06 May 2008

Kevin's Career

Kevin told me that this was no way to make a living. I should have believed him, but I was at a loss about what else to do for money. We were lined up in cubicles every morning. Kevin stood out, though. He began his career as the bane of every manager's existence. He was the one who never accepted the simple lie about why a job mattered. He made me squirm. I did not like his ready indolence, his obvious disinterest in keeping his job. It made us all a little uneasy. "Why do they have to make these cubicle walls grey?" he would ask. "And make us wear ties. You know that a tie cuts off just enough blood flow to the brain - on average about 6% - to encourage conformity? When a brain is short of blood, it takes care of essential business first - creativity last. That's why the ties," he explained. Kevin was not himself creative but he was sympathetic to the cause - like people who feinted at the sight of blood but nonetheless sent money to the IRA.

Kevin would walk over to people’s offices to inform them that he had sent them an email. On holidays, he had the strange habit of reading songs. Songs. I hated him for it. None of us ever knew where to look as he read aloud, favorite songs suddenly made senseless, sounding stupid, as he read in his sonorous voice lines like,
“They said, ‘I bet they'll never make it’
But just look at us holding on
We're still together still going strong”

At another time, Kevin walked into a small enclave where a few of us were meeting, and sang (to use the word generously) this:
"Oh I am a lull dancer
I dance while I rant
I have issues with flatulence
And wear special pants"
And then left without explanation. None of us ever mentioned it again.

But Kevin made a big change about two years into his career. The catalyst for the change was a bet with me. It transformed him. In just a few short weeks, he fell off the radar of misfit and began to blend into the grey walls. In one of my weaker moments, Kevin talked me into a contest. The objective? See who could attend the most meetings. Kevin did not just win – he actually was in meetings 32 hours during our contest week – but he found a new strategy for coping with work. He would sit in meetings and work on his computer. Everyone knew that he had a heavy work load, so he was forgiven for working during meetings. But then everyone knew that he had a heavy meeting load, so he was forgiven for missing work deadlines. The net effect was that no one expected anything of him. As far as I know, Kevin is using his strategy to this day, and no one quite knows what he does or what to expect of him. His outlook calendar is always full, though. Kevin probably has about another decade before anyone notices what he is doing. Or, rather, what he is not doing.


Jennifer H said...

If he ever wants to make a lateral move, maybe he should run for president. That would guarantee him a sweet 8 years if he can emulate our Current Occupant. Sounds like he's got the right skill set.

Gypsy at Heart said...

He sounds like a slacker savant. I've met a few throughout my working years.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a little person I once worked with, who'd sing this around the fire at company picnics:
"To-day I bake, to-morrow brew, the next I'll have the young queen's child.
Ha, glad am I that no one knew
that Rumpelstiltskin I am styled".
He was later arrested on kidnapping charges.

Big Al said...

Kevin is alive and well working as a peer of mine. And thankfully because of your blog, Ron, I now understand those weird-looking "special" pants he's worn ever since I've known him. But now I feel inclined to not sit so close to Kevin anymore . . .

Anonymous said...


cce said...

I'm gonna hazard a guess that corporate America is full of Kevin's 'cept now a days Kevins are sitting in meetings checking their e-mail and catching up on their favorite blogs while pretending to work. The internet is the sweetest distraction for people like Kevin AND it makes them look busy.