(Ovid in Exile: Ion Theodorescu-Sion)
Exile was handed down.
We were not stripped of our property nor our employee ID. Our email was not terminated by an indifferent sysadmin gently coaxing the crumbs of their lunch from their luxuriant beard with one hand while the other provided an official ending to the employee’s existence per Management’s pleasure. Instead a gentle and artfully worded decree was distributed.
Those who could live in exile were to do so. The lunch room would fall silent. The coffee pot would sleepily burble to itself no more. Conference rooms would it empty, their Post-It notes and blue scribbled white boards marking a span of time in the past. Those who forgot to wash out the Tupperware their lunch came in would be very, very sorry when they returned.
Only the office manager and one of the bearded syadmins would gently walk through the mausoleum to our shared efforts. The computers would continue to perform their duties even as dust accumulated. They may need a gentle nudge when they stray from the customary operations but otherwise they continue their silent occupation of space.
The office becomes a kind of performance art piece. The Modern Office After Vesuvius. The office manager becomes more of a curator to our office cultural project. Each workstation a small piece of environmental art. A display of personality that the worker as they wish to display it within the highly constrained interaction of the workplace. The clusters of desks and line of offices a stage waiting for the actors to return.
There is the promise of return. In the indeterminate future the space returns to use. The assumption is that we will resume the daily cycle of rising early, grooming ourselves, traveling to the appropriate location, remaining there for most of the day, then returning home to find a few hours remaining that must be split between the necessities of housework, family life, and then a small sliver of time for one’s personal life.
I would prefer to remain in exile.
The office does not represent a gain in efficiency. Instead, working from home has been shown to be slightly more productive and provides a considerable amount of worker satisfaction. For people in jobs that require intensive concentration the modern open office is an equally well studied detriment to their productivity. I’m better off investing in a better office chair and remaining home. I get more work done this way.
Exile is removal from the center. Life on the periphery is thought to be devoid of influence, cut off from culture, seeing opportunities for advancement wither on the vine, a removal from all the pleasures that the center of power and influence offers. It just smells like vanity. As they say, don’t threaten me with a good time.
Retaining proximity doesn’t hold any value for me. I practice a trade. I perform my work well, I receive my wages, I go home and live my true life. Climbing the hierarchy doesn’t interest me. I can see the shape of the pyramid and have decided that its not worth the climb as the way grows narrow and most will not advance. I don’t need to be close to the apex, it holds no value for me.
Fractures like our current plague show different ways of doing things. I can only hope that those who want a quiet life can remain where they wish.