The six guys in orange vests trying to unclog a Del Playa storm drain today are perfect fractals of all bureaucracy. Five of them supervise. One of them works.
Thousands of plastic red cups from last weekend are clogging the storm drain, and the county guys had hoped a jet blast of water from their special truck could do the trick. Two hours later, the five-man team discusses their options while giving advice to the lone worker.
I soak up Tuesday sunlight in a nearby balcony and rationalize an impending absence from class. One of the orange vests lights a cigarette and looks up at me, then turns back to his friends. My Protestant work ethic starts acting up: Here are these guys – up since the crack of dawn, maintaining America’s vital infrastructure – and here you are: shirtless, tan, lazy, trying to find any excuse to avoid lecture. You’re a fucking swine.
But then, look at them. I want that job. The head boss is leaning heavily against a fence, just shooting the shit. Sure, he’d rather be somewhere else, but it’s not exactly a sweatshop factory. He’s blowing precious thousands of hard-earned tax dollars on that lean.
Today is not a good day for watching bureaucratic waste in action. I opted for a beer breakfast after peering into my mailbox and getting punched in the nose by a $15,000 college loan bill. I know slackers in the library, UCen, Art Museum, Financial Aid, Cheadle Hall, etc.- so I know the ubiquitous five to one work ethic also applies at UCSB. I can almost visualize most of my tuition distributed amongst the assfat of UCSB’s legion of middle managers. I will owe interest on that assfat for the next ten years, and the thought bathes my soul in bile. The beer doesn’t help either.
Back on Del Playa, a female in an orange vest shows up and everyone takes a lean. It’s classic. Why work on such a great day? I don’t really want to bother with the world either. Working really sucks ass, and according to new global stats, Americans work too much anyway. We averaged 49 1/2 hours per week in the year 2000, destroying the Japanese and every other allegedly busy nation. By contrast, Americans had less than an hour for sex per week – their favorite activity.
This lazy, leaning work site below me is probably being enacted 10,000 times at any given moment in America. Some of you bastards are reading this instead of working right now. And yet we still kick the collective working ass of any other nation. I want to tell you, “Get back to work! You lazy shits! Make my loans worth something!” But it’s the American way. Work long, do little, get paid well, retire soon. I’d be a fool to be against it.
The only real catch is you need some education to buy your way into the system. The night janitors of the country do much more work than the day managers and get paid much worse – $15,000 in loans is a small price to pay for a life of faux struggle.
Empowered by the professional slacksmanship of the county’s workers, I put on my shirt, pick up my backpack, and thank my friends for the use of their balcony. Descending the stairs, I think about how easy class is going to be. The guys in the orange vests lean around and they only have a high school education, maybe some community college. I fantasize about how little I’ll get to do one day – pushing pencils, filing things, copying things, air conditioning, coffee, donuts. Mmmmmm, do-nuts.
The Daily Friday Editor David Downs thinks most people hate words and is starting to agree with most people. His columns get smaller every Wednesday here, on the Opinion page.