As a teenager, I wanted to become a professional football coach. As you can imagine, it did not make my parents happy. First, they tried to reason with me. I was stubborn so they gave up talking and threatened to cut me off, a solid threat for a teenager. Fear got the best of me so I went to university and studied electrical engineering like a good boy. Despite all my efforts, I was a mediocre student, struggling to answer a simple question: “Why?”
I spent the previous week fixing La Chichona and succeeded at installing the side window, a small yet delicious victory. Next came the electrical wires before covering the walls with insulation. My friend Sam is an electrical engineer. I asked him to supervise the job, to prevent la Chichona from catching fire on the first short circuit.
A famous van conversion video inspired me to start. The protagonist glued conduits to the walls before inserting the wires inside. I would copy everything he did step by step, easy peasy!
I walked into the cable section of Home Depot. There were dozens of different wires and conduits. I had no idea what I was looking at, so I called Sam.
- Hey man, I’m at Home Depot looking looking at wires for the van, which one should I get?
- Do you know the voltage and power consumption of your appliances?
- Do you know where they will be placed?
- Do you have a verified electrical circuit?
- What are you even doing there? Get out! We’ll work on that over the week-en.
- Is there something else I could do in the meantime?
- Start sketching your circuit
I learnt it all in school but still, I was as bad as ten years ago. The brain works in funny ways. If you know the reason why you’re doing something, it becomes much easier to cope with the challenges along the way. My reason was to prevent an accident. I had to get the electric circuit right, period. If not, the van could catch fire and the adventure would be over before it even started. The stakes were too high to slack off.
I took the time to learn the role of every single item on the circuit. Imagine if the education system worked around that idea. To understand the purpose behind every action. Why do we do what we do? Politicians worldwide should learn and apply the Finnish education system. The Finns got it. A candle does not lose its glow when lighting another candle.
I’ve been working for a multi billion-dollar company. A worldwide corporation that treats its employees poorly, let’s call it Shitty Sugar. Executives pound us with bullshit motivational calls every week. They repeat the same buzz words: quotas, forecasting, closing POs, pushing harder, blablabla. Millions of dollars every year are dumped into marketing, trainings and workshops. Yet they never managed to answer the real question: Why?
My colleagues feel neither purpose nor gratification for working at Shitty Sugar. Truth is, they work there for lack of a better option, we all do. At Shitty Sugar, you do not question. At Shitty Sugar, you obey. The business is the king and its employees are pawns, ready to be sacrificed. Why again? As Damien Saez elegantly phrased it: So a fucking shareholder could swim with the dolphins.
I left Home Depot, walked into the van and closed the door. It was that time of the week. I took a deep breath, ready for my weekly dose of corporate pollution. From by boss’ tone, we could tell something was wrong. She announced that the sales numbers were low. Employees would suffer the consequences.
My boss, the most dedicated employee I know, had been put on forced vacation. She has been with Shitty Sugar for 23 years… how ironic. The worst was her attitude. She kept repeating it was okay, convincing us or herself that nothing was wrong with that decision. I felt sorry for her. Then pity turned to anger. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake her hard and yell to her face:
“NO IT IS NOT OKAY! YOU GAVE THEM 23 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE! 23 YEARS !!!! AND YET, THEY DISPOSE OF YOU LIKE A USED CONDOM! DO YOU THINK THAT’S OKAY? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT’S OK ?!!”
For years, I stared up close at the face of corporate greed. I saw good people laid off due to no fault of their own. I survived three mass lay-offs because salespeople are the last ones to get fired. Executives hide mass lay-offs behind dehumanizing words. Terms like corporate restructuring are useful. They sound hazy and harmless. Executives and shareholders know how to look sorry, how to empathize. They talk as if they were not the ones pulling the trigger. It’s hard to look away in the face of injustice. Even harder when the injustice is covered with lies.
Torn between working for an unfair system and having to pay the bills, I developed a coping mechanism. My hate toward Shitty Sugar turned me into a master manipulator. With experience and a solid reputation, I was able to leverage all my skills to scam the company. Playing golf or kitesurfing during work hours became my daily routine. All while having everyone believe I was the modern day Stakhanov.
Many times I thought of quitting Shitty Sugar but the money was too good. Now that my boss was out for a month, I could focus on working on la Chichona without interruptions. I left Home Depot, went home and packed all my stuff. Starting next week I would move to somebody’s couch.
September looks promising.