Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just Waitin' on a Friend.

I don't know whether this represents a feline U.M., but let's anthropomorphize for a moment. Dusty seemed to be spending more time than usual sitting on the desk, looking intently outside. It soon became apparent why: Right across the window bay, no more than five feet away, was another kitty cat, sitting on a table, staring back out its window at Dusty.

The tension was palpable. The other cat would only show half of his face in the window, using one eye to surveil his neighbor. We humans excitedly got behind Dusty and stared too, hoping no humans would show up on the other side. "Dusty! You have new friend!" we exclaimed. Dusty meowed. The other cat stayed silent and half hidden, but watchful.

Days elapsed and Dusty developed what could fairly be called a fixation. Every morning he sat by the window, stock still and vigilant. Many times his new "friend" was a no-show. Dusty waited. "This might not be healthy for you," Dusty was advised. He ignored us.

On the days when Mr. Big would materialize, now fully in the window at close range, Dusty would jump from the desk and onto the window sill, meowing and pawing the window pane as if to say, "I can't get this thing open right now -- but don't worry, I'm working on it." Big never moved or made a sound.

Now we look for Mr. Big along with Dusty. We don't see Big's humans, and we like it that way. It keeps the relationship pure.

But it's a dysfunctional relationship, and we know it. Some mornings I wake up to the sound of claws tapping on glass, as Dusty tries ever optimistically to open the window between him and the one being he identifies with in the world right now. Big remains impervious, as does the window. It's a fitting allegory, no?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Last Pick.

Writing a summary e-mail at work today, I realized that I almost neglected to include an item that someone else had worked on.

"I am not a team player," I thought, with some guilt. Chances are, if I'm not working on it, then I'm not thinking about it. Hell, I probably don't want to even know about it: That's someone else's problem.

I remember scanning want-ads in my early 20s, fresh out of college and eager to please. The ads featured hiring phrases that I initially tried to embody, and then came to loathe:

  • Team player
  • Self-starter
  • Go-getter
  • Detail-oriented
  • Flexible
What about the candidates who would rather not concern themselves with what everybody else is working on and instead plug away at an assigned task in a non-aggressive and non-anal fashion, for a specified period of time that does not include weeknights, weekends or holidays?

"Team player" bothers me because in general, I do not like "teams." I hated group projects in school, since they usually involved being forced to go over to some random person's house and share extracurricular time, not to mention a grade, with peers not of my choosing. As for team sports, I lost interest in those when puberty struck and I wasn't allowed to compete with boys anymore.

There's no "I" in team, but there is usually a windy individual who swiftly becomes despised by the others. There's usually someone who cares about everything *except* the task at hand. And there's usually someone who can hardly spell his or her own name, much less contribute anything useful.

The worst manifestation of the team is at seminars, where it is accompanied by a host of unsavory concepts such as name tags, white boards, public self-introduction, random partner assignments, working lunches and presentations. My last temp-team experience involved a "skit," role-playing, and being required to consider and reveal what kind of musical instrument I would be. At that particular event, I suppose the instrument that best expressed my performance would have been the triangle, or perhaps the gong -- you know, something that gets trotted out every once in awhile, but is usually content to hang in the corner.

So no, I do not like teams. On the other hand, I don't like being lonesome or unpaid. So I endure the team (and it endures me), while I dream of someday getting one of those elusive employments that seem autonomous yet not isolated: pop star, pro tennis player, masseuse... clown?