Running Government Like a Business
This has never been a good idea.
Let me illustrate…No, fuck that. Let me ILLUMINATE my point.
Once upon a time, I was working in an all-night gas-and-go. Which I won't name, it was a chain, as opposed to some mom and pop operation and I'll leave it at that. For the purposes of confounding lawyers, I shall call this all-night gas-and-go chain, Skidmark America, or S.A. for short.
(Note to self: Must not smile in court.)
My job was pretty simple. I worked the overnight shift, cleaning up the place. Ordinarily, that would have been fairly easy and would have allowed me to train on the register some. I think I received all of five minutes of actual training on the register and was then regularly asked to spell the main register guy while he went to the toilet for extended periods. He was either having some gastrointestinal distress of a chronic nature, or he tired and bored easily, or maybe he just needed to masturbate a LOT while at work.
I never inquired.
But unfortunately for me, part of my job involved literally scrubbing the lot and the pump pad with a board affixed to a broom handle, a large dust broom, and a trash can of kitty litter for absorbing oil and other spills. I don't know why this was necessary each night. But it took hours and was pretty physical.
The manager guy, at the time, was a fairly easy going sort. Sure there were a lot of tasks, but he wasn't unreasonable and occasionally he was the sort to tap me on the shoulder and say "Pete, take a break man."
As it was, he could only work me so many nights a week, I had even asked for more hours or even more time on the register because I was falling behind on rent. But he could only work me so many days, and on nights when it would rain, and the lot didn't need scrubbing, I'd often get sent home.
I probably would have gone on like that for a fair amount of time. But such was not to be. The easy-going manager guy was pretty good at his job. So good, they wanted to put him at another store, and off he went.
This was not good for anyone as the new overnight manager was the sort of woman who needed a certain amount of drama, stress, and paranoia surrounding herself at all times. Let's call her Cersei Lannister or CL for short.
CL was one of those "If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean." type of people, so pretty much everyone's workload doubled or tripled. Needless to say, she made each and every one of us acutely miserable to no real purpose. I don't feel the need to enumerate her sins, great and small, in order to flense your mind of the belief that she didn't have it coming. You already know the type. You've met one, I'm sure, along the way.
It's not pleasant to be overworked and still underclocked. So, I decided to do something I swore I'd never do again. I decided to get a restaurant job.
A little background here: My father was a restauranteur and I was working in a kitchen since the age of 12. Figuring, I'd spent my time in that particular circle of hell, I left, and didn't look back, swearing I never would work in a restaurant again.
So, (a needle pulling thread), I went looking for a job in the restaurant biz and found one fairly quickly. It was for a nice steakhouse down by the riverside in a faux-steamboat connected to other restaurants, and assorted attractions. The young lady manager took a look at my work history and cast a skeptical eye on it until I explained I'd been in the biz since I was twelve. She asked me how that was possible, I explained that my father felt that child labor laws were something that just happened to other people. She seemed to understand. I suspect she also had worked for family at one time or another.
They, thinking to throw me into the deep end, asked me to come in and work Friday evening, their busiest time. They badly needed bus-persons and I would and could do that sort of work. I think they expected to get some work out of me before I either quit or fell down. They couldn't know that I had worked every Valentine's Day and Mother's Day of my working life. Yes, once I had legs of steel and a hydraulic jack for a back.
Working as a busser, that first Friday evening, I cleared a 100 dollars and impressed the hell out of my prospective employers. (For those of you not steeped in restaurant-y things, a busser normally make money from the servers tips after they've tipped out the Bartender as well. To make a 100 bucks in a single night is NOT normal.) They asked me to come back the next night, and then they'd give me the day shifts that I'd asked for.
I gave most of my money to my housemate. His mother was our displeased landlord. I kept a small amount for myself for groceries and prepared myself for the next night.
You see, I was scheduled to work BOTH jobs that night. I went to the Steakhouse and repeated my performance, earning another 80 bucks towards getting myself out of the hole, I walked home, completely depleted, wondering how I was going to get through work later that night. I walked into my room. I sat down on my cot, and before I knew it my eyes were shut.
I awoke to the phone ringing just above my head.
"Am I speaking to Peter?"
Recognizing my S.A. manager's voice, I looked over at the clock, I was 20 minutes late.
"Um…Uh. Yes. This is he."
"Where…ARE you? Precisely?"
"Um. I'm so sorry Cersei. I only closed my eyes for a minute. I didn't mean to oversleep. I started my other job this weekend."
"I don't really want to hear an excuse. Do you PLAN to come and work this evening?"
"Then I suggest you get in here. And I suggest you think about whether you really want to continue to be employed here at Skidmark America."
"…You know Cersei. You're absolutely right. I'll tell you what. I'll go hop in the shower and I'll get down there tout de suite. I should be there in about 30 minutes."
"Fine. See that you are."
And then I hung up the phone, disconnected it from the wall, laid my head back down on my pillow and slept the untroubled sleep of the angels.
Such stories of victory are far too uncommon in this day and age. Most stories that people tell of their workplace are ones that end in high drama, low comedy, or vice versa.
What do most men or women want? In most cases, to simply go to their job, do it without too much hassle and be paid on time. But there is such an endless litany of sins, atrocities, cover-ups, crimes, screwings, double screwings, fuck-ups, fuck-overs, and abject incompetence, that often the best thing an American worker can hope for is to get a good story out of it when all is said and done.
I cannot count the number of workplace jack-asses I've been forced to work with and/or placate. I cannot count the number of times, I've been stuck for the cost of a uniform out of a first check, forcing me to scramble to cover bills. I can't count the number of times, I've been screwed by corporate America.
And those are just the screwings I've noticed…God knows most employers don't want you to be any smarter than it takes to do the job because it impedes their ability to screw you. God knows they'd employ monkeys if they could. The only reason they don't is that monkeys don't sit there and take it when you scream at them. Also, their muscle tissue is seven times denser than humans, they could tear you apart if they are so inclined.
Have you ever been in a meeting, naturally a mandatory meeting and hey, BTW, FUCK YOU THIRD SHIFT, and felt the icy cold hand of the market fondling you and your paycheck inappropriately? Each and every time I hear some corporate shill use the word, "family" I can feel my sphincter slam shut. Because you and I both know that a larger than usual screwing is coming down the pipe. Fuck that noise. I ALREADY have a family. I don't want to be treated like family. I want you fuckers to treat me like company, or failing that, a professional.
And that's another thing that grinds my ass raw these days. "Professional" as a synonym for "grim, dour, humorless, unimaginative corporate automaton." Most workplaces use their definition of the word "Professional" as a means of beating down any behavior in the workplace that they don't like, and if it's not putting money in their pockets, they don't like it, no matter how harmless.
They don't seem to understand that this is essentially wiping their ass with employee morale. Hey, you know what? You can start dictating to me what constitutes "professional behavior" when you start PAYING me like a professional.
Employee morale is intangible. Being intangible, it can't be figured for, or put on a ledger. But when people make short-sighted corporate decisions, Morale almost always gets two behind the ear. And people wonder why suicides, sabotage, espionage, and workplace theft are at an all-time high.
Corporate culture in America is fucked. And you know what? We've known it for a long goddamn time. It's not like in the old days where there were more people who owned their own businesses. If you own your own business, it's kind of hard to act like morally questionable acts committed by your business don't end up at your desk. That makes you morally responsible. In the old days, this was more common and people understood that there was a line and if you crossed it…
But that's not the way that corporations are structured anymore. Large companies diffuse any moral responsibility by dint of their board of directors. And the directors have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders, which diffuses that moral responsibility even further. Add to this, that many times the sort of people who gravitate to a CEO position have to be high functioning sociopaths, able to make horrific decisions and sleep soundly… Well. The buck doesn't stop here anymore. By the time it stops, it's sitting in an off-shore account.
It's too easy in America to think, "Well, hey…These decisions are made above my pay-grade." Or, "Dude…I got kids and a house payment." You can see how one obscene act can pass up the chain to the people who are nearly completely insulated from the consequences of it. Or how awful policies can descend from on high to make lives miserable and desperate with no splashback on the thrice-damned yo-yo who made the policy in the first place.
There is a line. You CAN cross it. And today corporate culture crosses it with BREATH-TAKING regularity.
So, I don't see how on God's green Earth you can make a case for running government more like a business.
And if you know someone who is proclaiming that it would be a good idea, remind them of every single time a business has fucked YOU over. If you know them well enough, Remind them of every time that a company has fucked THEM over.
Ideas are viral. Some of them need to die before they kill us all.
Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash