Beer of the Apocalypse

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.

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6 Responses to Beer of the Apocalypse

  1. M. R. says:

    It’s amusing, without doubt; but it’s also extremely alarming to learn that a person with a brain can be working for a company that has no idea why the person was hired … But yes, you’re in a better position than with a micromanaging boss, I s’pose … Not sure but …

  2. This post is brilliance! “Google may own all of our deepest thoughts, but Apple definitely has a monopoly on distracting us from the approach of the end times.” I must put this on a sticky note on my desk.

  3. fungalspore says:

    I have a job as a guide walking thru the Spanish countryside. It ought to be google-free, you might have thought, but we now have kindles with g-maps fitted. I’m not Rimbaud- or Rambo for that matter- but I can get a little hankering for some wildness, and maybe even the possibility of getting lost. Sigh.

  4. OffScribes says:

    I think that the skill, or should I say ‘art’, of pretending that you know what you are doing
    is one of the best skills you can have. I sort of suspect that everyone is running around pretending to know what they are doing….some are just better than others…

  5. passer-by says:

    I happened to read your blog this morning and mentioned your situation to my tech-industry partner, who has worked for start-ups. His read of the situation was that this place is focused on building their core product, but in the meantime there’s probably a lot not getting done that could and should be done.

    His advice was to figure out what kind of job you might want if/when this place folds — whether it’s copyediting, user interface testing, market research, marketing, writing copy…. etc. etc. — and just do everything you can do to be That Person for this place, training yourself, getting small projects accomplished, and positioning yourself for the next, perhaps more stable job.

    So I figured I’d leave this comment — I hope it is helpful in some way, even though this post is a couple months old. Good luck!!!

  6. Jenna Gee says:

    What are you doing no PAINNYC? Are you writing elsewhere?

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