I’ve worked in the corporate world for a good amount of time now. The previous company I worked for, however, was Chinese owned, with first generation Chinese immigrants filling almost every leadership position, and was very insular. As such, picking up new corporate lingo was few and far between. It wasn’t until I left and moved to my current day job that I was inundated with new terms. Now I was dealing with “swim lanes”, “sales and marketing motions”, “sanity checks”, “boiling the ocean”, and more. Recently, the phrase I’ve been hearing around the office a lot is “drinking from a firehose”. And that phrase has particular relevance since I’ve fired up this site again.
Part of making any publication successful is broadcasting; and an effective way to broadcast is through social media. So I returned to my long-dormant Twitter account to see what was going on in my feed. As soon as tweets were scrolling across my eyes, my mind was blasted with information, and that information expanded exponentially as I unconsciously started to unpack each tweet, identifying the subject, the story, and how I might report on it. I then felt the urge to cover everything I saw. If I wanted to play with the big boys, then I needed to represent that I was a big boy. But, like a time traveler witnessing my own past events, I had been through all of this already, and I could see the burnout waiting for me in the distance.
I wasn’t going to make that mistake. This is a new direction for Working Author, and these are the new terms. And the new terms are simple: I’m only going to write what I feel like writing when I feel writing. I want to enjoy writing again. Ever since I’ve restarted blogging recently, I’ve been reminded of how fulfilling this can be, shining my thoughts like a beacon into the vast empty darkness of existence and hoping likeminded people respond. I’ll also admit that I love describing things and recounting events in my own way. Consider this excerpt from an ancient blog post that’s not posted anywhere online anymore. I was working an event and talking to a cocktail waitress:
“It depends on the crowd.” At this point, finding that there was no embarrassment to be had, my coworkers wandered off to get back to work and Jennifer and I both turned to watch them go. “You don’t have to go with them?”
Taking the hint, “Actually I do.” I turned back to her, but she was already looking away at someone else, “It was nice talking to you.” I extended my hand.
Still looking away, she replied, “It was nice talking to you, too,” and she kept me hanging until my hand brushed against her arm and she quickly grabbed at my hand to shake it but caught my wrist instead. So we awkwardly shook each other’s wrists.
“And you’re René?”
“That’s right. Have a good evening.”
“You too.” And then I let her go to take care of something over there while I walked in the opposite direction.
To really sum up Jennifer’s people skills, she has a really strong, stripper-like quality to her conversation abilities. Hell, she might actually be a stripper for all I know. For those of you who’ve never interacted with a stripper while she’s working, strippers have this uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re the only person in the club while she’s working you and then be able to get rid of you in a very non-confrontational, non-dismissive way. In this case, Jennifer cleverly observed that I was working the event and used my coworkers leaving as a way to suggest that I leave too. It wasn’t she that got rid of me. It was work calling me away. Furthermore, the quality of attention she was giving me is typically the kind you get only when you pay for it. Did I mention that she has a smile that’ll stop traffic?
So even though we had models walking around and I was surrounded by mortal goddesses, patrons included, all night long, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Jennifer for the rest of the evening.
As such, I spent most of the night with our in-house tradeshow coordinator, E, who shares one of my cubicle walls. Even though he’s new to the company we’ve become fast friends because of his coolness jelling so well with mine. Here’s an example: back at the office, when I tried to clear any incestuous misgivings I was having, I asked him, “If my sister-in-law has a hot sister, what does that make the hot sister to me?”
After a moment of thoughtful reflection, E said, “Single and available.” Tell me that shit ain’t fucking gold!
So anyway, we’re sitting there, trying to avoid our boss, and I’m watching Jennifer walk back and forth in front of us, serving guests left and right in a mechanical, but friendly way, and I turn to E and ask, “How do people actually meet other people at places like this? I’m drowning in pretentiousness.”
“What? You mean like clubs?” E asks. This guy is a little older than me and has definitely been around. Seen his fair share of hotspots. Indulged in frivolous romances. He understands the pair bonding and mating rituals of humans better than most. “Well, when people come to places like this, they’re looking for something. Whether it’s sex, a good time or a long-term relationship. To get that, you go where people go and that’s the clubs, the bars, wherever.”
“I get you. Let me amend what I said then. How does a guy like me, of average means – average looks, average height, average income – land a girl like that,” I pointed at Jennifer (kudos to her for working the entire shift every night in high heels, by the way), “when I have to stand next to these guys?”
E looked at me awkwardly for a second, “You think you don’t have as much to offer as these guys?” Inside I rolled my eyes. Not the you’re-so-money-and-you-don’t-even-know-it spiel again. “You gotta have self-worth and present that.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I know I have way more to offer than any of these guys, any day.”
“You watch the nature channel? You know, the animal kingdom? Just go with me for a minute. This’ll make sense.”
“Once in a while,” I lied. I don’t have TV, but I know what he’s talking about and quibbling over minutia, like I’m doing now, would only slow the pace of the conversation.
“This,” he made an all-encompassing circular gesture, “is the same thing. You know how the birds’ song has to be perfect or they won’t mate? It’s the same fucking thing here.”
“Exactly,” I was prepared to turn his analogy on him, “To me, it’s more like peacocks. When the males are looking to mate, they show off their feathers and the females go with the one who looks the best. The ‘ugly’ peacock might be more virile, a better protector, whatever, but he’ll never get the chance to prove that because of the way he looks. That’s the boat I’m in. No one will ever know what I have to offer.”
E grabbed the water bottle I was holding. “You see this?” The bottle was sleek, elegant, but also minimalistic in its rigid, cylindrical design and no stick-on label. It looked like it cost ten bucks. “This is a Wal-Mart product.” He pointed at the fine print. “It’s all about packaging. But I’ll be honest with you, it’s a lot of work. You gotta keep up with all the latest trends and styles. Hair, clothes, everything. I’m not saying copy everyone else. You know, integrate current styles into your own.”
The model the club hired to sit on the lifeguard tower all night by the door walked past on his break. The man stands easily around 6’2″ and looks like his body was chiseled out of iron by master sculptors and painted over in a perfectly tanned fleshy hue. When you break yourself down to your basic instincts and you think of the epitome of man at his physical perfection, then you’re thinking of this guy: a god among men.
E and I craned our heads up to look at him as he waded through the clubbers, who parted for him like lily pads in a pond. “Sometimes, I just feel like no amount of physical alteration is going to help me.”
E had no response.
Well, to wrap things up, the event went off without a hitch. My boss decided to take off a couple of hours early, leaving the cleanup to E and I. The president of the company had a great time, taking me aside at one point to ask, “Isn’t this fucking great?” And before the night was over, I gave Jennifer my business card and told her that we were going to shoot some commercials soon and to give the card to her agency. She touched my bicep, looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you,” affecting just enough heartfelt gratitude to make me feel like this was the first time anyone had given her a business card before.
Yeah, she was good.
Man, I miss writing like that! I was writing just for me, and if someone came along and didn’t like what they read, then they could die. I didn’t care! I want to get back to that place as a writer. I want to be fearless again.