting along well, now can we?  That might make things awkward when a coworker gets fired or reprimanded for arbitrary reasons. As long as we’re not insulting the bosses, the company, the customers, etc., than screw you.  As long as we are still helping the customers and getting our work done, it shouldn’t matter that coworkers would spend a few minutes talking to each other during slow times.  The same people we sell to in the large chain stores chat with their coworkers in their offices but manage to get their work done, let’s not kid ourselves.  Why should we have to look busy when we have a few free moments?  Why shouldn’t we be allowed to get to know our coworkers?  My coworkers and I didn’t complain when our bosses took half hour cigarette breaks, hid out in their offices for hours at a time claiming they were doing ‘paperwork’, taking longer than allowed lunches, or talked with their friends and family on company time.  And some people wonder why fast food workers are demanding $15 an hour.  I don’t think it’s the money that’s as large of a deal as the lack of respect and accountability that front line workers get from their managers and their companies.

Yes, the money matters.  The money from fast food and service jobs matters more than twenty to thirty years ago simply because there aren’t that many manufacturing jobs left, at least not in America.  We are running out of jobs that people with less than average intelligence can hold.  Those jobs are being outsourced and even those outsourced jobs are being taken over by machines. A buddy of mine works at a caller center for a bank and is sometimes concerned about his bank outsourcing his job to India.  Yet, the man and woman in India may soon be worried about their jobs being taken over by automated programs.  I get my prescription medications refilled by an automated program that calls me when I’m running low already.  The only time I actually deal with a human is when I pick my medications up at the pharmacy.  And in several years when delivery drones get real good, I may not even have to do that.  Dominos Pizza is already experimenting with delivery drones that take your order right to your door in some countries. Sheesh, my five year old nephew might not even need a driver’s license when he turns sixteen in eleven years.

No longer can a kid not smart enough for college move into a factory, farming, or mining job for the next fifty years of his life.  These twenty to thirty somethings working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart would have been doing factory work if they came of age in the 1950s instead of the 1990s or 2000s. They are not lazy and unmotivated like most of the popular culture and elder generations think they are.  People thought the World War II generation were drunkards and fornicators when they were in their teens and twenties during the Roaring Twenties.  The clean shaven 18 year old GI who grew up dirt poor in the 1930s that was a private in World War II probably had a 35 year old commanding officer who drank copious amounts of bootlegged alcohol and had lots promiscuous sex with flapper girls and suffragettes during Prohibition.  I also doubt the World War II generations of Japan and Germany are held in such reverence; they might even be considered an embarrassment.  The world is a stage, we are the actors, and the history books are almost always written by the winners.

If our elders were born in 1980 instead of 1950 they’d be irritated about having only fast food and retail jobs as easily available jobs too.  Bill Gates once said that my grandparents generation would have called making hamburgers an opportunity.  Smug and hypocritical advice coming from someone who outsourced a lot of his company’s work.  It could be that once wages get to $15 an hour, then front line employees will be replaced by machines.  Yet, I have never seen a computer shop at Home Depot or a robot eat at Subway.  Reminds of a story I heard from a TED talk when the CEO of an auto maker in Detroit and the head of the auto workers’ union were talking.  The company president was talking about putting in robots in the factory and jokingly asked the union boss how he would get robots to pay union dues.  The union man jokingly asked the auto exec how is he going to get robots to buy cars.  Just some things to think about.  Things could get ugly in the next couple decades.  Occupy Wall Street could just be the start.

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Socializing One on One (We Are Not That Different)

 

I have been trying to figure out normal people for most of my life.  I have tried to find a basic statement to make sense of my fellow man, much like Einstein’s theory of relativity or the equation Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration.  The only real conclusion I have come to can be summed by Tommy Lee Jones in the first Men In Black movie when he said, “The individual is smart, but people as a group are stupid, panicky animals.”  Ever since I was a young child I have found taking my fellow humans one on one much easier and enriching than dealing with crowds, groups, or cliques.  I have always gotten along with most of my school mates and elders when working with them one on one.  Not so much when they were in large groups.  People have always seemed more civil and easy going if I could talk to them one on one or even in small groups. Sadly we seldom ever get to talk with our neighbors, extended family members, coworkers much on a one to one basis.  There are times I’ve had more in depth conversations with people from different nations over Facebook than with people in my apartment complex.  I like the digitized friends I have in some of my interests pages groups on Facebook more than I do my own neighbors.  But I didn’t have much say in who my neighbors were.

Some of my happiest memories from junior high and early high school came from the weekend ‘lock in’ parties that my school and church participated in.  We’d have movies, snacks, board games, card games, and just stay up all night and chat with the fellow school mates.  I used to get into those extremely in depth conversations with my classmates I may have not had much to do with on a regular basis during the course of a school week. I would talk with people I thought I had nothing in common with until my voice was raspy and my throat hurt. Those times made me realize that everyone else has their own problems, fears, and hangups.  We as students, or the community as a whole, may stick us in groups like jocks, nerds, cowboys, preppies, party animals, thugs, basket cases, beauty queens, conservatives, liberals, artists, rich, poor, etc.  All the window dressing and nonsense aside, people actually have far more in common with each other than we are lead to believe by our culture and leaders. One guy at these lock ins told me that he was under constant pressure from his parents to be a great athlete because his father was a great athlete years before.  Another kid told me that even though she came from a devoutly religious family she had her skepticisms and doubts.  A third kid told me even though he came from a wealthy farming family he had little interest in farming once he was done with high school but would probably do so to please his parents and grandparents. One kid told me he was envious of how smart I was and I told him I was envious of how popular and handsome he was.  Who would have ever guessed?  Another kid I was envious of because he got excellent grades, was handsome, and wasn’t lacking in confidence by any measure (not that I could tell at least) that he was envious of me because of my smarts, my not being afraid to take unpopular stands, and because of my friendship with my female best friend.  One way he put it went something like, “Neither of you has to worry about ever finding dates for the weekend.  You can always ask each other.”  Another guy told me about my female best friend, “You two go together so well you get along better than most married couples.” I may not have had a lack of dates in high school, but they were usually with the same girl and always casual.  I had far more dates in high school than college, but most my dates even in high school came before my mental illness took full effect.  But too much stress is placed of finding love and trying to get laid, especially in high school.  I miss those lock ins and opportunities to get to know my classmates on a less structured and formal basis.  It’s about the only thing I miss about junior high, but I definitely would love opportunities to get to know my neighbors better.  Perhaps we in the modern world suffer from too much structure and formality.  Maybe that is why we are more irritable and short tempered than we should be.

 

Fifteen Years With A Mental Illness Diagnosis

A Life Of Mental Illness

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I have been having problems with depression, anxiety, delusional thoughts, and excessive anger since I was seventeen.  I was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in October 2000.  I’ve been treated for these mental health problems for fifteen years.  In fact, today as I write this is probably the anniversary of when I was diagnosed.  I’m not exactly sure as those hectic weeks leading up to my diagnosis are a blur.  I do remember that I was having mini psychotic breaks at least twice a week when I was call home and just yell at my family members for no real reason.  Now, I had a good family as a child.  While I had a good family I struggled socially.  I didn’t have many friends or confidants, likely because I was eccentric and one of these really smart kids who was too stubborn to hide the fact I was…

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Reflections on My College Years with a Mental Illness

A Life Of Mental Illness

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I currently live in a town that is home to a small state university.  School will be in session within the next two weeks once more.  As a result, several thousand college students will be coming back and this town will really come back to life from it’s annual summer hibernation.  Even though I graduated from ten years ago, and had a failed experiment that was grad school, I still enjoy seeing the college students returning and resuming what, for many Americans, has become a rite of passage into adulthood.  

 

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All of this has me remembering when I went through during these years, not only in college but also as my mental illness progressed and eventually stabilized into some predictable cycles.  When I started college in the fall of 1999 ( I know, practically the dark ages to kids now coming of age), the internet was…

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College, The World of Work, and The New Reality

A Life Of Mental Illness

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I’m taking a detour from my usual posts about mental illness and related issues. Yet this is still a serious topic I’m writing about. It’s about college, the world of work, and the new career and economic realities of life in the early 21st century. Even though I’ve been out of college and in the dreaded ‘real world’ for the last ten years, I still have yet to find the proverbial ‘well paying, well respected’ job that we were told that a college degree would lead to. I know that we’re living in tough economic times and that we’re transitioning to a service based economy from a manufacturing one. But I can’t help but feel like I was sold a bill of goods. It’s as if the old rules of go to college, get a good job, save your money for retirement, and live the American Dream of a house…

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How I Became A Writer

A Life Of Mental Illness

There have always been people who write that have written stories and poetry since they were children.  These types where those who always knew they would want to have writing and creativity be a part of their lives.  I was not among those types who just knew from an early age.  I didn’t stumble on the therapeutic value of writing until I was a senior in college.  By then I was only a year away from graduating with a business degree that deep down I knew I would never use in a career.  I never considered majoring in english and history, two of my three favorite subjects in high school (chemistry was my third favorite) because I believed the whole ‘you can’t find a job with a liberal arts or humanities degree’ nonsense when I was younger.  I didn’t take into consideration that a) my mental illness would probably prevent…

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