I’ve been working from home since the pandemic. It’s a better experience in every way, but the primary benefit has been meeting my new best friend, the party blob. The party blob is an indispensable and tireless coworker who I’ve outsourced all of my mandatory, interpersonal, and fake, enthusiasm to. He is a slack emoji and I don’t know where I’d be without him. Here’s an example, based on a real thing that happened.
Working in America is often a depressing series of events that you’re meant to be unfailingly excited about. Problems are opportunities, company-wide layoffs are just ‘right sizing the company’, and so on. That probably extends to American life in general, living in America is mostly about ignoring how bad everything is, and ignoring how much working in America sucks is the most American of American experiences.
My first real job after college was a very low-skill job that I couldn’t believe existed and it probably doesn’t anymore. I would filter orders to different fulfillment centers, once I’d determined that they had the resources to fulfill said order (‘I have an order for six, can you do six? You can do seven?!‘ and then I’d have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from screaming and then I’d click a box that sent them seven things).
My first boss at that job had been there for five years and looked exactly like what I would wind up looking like if I spent five years doing that job, he was out of shape, and had ruddy skin that suggested he maybe drank at lunch and after work to cope with having to do this work eight hours a day. I found him ridiculous. How could a person spend five years doing this?
Me, it turns out. I would be there for six years and looked exactly one year worse than he did when I left. Anyway, I liked him. He had an obvious hatred for the job that I understood. My next boss was Jacob, a high energy guy who seemed to love this job, appreciated it’s challenges and looked for ways our team could interface cross-functionally.
Jacob was baffling. He was in shape, too handsome and clearly too good for this click-to-send-things-places job. He was my manager for two years, got promoted twice and started getting pulled into every important meetings. His boss’ boss came to him for advice. And then all of a sudden, he quit. He put in his notice and all that, but he was the happiest person I ever met, where could he be going, this was his life.
Before he left, on his way out the door, he stopped by my desk. His face relaxed for the first time and he said, “you can get out of here. I promise. I hate this place and If I did it, you can do it.” Jacob is one of my all time workplace heroes. How did he fake it for so long? Who was he really? Was he lying to me at the end, just to make me like him? What a party blob he turned out to be.
It took me a long time to realize just how much lying is required in the day to day reality of the working life. Jacob was my age, maybe younger and he had it nailed down right away. I’m not good at lying, my default setting is unfortunately, almost eternally: “You can tell I’m not dumb because of how much I hate this thing.” And that’s not an act, I’m just a miserable dope who needs to feel like he has a handle on things (See: all my writing).
I work in the tech sector, and things haven’t been going well lately. Everyone is getting laid off, investments are drying up and as all this is happening, there’s this other elephant in the room: AI seems juuust about ready to replace all of us.
We’ve had a couple of meetings about what a new, exciting possibility it represents, to be able to have a little magic robot do all of your heavy lifting for you. How incredible it will be to just click a button and have this this eternally awake being that communicates for you, absorbs whatever you are trying to say and twists it into something that – even if it’s not perfect, is close enough for work purposes. Nobody is really trying to communicate anything directly anyway, and it captures the essence of that kind of communication, the sort of too-wordy and too-thrilled first draft of human thought that is workplace language.
I’m not sure what the long game is. I don’t know who the AI will be talking to, if we’re all replaced by the AI. And I’m not sure if I see the benefit of having this false and amorphous thing replace actual, human, but dangerous work communication that so often devolves into people just trying to represent what they think the other person wants to hear anyway, something that seems clever, but just safely on the side of being condescending and excited no matter the cost, and completely fearless, I guess.
Isn’t that right, Party Blob?
PS, I’m going to give the new substack a try, subscribe over here: