Monday, January 31, 2005

True Believer

by Skald

"Mornin, Coffee's hot". That was Watson Jr.s standard greeting in the morning. It was usually followed by a slap on the back and a soulful look in the eyes. "Let's get to it", he'd say.

Watson Jr. was an IBM true believer. During my time at that temple of mediocrity, most people I met were drones and burnouts. They knew their jobs were meaningless and monotonous but couldn't imagine doing anything else. "There's no escaping the rat race", they claimed.

But Watson was different. He believed the IBM propaganda. Every day he arrived early and left late. He wore spotless suits and power ties. He volunteered for extra work. He clutched palms, winked, nodded, smirked, and joked his way to the top of the department. He seemed to love it.

This produced a philosophical crisis for me. I understood the pathetic burnouts-- I felt just like them at the time. I felt like a wolf in a trap ready to gnaw off its leg to escape. The sad bastards around me made it worse. Their passion for life had been crushed long long ago. They were doing time till retirement.

But everyday Watson bounded in and worked the room. He even smoozed me... a lowly intern with a bad attitude. Somehow, he seemed to love working 10-12 hour days. He seemed to love the tan and grey decor. He seemed to love directing training videos about thrilling topics such as "computer maintenence" or "copier repair". He didn't seem to notice the burnouts around him... they never got him down.

"How could this be?", I asked myself. I had no frame of reference to understand the guy.... so I searched for pathological explanations. "Maybe he has low self-esteem and thrives on the attention".... "Maybe he's lonely and has nothing better to do". These were my working theories. But another thought crept in. What if he was sincere? I shuddered.

But it may be the case. Maybe guys like Watson Jr. are what keep the sorry system from collapsing under its own sagging weight. Maybe there are a few mutants... perhaps 1% of the population, who really believe in that shit and thrive on it. These pace setters drive the bored and belittled masses onwards-- keep em hustling and working for the man. Its possible.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to him... its been 15 years. Did he keep climbing that ladder? Is he now a vice-president? Or was he downsized when his salary got too big... Did he spiral into self-destruction? Is he still a middling white collar wage slave?

Or maybe the futility of it all finally sunk in. Maybe he's squatting in Amsterdam-- eating mushrooms every day.

I'd like to think so. I like to think that people can awaken to new possibilities. I like to believe that they can overcome conditioning. I like to think that deep inside, every human being recognizes that love and life are more important than money.

But I may be wrong.

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