Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Stinks?

There's something rotten downstairs in the building where I work. It started to smell a couple of days ago. I was coming down on my break, when the odor assaulted me, knocking me back on the stairs and causing me to drop the chicken burrito I was carrying (and I really wanted that chicken burrito, real, real bad).

The building has three floors, and we sit on top. As you enter the glass doors to the lobby, you have an elevator in front of you, and to the right side, a stairway leading to the third floor where I work. On the left side of the elevator is a second stairway that leads down to the bottom floor. The floor that you enter from the parking lot is the second. It is that floor that seems to be where the stink is coming from. At first, I though it was some kind of plant or flower. There is a plant service that comes by to maintain the appearance of various vegetation inside the building, but I couldn't see any of their usual activity, or notice any changes. I finally dismissed it as a fluke and went outside for my usual fresh air (which I really needed this time).

Meanwhile the head of our department took a couple of days off this last week, giving himself yet another four day weekend, this just after it was announced that there would be no more granting of "time off without pay" for the peons. We only get two weeks of paid vacation a year, but it used to be that if someone wanted to take a few extra days, they could get that approved, they just wouldn't get paid for the additional days off. Not anymore. Yet when I inquired of the senior agent in charge of the floor where our two department managers were, I was told that they'd "gone home for the day". When the head's away, the managers will play, I guess. Nate told me "Hey, I guess that's the way it is when you're a manager. I can't wait until I'm a manager, cause then I'm going to take off whenever the hell I feel like, too"

Or you could win the lottery, I reminded him. This brought to our attention the fact that we hadn't wasted our money on a weekly lottery pool in weeks. So Nate sent an email and there are nine of us chipping in a dollar to buy our financial freedom fantasy twice a week.

"Hey, if we win," said Nate, "what are they gonna do when we all quit! They'll be begging us to stay until they can hire replacements." That would be a nice dream come true as well, but in this economy, the company can find others to take our jobs pretty easily, and probably at a lower wage.

There is talk like that around the office all the time; talk about working fewer days or fewer hours each day, of having more time off, etc. No one likes coming to work, and the proof is in how many take any opportunity to get the hell away from the place for even a short while. Of course, any means of making a living wouldn't be pleasant all the time, and would require some pure leisure in the form of vacations, large or small. But the drudgery is particularly acute when you're just a wage slave and can be fired at will, without even the minimal protection of a labor union. The stress of the job is extended into the stress of worrying when or if you'll be fired or "laid off". As workers in the statist capitalist system of exploitation, we have no real stake or ownership in our livelihood, which is a basic human right.

The conversation then turned to that strange smell. Some speculated that it was marijuana (didn't smell like it to me, but then I've never inhaled), but someone else pointed out there was a new tenant downstairs. One of the offices below us had been vacated recently, and some sort of "natural healing" place had moved in. Maybe it was them causing the smell with herbal concoctions or something.

As we went home for the night and descended the stairs, I could smell that rottenness in the air again, only it had changed. No longer did it resemble a plant or flower fragrance. I couldn't put my finger on what it smelled like. Then Nate sniffed and said "Smells like poop". Damn, he was right! What the hell was it? I'm still not sure, but whatever it was, it wasn't the only thing that was shitty about the place where we work.

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