Wednesday, June 1, 2022

What are offices for?

     “We should have both worn babushkas,” I whispered to my wife, after the guard scanned our IDs, took our photos and directed us toward the bank of elevators, one already open, waiting to whisk us to the 39th floor. “I should be carrying a chicken.”
     Well, not both. I was being succinct. My wife’s hair would be in a kerchief, but I would wear some large, sincere peasant hat. Plus a scattering of straw on our clothes.
     “That’s how I felt when my parents came to see my office,” my wife remarked.
     Of course she did. Most kids do. While not as culturally prominent as traditional rites of passage, like communion or commencement, the parental office visit is no less real. The pivot between the first quarter of life — childhood, education — and the subsequent half century of adult employment.
     Though like everything else, the Mom and Dad Inspection Tour takes on new meaning thanks to COVID-19, and our often depopulated workplaces.
     It’s less traumatic, for starters, when your new colleagues are mostly virtual. There is nobody to cringe before. Our inability to embarrass our unflappable older son, even a little, sapped some of the fun.
     “These are my parents!” he called across the polished wood and granite vastness, to a group of well-scrubbed young people.
     “Nice to meet you!” one young man shouted back, though we hadn’t met, or even broken stride.
     “He’s my summer associate,” our boy explained.
     I’ve been in my share of swank law firms, with glass conference room walls that turn opaque at the touch of a panel. But this joint, in New York’s financial district, took the prize. It had the quiet immensity of a pharaoh’s tomb, or an unused set for the movie version of an Ayn Rand novel directed by Fritz Lang.

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  1. I seriously doubt a great talent like Fritz Lang would stoop to directing extreme right wing slop from Ayn Rand, who in the end, took her Social Security monthly checks & joined Medicare, when she got old. She was a total fraud who wrote long & unreadable books that a few Re Thug Licons worship, even though their economics are total insanity!

    1. Too seriously. I was thinking of the imagery of "Metropolis."

  2. "Babushkas!" That's a word I haven't heard lately, although it was common parlance in the St. Bride's neighborhood I grew up in. I don't think there were all that many Polish people or rather Polish-Americans in that neighborhood -- they supposedly all lived in South Chicago, a couple miles South of us and close to the steel mills. Nevertheless we did refer to kerchiefs as babushkas and acquired as youngsters a smattering of dirty words in Polish, which were very useful for those of us who refrained as much as possible in using comparable words in English, knowing that any adult within earshot of a fuck or son of a bitch was likely to tell on us.


  3. New York. Financial district. 39th floor. And even a summer associate. At not yet thirty, your son appears to be doing quite well. At his age, I was still an underachieving bohemian in Florida, and a total disappointment to my parents. No office to show them...just the store where I worked, in the sporting goods department. I didn't have a summer associate...I WAS the summer associate. I sold guns and ammo.

  4. Wow, that looks and sounds like a very impressive place to work, if one has to physically show up somewhere. I'd have spent the whole time looking out the windows.

    But, yeah, an interesting topic. I feel like we're in the midst of this epic societal inflection point, in many ways, that we can't even hope to grasp the significance of. Yet we just plow on ahead as if things are proceeding normally. What's going to become of a huge, vibrant downtown like Chicago's if the offices are no longer really necessary?

  5. I'm happy for you that your son's are off to a nice start but you shined a light on one of the problems we US citizens don't observe unless we must.
    Just like we don't think about the migrant workers who barely make their meager ends meet, on the other end of the spectrum are the fabulous law offices that are funded largely by insurance companies after law suits are settled.
    I know, we shouldn't complain about lawyers and their outrageous incomes. We never know when we'll need one. But who pays the insurance companies?
    And yes, human interaction is necessary. Direct, face to face interaction. We have delved deep enough into the solitude of our cyber lives. Some of it is for the good. Some, very bad.


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