Kissing the Man’s Ass in Babylon
It is a weekday scene that few of us will never see, but which most of us live oh too well.
Five a.m. waiting at bus stations across Trinidad and Tobago, queues of half-awake, pressed and primed citizens, ranging from middle-aged to primary schoolers.
Inevitably, not all will find seats and because this is the cheapest way to travel, these sleepy folks will hold on to dear life, while the bus charges through the narrow and congested roads, barely missing cars that are brittle as china.
After a nine-hour work day, stressed, tired and with a mind focused on the chores waiting at home, hundreds board the bus again, pining for Friday. Maybe you can afford a taxi, the water-taxi, or drive your own car, it doesn’t matter. You know what TGIF stands for, even before it was a restaurant. And no matter how much money you make, why is it that we still long for the end of the work week?
There was one job in my life that I loved. A job for which I would willingly forfeit a day off to fill an abandoned shift, not just for the extra cash, but to be able to hang out with some really good friends and some really cool customers.
As a barista at Starbucks moving up the ranks over four years to my last position as an Assistant Store Manager, I thrived in an environment that focused on changing lives and not just making money.
Even as a newbie on the job, a day’s work could entail creating positive first impressions by suggesting a drink for a confused first-time customer, lifting a spirit by compensating an order for a customer clearly not having a good day or making a regular feel special by whipping up their drink no matter how customised and complicated.
I loved that job because except for a few fleeting moments, I wanted to be there. I got paid well for the passion I brought to that job, and loads of perks, including weekly pounds of free coffee and drinks. It wasn’t the highest paying job I’ve held in my life, but it sure was the best J-O-B I’ve.
For most of us, we may have had the good fortune to have one good job in our life, but for the most part we’ve submitted to the fact that work is just another four-letter word hurled at us by ‘the man’, for five days of the week.
‘Work is just another four-letter word’
It is purgatory that we will endure, if we’re educated, privileged, connected enough to get a permanent job, for forty-something years till we can endure a little peace here on earth called retiremet.
For most of us, we have to work. Going to work, no matter how hated, spells success and yes, you want to be successful. The two-hour commute each way, the demanding critical boss, the lazy gossiping co-workers, the unimaginative drone-like work, the stunted social life, the time lost with kids, and the enduring fatigue is worth it if ‘the man’ can deposit a few (thousand) dollars in your bank account at the end of the month.
Admit it, you’re just an expensive hooker in this capitalistic system, and you’re willing to bend over and take it for five days a week once you’re getting paid.
Inevitably, some must get fed up and want out. Unfortunately, being on your own is not so fairytale-like as Richard Gere rescuing Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”.
Self-employment, whether it’s finally trying to sell those crochet bikinis you made in the little leisure time your last job afforded, or trying your hand in a small business, is anything but easy. It’s being self-disciplined enough to wake up early every morning knowing you can’t be fired.
‘You’re just an expensive hooker in this capitalistic system, and you’re willing to bend over and take it’
Where ‘the man’ had you titled as manager before, on your own you are manager, marketer, secretary and salesman.
Your pay cheque will be unreliable and barely predictable, but whether you make or break it will be all up to you. You will love what you do because you are doing what you love, and. most importantly, you will be free from ‘the man’s’ pre-conceived notion of success.
The more rational-minded are steupsing at the idea of all of us deciding to become craftspeople. They are visualising the fall of the concrete jungles with no hierarchy to ensure their existence.
Some, at this point in this piece, are shaking their heads at this ‘nonsense’. For those, I can only say a silent word of prayer.
My own story is testimony that life can be rewarding, even with a boss. Although I smell freedom when I envision the thought of my own little bookstore sheltered by four walls, most likely, I too may have to go and look for wuk in the system.
But even as my résumé floats from desk to desk of companies, my mind remains unlocked from what they want me to believe is success.
My success is a bulleted checklist composed after living on both sides of the system:
* Love what I do.
* Be passionate.
* Show up because I want to.
* Feel empowered.
Anything else and I might as well be re-attached to the invisible shackles that drag us to the nearest taxi stand in the wee hours of the morning.