Late last night, while I was perusing my news feed on Facebook, I noticed that a friend I once worked with posted a photo of themselves posing with a trophy in front of the logo of the company we had worked at together. This wouldn't be very noteworthy if not for the fact that I suddenly realized, "My God! Poor so-and-so STILL works in the seventh circle of hell! By Jove!" I shook my head sadly, realizing that I'd left those days behind over 4 years ago now.
A short while later, another friend of mine, also stuck at the same company, posted a similar photo of themselves. And then another friend. And another. You poor bastards. You will be working that job 10 years after you die!
Not one to marvel alone, I noticed that Aaaron, one of my best friends who had also had the pleasure of working at this company, was online. So I sent him an IM about it. For the life of us, we couldn't figure out what this trophy was for. It wasn't one of the coveted Addy awards. "Hockey?" Aaron suggests, but I tell him there is nothing even remotely hockey-esque about the trophy in the photos. And then it hits me! It's a ball and chain for being tethered to their desks for the remainder of time and beyond! Stupid us!
"I can't believe people still work there!" I tell him. "WHY!!!!!"
"Right?!? I'm just amazed that they are STILL THERE!" Aaron writes back.
Day in, day out, these poor unfortunate souls are still dragging themselves out of bed to work at a place that treats its employees with only slightly more dignity than Chinese factory workers. Now, I'm not saying I regret working there. I learned many things and met some fantastic people. But I will say that I truly felt trapped working there, especially after that fateful September 11th. We can make fun of China all we want but the fact is I'm not trapped here. If I hate my job, I can walk out and find another one. But back at this stage in my life, I feared I would be stuck there forever. A lifer.
And that's what these former coworkers have become. Lifers. "That place is just like prison, but with trophies," I declare. A real Hotel California. We finally made a break for it, escaping with what little shred of sanity we still possessed. It was the shred we clung desperately to during our sentences there as we sought out new ways to make serving our time more tolerable.
Like what we came to call the "Trog Tours." It all started innocently enough, about 10 years ago, as Aaron and I became rather inebriated on the couch of the apartment I shared with my loser du jour, Dan. I turned to Aaron and asked him the following question, one that to this very day incites peels of laughter at its mentioning: "Have you ever noticed that the people they hired to staff our old department are the ugliest bunch of people you could ever assemble together all in one place at the same time?"
I know, I know. I'm such a horrible bitch. It was true though. As I recall, it was a good 45 minutes to an hour before either of us could even remotely stop laughing. We'd started out working on the same team and through promotions we'd been upgraded from the common peasants to loftier positions on different teams. That meant our old department needed new employees. Now, if they were even remotely talented, I would have stopped right there. But I swear they found these people popping each others' ass zits at a truck stop restroom. They were so unsightly that it soon became a thing, with our friend and fellow former employee, Luis, serving as a tour guide of sorts, leading a cluster of other employees who inhabited the third floor offices down into the dregs of the creative department below them. We'd watch with great amusement and delight as he led them in through one door and then, several minutes later, reemerge from another door with each group abuzz about the ugliness they had just seen. "Wow! You weren't kidding! Those ARE really ugly people!" I remember hearing one person exclaim. And thus, the Troglodyte, or Trog for short, Tours were born. They should have given out trophies to the ugly people, but perhaps the fear of their ugliness reflecting off the trophies in some sort of kaleidoscopic effect prevailed in the end.
In any event, here's to the lifers still chiseling their license plates and attempting to squeeze blood from stones. May you one day break on through to the other side.
This is a very ancient photo of Aaron and me, circa 2005 or 2006, back when we were still working at the advertising sweatshop.