It’s a Union Job

I work in technology. It is an industry which is overrun with re-work and redundant red herrings. An old network manager of mine used to say (paraphrased):

If two people are working on a problem, then one of them is wasting his time.

He would say this mostly when he saw a gaggle of us hovering nervously around a tech’s cubicle, working on some technical issue. He was trying to be nice, to point out that we did not all need to get into a tizzy at the same time. “Trust the other guy – he’s qualified and cares, and he’ll get the job done. Even if you saunter back to your own desk and just take a breather. Don’t worry – your chance to be in the fire will come soon enough.”

At least I imagined that’s what the network manager would have said, if he had not already sauntered back to his own windowless office.

“It’s a union job,” I once said to my now-wife. This was pretty early on in the relationship – long before she realized that her goofiness was nearly rivaled by my own cock-eyed view of the World. She didn’t know what I meant – too cock-eyed, I suppose.

The Old Joke

It’s not nice to make or propagate jokes about groups of people. But I guess we can all sort of relate to the scenario where a couple of “union guys” are working on some project, and one of them is not doing his piece because he’s on coffee break, and the other is not doing his piece because it depends on the work that’s not getting done by the guy on the coffee break. So nothing gets done. That’s funny. It’s been in sitcom’s and stuff. It’s sad.

So the idea is, in a proper “union” job, everyone’s role is extremely well-defined, and someone in the “unrole” for a particular task is not allowed to do the task. Further, the union members are extremely tuned in to their job definitions. There – that’s the background.

Disclaimer: I love unions. My union job once helped me a great deal when I got laid-off from a Dot Com. Unions are the push that balances the workplace’s shove. We need them. But sometimes they can hinder. In this post, I am using an exaggerated version of the union mentality, just to make a point. I do that sort of thing a lot.

So how does this apply to my wife? Well.. it applies to any relationship, and to any workplace. We can all learn from the unions.

Do you really need to do that work?

The World is not an efficient place. Neither is the workplace. Just this morning, I was attacked by a three-headed help monster while trying to buy coffee and a bagel.

Neither is your marriage efficient. It’s like a river, that doesn’t know what water is supposed to do – i.e., flow downward. So even in our better moments, when we have clarity, and we know just where gravity is taking us, someone builds a smelting plant next to our river, and starts pumping noxious ickies into our clear water.

Shameless plug: My wife wrote a song about gravity doing its thing, called Falling into Place, and recorded it with her duo, Sweet Bitters. You can read a mini-review of it on Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

Take a step back. Again. Often. Okay, keep stepping back until you exit the room. Backwards! Okay, maybe not – sometimes you have to stay in the room. But get yourself some space, for criminy sakes. If you don’t get space for yourself, not only are you silly, but you are making life difficult for everyone around you. Don’t kid yourself – folks need space, even when they don’t think they do. Show them.

Take that step back, and think to yourself about whether the work you are doing – at the office, at the home, or on.. Facebook – whether it is really a good thing. Maybe someone else can/should do it, is better suited for the task, is willing to do it, just plain has more energy for it right now, whatever. Don’t be lazy – that’s not what I’m saying. Laziness is evil, I’d say. It just doesn’t get you what you thought it might at the start, it’s a great deceptor. Dn’t be lzy.

But conscious understanding of your role and relationship to the World and people around you – that’s niiice. Cherish it when you have it, and seek it when you don’t. Some work does not need to be done – by you, for example.

Next time you find yourself dreading a task or bedraggled by a chore that seems pointless or unfulfilling, ask yourself, “Is this a union job?”, and then sit back and let your spouse take care of it for you. You will both appreciate it.