Dressed in a blue suit he wore two times prior to this glorious day, once at a funeral and once at his cousin’s wedding, your new manager delivers the line like an actor with years of summer theater behind him. He sends it forth, passes it on, believing you’ve never heard it. Like it’s fresh, just born, a baby of an expression crying and taking its first breath of hospital air. The words will make all the difference in how you approach your work from now until they find you face down on your laptop.
And later, when you and your “colleagues” leave the meeting, feeling queasy, heads held high as the survivors, the phrase’s impact will be lasting, like the weekend in Vegas where you puked on the Blackjack table and you remember the staff at the Wynn telling your friends to remove you from the premises, which they have to do because you can’t do it yourself. Your only coherent thoughts being that it was neat how they hid hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades in the carpet design and that the last six Mojitos were a mistake and you’d like a do-over because you didn’t get more attractive to the cocktail waitress each time you tipped her a five dollar chip, then a ten, followed by a 25, which would have hurt had she not delivered the pain medicine each time.
You thought you were unique, as did your new boss when he used the phrase you hate the most, the one that is both confusing and depressing like some fart-house French film one of your brainiac friends with the faux Euro glasses seems to have a complete understanding of but in which you somehow got lost when the clown rode the merry-go-round for two hours then ran screaming into the rain, which is what you felt like doing, running from the movie theater into the street where you wished a large semi would barrel down at 40 mph and send you flying, separating you from your shoes. And that’s how you feel now, hearing your boss’s words. Does anyone realize you are sitting in the meeting without your shoes? Had anyone looked under the table at your socks or realized the smell comes from them because your feet were swollen from the side of beef you ate this weekend, including the charred part, which might be something you’ll regret later in life at a doctor’s office?
You wished you could go back to kindergarten when all words were newborns and clichés thrilled your parents, who were your paparazzi, who took pictures of you, or better yet video they’d show during the holidays to the family. And everyone loved the parts with the clichés and you spitting out the most mundane of them. But you were excused because you were five and everything sounded cute coming from your pie hole at that age.
But now work clichés are like acupuncture with icepicks, screaming is involved, and pain, though not in that order. And that’s the pain you feel now when he said it again and another identical icepick stuck you in the forehead. But this pain was worse because of the long string of thoughts it released from your cranium that everyday was the same and that nothing changes, and that you’ll be sitting in the same stained red office chair that doesn’t recline with its cheap sandpaper fabric and plastic frame and handles that never work when next year’s manager says the same thing and thinks it’s original, important. But it’s not. It’s the same. And you’ve heard and seen it before – in another language no less. It’s the French film and you’re doomed to watch it over and over until your eyes pop out of your head and roll down the sticky movie theater floor where one comes to rest against a gummy bear a three-year-old dropped and was told not to pick up lest he catch typhoid fever or something really bad one can only read about on the Internet by typing in “red spots and itching and slimy discharge.”
Yes, that’s what you thought about when the new manager stood there, bright smile filling the room with sunshine and happiness that he had said the correct things over the years and wrote the correct emails and made friends with the correct people and climbed the correct ladder, each rung hand over hand, never breaking a nail. All of that work and this is what he said first: “We have to do more with less.”
It’s a shame really. What about the beauty and three-dimensional quality of “thinking outside the box” or the soft-drink sounding “synergistic”? He could have coughed up one of those, the bad oyster not staying down. No, those have a positive quality to them, as if you might hear your kindergarten teacher use them “that’s not a box, that’s a rectangle, and you’re coloring outside the lines, Mr Amount To Nothing.” Now you’re upset because you were taught to color inside the lines but to think outside the box, which is as confusing as what the beer ads tell you, drink responsibly, as this is not something you’re good at, wishing now you could hoist the beer can over your head and pop the top letting its life flow down the plastic tubing of the beer bong into your waiting mouth, trying not to spill any, but failing, and drawing the jabs of your equally irresponsible buddies. The same ones that left you outside the Wynn. When you woke up the next day you spent the morning hung over cancelling all of your credit cards because someone took your wallet when you fell over sideways, landing in your vomit, exposing your back pocket to the sky, where some scumbag pretended to care and helped themselves to your plastic and family pictures. Worst of all, you had to drive back to LA at the speed limit because you had no license. Then the horror of the DMV that week, and the circles under your eyes in the picture as a memento of the trip living forever in your wallet or until someone lifted the new one you bought at Macy’s for $42 plus tax.
But as bad as it was explaining how you lost everything to your wife, it was still 100 times more fun than sitting in the large conference room without windows and blackjack tables and the sound of slot machines and the cocktail waitress who had never met anyone more charming than you than it was listening to the new manager say “do more with less.” And wondering if he really meant you when he said “less.”
Well he sounds a barrel of laughs! If only it was that simple. If you could do more with less just think how simple living with CF would be, all those nebs mixed into one treatment. What about making one tablet to take instead of 40+ a day! By heck I think he’s onto something, once he’s removed the icepick from his head I think you should suggest it to him. 😉 Take it easy my crazy friend.
First, the serious stuff. I think your comment about “more with less” and CF is true. The eFlow is a good example of that. Nice observations on your part.
Thanks for reading. I think you’re the only one who does when it comes to these “off the wall” posts. I appreciate it, though I hate to break it to you, but that might mean you’re insane. But that’s okay. Look what it’s done for me. Hmm, maybe you should worry. 🙂
Because of the time difference I always get your post’s first thing in the morning. They never fail to brighten my day, especially a work day! I can’t wait for your collective works to appear on Amazon, $15.99 rrp.
That’s very nice of you to say. Thank you. When my collective works come out, I’ll only need one copy printed for you. And that will be free of charge. I’ll be in the hole 15.99, but it will be well worth it. 🙂
Ah, the stars of management and their corporate-speak. I used to think if I heard one more person start a sentence with “At the end of the day…” that I would stick a fork in my own eyeball!
Hang tough, UC.
If I heard “At the end of the day,” you and I would have to fight for the fork. Or, I’d ask you to plunge it into my eye first and repeat the favor for you. The older we get the less fresh these sayings become when delivered by those who know it all.
Have a good holiday and hope you’re feeling well.
I always wanted to stand up and scream that at the end of the day, it is NIGHT!!! hahahaha.
I hope your holiday is peaceful and safe from all intestinal bugs.
I’m a few days behind on the blog but wow this is a great essay. Really great. You should submit it to magazines. For serious.
Ah, CG, it’s so nice to have you back in cyberspace. So kind of you to say those things, and your words charm as always. Much thanks. That post was just a little something that came out of nowhere, a different way to express my weariness with the same business expressions being used over and over. If only we could drink alcohol at work and take a swig each time we heard one.
I hope you are doing well. I check your site daily and and am so happy for you.