My last post was about my new sort-of job at the tech start-up, where offices are rented only by the month, the building is guarded like a prison, and the job is ultra-temporary (because it could end tomorrow or go on indefinitely, but no one – not even the boss – knows for sure).
Since I am not really a “techie” and my only skill is pretending I know how to do things even when I don’t (and then quickly learning how to do it later, when no one is looking), I have been trying to figure out how to be useful. The problem is, I’ve been on payroll for over a month, and I’m still not sure what my job is.
Occasionally, the bosses will email and ask me to “file a thing” or “write a thing” or “go and buy stamps.” I used Google Maps to find the nearest post office. I’ve come to realize that most of my tasks involve interacting with Google. I spend a lot of time creating Google docs and spreadsheets or updating them. Sometimes the instruction is: “create a Google doc and link it to a Google Spreadsheet and then email it to Mr. Smith at his Gmail address.”
I’ve determined that, if Google ever goes down for real, vast numbers of people will throw themselves off the nearest bridge in despair because all the things that mattered to them in life will be gone – poof! – forever. (It’s a good thing there are about 700 bridges in NYC.) Human life in 2014 is just a series of documents linked to “profiles” that we create with our machines (which are everywhere and nowhere) and then use them to try to connect with each other, surrounded as we are in measureless oceans of space.
The feeling of being set adrift on the waves (or should I be using cloud metaphors?) of the “new economy” is not only fueled by freelance life. It’s part of the actual content of the work. Yesterday, my boss wrote to tell me that he was happy with my efforts so far but that he was too busy to read and respond to my emails regularly. He also said that he doesn’t have much time to tell me what to do next, so he advised me to be “proactive” in figuring out how to use my time and then to let him know, at the end of each week, how many hours I worked and what I had done to fill them.
On one hand, this seems great. I’ll just do what seems vaguely helpful each week, tally my hours, and then go home (or shift positions on the couch in my apartment, since I usually work from there). But there’s something anxiety-inducing about the request to “do useful things” without direction. (And Googling “what should I do?” isn’t helpful.) How am I supposed to know what to do? I have never worked at a tech start-up before or been terribly focused on usefulness (I have a PhD in English, after all).
At least, if I was going into the office everyday, I could take advantage of the free beer. That might dull the feeling of dread. I’m convinced that the end of the world won’t be signified by the moon turning to blood and by wormwood and all of that crap. Instead, maybe oblivion looks like everyone dressed for Casual Friday, typing feverishly into their MacBook Air computers while listening to iPods. Until the batteries run out. Google may own all of our deepest thoughts, but Apple definitely has a monopoly on distracting us from the approach of the end times.
If only I could get my computer to dispense free beer.