Lazy Luddite Log

30.5.12

Contract

The contract role I described here is concluding this week. This is different from the end of every other job I have had because pretty much the whole workforce is concluding its task on the same date. We end on Friday with a big party but even now we have started tidying desks and removing all stationary and documents that belong to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It will be a bit odd I suppose to vacate my desk of several months and lose all but incidental and passing contact with a lot of fun workmates.

I return to the comment I made last time - this has been an enlightened employer and I have made pretty good use of it. Getting my flu-shot at work... taking a long lunch to give blood at the City Bloodbank... engaging in a "jobseeking skills" workshop... It has all been useful in some way or another. Even the course of conversations I had with a psychologist some months ago was interesting both in that it helped clarify a few things and also gave me a sense that possibly I am a well-adjusted and centred person who just happens to have Life (TM) happen to him sometimes.

I will admit however that in recent weeks the work has gotten dull. In a work meeting I introduced the phrase "stimulus variation" - a thing we have lost as the Census processing project has progressed. Luckily as the tasks have become homogenous the interactions with workmates have become more satisfying. We make our own fun in the form of sharing the newspaper trivia quizzes or playing with jigsaw puzzles or just gas-bagging (all during designated rests naturally).

One thing I started once I got more confident of my role in the setting was what I dubbed Show And Tell Friday. My rationale was that we cannot have Casual Dress Friday as other workplaces do (since every day is casual dress day) and needed something to distinguish the last day of the week. I started bringing in odd things to put on my desk - anything from Transformers to hats - and then a few others started to do likewise. After a few weeks of this a supervisor asked me if it was okay with me if they made it a department-wide practice. Naturally I approved - to have ones own meme take off is always flattering. And I can understand why they did it - they too knew that we had lost stimulus variation.

In taking stock I think I have benefitted in terms of the life structure that comes from work and the confidence of having a secure income. I will now see how well I do looking for work and managing with savings. I will also regard coming weeks as a bit of a holiday which is what contractors need to do. There will also be some fun and festivity. As for my future work preferences - time with the ABS has very much reinforced for me that work environment and ethos is central to the enjoyment and value of any role even if the role itself may be rather pedestrian. However I cannot end on that note because I have a specific anecdote to recall...

This was in some ways a "vital services" sort of role. The data provided by the Australian Census Of Population And Housing is consulted by governments in deciding on how to spend many millions of tax dollars in a huge array of public and community services. Most of the time the stuff I was data-entering was sterile to me. However I did have a moment a few months ago in which - just for an instant - my mind inadvertently decided to try and comprehend what was happening in our workplace across a few levels. I was at that moment 'coding' info from one household and across our workplace over many months pretty much all Australian households were getting data-entered. At that comprehension I silently lost my shit. This is a small nation but even so what we have done was a huge undertaking and one I'm happy to have been part of.

Cross-posted here.

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20.5.12

Commuters

Last time I discussed Public Transport it was to criticise the latest ticketing change. This time however I want to say how interesting commuters can be. Travelling on PT is a way of sampling society. Everyone who cannot or simply declines to drive a car but who still wants to travel beyond their own neighbourhood can be found mingling on the buses and trains and trams.

My old habit is to listen to music and stare out the window. However lately I have been listening to music at work and decided to forego more music to and from work. I have gotten the chance therefore to let conversations wash over me. Many are mundane and include such topics as what needs to be got at the shops (boring) and who needs to be reprimanded at the office (boring). But sometimes things get more interesting and a few chats I have listened in on lately have included a tipsy youth amusing a friend by saying everything (much of it rude) in rhyme and some uni students considering incorporating sock puppets into a tute presentation. I must admit I tend to find the discussions of those younger than me to be more interesting in general.

However even if I am listening to my device I still enjoy observing human behaviours. Interactions are fascinating and I sometimes wonder what connections I am observing. Are those two chatting in a warm and engaging manner friends? Are they siblings? Are they lovers? Or want to be? It is a bit voyeuristic I confess.

Many of us on PT however travel alone - I am usually one of them. And even lone commuters are interesting to glance at in passing - keeping in mind that there is a very short safe timeframe in which to glance at someone before it seems that you are scrutinizing them. I just look at expressions. Are they happy or sad? Are they thinking or just meditating. What music are they listening to (heck sometimes I can tell the exact song as they have the volume cranked to the max).

That is one thing that has changed. Many of all ages and backgrounds use technology to pass the time like never before. Work or study is done on laptops. Games are played on pads and phones. Books are now often in the form of those futuristic Etchasketches. And then there are always those who are asleep. We expend so much of our energy at work that sleeping on PT is a solution. However we are so much more than our jobs as all the many behaviours observed on PT show that.

Cross-posted here.

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