Thursday, December 02, 2004

Er’body gotta work, nobody gotta like it

For those of you not on top of the exchange rate, the British Pound reached a record high versus the dollar on Wednesday – it’s almost 2:1. What does that have to do with anything? Well, easy, it’s all about the exchange rate for me. Financial aid dollars suddenly got smaller and it’s almost like I just got a raise. Well, not really a raise, but any money I end up bringing back to the States will be more. This, of course, leads me to the discussion of the day: work.

Before I get into the particulars of exactly why I have vast antipathy for my job, let me narrate a short story. Yesterday, they had a lunch for the whole firm. It was planned in advance and the occasion was to have these people from a particular charity come in and talk about something that will be affecting us, at least marginally. The only thing I truly cared about was if we were going to have real sandwiches or English sandwiches. Obviously, I was disappointed. Every single one was slathered with something that looked dangerously like mayo. Shockingly, I declined to eat. I can handle a little mayo now and then (as much as I abhor the stuff), but not in those quantities.

Anyway, the charity group was there to talk about mental illness. See, what they do is, they take people who are recovering from serious mental breakdowns and place them in very part-time jobs as a stepping stone to gain confidence, build up the CV, and get a feel for work life again. This is about 4 hours a week, so we’re not talking about much here. They spent the whole session doing what they would term “demystifying mental illness”, basically explaining that it’s a disease, it’s normal (1 in 3 suffer from it apparently), etc. This was all fine and good, they did a good job presenting, and it was a decent information exchange.

That being said: HAVE THEY NOT HEARD OF PRIVACY in this country? Now the entire office knows that the new person coming in next Wednesday has a mental illness. If the whole concern is to not stigmatize this person because their confidence is already shaky, then you failed in that mission. Now, we’re all the (mostly) decent sort at the office, but it’s a natural human condition to wonder “is so and so a schizophrenic” after you’ve been told that they have a serious and difficult mental condition. Frankly, it won’t bother me either way and I’m likely to have little, if any interaction with this person. But, I found the whole thing just uncomfortable. I know if I was that person, I would not want my status so aggressively displayed for the world to see.

At any rate, the Brits are focused on education, outreach, and sensitivity over privacy. Both have value, but I’m not convinced they’re doing the right thing here. But maybe that’s just me.

Ok, now to the real point: I have deep and growing antipathy for this job for at least three reasons:

First, I’m once again located in a job where I often have to seek out work to keep myself busy. That is so obnoxious. I’m a part-time employee. I don’t really establish relationships with people because either I’m not there or they’re not there. There is also no clear chain of command about who I go to for work. Now, technically I’m someone’s assistant. So if she has work (which she increasingly does), then I get busy. But if not, I literally have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I abhor that type of thing.

Fundamentally, I feel that it SHOULD NOT be the duty of the junior employees to find work for themselves. If you hire someone, you should have very specific criteria for what they will do on a day to day basis, a regular set of tasks, etc. My experience with timekeeping jobs (law firms and consulting) is that they all work this way. I think it’s because they’re organized around hourly fees. If an attorney is taking time out of their day to manage the support staff, then they’re not billing to a client and the firm doesn’t make money. So instead of having top down control, it’s a free for all system that depends on the underlings to get work for themselves. Whatever it’s worth, that’s not my style.

Second, I don’t want to be a lawyer and I feel like I’m already one. To understand this, you must understand a nuance of the quaint British system of pre-lawyerism. See, after law school, you don’t just take a bar exam and then start practicing. Instead, you go become a Legal Assistant. That’s right; you do an “internship” for two years at which point you can get "called to the bar" or whatever they call it here. So, the work that I do is increasingly substantive in very unpleasant ways.

For example, today I spent about 6 hours doing legal research attempting to find case law to justify a Director of a corporation receiving a pre-authorized indemnity against violating his fiduciary duty. In other words, dude wants to take actions that are contrary to the interests of the company and wants legal protection so that he doesn’t get personally sued if things go awry. (Yes, I can do this whole legal thing, but I could also drive a 6 inch screw into my frontal lobe as well.) This is not a complex issue. There are very few passages of the legal code (Companies Act 1985) that apply, there is limited guidance, and there aren’t many cases that could be applied. Of course, this didn’t stop the normally competent woman I “assist” from misreading the law (she’s had law school) and from insisting that I keep looking for hours after it was clear that, no, you don’t get indemnity. On this issue, the code is fairly explicit.

Third, I stare at a computer screen for 8 hours a day. It’s good to know that I don’t enjoy that (although I think I already learned that lesson), but it doesn’t change the fact that my job is basically my ass in my seat with my eyes glued to a 17” flat screen. If I was doing work that I was interested in, maybe I wouldn’t notice it much. But, when you’re already bored silly, things like that growing ache deep behind your eyes are always apparent.

At any rate, I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do about this issue. I definitely need to work (I literally would not be able to continue living here without some type of employment), but I would much prefer doing something that is going to aid my career (whatever that is). SO, I think I’ll stick it out as long as I can here (at least until the end of January – I gave my promise to do that) all the while looking for another, more suitable situation. Of course, if they suddenly gave me a £2-4 an hour raise, that might change the calculus…

The other part of the day’s absurdity was that I FINALLY got the 2nd pair of glasses that I ordered (the free pair). They’re a fine pair with two caveats: It should not have taken a month for me to get them AND they were supposed to be BLACK frames, not silver. I’m past the point of caring on that one, though. I mean, the place is called Optical Express. But the only thing that is express is your ride to angerville. While I was waiting, a middle aged British woman was complaining to the guy. She said this (and I quote): “It’s taken longer to fix the damn things than it did to make them!” I guess I’m not the only one.

Last note before this post becomes so long everyone stops reading (too late!). Because I was not eating those “sandwiches” (I thing they were really “ass-wiches”), I was forced to go find something to eat. No problem there. The area I work in has a number of cheap places to eat, none of which are very good. (Par for the course.) But, the Japanese place I wanted to eat at was out of food. Yes, you heard that right. So, I had to settle for a place called Fuse Box (clever). I ate there once before and the food isn’t bad and for £3.50 the price is right. HOWEVER, if you’re trying to attract customers, you should try your hardest to keep the place from smelling like wet dog. Of course, my desperation level was so high, I got my food there anyway (take-away of course!), but still. This is an eat place that’s been trying to increase sales – promotions, ads, etc. Perhaps they ought to think about making food that actually smells nice instead of handing out fliers.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it's just ass-tastic.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Political Favorites
Guilty Pleasures
My Global Position