At my last job whenever I was given a project, I was also given a deadline of fifteen minutes, and if I so much as typed a single key on the keyboard after receiving said project, my boss would accuse me of chatting instead of working by way of asking me what I was typing.
Sometimes I would be looking up something pertinent to the project on the internet, and I would tell her as much with triumph in my voice, and she would say, “Oh.”
Sometimes I was chatting. Damn.
She was operating under the assumption that I am an indolent teenager who has no grasp of responsibility and is unable to meet deadlines without assistance.
None of this is true, of course. I am a deadline-driven creature. I do my best work at the last hour. Stress is my motivator. In college, I was completely unable to begin writing a paper until 24 hours before it was due. But I was always pleased with the finished product, and I pulled an all-nighter only once, and that was mostly for the college experience of pulling an all-nighter. And for the joy of getting donuts at 5 in the morning.
At my new job, I have no such motivator. I’m given projects with deadlines like “five days” and “two weeks.” I don’t even know what to do with myself with deadlines like these. So I begin working on the project right away. And then the project is almost done several days ahead of time, and I’m left to tweak it endlessly, which every editor knows is a big no-no.
So I switch gears and decide to do something else. This is only my second week at this job. I have a lot to learn. I could read the AMA Manual of Style, I guess. Or research cancer. That’s always a hoot.
I think for a while about how cool it’d be if I could just download the information into my brain like in The Matrix. A few seconds of my eyes twitching in a really creepy way, and I’m the new master of Biomedical Editing, without all that boring learning.
Then I remember that I haven’t peed in the last half hour, so I go pee, which takes about three minutes. The bathroom is all the way down the hall, and we have to use an access card to get back into the office. Everyone wears their access cards on their person, attached with a fun little retractable cord. Pulling the card on the cord, holding it up to the sensor, seeing the little light turn from red to green, and hearing a beep and a click is the big perk of going to pee.
Then what. There’s an apple on my desk. Guess I’ll eat it. I need to wash it first, though, so I’ve scored myself a trip to the kitchen. And since I’m going to the kitchen, I guess I’ll take my water bottle with me to give it a refill. Even though it’s 3/4 full, the water is tepid, and drinking tepid water out of a stainless steel bottle gives me the creeps. One quick rinse and a refill later, I’m back at my desk, gnawing on my apple as quietly as possible because IT’S SO QUIET IN HERE. It’s impossible to eat an apple quietly, by the way. You basically have to gum it like a toddler.
My last office was one open space with about thirty people crammed into it, like a newsroom, and I got used to working with a constant din in the background. In my new office, the editors have an “editorial suite,” which is really just a glass box centrally located in the office. There are four people in here including me, and no one talks because everyone’s terrified to break the silence. So we IM each other from a few feet away. But in my opinion, it’s way more awkward to actually HEAR the person a few feet away typing a reply to your IM than breaking the deafening silence with your shaky, underused voice.
After the apple, the internet calls to me. I kick myself for not expanding the kitchen trip into two separate trips: one for the apple, one for the water. Because now I have to wrestle with my inner work ethic demons regarding personal internet usage at work.
Because of my last job, I have no idea how often normal people at their normal jobs surf the internet normally. For all I know, everyone works every minute of every day as long as they have something to do, which is always, or they wouldn’t have a job. Maybe the second I log onto Facebook, I’m going to get called into the VP’s office to discuss my inappropriate Facebook activity while on the clock. There’s still a little Baptist girl inside of me who’s certain that she’ll get knocked up or contract HIV the first time she has sex outside of marriage. I imagine my former boss’s voice cracking over my back like a whip. Giddy up, horsey. There’s work to do.
There’s a word for this, and it’s called trauma.
At this new job, the assumption is that I’m a professional, capable, responsible adult who values her work, prides herself on her work ethic, and goes above and beyond on projects. And I’m looking forward to proving them right.
Just as soon as I finish this blog post.