My Living Room (04/08/2000) - Can someone please tell me what happened to the great American tradition of working 9 to 5? Somewhere along the way, the grinches who stole Monday through Friday snuck an extra hour into the already interminable workday. Everyplace I know is either 8 to 5 or 9 to 6.
This kind of thing which I've long been aware of suddenly matters a whole lot more to me. A lot has changed in the three weeks since I last posted a column here. The next time a heckler tells me, "Don't quit your day job", I'm going to have to take the advice to heart.
Day job. Is there any other kind? Yes, I can now be included in the ranks of the gainfully employed. As if it wasn't bad enough having someplace to go every morning, the rat bastards for whom I work... I mean the kind-hearted souls stupid enough to pay me are stealing an five extra hours of my life every week.
Frankly, I'm pissed. Where's Sally Fields when you need her? Was that Norma Rae Oscar for naught? I don't want to hear anyone's nonsense about the eight hour workday meaning eight hours of work. I say lunch counts, damn it. Time doesn't stand still simply because we are permitted to ingest food.
Does anyone who works in an office work a full eight hours anyway?
I don't think so. The first hour of any sane employee's workday should be reserved for staring off into space. Not only is this necessary behavior, but it's also perfectly safe. Chances are his boss usually strolls into the office a good hour and a half after he does. If for some reason the boss is there, he's staring off into space anyway.
The conscientious worker spends the hour before lunch contemplating lunch. This is ultimately a time saver since by planning ahead, he guarantees he can both procure and ingest nourishment in the allotted time. After all, an hour just isn't that much time. If you don't spend at least an hour mentally preparing for lunch, chances are you'll get back fifteen minutes late which will seriously reduce your productivity.
The hour after lunch is reserved for digestion. Making personal phone calls during this hour is permissible as it is a clinically proven way to improve digestion. Some would argue this time could also be spent working. They would be wrong. This kind of multi-tasking leads inevitably to a reduced quality of work. I can't speak for anyone else but, frankly, when the quality of my digestion is reduced, it's a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
I've never known anyone who did anything during the last hour of work other than rearrange the papers on his desk. I'm not saying this isn't important work. It takes a lot of effort to get everything just so. It's crucial to make sure anyone passing by will notice papers strewn about the desk. An improperly arranged (tidy) desk can lead to unwanted assignments which cut seriously into the time already set aside for the contemplation of lunch.
Between space staring, lunch contemplation, food digestion, and proper paper arrangement, a full four hours each day is spent not working. That's half my day right there without even taking into consideration all the time I spend checking my stock quotes on Yahoo!. In an ideal world, we could work straight through the first half of the week and start our weekend by lunchtime on Wednesday. Of course, we do not live in an ideal world. If we did, I wouldn't be working in the first place.
Does America really need an extra hour of productivity from me each and every day? I believe that what America really needs is less work from me and I'm not the only one making that argument. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has made the case for me several times recently during testimony before Congress. According to Greenspan, the biggest threat to our booming economy may be that it's growing too fast. Something has to be done to maintain a sustainable rate of growth.
Nobody's ever confused me with Milton Friedman but I just may have a solution. Like all good economic plans, it has 5 steps:
Oh wait. Having that extra hour means I'd get the exact same amount of work done anyway. I guess if the Captains of Industry who employ me really want to give something back to a country which has given them so much, they're going to have to allow me to go home two hours early. It's a big sacrifice but hey I'm willing to make it.Dave
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