One day in the very recent past, I was standing at the water cooler. Now, pardon my digression here, but where did we get this notion that the water cooler is some sort of hub of human social activity? As far as I can tell, people go there to get water, and like animals at an oasis, there's a kind of unspoken free zone that surrounds the Holy Water Cooler. Everyone must be friendly or at least polite. We stand back and wave others to the taps first; people fill up quickly, make--at best--nominal conversation about work-related issues or the recent weekend's weather and get the heck gone. Maybe it's because I was a temp and not there for very long, but I heard NOT ONE thread of gossip that I didn't start myself. It's a gossip-free area. I heard plenty of gossip launched over the tops of cubicles and toilet stalls, but seriously, it's like there's something sacred about the acquisition of water that's too serious for idle chatter, like we all had to walk miles through searing desert carrying goat-bladder canteens or something.
So I'm standing at the water cooler, waiting my turn to make tea, wondering when the alligator that is McBitchy is going to wrap her face around some cute, fuzzy, wee little mammal of an assistant that I know she doesn't like and drag them to a damp and sudden death at the bottom of the pool. I've seen her do similar things in meetings. This girl has no problems at all with lashing out at someone in front of the assembled, drawing blood with a thinly disguised joke. But not at the water cooler. Weird.
Anyway, when it's my turn, I pass the uncomfortable moment of awareness that all these people behind me are wishing--politely--that I would hurry the hell up by looking idly at the bulletin board above my head. There's a poster advertising a program for "overstressed employees." Now, I'll just mention that this poster pre-dates the announcement of layoffs, so we're not talking about especially stressed employees, just the normally stressed variety. The program is called something like LifeEra™ or similar. I didn't have much time to read it, it being first thing in the morning and the line of cordially hostile tea-drinkers behind me increasingly deep, but I went back later when the cooler was less popular as a destination site.
It's a program about all that feel-good Oprahesque crap: finding your bliss, your inner child, your hidden bitch, your childhood dreams, Jesus, your lunch, whatever you might feel you've lost along the troubled path of adulthood. It's "getting on the right track!"™ and "forging your way ahead!"™ and how to "be a fully realized person!"™ That last one always kills me. At some point, will this program provide me with a personal epiphany when I jump up and down and wave my arms and say, "Holy crap, so this is the person I am!"? What if I fully realize who I am, and I turn out to be a bit of a shit? Can I unrealize myself and go back to the foggy haze of thinking I'm generally OK? And more importantly, can I get my money back?
I think that's the part that weirded me out most. The program costs money. It's trademarked. Does that strike anyone else as a bit sinister? Your ability to Get Your Shit Together™ in life has been trademarked. Now I'm worried. This morning I tidied my kitchen -- is that copyright infringement? Will I have to pay royalties on every to-do list? It disturbs me that as a society we are so far removed from our blisses that we have to hire someone else to go out and look for them.
On the other hand, people searching for their blisses in all the wrong places means there's a lot of good second-hand camping, skiing and biking gear available, so that's OK.