The Very Spirit of Ingratitude

It is Thursday. I have come to work on time and there is nothing to do. Almost no students about, teachers and office staff practically self-isolating in their offices. We have a lot of new security officers – former or retired police officers – and every so often I see a stranger in a security uniform moseying through the building or the campus…

It is a snow day, kind of (we worked half the day, until noon), but it is different when the campus is full, and the offices are open.

What I am saying is I do not work hard. I don’t, certainly not compared to how hard I worked when I first started and the first 17 years of my employment at this university. I regularly worked two jobs because we stayed short-staffed for years. In my eager-to-please days as a dedicated and faithful employee who didn’t know how to say “no”, there were many Fridays – and the occasional Thursday – when I would be doing my own job and filling in for my supervisor and his assistant.

(I still don’t know how to say “no”.)

I didn’t complain – to my boss (I did complain to people who could keep their mouths shut). I didn’t rebel. I didn’t resist. I didn’t call in sick on busy days (or any days). I didn’t sulk or talk back. At the height of my career as a “model employee”, I would walk to work in below zero weather, when the roads were nearly undrivable, and the buses were not running. Or I would work Saturdays and Sundays – a seven-day week – for two, three weeks. I was the only employee on-call (I still am, now that I think about it), and would dutifully force myself to get out of bed and come in to extract water from carpets and wet-vac tile floors at 10 pm, midnight, and even, once, at two in the morning.

I come to work, now, and…I haven’t seen a work order in months. I deliver supplies every now and then, maybe every two weeks, but the loads seem lighter, and the supply orders less frequent. John, my boss, doesn’t use the radio anymore. He texts me, or emails me, so it can be weeks before I get a call. If there are no supplies to deliver, I have very little to do, and the bare amount that I do would not be called work by anyone who expends real effort to do and keep their jobs.

Nevertheless, yesterday, I thought, “I need a new job. I am tired of getting up and coming to work five days a week. I want to work from home, like the more fortunate segment of the population. Every day I hear wonder stories of – and from – people who only have to get out of bed and walk to their computers to be at work, from people who don’t have to leave their homes if they don’t want to, except for medical appointments, family visits, and emergencies. Meals and groceries delivered, bills paid online, office at home.

I want to live The Life.”

And, I am not kidding, it was not until yesterday that I realized how ungrateful I am.

I used to hustle for my daily bread. I used to sweat. I haven’t put in a full day’s work in almost a year. There was that one day…I hauled, pulled, lifted from just past 8:30 am. until ten or maybe five minutes to four – and I was livid. I sat on the couch at home and contemplated taking the next day off, for almost two hours, until I got over it. I had to work a little past four one day last year, too, I forget why…

Full stop.

I don’t work hard. I barely work at all. I don’t know how I got so lucky. I went from working my tail off, nearly every day at one point, to going four, sometimes five, days in a row with nothing to do until after lunch break. I am blessed. I would have to be crazy to quit my job for a real job. I don’t even know how to do a full day’s work anymore. I don’t even know if I am physically able to.

The question just occurred to me, yesterday: how long would it take me to get used to working five days a week, really working, on a clock, with a supervisor hovering somewhere over my shoulder, with a specific workload and defined metrics for work performance? How long before I settled into it? How long would I resent it? Why do I even want to do it?

And I do want to do it, get a new job, that is (and I am looking). Not any new job. Not hard labor, for instance. I have moved furniture, washed cars, and stripped and waxed floors. I hold those experiences deep in my heart and I don’t want any more like them. I want a desk job, an office job, a writing job, preferably. It would be “less work” …

But would it be? Or just more enjoyable work? And would it be more enjoyable? I worked in a library once, as a clerk, which should have been a dream job, and I thought it was going to be, but….

Another story…

I was on the verge of writing a post complaining about my job. Ingratitude. Yes. Looking for a job to replace the one you are barely doing – because you resent having to leave the house to go to work – is the very spirit of ingratitude.

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