Sunday, March 8, 2015

Work, Dog, Work

Last year I reviewed Nikil Saval's Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. Although annoyed by the subtitle, increasingly used to market books on subjects I reckon might be thought otherwise dull, I could relate to the situation, having been "rightsized" not too long ago as my place of employment was halved, and many of us moved from shared offices to cubicles, except for higher-ups. This demoralized us, and this year, I am further displaced, as a satellite site I teach at finds me at a workstation, and I feel, tellingly, marooned as even my cubicle with its colorful magnets is far away.

Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath published last June "Why You Hate Work," and I loved this illustration in the New York Times by Olivier Schrauwen, If it was not on newsprint, I'd have pinned it up in my cubicle. The writers report on analyses of engagement, renewal, value, focus, and purpose. Many of us lack time to think, and the constant interruption of demands transmitted or at our cubicle lead to frustration, unsurprisingly. But as a comment on my PopMatters review linked above noted, some of us also work better with headphones, and the separation of the office from the office space allows mothers to stay productive, True, but it's also an electronic leash, as I am working every day.

My parents and ancestors would regard my complaints as ridiculous. You resigned yourself to labor. Eight hours, five days, and that was it. You'd go home, sit by the fire and jabber, or later watch t.v., and never think about the job that much once you were off work. Only two generations separate me from an Irish farm, and once more, that life however romanticized was hard, wearing one out soon.

One of the first books I loved, and the first my older son learned to read all the way, was P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog, Go!. My wife gave it as a gift to our great-grandniece, and that child's  grandmother reposted the NYT article today, reminding me of why I liked it. I recall where the sentence "work, dog, work" appeared in that venerable children's primer, as blue dogs shoveled away.

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