Walking through our newsroom at work, I sometimes think about how I’ll miss all that buzz and clatter when I finally move to Mérida. I’m just a team player, I guess. I was just reading about people who bail out of confining corporate jobs to work independently from home, and I can understand the appeal. No one loves being home more than I do. But I’ve never felt held back by collaborating within a group with a defined role. It’s always a good meeting when someone at the table knocks me over with an observation that surprises me.
I joked with my editor, who’s aware of my Casa Nana project, that there will be a time when I’m telecommuting. I can technically access all our pages and stories on my laptop, even from Mérida. “I’ll be working from home, but you won’t know which home,” I quipped. My boss loves to laugh, but she responded to my comment with a scowl. When I finally move into Casa Nana, it will be after our work relationship is severed. She wants me in the room if I’m going to be earning a paycheck.
If we want to afford the increasingly expensive middle-class Mérida life, I’ll need an income, and it probably won’t come from an office job and a steady paycheck. If my editing and design skills are to be put to work, I won’t be working with a team of 10 or 50 or 100 peers. I’m going to one of those “suitcase entrepreneurs.” Once I get into the groove, I’ll probably be fine, but I’ll always have fond memories of office life.
Even as a kid, I liked office-oriented shows like “Mary Tyler Moore.” When other kids played house or cowboys-and-indians, I had a makeshift desk and filing cabinets made of discarded cardboard boxes. More recently, NBC’s “The Office” was made relevant by its resemblance to a magazine job I had. Michael Scott could have modeled after a real-life publisher/editor I once reported to.
Office life as we know it seems to be fading away, anyway.
The younger people who find themselves in our newsroom are a different breed. They’re perfectly capable of gazing at a screen for hours on end, and they don’t necessarily want to chat with others, although they’re pleasant enough. They’re more introverted where old-school reporters are the classic extroverts who love to yammer on with their stories. Bosses like them because they’re more obedient than my generation of newsroom talent. They don’t question authority, and don’t mind working long hours or being on call. They’re indifferent to our land line phones and the computers we’ve provided. They have their own laptops and smart phones. They’re focused on social media, getting stories online (bypassing any copy editors and not very particular about spelling or grammar. Ugh.) They don’t meet for Happy Hour afterwards. Instead, they’ll post their after-hours exploits on Instagram, where there is a “heart” icon waiting for our affirmation. A departing co-worker used to merit a goodbye party. Not anymore. I mean, they’re not going anywhere, really, if we’re still Facebook friends and we’re favoriting (a real word these days) each others’ tweets, right?
Our flagship newspaper on the West Coast is converting from cubicles to a trendy open floor plan with long communal tables. I can’t think of a worse slice of hell. But younger workers don’t seem to mind. This generation was raised in a different world than we had in the 1970s. Childhoods are more supervised, schools and programs more rigorous and strictly formatted. Maybe that explains it; I dunno.
“The Office” is turning into an artifact of a bygone era. Things are changing, and it’s one more thing I’ll have to adapt to in the not-too-distant future.