Let's turn forever you and me.
You know, for all its shortcomings, the workplace is peppered with people with the most interesting personalities.
I have had this horribly naive perception of the place that you are bound to spend eight hours at, every weekday, for quite some time now: that offices are meant to be deadly quiet. Everyone treats their work seriously, hiding behind their cubicles, tapping away furiously at the keyboard, having the silence broken due to the occasional phone ring or two.
Then there will be the balding, cigar-puffing boss who stalks around quietly, followed by a timid secretary on white stilletos who tries desperately to balance files of all sizes and colours.
Due to the nature of our work, the phones ring at every hour of the day. Everyone will be busy typing away at their keyboards, of course. People walk around briskly. Well, what type of work is not considered serious, anyway?
The phone rings, and Paul answers.
“Harlooooo…” he drawls. And everytime he does that, I cannot help but be amused by the tone of his voice. It changes every now and then, though, depending on how occupied he is. Sometimes he sounds, well, normal – other times, he makes me laugh – quietly. Thankfully, he is seated quite a few tables away to not be able to see me suppressing my gleeful smile.
The computers that we work on are probably decades old now, and every now and then, we hear complaints floating in the air that will either have colleagues nodding along sympathetically, or, well, answered by no one in particular. After all, it has become a daily affair.
“Aiyoh! My work mysteriously disappeared! Is there a virus? People, save your files regularly!”
“Wait ah, I think this bloody Mac is going to stall again…”
Just yesterday, I heard someone banging the mouse repeatedly on the table, muttering “damn it!” in quick succession. Imagine the effort it takes to move a harmless mouse cursor from one point to another on the screen. A minor disturbance it was, but still funny nonetheless (I hope I will not find it equally amusing when my mouse fails me).
And who can expect the big boss to be playfully snapping pictures of, well, people having their pictures taken? Charles did just that, and laughter pierced the air as he switched his camera to playback mode – most of his subjects looked rather, uhm, unprepared for his camera. He also appeared somewhat adorable in some of the pictures – and I think we are talking about someone who is at least early forties of age. He also has a habit of answering enquiries with a long “Hmmmmmmmm…?”, as if he were talking to a three-year-old. For someone of his seniority, I think Charles is a fun person to hang out with.
Come tea-time, and some will be discussing the various television series. Shel even went as far to buy the DVD set to Lost because she could not stand not knowing what was in the hatch.
I have no doubt that I am the youngest there currently. I have trouble fitting in, actually, because they are all much older than me. Age is a barrier to me, but not to them. They know the Britneys from the Christinas; crowd around the television when Live8 was on; launch into debates concerning soccer and Malaysian Idol like teenagers.
Beneath it all, I think they are still kids at heart. This is what keeps them young, and I find that most amazing.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the, uhm, writer.
On air now: Dirty Harry, Gorrilaz
Beam me up, again.
Left, and right. Both sides. The drivers had their right elbows rested on the doors of their cars to support their heads, with only their left hands still clutching the steering wheel.
Upfront. She was waving her arms all over her place, probably out of exasperation. But there were no other passengers in the car. Perhaps she was using a hands-free kit.
An adorable kid looked forlornly out the window. Our eyes met, but I know not if I should smile, or make funny faces at her. I think I was too tired to attempt both, and resumed looking straight ahead into nothingness.
At the back. He had an increasingly bored look on his face. Clearly, he was not enjoying it. Neither was I.
In fact, I found it difficult to suppress a few hippo-like yawns myself. There was nothing much to see except for the seemingly unending strings of red blinking lights.
I mean, what else can you do when you are stuck in a traffic jam for over an hour on a particular stretch of a three-lane highway, to which, on good days, would have you breeze through it in less than ten minutes?
It was an utter waste of time.
I very much look forward to the day where I can just step onto a platform with myriad colours swimming in it, give a simple word of command, and be transported to the desired destination in just a blink of an eye.
Something tells me that things like that appears only in the movies.
The clock ticked closer to eleven. I sighed, and resumed punching the keyboard furiously while they continued trading jokes and banters, their infectious laughter piercing the air.
I was not amused, though.
About twenty minutes later, I found myself in the elevator fumbling for my mobile phone, glad that I could get off at last. Still, I remained fearful of the possibility that the elevator might just choose to die on me at that particular moment.
“The concert just finished; we are back in our hotel room now. You didn’t pick up the phone at home. Were you in the shower?”
“Uhm.. I’m just about to leave the office.”
So I went home to a house devoid of its usual two-legged occupants last night. I had yet to hit the paranoid level, but all the same I could not neglect the uneasiness, the suspicions, the what-ifs. And really: there are countless possibilities, the many things that could have happened – and it played in my head over and over again as if I were watching myself in an action flick.
Oh, you know, the usual. Things like going home and finding the living room completely clean, a thick layer of dust at the spot where the television set used to be. Or everything blacking out as soon as you step through the door, and finding yourself with a thick bandage on the head in the hospital next, and with a very painful headache that just will not go away.
Or maybe I just happen to have a very wild imagination.
No, I do not like the idea of having to give my parents a few extra strands of grey hairs, and having them worried of my whereabouts. I get the feeling that they are not exactly happy with the nature of my job. This is becoming a weekly affair. I just cannot afford to have them stay up so late just to be assured of my safety – that is, to see me step through the door all in one piece, after a long day from work. Only then they can heave sighs of relief, and drag themselves to bed.
The only thing that could get me fairly excited about leaving that late at night on Fridays, is the idea of having an item meant for the next day’s public viewing already in your hands before the clock even strikes twelve at midnight.
Sooner or later, though, I think I will have to job hop.
But when? is the question.
(Another knock on the head, please. Looks like I just cannot stop talking about my workplace, eh?)
Everything was already well-arranged since last month – rooms reserved, transportation settled, application for leave approved. All that is left is the ceremony itself, which will be in two weeks’ time.
Then, just when I thought that dealing with the inefficiencies of the university management is fast becoming a thing of the past, they did it again.
They went ahead and changed the date of the convocation ceremony. And they were smart – very smart. They wanted us to confirm our attendance by the 22nd; yet they broke this piece of news to us on that very same day.
I am told that this has happened before. Tsk, tsk. They were so bright, they failed to notice the glaring mistakes they may have made before.
Everyone’s plans are so messed up right now.
Darn traffic jams.
And there was not even so much of a peek to the cause of it. I amused myself by imagining that the drivers were going extra slow today because they were pointing and ogling at the roundness of the moon.
“Look at the moon tonight, dear…”
“I’d rather you look out for the car in front of you – brake now, will you?!”
Indeed, it was a sight to behold. Actually, it felt more like something you would see from a horror movie. The scene unfolds with the gentle swaying of trees against the dark blue sky, lit only by one lone bright moon, complete with silhouettes of bats flapping their wings past the grey clouds.
By the time I got home to reach for the camera, I had missed that moment. The moment that exudes pure mystery, yet has the power to send shivers right through your bones. The moment of feeling alone, abandoned, ostracised. The moment at dusk, where the transition between blue and black takes place. The moment when everyone, and everything else, has disappeared. The moment when we are swallowed into the night.
I missed it. That is why I had only that black canvas of a shot with an unidentifiable hanging lantern for show.
A day after I posted the previous entry, a lot of things were still going on in my mind. It felt incomplete: there were a few other points that I had forgotten to include into That Very Long Entry. I could have written an extension to it and call it Part Two.
Oh, well. Stuff it.
And as a friend once asked me incredulously: “What, people are beginning to blog about blogging, too?”
It helps not one bit, however, when the fact of the matter is – quantity matters more than quality these days. But knowing that you simply cannot do anything about it, is harder still. For all the steps that we have slowly taken to the front, we seem to be going three steps – backwards.
Four years ago, it was different.
It used to be a means of disseminating information, to reach out to people far and wide.
It used to bring forth healthy and interesting discussions, to exchange views and opinions.
It used to pull people from all parts of the world closer, and to gain new friends in the process as well.
It used to make you smile and shed a tear or two, and for all the right reasons.
It used to be so much more.
Most of the writings were honest, coming straight from the heart. It was valid, although not necessarily accurate. It made you feel like you could have given him a virtual pat on the back for having written so well about his duel with death, or to nod in agreement to her entries because they made so much sense. She recounted how he had got down onto his knees to pop the all-important question with such passion, you cannot help but feel the magic right there and then. And you just had to laugh along as he poked fun of himself, having told us the most unfortunate day of his life.
The valuable discoveries of the Internet that they stumbled upon were made known to their readers. Geeky some of them may be, but the links fit right into our modern world of today. And so we learn, and store what we assume may be yet another trivial piece of information into our heads, only to be regurgitated when the opportunity calls for it:
“Hey, I read that on slashdotorg just yesterday!”
To sum it all up: it made for good reading.
But things have changed – within the local blogging community at least.
Now, this fad will soon become a pointless waste of time.
What is it with the attitude? Short of cursing and calling each other names, now they are resorting to writing about each other, responding in a war of words. And oh, the language! Just because there is no censorship involved does not mean that you can write whatever you please.
“This is my blog, I can write whatever I want – so if you do not like it, go away.” (This is putting it mildly.)
A lot of people say that; so are we becoming irresponsible writers? We become immensely powerful wielding the keyboard (no one uses a pen these days) because no one can stop us. No one dictates what we write, sure: but along the way, some of us have clearly forgotten about our responsibility to our readers.
Why the sudden emphasis on traffic and page ranks now? Does it have to mean so much to you, to log close to a thousand visitors in a day? We have all turned into such narcissists and attention-seekers, the desire to thrive under the limelight is burning more than ever. In fact, you can see people ‘aligning’ themselves with the key players, and this sometimes reminds me of that other reality show. Muddy trails are left everywhere; people are even thinking what keywords to include in their entries so that they can turn up with a better page rank on Google. Obviously, the dictum “I blog for myself” no longer applies here.
Ah, the evolution of blogs. Blogs now are not blogs, in the strictest sense. Look, it contains the word ‘log’ in it. Along the way, the line between a personal website and a blog has blurred so much, I have trouble telling which is which. What gives? (I used to go by this. Now it gets worse, so I do not know what to think anymore.)
One thing I find highly amusing: back then, I had a difficult time trying to get hold of a free hosting provider that offers no advertisements. No blinking banners screaming at you, or annoying popups that just keep… popping up at you (remember Geocities, anyone?) Now, everyone is rushing to include advertisements onto their websites because, well… who would not want to get paid for it? It is funny, because I had to save up to get my own hosting and domain name so that my readers do not have to come across various marketing campaigns here, such as “Get Your Free Shampoo Trial” or “Notebook Online Sale”.
(For the record: no, I will never put Adsense on Rantglass.)
Then again, having a blog/journal/i-really-don’t-know-what-to-call-it-anymore is the quickest way to fame. And why not? Just write, and hit the ‘Publish’ button. Everyone will undoubtedly know who you are, provided you play the game well.
Some get burned out, and fade away almost immediately after having experimented with it. Everyone else is doing it, so why not I give it a go, too? The numbers are going up all the time; but how many of them are actually readable, and will be there for the long run?
You know what I fear? The thought of the government imposing restrictions similar to the ones in China. Can you imagine having to renew a license for your blog every year? How about having your writings scrutinised for any possible verbal attacks against the government? Fancy having internal security officials knocking down your door next?
But with the direction we are heading to today, coupled with the negative reactions received about all this… you never know. We could be getting publicity for the wrong reasons.
So yes, I do get disillusioned sometimes. If anything… I am disappointed that it has turned out this way. I know it sounds harsh, but thank goodness for the gems stashed in the corners of cyberspace, or I will have to proclaim the state of our local blogging community a shame and a failure.
This is four years – then, and now. Who knows what the next four years have in store for us?
Oh, yeah. As usual, you may direct all hatemail, flamethrowers and whatsoever, to my email. I lost my troll repellent though.