out to pasture

walking into the sunset

You couldn’t wait to retire.

Could. Not. Wait.

In the run-up to retirement, you took stock any number of times. “Don’t misunderstand,” you told your inner-self for the zillionth time, “you enjoyed your career.” You did. (Well, mostly you did.)

You survived every economic downturn since the Nixon Administration (there were six of those suckers), two Middle East oil crises (gas lines stretched from here to eternity), more company budget cuts than you cared to count, four company down-sizings, three company right-sizings, two mergers, one hostile takeover, the real estate crisis[1] and a remarkable number of new business fads.  Every new fad had been  rumored to be ‘The Next Big Thing,’ although most of them turned out to be not very much of anything at all. But after decades of working zany hours, after enduring an eternity of wretched big city rush hours, after attending countless early Monday staff meetings (that too often dragged on near Tuesday), after dueling with company computers that were often more offline than online, after staving-off all those recently minted MBA  ‘youngbloods’ who thought they knew everything – and the even ‘youngerbloods’ who did know everything – all of whom were gunning for your  middle-middle management position, you were ready.

Yeah, you’d miss work – your friends, your clients and even some of the office hijinks — but retirement was going to be sweet. Damn sweet.[2] You planned to spend the rest of your  life exploring some of man’s eternal questions — that specific man being you. Most of your eternal questions involved wretched excess such as ‘Is it even possible to play too much golf?’ or ‘How much work – how many chores – could you get away with not doing around the homestead? Your goal was to accomplish so few things on the Honey-Do List that when anyone inquired of Carmen or your grown kids “what is the old man’s approach to retirement living,” they’d unanimously respond, ‘epic laziness’?

And for the most part, your plan went swimmingly. Swimmingly! You fished; you golfed (habitually); you …well, swam. You binge-watched House of Cards so much you now do a noteworthy imitation of Frank Underwood. For the entirety of this first year off, you’ve even successfully dodged Carmen’s perpetual demand that you “…finally clean out the damn garage.” (You loosely interpret ‘finally’ to mean sometime before death.  You have not yet become the poster-boy for ‘sloth’ – i.e. lowered the bar, as it were – but just like some people were born to sing, dance, or paint, you now conclude that you were born to be retired!

But last week, exactly one year after you officially went out to pasture, the crisis came.

google-EnergyPodAt the time, you were ensconced in the slump of the hammock tied between the oak and elm trees in the back yard. You’d been shielding your eyes from a high glaring sun by using a magazine you’d plucked off the coffee table. It was then your eyes glanced across an article entitled ‘4 Secrets Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Know!’ Intrigued to say the least, you read on. Lord-love-a duck! The first secret revealed could have knocked both you – and convention – on your silly asses. Get this:those youngbloods over at Google have determined conclusively that power naps of fifteen or twenty minutes can boost worker creativity and productivity. Google as well as other companies are now installing Nap Rooms ( and Nap ‘pods’) in company offices whereby employees can actually sleep on the job. It is now expected by numerous researchers that corporate Nap Facilities and sleeping on the clock will soon be commonplace. Sleeping on the job is likely a Next Big Thing.[3]

If finding out about napping at work wasn’t enough, there’s more to knock your socks off. Specifically, despite what physicists, economists, theologians, bosses, and Republicans have been preaching for generations (and also the thing your father ceaselessly harped on in your teenage years), there IS such a thing as a free lunch! There is also free breakfast and dinner! At Google, the magazine reveals, as part of its employee benefits package, allows employees  free breakfast, lunch and dinner on campus since many  Google worksites are not located close to restaurants. According to the author, we live in a copy-cat, fad driven society. As such, it is likely that more and more companies will provide free meals at their worksites over the next decade.   Maybe even those skinflints, who run your old company might even be offering free food soon.)

Lastly, the article describes another mind-boggling trend whereby companies are allowing employees to drink on the job, even supplying free alcoholic beverages! Recent research indicates such activity can give employees a ‘creative burst.’[4] “Free food, sleeping and drinking on the job? Goofing off and other things that used to get you fired are now part of the Best Practices Manual!  Work has become more like …well, fun.

Maybe you retired too soon.

***

When you were ‘the youngblood,’ the workplace was certainly unliberated… and not much fun. Take telecommuting (working in your pajamas at home), for example. In the Seventies, the concept hadn’t even been invented yet, although the Nehru jacket, the Pet Rock and the Mood Ring certainly had. Old school company bosses insisted that do your work… AT WORK– at the office… mainly so they could eyeball you  and actually see what you were up to. There was none of this working in your pajamas business either, buddy-boy. You better report for work on time and be fully dressed when you showed up. You’d better be adorned in a business suit, a heavily starched white Oxford cloth shirt and also a thing most folks called a ‘necktie’ but you called a ‘choker’ because that’s what the damn thing  did. (You were ecstatic when the company went to a ‘business casual’ dress code, except that no one on planet Earth ever figured out what the hell ‘business casual’ dress really was, just that it definitely wasn’t blue jeans or even a formal evening gown worn as if you were the night hostess at the Copa. Finally, after a  couple of years, both you and the guy that owned Men’s Wearhouse gave up trying to learn the secret of business casual and went back to wearing the plain old three piece suit… complete with the ‘choker’.)

In the 90’s when the company did get around to letting a few of you experiment with telecommuting[5], the biggest problem was Carmen and kids. By 3 o’clock, you were still un-showered, unshaved and in your pj’s. You’d spent the lion’s share of your day insisting to the family that you really were at work and couldn’t be disturbed to take out the trash or answer the damn doorbell. Despite the visage they saw before their very eyes, you were officially at work. Truth was, after six frustrating weeks, you were all too glad to call off the telecommuting experiment and retreat back to your cubicle and work at the (real) office the way God and Office Depot intended.

Drinking-on-JobAs for drinking on the job: fuhgetaboutit! By your third year in, you could hardly get a ‘Shirley Temple’ at the company Christmas party. Before then, the holiday parties had been described as ‘epic debauchery.’ Company Christmas parties were legendary! Five stars, some said. Alas, in that third year, insurance liability companies cracked down and banned alcohol at all company sponsored events. Two years later, most of you quit going to the near beer Christmas bash –because if you couldn’t enjoy an alcoholic beverage while Wanda, who worked in the Typing Pool, got hammered and disrobed before God and everybody, what was the point anyway?

                                                                               ***

“The workplace is definitely a changin’,” you muse to yourself. “Hell, I really could have enjoyed work life if I could have slept through it, drank through it and gotten free food. Who wouldn’t have? It looks like workers of the near future might really be having fun on the job. Maybe I jumped into retirement too soon?

Unless it’s climbing on a bandwagon too late, there’s nothing worse than jumping too soon –on anything! ‘Jumping early’ is like buying a new suit at a decent price and then finding out you could have acquired it $100 cheaper had you but waited another day for the Spring Suit Sales. Or it’s like finding out the after-party event you blew off was better than the party itself. Or it’s like dumping your long-term but increasingly annoying girlfriend and on the very next day she wins the Powerball!

But then you remind yourself that any new privilege at the office never lasts. Anywhere. Never. In reality, there’s always be some guy (usually a guy named ‘Larry’) who will take any new privilege — whether it’s sleeping on the job, drinking on the job or working offsite to the extreme. Larry will do something crazy, outrageous and embarrassing (e.g. bringing hookers into the company Nap Room or re-selling the company’s liquor supply) and screw it up for everybody.

It always happens. It’s a Law of Nature.

Your worry over, you decide to get back to your nap in the hammock, pursuing the answers to the eternal questions. You cannot wait.

You. Can. Not. Wait

 

[1] Your personal real estate crisis came during a moment in the 80’s when the cubicles, rather than large, expansive offices were ‘The Next Big Thing.” Mainly, you were quietly pissed because no one above your pay grade had to give up their offices. You also took the move from a large corner office with a walnut desk and Oriental rug to a corner cubicle with overhead storage to be a sure sign that the communists — or the youngbloods, who thought they knew everything – ‘had won.’

[2] Whichever youngblood MBA types replaced you after you were gone, would either perform way above expectations —or get what they deserved, even if they got what they deserved in China, you recently smiled to yourself. Your job being outsourced to an ex-burb of Beijing was the latest company rumor. But that wasn’t your worry, retirement was its own reward –and besides, you had plans.

[3] Apparently, Google is learning more than what’s in people’s e-mail.

[4] “Maybe there’s something to the idea of alcohol being a catalyst for creativity,” you thought to yourself. You specifically remembered several new product rollouts in which the company’s computer programmers were hopelessly –i.e. weeks– behind a looming deadline. In several cases, the programmer got back schedule in one weekend. When you asked how they could make so much progress in just two days, a senior programmer whispered in your ear, “…pizza and weed, boss. Pizza and weed!”

[5] You figure the company president’s wife got the idea from The Oprah Show.

###
Images: Photo of  a young man walking over field at sunset by Lakov Kalinin and licensed by LikeTheDew.com at 123f.com;  Google NapPod by Joe Loong via flickr and used a Creative Commons license; and the “drinking on the job” photo is a promotional photo for the AMC series, MadMen.
Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.