Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My work choices

Warning! Warning! Dangerously long and auto-biographical blog post! Contains very little popular culture commentary!

So for various reasons (mostly the ‘wanting to keep my job’ reason) I’ve not always written about what I do for a living.

The odd snippet here and there has probably let the cardigan-wearing, morning-tea-trolley-pushing cat out of the bag and anyone who is interested has probably picked up that I am a public servant ................. (I’ve left that space there for your gasps of awe).

So anyway, about 6 months ago, convinced that it would be “good for my career” I moved to a particularly dark, manky and ‘orrible corner of the public service world where the hours were frightful, the atmosphere soul-destroying and the issues eye-gouging-out-with-a-teaspoon-ly boring.

In this dark pit, anyone who maintained a cheery outlook, interacted socially with their work-mates or displayed a eagerness to ‘balance’ work with home-life (and by ‘balance’ I mean going home occasionally during the week) were taken to an unmarked room in the basement fitted out with flickery fluro lights and unusual stains on the walls, never to be seen again.

The doors to the outside world were guarded by deeply psychopathic orcs and when/if you left at the end of the day they would pass you a rusty blade with which to peel off just a tiny bit of your soul to throw into the flaming 40-gallon drums which marked the ceremonial entrance to the building. Not that I want to be melodramatic, at all. Oh no, not me. This is EXACTLY how it was.

I haven’t relayed any of this before partly because the place had the world’s most oppressive security and I was (probably quite rightly) immensely paranoid about publishing anything to do with the place. Also, not long after starting there I think my body/mind went into survival mode, dedicating all mental/emotional energy to staying sane, leaving little left over for creative whinging blogging.

But anyway, those around me probably noticed me nose-diving quite quickly into a state of mind that could probably be most hysterically, nicely described as “hopelessly oppressed and listless”.

Having a strong conviction these days to put the skids real early on anything resembling a destructive state of mind, I’ve exited the joint (after a long period of “oh, you’re leaving us” purgatory, in which each and every crappy task was dumped on my desk – thanks very much, bastards).

I am now basking in the sunny, rainbow and kitten-filled delights of a cruisey, happy-go-lucky no-responsibility role in what I consider to be the most interesting portfolio in the federal public service (I don’t think I want to be more specific than that, right now but I will say that I am enjoying being forced to read Variety magazine for work – nyah nyah).

Pictorial representation of my current state of mind

This new outlook on life means I feel slightly more comfortable about sharing some of the highlights of “the other place”, as I refer to it in conversation (even saying its name out loud still sends me into a cold shiver, my body jerking with nervous tics and a Tourette’s like proliferation of swears - quite humourous, if you enjoy visual comedy).

So, for the purposes of creating a “bumper holiday edition” of comicstriphero, here are some highlights, just for the galling entertainment value. I hope you all enjoy my pain. No doubt there’ll be more as I become more comfortable confronting my ‘issews’ and feeling the power within blah blah courage blah blah, wind beneath my wings, etc.

An Australian icon

All staff at ‘the other place’ were, of course (being good little non-unAustralians) all completely bereft upon hearing of the death of the late Mr Steve Irwin. Tears flowed! Chests were beaten in rage against the cruelty of the universe! Emotional email tributes abounded! And, in a massive, massive break-out of gay-abandon, people were actually turning away from their computers and talking to each other about non-work-related matters!

It was about this time that I came to realise that I felt very different to my workmates - lesbian hair-cut and facial piercings aside. In fact, I started to suspect that I had somehow missed out on the special get your personality removed with a special syringe new-starters’ induction session that everybody else appeared to have attended.

Forthwith, the following exchange regarding the heroic Mr Irwin:
Me: Gee, that stingray must have been pretty clever, aiming for his heart and everything. Eh?! Eh?! *wink wink*
(I know, not the funniest line in the world but at least I was trying)
Some guy: No. It doesn’t work like that. The stingray’s barb is only ever employed as an involuntary reflex in response to danger and it was pure chance that it hit Steve Irwin in the heart.

Me: (absolutely crushed) Um, yeah. Ok. That was actually supposed to be a facetious remark.

Some guy: (after staring at me blankly for at least 5 seconds) I don’t think you understand – the sting-ray doesn’t aim its barb…

Me: ‘Facetious’ meaning satirical or deliberately light-hearted.

Some guy: …in fact it has been scientifically proven that the barb is deployed in a matter of milliseconds so the key factors in this scenario would have been Steve’s location, the angle the ray was swimming along…

Shot through the heart – and you’re to blame

After this, I decided not to raise the topic ever, ever again. It was about this point in time I received an iPod for my birthday (thanks LovelyWife!) and I proceeded to glue the earbuds into my skull to try and avoid the temptation of attempting to interact on such issues in the future.

As you will see, it didn’t work for long

Oh the humanity!

On the rare occasions that my colleagues could break themselves away from their engaging and long running series of discussions (yes, it was a series) on the complex issues arising from the application of market-based principles to regulatory impact assessments (this was their social interaction mind you, and not directly related to their work), they would choose to lighten the load by discussing such frivolous and hearty topics as…wait for it…the most efficient form of mass transit for moving large numbers of people AND freight at the same time.

I know! What a party! Woo.
Pointy-head #1: No matter how much you try you’ll never convince me that heavy rail is flexible enough to accommodate the rapidly changing demographics of post-industrial civilisations.

Pointy-head #2: But you continue to ignore the important role of existing infrastructure.

Pointy-head #1: That’s not an acceptable argument. We’re working in hypothetical mode here.

Pointy-head #2: Well anyway, in terms of energy-expended per kilometre travelled, the Zeppelin is actually the most efficient means of transporting people and freight at the same time.

Pointy-head #1: Yeah, ok, that might be the case, but the ratio of fuel-storage requirements to actual storage capacity is sub-optimal. For it to be able to travel long distances, a Zeppelin needs to carry much more fuel per unit of weight transported than any other example you’ve come up with.

Pointy-head #2: Ah-hah! You see, it burns its fuel so slowly, that this is not really an issue. It can actually get away with carrying a lot less fuel in total than any comparable transportation vehicle over the same distance.

Me: (making a desperate attempt to interact socially with someone, anyone) Well, it would have to carry a light load, wouldn’t it? I mean, it has to float, right? Plus, wouldn’t a Zeppelin be light on fuel because it is so bloody slow? Thereby negating any advantages derived from its supposed efficiency?

At its top-speed I reckon I could walk along behind one poking it with a long, energy-efficient stick to help double its normal speed. Meanwhile, my mates on a train have alighted at their destination and delivered their packages.

(Long silence)

Pointy-head #2: (turning away in disgust) Look, there’s no need to be rude.
(Insert sound of me slowly dying inside)

comicstriphero was surprised by the ferocity with which her will to live burned

Try not to breathe

I knew for sure I was living and working amongst aliens (and not amusing aliens such as ALF or Dr Zoidberg) when it became apparent that no one in the office shared my puerile and juvenile sense of humour (I know! Very hard to believe).

I tried (honest I did) to sit through a meeting about bottom trawling without giggling like an idiot. But then my mind, being ever so cruel, had me imagining Rick from the Young Ones saying ‘bottom trawling’ and I just about lost it.

Until I realised that everyone else in the room was absolutely stoney-faced and unmoved.

I’d fancy some bottom trawling with Felicity Kendall … oo-er!

I mean, come on people! Bottom-trawling! That’s a-grade humour right there!


This scene was repeated not long after during a meeting in which frequent reference was made to a map showing an “East Intercourse Island”.

I sh*t you not:

At that point I was going to interject and suggest that what we really needed to talk about was why anyone, anywhere, at any time would think that this was a good name for an island and perhaps there were some doings-a-transpirin’ ashore this strange isle. I was also going to suggest a site visit was in order.

But again, not even the tiniest twitch of a smile on the faces of my ‘colleagues’.

So, clearly, this place was a humanitarian disaster (I’m really failing at this whole ‘try not to be melodramatic’ thing). If this were the ‘80s, I’m sure it would qualify as telethon material – Daryl Somers and Ray Martin could team up to raise the $249,682 needed to fund urgently needed personality transplants for these poor, suffering public servants.

I'm going to open up a can of telethon on yo' ass

Good news for those of you who have made it all the way through this post – I’m currently undergoing some repressed memory therapy and hope to be in a position to bleat hysterically relay more of my exciting adventures shortly!

And you thought Christmas was exciting! What a thrilling Australian Idol journey you are joining me on!


Mikhela said...

Frighteningly, I thought that conversation about zeppelins vs rail was quite interesting. Wadja ROON it for?

TimT said...

My God, it sounds like it must have been just as much fun as a party full of Transport Bloggers. How on earth did you survive? Also, Intercourse Island? ROOLY?

Georg said...

I have nothing to add except: great post. I really enjoyed it in an equal parts horrifed-highly amused kind of way. If that makes sense.

Ampersand Duck said...

Congratulations on making it out of that place ALIVE and fit to laugh another day. I am relieved it all came to pass! Phew.

Great post, BTW. How can you fail with kittens and stingrays? Not to mention Rick with a silent P.