Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Assistant's Manifesto, a.k.a. Cacace's Call to Revolution

I fear that my kindergarten-era fantasy of adulthood has come true. I go to work on a TRAIN and I have PINK BELT and I still get to wear SNEAKERS and you know what else? There's a vending machine? And it has THREE KINDS OF SKITTLES? And I have so many QUARTERS in my PURSE. And I get to make COPIES ALL THE TIME AND THERE ARE FREE PENS. AND no one makes me do ANYTHING, EVER.

There isn't much I can say about the business world that hasn't been muttered a hundred thousand times, then parodied in a Dilbert strip, snipped out, and tacked in a cubicle in the most infuriatingly ineffective stab at either entertainment or rebellion from management.

If one were to uncap the roof of my building and examine my office from above, it would appear to be a poorly designed rat maze. Every path leads to a square dead end, though each does offer a computer, coffee-cup and an occasional neglected fern. It gets me that it's a given that the office world is brainless, heartless, fundamentally humorless.

Most criminally, it's a fruitless system whose only great achievement has been constructing its own support beams. A hierarchical structure emphasizes downward dependence, which gives the impression of significance, but if you zoom out even for a second the absolute absurdity of innumerable mid-levels will smack you in the face. It's no great secret that only a miniscule portion of the billions of man-hours fed like Cheetos to the great Corporate Couch Potato produce something necessary.

Take my Rolodex, for example. It's sitting on my desk, looking right at me. Out of approximately two-hundred and fifty blank, Rolodex-specific cards, three are filled out. The handwriting is different between the three cards, which means this particular Rolodex has been virtually useless during the tenure of at least three assistants.

Aside from the fact that I hate this stupid piece of crap, it makes me nearly homicidal to think that there is a Rolodex Corporation, with a Rolodex President, who employs hundreds of Rolodex Employees that manufacture these fucking things to sit on desks and never be filled in. There is a Rolodex sister factory who produces the notched Rolodex cards, which demonstrate their Darwinian superiority to the 3x5 card by having evolved trademark Rolodex voids at their bottom edge. They are also lineless; Rolodex permits you to exercise the freedom of writing however large or small you choose.

Worst, there are Rolodex PR people who spend eight hours a day, fifty weeks out of the year promoting the virtues of the Rolodex--and in the Rolodex microcosm, these people are providing a valuable Rolodex service. They are integral to the Rolodex team, and therefore must be so to the world at large.

While the Rolodex PR person may spend their hours convincing people to upgrade their two-hundred and fifty blank cards to five-hundred blank cards, the most useless person in the known world is his or her assistant.

On a universal level, assistants are the corporate equivalent of a gold star sticker. You've done a great job! Accept this recent college graduate of a token of our esteem. Though you have to walk past the fax machine to get to your assistant's desk, your assistant will now do all of your faxing for you. He or she will also update you on hip lingo, fashion trends, and new movies! Impress your co-wokers! Lend your assistant out to other employees! Collect all seven: Listless Liberal Arts Grad, Wait-Listed Law Student, Perma-Temp, I'm-Gonna-Be-A-Writer! Guy, Business School Kid Whose Degree Still Only Got Them This Shitty Entry-Level Job, Girl Who Never Worked a Day in Her Life Before Today, and The V.P.'s Assistant's Cousin.

Humans have yet to prove or disprove the existence of God, but because I am an assistant I will exert the greatest portion of my mental energy on my Theorem of Who Ran the Copier Out of Toner Already. I have not accomplished my goal of reading all of Shakespeare's comedies. I have not consumed nearly enough Oscar Wilde. Because I am an assistant, the only witty anecdote that will even enter my sphere of consciousness today is the delicately nuanced Tale of the Receptionist Who May or May Not Have Seen Someone Wash Their Feet in the Kitchenette Sink.

Assistants, unite! Under the flag of ludicrousness, lay aside your compulsive e-mail refreshing, your Fantasy Football team, your record-breaking paper-clip chains! There is little we can do about our positions; instead, let us transform the office. Let us speak to each other in the hallway. Let us not eat lunch at our desks. Let us unplug our earbuds and instead share our music audibly, perhaps engage in a little shuffle, step, ball-change at the water cooler.

We can no longer rely solely on bands with umlauts in their names to express our emotions for us. Can we make just a little of our own rock n' roll each day? Please? For my sake?


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