Monday, January 06, 2014

Cubicle with a View

Money is the only thing that has value. Consequently, only things that yield immediate monetary gain are important. The more immediate, the more important.

Don't worry about the long term, baby. We'll be halfway to Buenos Aires by then.

We were watching "Antiques Roadshow" tonight. How many items that were picked up for $25, $50 have come to be worth tens of thousands of dollars, now that the artistic merit of their creator has finally (many years after burial in a pauper's grave, of course) come to be fully recognized? And why is it that serious material benefit only shows up once the actual creator of the work is long gone?

It pays to be an artist, eventually, but it pays someone else. Not you.

My sisters are artists. Jessie, a concert pianist in Brooklyn, actually manages to scrape out a sparse living at it. Margie, a free spirit in Seattle? Not so much. Jessie is a brilliant musician. And Margie is just a genius: she composes, plays piano and cello beautifully, sketches, paints... and works in a pizza parlor, if she can get work.

I'm the least talented of the three of us by far. And I'm also easily the best off: I have a very comfortable middle-class job with a retirement plan and good health insurance. I guess contentment with mediocrity is more valuable than genius.

My staid government agency employer has recently become a vehicle for a handful of brilliant career climbers, rocketing through on their way to bigger and greater things, leaving decades of bureaucracy swirling in tumult like jetstream in their wake. Our new executive director has recently announced his departure for the next big thing.

He brought an entire new upper-managementourage with him, when he arrived about two years ago, and has fundamentally shaken our tired old agency structure to its roots. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But, having wrenched us off the deeply rutted old path, it seems unfair to leave the people who were contentedly trudging along it to figure out how to convert the maelstroms of change he's stirred up into a productive route forward. What do we do? Hire a batch of new, dynamic visionaries who will rile things up a bit more along the same lines, then probably follow in this guy's footsteps? Or try to forget, try to get back to the way things used to be?

Because the thing is, all the cronies he brought with him, who understand this way of doing things, are all going out with him. It's just like when the Enterprise makes unauthorized first contact with a Stone Age culture because Kirk just HAS to bone the girl in the leopardskin bikini and tosses everything they've come to believe about the universe on its ear, when suddenly the Fleet Admiral is all like "JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK YOU GET BACK TO STARBASE RIGHT NOW" and just like that, poof! they're gone.

And the Stone Age culture is all like, well, shit. Now what?

I was talking about this to my boyfriend tonight, since he also works for the same agency. He was inclined to be hopeful. He suggested that one of the old guard who had not been run off might take back over as the new executive director.

"At least he's an engineer," he said.

Were sadder words ever spoken?

Mind you, I've put in my time with soulless marketing types. When I first started working for this agency (eight years ago (TODAY!)) I looked around me at the freak show of decaying, defective career government employees. I looked at the old-timey phones with the blinking red "hold" lights. I saw the DOS-based mainframe applications. I smelled the cigarette smoke, the microwave popcorn, the Phantom Pharts in cubicle-land. And I said, "Well, you know, at least they aren't soulless marketing types."

What goes around comes around, I guess.

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