Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Pretending It Works

This winter, as an aspiring professional, I attended a course in project management; it was my first exposure to working as a peer with professional-level employees of my mega-corporation. The tools and techniques of project management were the least of what I learned over those three days. Of far greater impact was the unintended lesson gleaned from working with my teammates in the class: During the course of the day, as we worked on the various exercises and as we sat around chatting during the breaks, I found to my dismay that my tablemates kept talking shop. Spreadsheets and databases and purchasing and the latest happenings in the business life of MegaCorp filled their conversation, even when there was no apparent reason for them to be bringing up such dreck.

I, of course, being the Corporate Subversive and member of Dogbert's New Ruling Class that I am, instinctively attempted to steer the conversations in more interesting directions. Most people that I've met in business situations tend to discuss non-business topics at every opportunity, throwing in references to normal human things, family, friends, fun stuff. We want a respite from the shop talk, a reminder that we are real people beneath the facade of Corporate Dronedom.

My teammates in the project management course, however, did not respond as I expected. Whenever I brought up a non-business subject -- even during break times, mind you -- they all fell silent and stared at me as if they didn't quite know what to make of me. Then they went right back to their animated discussion of spreadsheets and databases and purchasing and other corporate dreck.

Eventually the truth made contact with my uncomprehending, incredulous brain: These people really get into this stuff! They aren't pretending like the rest of us! They are genuinely enthusiastic about all of this boring business detail!

It was, as they say, a revelation.

Myself, I always considered the minutiae of business to be akin to doing the dishes or scrubbing the toilet: something that needs to be done to keep life functioning well, but not the sort of thing one would wax enthusiastic about. In a word, it's putz work.

Putz work, of course, has its place. As I said, it needs to get done. But surely anybody of any measurable brain-wave activity doesn't consider it the center of a meaningful life! Or is that the artistic bent of my own brain-wave activity blinds me to the glories of spreadsheeting and database management?

More likely, it's just putz work, and some people, for whatever reasons, find it exciting and meaningful. Perhaps it is the choice of no choice: I have to do this, so I might as well pretend, even to myself, that I really, really give a jolly rip about it. Or perhaps it is a genuine limitation of vision: Wow, I really enjoy doing this, and if you don't, what's your problem and why are you here?

Good questions.

In any case, those inclined to heartfelt devotion to corporate putz work are not especially inclined to hearing me declare it for what it is: putz work. Pay no attention to the bland behind the curtain. Keep the curtain tightly drawn and be dazzled by the really, really important-looking words and numbers painted so stunningly on its surface! Ooooh and aaaah at the latest vapid wizardry of the Project Managers and the Quality Controllers and the Value Adders. Be duly impressed. And never, never let on that you don't buy into the consensus of delusion.

It wouldn't be professional.

Karyn M.

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