This is a repost of an article I wrote back in March 2009 instead of doing a real review for season four’s “It’s A Terrible Life.” I wish I could say this was written back in a time of my life where I was really jaded with corporate life, but I’d probably still write these exact thoughts today. Nothing really has changed.
My inspiration for this piece was from the Dilbert essay “Life Will Not Be Like Star Trek.” It’s just me keeping it real! And bonus points for anyone that’s done Linux programming and gets the joke half way through the article. I’ve also doctored up this from the original, adding some photos, something we didn’t do back then!
I was looking for something light and fun to post on a Saturday, and I’m hoping this fits the bill. Enjoy!
Yikes! I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve seen a scarier horror story in all my life. Supernatural takes on Corporate America. Those tricky angels put both Dean and Sam in a situation so horrific, so vile, that hunting looks good. I could see Sera Gamble, this weekâ€™s writer, pitching the idea. â€œOh, I got it, put them in an office!â€ Even the head angel is appalled, reminding Dean, â€œLook around. There are plenty of fates worse than yours.â€
Considering I know a thing or two about a corporate job stripping away your humanity, plus Iâ€™m late to the party again this week (spring break travel this time), Iâ€™m doing something different this week. By using what weâ€™ve learned from â€œItâ€™s A Terrible Life,â€ youâ€™re about to find out why Corporate America will never be like Supernatural.
In Supernatural, we know the rule that ghosts must be killed. So how does that happen for two guys that have supposedly never met (except for two uncomfortable exchanges in the elevator)? What do they do when one is behaving in the polar opposite of his nature and both have no memories of their ghost hunting past? Why, look up real actual ghost hunters on the Internet of course!
Thanks to the Ghostfacersâ€™ instructional video, Sam and Dean find the ghost driving Tech Support workers to suicide is the jerkish founder of their company, Sandover Bridge and Iron. He only does this in times of deep economic distress. Ha, where was he during the Carter administration? The suggestions arenâ€™t without their challenges though. â€œOkay, this next part gets a little gross. Sometimes you have to dig up the body. Sorry. Itâ€™s illegal in some states. All states.â€ The rock salt idea becomes useless too, since itâ€™s impossible to get a gun without the waiting period. Lucky for them, the body was cremated, so none of that matters.
Good thing Sam and Dean are there, for any company left to its own devices would take the wrong approach. A project team would be formed to define and implement the means to kill the ghost. First there would be the kickoff meeting for concepting, but itâ€™s rescheduled because Janie from Marketing, the keeper of the vision, has a conflict. Steve from IT causes the next delay because he has a system down emergency that needs to be dealt with ASAP. Arnie from Project Management causes the third postponement because heâ€™s on vacation.
Once the meeting does happen, after a few more sessions (see above scheduling issues) all tasks are assigned. The next set of â€œbrainstormingâ€ for the proper way to kill the ghost is postponed because half of the team misses their task deadlines. A flurry of text messages and IMs happen, and once everyone pretends to be on the same page, a rough cut of functional requirements are laid out. Those requirements must be reviewed and approved by all team members and their superiors. This takes months, since at least one asshole in product marketing has an issue over what to define the creature being killed. â€œGhostâ€ is either too offensive, primitive, or technically wrong. â€œEthereal beingâ€ has a nicer ring, but thereâ€™s just something about it that isnâ€™t right. Itâ€™s somewhat insensitive to dead people. Once the functional requirements are laid out, itâ€™s onto technical requirements andâ€¦
Oh screw it. By this time, the ghost has either killed everyone or has let a few jerks live so they could be crushed by living their own Hell of earth. Implementation never happens, for the funding for the project is long cut before that.
Deanâ€™s the perfect middle manager, down to the blue striped shirt with white collar and red suspenders (and a Kinks theme song!). His hair is neatly combed to the side (really disturbing), he eats salads at his desk while working, and drinks lattes. Oh, but thereâ€™s a problem! Every man in the workplace Iâ€™ve run across listens to ESPN radio in the Prius, not NPR. The guys usually start talking about the game or fantasy football as soon as they get in. Project Runway talk would be reserved for the ladies room.
Dean ends up driving an employee to suicide by diplomatically telling him he filled out a form wrong, and then chases him to the bathroom to make sure heâ€™s okay. Oh, thatâ€™s so not real world. If a manager follows, he or she would berate until the employee drives that pencil into his neck or jumps down the elevator shaft since office building windows were sealed years ago because innocent bystanders on the pavement got hurt from all the suicides and it resulted in lawsuits.
I could tell the old guy is an angel the second he walks through the door. Why? Heâ€™s so nice and supportive. Thatâ€™s so not upper management. Also how would a regular middle level manager from Marketing handle a ghost sighting in the bathroom? He wouldnâ€™t call Sam from Tech Support and talk ghost hunting, thatâ€™s for sure. No, heâ€™d figure out how to profit from it.
Heâ€™d spin the legend into buzz for the company and a big promotion for himself by sanctioning engineering to design a ghost capturing device. Then heâ€™d get the ghost to do daily hauntings at the top of every hour from 8:00 â€“ 5:00, and 11:00 â€“ 5:00 on weekends. People could watch for a modest fee, and then be sent through the merchandise shop on the way out for t-shirts, mugs, and ugly statues of the ghost.
Sure, a few people might die in the process if the ghost gets too close and zaps them with his sparking fingers, but thereâ€™s always costs in doing business. Thatâ€™s why a disclaimer is posted at the door before entering. There would also be stern warnings about no salt, iron and lighters or matches being allowed, but not enough to tip off the visitors as to why.
Tech Support becomes the seventh circle of Hell with bright yellow shirts, khaki pants and cubes the size of cardboard boxes. Instantly thereâ€™s one similarity to Star Trek. The majority of the ghostâ€™s victims were the â€œyellow shirts,â€ much like the Star Trek â€œred shirts.â€ Iâ€™m going to have to call each obvious victim of the week a yellow shirt now. Sam fits the devious pattern of someone from tech support by hacking into the emails. â€œI used some skills that I happen to have to satisfy my curiosity.â€ All good techies know how to bullshit their way out of a jam.
The cube setting is dead on. Theyâ€™re getting smaller all the time. Did you know that cubes were intentionally designed to trigger daydreaming? Those bland canvas walls, frosted glass and small particle board slats mimicking a real desk had to be presented as boring as possible. The genius who created them in secret loved The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and American Splendor and wanted to set off his own dastardly plot to unravel the business world by crushing peopleâ€™s will to live. Managers havenâ€™t realized (or cared) that theyâ€™ve been had all these years, for they only saw the cost savings in office space and not that theyâ€™ve put employee productivity and morale into the toilet. Yep, this evil genius has conquered.
In the real world of Tech Support, I wouldnâ€™t be looking for missing files late into the night by running a disk scan at the DOS prompt, plus Iâ€™d call IT for a monitor replacement if my screen was white with black lettering at a command prompt. If he has to look on the network, most company servers run on Unix or Linux, so he should be at one of those prompts. BTW, hereâ€™s a little fun with Linux for those geeks out there that love Supernatural.
% rm God
rm: God nonexistent
Ha! I know! How funny is that? Anyway, all the tech support people I know stay away from yellow as much as possible, wonâ€™t hunt ghosts unless itâ€™s part of a gaming thing, and will usually make ignorant users jump through hoops for fun to get a printer to work before resorting to the â€œturn it off and then on,â€ bit. Also, all companies and institutions have Websense implemented, so thereâ€™s no way Sam would have been able to open a site about Vampires, let alone get away with checking it out in close quarters with snooping co-workers all around. Oh, but they do love their coffee breaks.
In the Supernatural world, itâ€™s simple. Trust no one but your brother, and even then itâ€™s shaky considering he lies. All Sam and Dean have is each other, and being thrown into the strange situation without their memories doesnâ€™t affect their natural instinct to conquer the unknown together. Itâ€™s a golden moment for these two, who have been at odds for months, and they reconnect without the knowledge of all the baggage prior. They instinctively draw from one anotherâ€™s strengths, and together get the job done. Itâ€™s refreshing to see the brothers this way again.
For those of you office dwellers, please name all co-workers in which you have this trusting relationship. *crickets chirp* Okay, name a co-worker that youâ€™d trust to consult about hunting the supernatural. Okay, how about someone thatâ€™ll help you fix paperwork or problem with Vista? Um, running copies? Oh heck, you canâ€™t even trust a co-worker to make coffee, can you? Even Sam took the last of it and didnâ€™t make more. Thereâ€™s no â€œIâ€ in team, but thereâ€™s no â€œweâ€ either. IfSam and Dean had to rely on co-workers to get them out of jams from the beginning,they would have been dead by episode three.
The reactions are mild around the office over all the strange occurrences. Why arenâ€™t Dean and Sam questioned the next day for destroying a store room, being there when the guard split in half in the elevator shaft, or how they smashed a glass case and burned the gloves of the beloved founder? They show up at work the next day and everything is business as usual.
In the corporate world, security guards would be swarming the lobby, the culprits would be identified on the video cameras and escorted out by security before the first coffee break. HR would have memos posted, grief counselors would be on site, and meetings would be scheduled to communicate new security procedures. Employees would be now warned via email, â€œDonâ€™t microwave your headâ€ or â€œDonâ€™t carry pencils in your pocketâ€ or â€œDonâ€™t wedge your body in the doorway of a moving elevatorâ€ or â€œDonâ€™t pound the living crap out of the phone with a blunt instrument.â€ They can never be too careful.
Destiny often comes up in this show, and did again this week. Samâ€™s focus is on how heâ€™s supposed to be doing something else, something greater. Dean doesnâ€™t believe his destiny, preferring to react to what is right in front of him. Thatâ€™s not just the long differing points of view between these two. Thatâ€™s also the difference between a worker bee and management. Anyone ever see Antz?
â€œMost folks live and die without moving anything more than the dirt it takes to bury them.â€ Sadly, Zachariah hit the nail on the head. Offices are about futility. Itâ€™s not all bad though. A corporate ghost can only be in the form of tyrannical boss that worked himself into an early grave. A normal dead employee would be tap dancing all the way to the pearly gates if it meant they didnâ€™t have to spend another second in that cesspool of decaying humanity. At work in Heaven, every minute is a coffee break and the donuts are in endless supply. You can download all the porn you want too.
Too bad Corporate America canâ€™t be like Supernatural.
It would suck a lot less.