Contemplating a Corporate Future, Bill Lumbergh, and Robots

Troubled by thoughts of post-college employment, Microserf Jordan Barber imagines a day in his inevitable future life as cubicle dweller.

I’m having something of a mid-college crisis. My undergraduate career is quickly coming to an end—meaning to say my next year will be my last—and I’m just beginning to approach the question of “what next?” For most undergraduates like myself, who have no idea how to function outside of undergraduate school, that question decides the rest of your life. Upon graduation, you are given a final form where you bubble in your future existence.

Perhaps it’s bias as a liberal arts student (everything is important!), but I’m astonished at people who are able to fill in that form with any amount of confidence. Even people during undergraduate school who are on a pre-graduate scare me.

But now, I’m confronting my future faster than I care to. What am I going to do? I had initially decided on graduate school, but that was only because I wanted to defer employment for later. As I’ve recently heard, that’s a terrible reason to go into graduate school. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched Office Space too many times or read too much Douglas Coupland, but the “real” world—an obtuse vision filled with work schedules and bosses and one hour lunches—sounds absolutely awful. I’m not a lazy person, but every time I think of a post-college career, I recall Naomi Klein’s book No Logo, which depicts the average worker as corporate monkeys, or that sad man in Coupland’s Microserfs who eats whatever his coworkers can shove under his door. Though humorous, this idea bothers me. Is that really how the corporate world works? If I had to envision the future, this would probably be something like it:

A Day in the Life of a Corporate Goblin

8:00 – Wake up. Agonizingly.

9:00 – Continue to lie in bed while agonizing over the mediocrity of corporate life.

9:15 – Still there.

9:30 – Fine! I get up. Hastily prepare myself for a day of endless routine.

9:45 – Get in the car.

10:00 – Barely make it on time, but no one would notice if I didn’t. Contemplate ways in which this can be exploited.

10:15 – Sit at computer, pretending to work. Really just on Facebook responding to and apologizing about the drunken messages I wrote last night.

10:30 – I had a lot of them.

10:45 – Open whatever work program I use. Probably something boring, like Microsoft Word or Excel.

11:00 – Meeting. We’re discussing something I have no interest in. There are probably memos passed around. The boss goes on a little tangent about people bringing in smelly food into the break room. I guess that Randy, my coworker who sits next to the break room, is just upset that his cubicle sucks.

11:30 – Halfway through the meeting I start drawing “Hello Kitty” designs on the memo that I have already received.

12:00 – Meeting over. Thank god! I return to my desk. I begin to type in the Facebook URL; then, disgusted with myself, check my email and instead.

12:15 – Boss comes over. Asks me how “the project” is going. I open up whatever stuff I’ve been “working” on, and drop into a robotic trance as I explain the ins and outs of what needs to be done.

12:30 – Real work ensues post-visit.

1:00 – Dogged with the enormous drain of mental resources the morning has incurred, I leave on a lunch break with a coworker. I’d like to imagine this coworker is funny, attractive, and really into me, but this is probably not the case.

2:30 – Lunch takes longer than expected. My coworker was talking about how he hates people that swim the English Channel because it’s like they’re trying to flaunt how much better they are than anyone else. He’s overweight.

3:00 – Countdown begins. I leave in two hours.

3:15 – Countdown continues. One hour and forty-five minutes.

3:30 – Boss passes by. I pound on the keyboard inanely, and then erase a page of nonsensical phrases after boss leaves.

4:00 – Realizing that I have done nothing the entire day, I begin an hour-long frantic effort to answer all my voice messages, reply to all my emails, and respond to all the post-its and memos that have accumulated on my desk.

5:00 – I leave everything half-completed.

I’m hoping that before I enter the career world, a cataclysmic disaster will rock the earth and give my life new meaning. Or robots will invade our planet, forcing us corporate workers to abandon our dreary cubicles and fight in massive struggle against a fierce and inhuman enemy.

Then maybe this is all aggravation stemming from my fear of the real world, like in Lu Xun’s “Diary of a Madman” where the protagonist believes everyone else is secretly a cannibal, but then mysteriously “recovers” and conforms to society. Maybe one day I’ll be like him or Wally from Dilbert or Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. The guys that are happy where they are, soulless they may be…

Let’s hope that robot uprising occurs pretty soon.

Jordan Barber is proud that the internet allows him to criticize, admonish, and irritate people from his own living room. And though this immense power only comes to the few, he promises to wield his hammer of judgment with a standoffish, thoughtful outlook.