Sunday, March 29, 2009

The 40-hour work week

I haven’t pulled a 40-hour work week in three months. What a shock to the system!
Like any 40-hour work week at a new job, this entry will be long, unfocused, slightly overwhelming, and occasionally boring.
First, a morning routine: Wake up, get out of bed, oh that’s the hard part, it’s still dark outside, and the bed is so soft and Ed is warm. There is no shower in the Ellie Mae, so we have to sneak into the house, all quiet-like because Grant and Carol are still asleep, get ready and cook breakfast. Juggling all the way.
Depending on the item, we either keep our possessions in the Airstream, the house, or boxed up in the barn. Our farm clothes, kitchen items and books are in the trailer, our business clothes and tomato seedlings are in the house, everything else is in the barn. So we have a little wicker basket to carry everything into the house, which we pile up with our toothbrushes and our eggs, and it’s cold in the morning, but we’re getting used to it. Ed makes coffee while I shower.
Business clothes are different than farm clothes, but I like wearing them. Although by the end of the day, I’m glad to take them off. Farm clothes are the same two pair of jeans that are covered in mud, but business clothes are lined trousers and pressed cotton button-ups. Different costumes for my different lives, but both me.
I didn’t have a good business wardrobe. My company in Beverly Hills was small, and we did not have heavy walk-in traffic, the dress was “business casual”. My clothes were okay, but they would not be acceptable at my new office, which is “business professional”. There is a lot of client interaction at my new job and I’m the receptionist. So we bowed to the inevitable and went shopping. I’m not a big shopper, I say it’s because I was never taught how to shop, it is an art. Well, with the assistance of Robbin, the Outlets, and a killer one day sale, I was able to get a very solid foundation of business attire which I can build on.
Ed is so funny, he’s the dreamer in our marriage, I’m the practical one, one minute I’m hearing him whisk my career off, moving rapidly up the rungs of the corporation, till I’m running the show and rolling in the dough. The next breath he’s painting the picture of us walking our goats out to the pasture, weeding our garden, carving our living out of the jam and salsa we will sell. We decided that our ultimate goal is to have a lot of small streams of revenue. That way if you lose one, which we learned first hand can happen, it will not be as detrimental. The other sources of income we’ve discussed, would be me providing personal bookkeeping services to individuals, and eventually me publishing a book.
The flaws in the current monetary based system we as a society operate on, and the excitement of seeing how much food we can produce for ourselves, which will decrease our need for money, are ideas that are always in our conversations, I think I’ve touched on those subjects before, which doesn’t mean that I won’t again. In the end, the existentialist in me say’s, “thems’ are the policies and procedures of our society, and all of the philosophy doesn’t change the reality”. Reality being that while this property has a lot of potential and infrastructure, it also has a mortgage.

Where was I? Getting ready for work. I kiss my husband goodbye and jump into the car. Ed has to open the gate for me so I can exit the property. The drive into town is amazing, I have a seven mile drive over half forest, half pasture and hills on county lanes. And the sun is just coming up, heating the low clouds and fog out of the little valleys. And then I walk into the office.
Completely different story real quick, I drove around the country by myself after graduating U of A, (2 months, 11,000 miles). When I was driving through South Dakota, this place called Wall Drug was recommended to me as the oldest most interesting road side drug store in the state. So I marked it on my map, and I spent the first part of the day driving out of the Black Hills, taking the back way to the Badlands, where I wandered around as the only soul in sight. Only to leave the serenity of nature for an over-crowded, cluttered, noisy, campy souvenir shop and café, with screaming children and overweight adults pushing their way down the aisles. Well, this is similar to the loss of tranquility I experience when I leave the solitude of my car and walk into an office, where I don’t know where anything is, or how to do anything. But more on that point later. (the story of my travels is the premise of another book I hope to one day write).
How long does it take to become accustomed? Can we create an equation, where the variable is what one is being accustomed to? Although I resisted it at first, and I didn’t really notice the transformation, I’ve become accustomed to our routine around here. Taking care of the animals, being with my husband, playing in the compost, planting trees, and planning ahead, and spending time with Ed. We’d been spoiled, and now I’m going through withdrawls. From my desk at work I can see the sun breaking upon a rugged green slope and I wonder how the tomatoes and Ed are doing. How long will it take for me to become accustomed to my new environment in the office?
First I have to learn the routine, become familiar with the company and the office dynamics. My new company, which we will call ‘The Corp’, was a large entity bought by a big national corporation, which was then bought by an even larger national corporation. So all of the office protocol and computer applications, and paperwork policies had just changed about a month before I started, and ‘The Corp” has received notice that in about a year the merger with the bigger national corporation will start, and everything will change again. Because the poor co-worker trying to train me just had everything changed on her a month ago, half the time she’s not sure what the correct procedures are.
I began to ponder about the merging of companies and assets, and it’s a lot more work than just simply proclaiming, “hey, we are one big company now”, or “hey, we own you now.” There is redundancy and wrinkles that need to be ironed out. There is also computer systems and databases that need to be combined or eliminated, new training for employees, or the termination of other team members. It takes a long time.
I’ve never worked for a large corporation before. I’ve worked for the state government, (Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind) and I’ve worked for small business owners. The company I worked for in Beverly Hills was a 3 person operation. We weren’t bogged down in policy and procedure. We called the shots and rolled with the punches. In fact, I was alone in the office 40% of the time, on my toes, bouncing around, getting shit done. And I liked it! I like having so much work to do that you think there is no way you will ever be able to finish it all. I like being challenged and facing each new problem head on. Except when it comes to filing, I don’t care for filing that much.
Well, at ‘The Corp’ we have to fax every decision we make, before we make it to corporate headquarters somewhere in Iowa, so the person at the other end of the fax machine can stamp approval on it and fax it back. This wastes a lot of time and a lot of paper. Much of the work that I will be doing requires me to navigate their computer programs, so I must sit through hours of computer training. Because of the corporate system I must take all this training under my login ID, which for the first half of the week was not being recognized by the system. So I was shipped a new computer which I could log onto, but once logged on I did not have access to half of the needed applications, and none of the training programs. The few applications I do have access to have a different ID code, that you have to enter to complete an order, and of course I have not received this ID code. Finally, my computer is not on the printer network, so I can’t even print out address labels.
So I stare at a computer screen that won’t allow me to do anything, or I stare out the window, thinking what a nice day outside, and thinking about what needs to be done around the farm. It’s my first week of work, and I’m bored. That’s bad, it’s bad for my mental health and it’s bad for my work performance. I’m going to grin and bare it, and I hope it gets better and the pace picks up, because I need to earn $$, But what is the trade off? We are always trading one thing for something else, and usually it is our time, or our own better judgment.


  1. a friendly tip: Don't post about your job where your employer can read it, unless the post is titled "I love my job". "I'm bored at my job" is not a good thing for your employer to read. As an employer myself, I'd find someone who likes the job instead.

  2. Thanks for your comment.
    Ed said the same thing, that maybe I shouldn't post an entry that speaks negatively about my job. I thought about that, but decided that I shouldn't allow fear of repercussion curb my honesty.
    And it is entirally possible that within two weeks, I'll be loving my job, in which case, I'll post that too.
    Have a good day.

  3. I am so glad you posted. I have been wondering what you were doing and if you made it through week one. I wonder how long it would take you to turn your degree into a teaching degree through an alternative certification program? You would make a great high school english teacher. Your writing is amazing and it is obvious that you are genuine and I think that those are the two most important qualities to be an english teacher. Plus teaching has an amazing amount of benefits. I get the summer off to garden and I have shorter work day so I have less driving. It is also a job where creativity is encouraged. Just a thought. Take care and have a better second week and just keep being you.
    Susan in Dallas

  4. once you figure it out it will be fun. starting a new job especially an office job is always tricky at first.

    I don't see this post as negative but more of a new yet scary task that you are experiencing. its hard to be confident and comfortable when you are thrown into something you dont completely understand.

    ps. chris is the dreamer and i am practical. but atleast ed can be knocked into reality when its really needed.