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Letters From the Editor

Quitter

Today is my last day at a web design company I’ve worked for since August 1999. In the span of three years, I have:

survived 13 rounds of lay-offs; moved offices twice; sat in five different cubicles; received three complimentary massages; drank, approximately, 732 free beverages, mostly seltzer; reported to four different supervisors, bosses, or mentors; received one promotion, two department changes, and a raise; been paid twice what my mother earns as a teacher, and made more than three times what my father was paid at my age, with child; sat frozen at my desk by a large window overlooking Park Avenue, unable to move even my fingers, in complete panic and fear, having no idea what was happening or why; watched a friend vomit outside our office once the leftover IPO champagne was finished after-hours; complained about my boss in front of her husband, the CEO, who generously gave me a job in the first place and then, wracked by guilt and shamed, approached him and apologized, nearly freaking out, explaining the whole thing and about to cry and then a little startled, even more ashamed when he laughed, patted my shoulder, and explained he hadn’t heard a thing but ‘it didn’t really matter anyway’; not been here ‘for my health’; dumped in my pants and gone home to change; been issued an options package worth $42,000, which would cost me, weeks later, $20,000 to exercise; sat in an Aeron chair everyday for two years; written more than 400 taglines for companies that no longer exist; watched two friends be fired for posting negative comments about the company and its leaders on Fuckedcompany.com; noticed that the more degrees one has is often inversely related to one’s ability to relate with anyone or simply be nice (the former boosted with steroids when said degrees are from prestigious schools in Massachusetts or California); bought books and music and new shirts because I could and they were well-made and beautiful; listened to a C-class executive nickname an attractive female employee ‘the body’ after describing her breasts and ass; enjoyed a year-long membership at an extremely expensive gym, costing $140/month, that I used less than fifteen times but felt better just knowing it was there; worked with some great, smart, fun, nice, talented people; had an Art Director-type slap a bag of pot in my hand at an industry party and ask me to ‘roll that shit’; been told by a client that I was not ‘dot-com’ enough, and then told to look at his shoes – smoothed-black oxfords with thick, wavy rubber soles – while he bragged they were his ‘dot-com’ shoes, which, I think, were meant to offset his title as publisher of a lumber magazine; started this web site with a friend I will know for a very long time; discovered the Gramercy Tavern; worn glasses I didn’t need because I was convinced my monitor was giving me migraines; enjoyed Nestlé espresso twice a day, three years running; learned that salary has little to do with experience, very little to do with intelligence, skill, or aptitude, everything to do with charisma, balls, looks, and personal connections, and is often rewarded in great sums to people who offer few reasons to deserve it and many to be denied; seen a woman kill herself by jumping out the window of her apartment on Park & 18th; learned how little I actually know or understand from people I had unfairly judged to be morons; airbrushed complimentary hair on Lou Gerstner’s photograph; found that most people whose jobs depend on communication cannot write better than a high school senior and can’t speak clearly without using jargon; worked with people who, instead of making mistakes, actually do things, they explain, you just don’t understand; seen people whose jobs depend on their knowledge of software be surprised when their jobs disappear; paid $175 for ‘my share’ of a boss’s farewell present; never, ever, slept with someone I worked with; learned more about grammar, editing, and writing by drafting 200-page briefs than I ever absorbed in school; come to understand, with illustrations, the term ‘cokehead’; been asked by almost every relative, high school friend, or random acquaintance if I ‘hit it big’ in the dot-com boom; heard the following joke, from a higher-up, during an initial meeting with a new client: ‘Have you heard the one about the woman who went fishing with ten guys? Yeah, she came back with a red snapper,’ to which the client responded, after an awkward pause, ‘Well, I guess that’s the joke you tell when there aren’t women in the room.’ No one laughed; still not understood, exactly, what content is, how it becomes dynamic or forward-thinking, and exactly how the creatives are supposed to populate or architect it; heard, in a deal-breaking presentation, how the color black was not actually black but a very very dark dark gray; watched the twin towers collapse from the roof of our office; practiced my French; moved twice, taught in Europe, made friends, taken trips and been drunk, eaten well, read a lot, written finished and shelved a novel, fallen in love and had love move to Brooklyn and then only months later gotten engaged…

but this was never at work, it was always outside work, around work, when I could walk home and forget work or buy the newspaper, follow murder stories, or talk on the train about a show we’d see, when there was good music or a movie (how rare) worth eleven dollars and a few hours in the dark, or so many nights in the Lower East Side, on the cuticle of Broadway and Union Square, the West Village, snow on Central Park West at midnight, cabs home from the airport, or an afternoon in Brooklyn, fall, red trees, me and her or me and a friend or three of us walking and scheming, someone tells a joke, minutes when work never mattered at all.

biopic

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, mostly GQ. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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