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Walk Fast, Look Busy
Hi there, nonfiction. Except for the kitesurfing thing.
Hello [Your Name], my dear old friend.
How are you? How have you been? How are those bloody [kids/pets/favourite sports team/indoor plants] of yours getting on? And how about this [rain/lingering pandemic/emerging world war], eh? Terrible. Long time no email. I hope you’ve been well.
I’ve been okay, thanks for asking, thanks for asking. Picked a bad La Niña to take up kitesurfing—jesus. Had a pretty medium February. Didn’t see much of the Winter Olympics, beyond highlights of the stacks. Somehow cut my hand on my gym towel bad enough to draw blood? What else, what else. I patted a stingray. They felt like slime covered Bionicles, if that’s any help. I saw a guy standing waist-deep inside a pothole on Victoria Road while his buddies chucked traffic cones at his head. I had such a bad case of sinusitis that a random late-night GP, bless his soul, prescribed antibiotics for one Ankus Macdonald. And then I started a new job a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been… umm, doing it? Like, all the time? Like, every working day without relief from the crack of dawn (0900 hours) till the crack of night (a bit after 5)?
The opening exchanges of a new job are just like the first few weeks of a new relationship—I’m overly-punctual, I’m real polite, I appear interested in other people’s weekends, and I’m generally working very hard not to shit myself. So to speak. It’s been pretty go-go. All gas no brakes. I’ve spent a lot of my time in long onboarding zoom meetings, beaming my mirthless professional smile out into the ether, nodding and actively listening, stifling The Yawns every few minutes and sneaking discrete bites of my muesli bar off screen. The trick is to chew slowly with the rear molars. I haven’t played PlayStation on the job once, which has been pretty tough.
In my experience, saying this last sentence out loud doesn’t garner a lot of sympathy. Coworkers find it confusing. Friends laugh but they don’t understand. Parents nod in a concerned way, as if they and they alone can see how this character flaw can be traced back to a single impulse purchase they made in a Dick Smith in the Christmas of 2004. Any final year VET students in your life—generally logging 10 hour placement days and spending much of that time dodging projectile cat piss or doing horrific but lifesaving things to chickens—will probably ask you if you’re being ‘actually serious’. You should say ‘No.’
My grandfather used to work in a Myer, which back then was called Grace Brothers, as a kind of handyman. He was a twinkle in the eye kind of grandfather. A cheeky bugger. Good with dogs. Good with babies. My Grampa spent a lot of his time at Grace Brothers secretly watching TV out the back with his buddies instead of doing his job. He managed to get away with this by walking fast whenever he was out on the floor. ‘If you walk fast, you look busy,’ he used to say. My hero.
I’ve been thinking about him a lot since starting this new job, imagining him blitzing between the department store’s departments, zipping his way back to the TV. In my mind he smiles charmingly and waves chummily but never ever slows down, leaving Grace Brothers floor workers in his dust, amongst the debris of a broken ceiling. And I’m sure that they say to themselves, the floor workers, in his wake, as they step over puddles, as they duck under wonky signs, as they navigate the occupational hazards of any number of overdue construction tasks, ‘Gee whiz, that Billy Kendrick is a busy busy guy.’
It’s just not possible to ‘walk fast’ on a Zoom call. The closest equivalent I can think of is to sigh heavily and say, ‘Ugh, okay, fine, I’ll add it to my list,’ whenever a new task is assigned, or to begin every email with ‘Sorry I missed this, I’ve been really under the pump.’
But no one likes this person. We’re all busy, we all think, at all times—what makes complainers think they’re special? And besides, hard work is supposed to be good for your soul or whatever. I think this might be true. In my experience, at least, the longer my to-do list, the more opportunities I get to tick the little black boxes that I myself drew, spiking my adrenaline through the fucking roof and making me unironically love the corporate world for as many as eight seconds a pop.
My old desk chair was returned to my previous employer, so I went to Officeworks yesterday for a new one. They all have weird, over-engineered, corporate names like ‘Dynamic Comfort Pro’ and ‘Maximum Alignment Super Deluxe Plus’. It’s just a chair. Every one of them is covered in stickers for ergonomic awards and the claims they make are weird. ‘Suitable for 8 hours of high impact sitting.’ ‘Adjustable tilt for optimised pelvic alignment.’ ‘Super durable mesh backing for robust lumbar support.’ It’s just a chair.
So bizarre was this experience that I actually wrote an early version of the above paragraph right there in the Officeworks, in an (as-yet-unpurchased) notebook with an (as-yet-unpurchased pen), feeling very smug indeed, bouncing between the chairs with extremely high impact to road test one of the more audacious claims. And as I snickered to myself (standard operating practice when I’m writing any new paragraph), I found myself wishing that I had a self-involved little blog or something to share my desk chair musings with the world.
It took me like a way longer time than you’d think to remember that such a self-involved little blog exists. You’re reading it!
It’s a strange way to get back on the horse, I’ll admit. But the horse doesn’t mind. It’s going to be a horse whether or not you’re riding it, you know? Do you know? I’m not sure that I know?
What a terrible way to end the All My Eggs annual renaissance. I’ll be writing to you soon.