The Office on Walden Pond

This time of year, as the leaves shift into individual self-expression and the cool air reminds us of woolen socks, I think about my former supervisor and one very strange experience on the banks of Walden Pond.

Now, before you start thinking anything untoward-- let me head ya off and explain: this absolutely isn't going to be any office romance story. (Aw, quit yer whining, I promise, you'll still get a laugh.)

In fact, this would be whatever the opposite is of an office romance story-- if the opposite stood somewhere on the border of Resigned Tolerance and Bewilderment.

A Polite, Detatched Coexistence with the Occasional Wincing, Longing-to-Run-for-the-Hills story? Wordy. But probably something along those lines.

You see, my job at the time was Marketing Manager-- a vague title made vaguer still, so that within it, no matter how the company grew (and it did) the Powers That Be could also include odd tasks like shrink-wrapping and shipping product boxes...

Occasionally answering the main telephone...

And a mysterious need to measure and note the dimensions of all the printers, servers, and fax machines in the office. (To this day, I have no idea what that was all about.)

You'd be surprised at the wide array of tasks that can be tossed under the umbrella of "Marketing" when no one else wants to do them.

Picking up sandwiches for the office, for instance, can be "Internal Marketing" because it offers morale boosting properties. Organizing the heavy boxes in the storage room can be "Corporate Marketing" because the sales literature lives there.

You get the gist.

My boss at the time was a very work-driven man, who was extremely bright and had a great passion for what he did. So passionate was he about the company, that he would get brainstorms at 2 o'clock in the morning... And then come in bright-and-early with a familiar grim expression, and say all our sales literature we'd just printed needed to be rewritten to include this brand new positioning.

This happened about every three to six months, like crops of locusts springing from the ground.

During one of these locust-springing times, it was decided that what we really needed to do to get our shiny new positioning out into the world was to have a Press Tour. Meaning, instead of the press releases we'd usually issue, we would go in person to speak with the reporters in our niche.

This meant traveling to the Boston area.

Because I was Marketing Manager and wrote the press releases-- in addition to walking to the post office to get postage, and assembling the press kits, and mailing them-- (that Marketing Umbrella again)-- I would be going with my supervisor to meet the press.

The thing about business trips with my supervisor was that he absolutely adored them... and I was usually one step from leaping from the moving plane without a parachute. See, for him, having me there meant he pretty much had a captive audience for several days of intense 24-hour brainstorming, rebrainstorming and re-re-brainstorming sessions. He was in his glory!

The car ride to the airport, we could noodle around with the positioning we'd just developed...

Waiting for the plane, we could have six urgent conference calls back to the office we'd just left a ten minute drive away...

A minor travel delay would rouse a need for 12 uber-critical documents the office should overnight us in Boston...

And two hours on the plane meant rediscussing the discussion of the re-positioning and changing a few more things back to what they were four hours before.

This didn't even include the calling my room at the hotel two hours before we were scheduled to meet up, to talk about meeting up.

It was the sheer wheel-spinning relentlessness that made me question the meaning of my life.

Well, my supervisor, as you can imagine, didn't really enjoy things like downtime. He wasn't what you'd call a sit-down-and-read-a-magazine sort of person. So while we had a few hours between press meetings, he decided we would take a small side trip while we were in the Boston area.

And because I'm a writer, he felt it would be nice if I got to see Walden Pond.

Walden Pond. The idea was thoughtful and it did appeal to me. Getting to see the inspiration of Henry David Thoreau?-- The place which exemplifies solitude, living off the grid, meditation, and tranquil natural beauty?


Only once we got there, the peaceful non-conformist life contrasted starkly with...

The dude in the business suit, his trouser legs rolled up, ankle deep in cold water and socks balled up on the bank-- while talking loudly on his cell phone about express packages than never made it to our hotel.

I recall noticing how the yellow autumn light caused the waters to look like liquid gold. Squirrels chased each other around tree trunks. The occasional maple leaf would call it quits and glide to my dress-shoes and briefcase as I waited.

I recall him rehashing our positioning once more, and wanting to take another look at the freshly-printed sales literature, thinking it might need another tweak here or there.

I remember juggling it in my arms on the bank of Walden Pond. But I don't really know what he said about it.

In fact, I never heard a single word. I couldn't. Henry David Thoreau was really yukking it up in my head-- the joker.


jill jill bo bill said...

I think I developed an ulcer just reading about your boss.

Thanks for visiting me and commenting. See, if you still wore rainbow eyeshadow,you may never have gotten that calming job.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jill- Hee- you weren't the first, either. :) You're quite welcome for the visit. I really enjoyed checking out the humor carnival submissions.

Anonymous said...

My first ever employer was a similar character. He'd never have an idle moment !

You may have just increased my chances of getting me hired because I am going to promote myself at a previous job from Office Boy to Marketing manager on my resume. Thank you !

Although my current position as a Draftsperson and Designer may sound like a demotion now. LOL !

I graduated from George Brown ;-)

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- As long as you have a title vague enough, you can make it work! I believe you can!! :)

Ha, I wasn't really meaning your alma mater, but what a funny coincidence! (I was dipping into my random name supply bag.)

Da Old Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DeadRooster said...

You wrote: "The occasional maple leaf would call it quits and glide to my black dress shoes and briefcase on the sand."

Like the knucklehead I am, I passed right over the word "shoes" and thought you had left your "black dress" on the sand.

I immediately re-read the whole piece thinking I had somehow missed something. LOL

Great story, by the way...

Da Old Man said...

My last job was similar in duties to yours. It was the ambiguously titled "Case Coordinator," which encompassed everything from driving vans at 7 a.m. to sex ed, to car repair, get the idea.
Looks like I have a blog post idea. Thanks. :)

(I removed my post because I made a typo, that actually made my comment much funnier than it is)

Anonymous said...

@DeadRooster - LMAO ! Now you've really turned it into a most beautiful office romance ! Awwwww...
(Movie Material I must say)

Jenn Thorson said...

Rooster- Hm. I can see where it could be read that way-- no, the dress was a pantsuit and it stayed on. The dress shoes actually ended up sandy and muddy because, well, who walks around Walden Pond in a freakin' business suit? I mean, really.

All I could think was, "I wish I were here under entirely different circumstances." :)

DaOldMan- Heh, your original version made me chuckle. I think it you should have let it stand. :)

Can't wait to read your post about your diverse job tasks. I bet a lot of folks find that task-creep happening these days.

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- Insert chilling horror movie scream here. :)

eve cleveland said...

I need a drink just thinkin bout what you have to go through in a day, girl.

Jenn Thorson said...

Eve- Heh, sorry to send you drinkin'. :) I'm at a company now where things are done a bit differently than the one above-- My nerves are better.

ReformingGeek said...

Good story. That sounds like my first boss. He was a fireball. He was so driven I wondered if he had daddy issues. He eventually got older and found a new wife. They moved to the mountains and he seriously mellowed out.

I freaked out one boss on a business trip by drinking beer and singing karaoke. It was in Japan.

Jenn Thorson said...

ReformingGeek- I've often wondered if it's possible for these fireball types to burn down to a light smolder in retirement. Apparently, it takes mountains and a wife! :)

PS- Don't you HAVE to sing karaoke in Japan? I mean, you're there. Karaoke there MUST be. It's like seeing an Elvis impersonator in Vegas-- obligatory.

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

This is the best Polite, Detatched Coexistence with the Occasional Wincing, Longing-to-Run-for-the-Hills story I've ever heard!

Chat Blanc said...

Oh sista I feel your marketing pain! I've been there, nearly killed that. Sans the Walden Pond of course. ;) Fabulous story!

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- Thank you. I'm afraid I have more of those tales than I care to recount. This one at least had a bit of poetic irony to go with the Wincing, Longing-to-Run-For-The-Hills. :)

Chat Blanc- Do you think it's something about the field? Now you've got me wondering! :)

Anonymous said...

Some people just can't get away from it all, can they? Personally, I don't understand. I live in a county in which some places you can't get cell phone service (GASP!), but I love it. I love not being in the contact with the world (except if I get stuck in the snow of course).

Also I've noticed whereas I'm the king of the parentheses (I don't know why, but I use them obsessively), you are the queen of the emoticons (of which you've written previously, I know), especially in your responses to other people's comments. So do you think you could vary the emoticon when you give me one and maybe throw in a wink or a frown or...I don't know. Be creative. (Insert whichever emoticon here so you understand I'm joking.)

Jenn Thorson said...

Unfinished- Your area, from the photos I've seen, is just beautiful. I think it would offer a wonderful peace of mind to experience that for a while.

And yes, I am the queen of emoticons. I only do the one kind because it's an emoticon catch-all-- sort of a classic, can't go wrong with it. I believe you'd once said yourself how you omitted the emoticon and actually had someone misunderstand you. They are powerful little buggers, aren't they?

I tried to go emoticon free but simply couldn't do it in an online chat situation.

I'm afraid any winking emoticons would be taken as a support for Palin. :)