That's two years in a row now that someone wondered why I didn't make a big deal of my upcoming birthday upon finding out about it. This time, it was my team lead at work, Tasha, who doesn't know a thing about me and never expressed a desire to. "You gotta tell us about things like that," she cooed. "We're like a big family!" Yeah, right. All In The Family, maybe. When I told the people I used to work with on 1st shift that it was my birthday, the reactions ranged from surprise, of course, to pity that I was spending my birthday working. But it's all good. I wouldn't have done anything today but clean the house anyway. What am I gonna do, go out clubbing?
The fact that no one knew my birthday was coming is but a small piece of my daily routine. I'm Mr. Anonymity. I'm the modern-day Mr. Cellophane, for you fans of the musical Chicago. Every day I trudge to work or school or both, and I trudge home, and I barely say a word or have a word said to me. Really, I might be known by some as That Weird Guy With The Headphones, because for almost 20 years now I've hardly been out in public without my headphones on, usually big ear-covering ones too, "kickerboxes on your head," as a former co-worker once called them. The bigger the headphones, the less I have to hear, plus they double as great earmuffs for those Chicago winters that my girlfriend will get to experience when she moves here in the next few years. I could be some cult figure like the loudmouth preacher downtown with the portable loudspeaker or those guys that dress in silver and gold bodypaint and do mime performances on the corner. There might be some punk band in Wicker Park whose members dress in baseball caps and huge headphones and nothing else, as some odd homage to that eccentric fat guy who always looks like he could kick the world's ass. But I would never know. And that's how I've always wanted it. Speaking up and making my presence known is not something I like doing most of the time. After I got to know my co-workers at my jobs, I wound up loosening up and being the class clown, so to speak. But my demeanor is the same for most of the day--head down, no smile, walking with a purpose, going where I gotta go, doing what I gotta do. Sealing off the whole world in a way for various reasons, be it shyness or lack of social skills or lack of confidence or, in those really special moments, hatred of the entire human race. (If you've ever wondered why I refer to myself as Planet Dre...)
My latest problem at work may not be directly tied to my attempts to be anonymous, but it's loosely connected. See, my job is rather simple when you break it down: Type in P.O. box number, scan a header ticket to start a batch, open all the mail sent to that box, enter the check amounts, run the check through a check reader, scan a separator ticket between each check, end batch, move on. Boring, I know. But apparently, the way I do my job is not satisfying this items-per-hour ratio that's been established by people above me who don't do this job and therefore don't know how impossible it would be to keep up that ratio for all 7 or 8 or however many hours you're working. The ratio is 133 items per hour. That means that in addition to checks, you can staple the material inside an envelope that has no check inside (we've been getting a lot of Christmas cards lately, for instance) and add that to your batch at the end when you close it, and you can also add the unprocessable items for those checks that may have something wrong with it, like a missing signature or it was sent to the wrong P.O. box, so it's not just 133 checks per hour, it's 133 items. But seriously, if you sit down and start working on a bundle of mail, like I do, you run into missorted envelopes in the wrong bundle, you run into a large amount of material that has to be taped together because the automatic mail opener sliced the pages up, you may have to photocopy an envelope because if it's cardboard (FedEx, DHL, etc.) it's too big to fit into the image machine...you run into a lot of shit that takes up too much of your time to process 133 items per hour. It's impossible. The way that co-workers are getting around this number is that they're pre-staging their work, meaning they're opening the envelopes and taping letters and making copies and all that good stuff before they ever start to type in boxes and check amounts. That saves time from their items per hour, but it doesn't get as much work done because they're spending hours pre-staging and not working, whereas I just sit down and work because that's how I prefer to do it. My supervisor Lucy, this ogre of a woman who obviously got off the first boat from Russia years ago hoping to wrestle bears in America for money or something, has been on my ass virtually every day for the past two months because my items per hour was below 90. But when she thrust the November numbers in my face showing me how many other people in my workgroup have better IPH rates than me, I noticed something in the total items column: Only one person in my workgroup nailed more than 10,000 items total last month, and that was yours truly. Then I remembered that I was on vacation for a week in November because I spent several days in Memphis after Thanksgiving! You'd think Lucy would be thrilled to see that bit of information when I pointed it out to her. Her response: "It doesn't matter how much work you do." I never thought there existed a job where someone could be told that it didn't matter that they produced more work than anyone else. Did I mention that I haven't made an error in my mail extraction job duties all year? I tie this to anonymity because when you're just a number in a humongoid company like J.P. Morgan Chase, no one has time to listen to individual issues. Something like this should be handled on a case-by-case basis, and someone should have the common sense to back off the most productive worker in the workgroup instead of smothering him daily just because his items-per-hour number is low. Since I produce more than workers who work more hours than me, it seems that the items per hour isn't that damn important. Oh, and Lucy showed me the numbers for December 1-15 just to bitch at me more about how my IPH hasn't improved since she started yapping at me. Guess who's done more items than anyone the first 2 weeks of December as well? But of course, how much work you do doesn't matter. How retarded.
So in this, my 32nd year on Planet Dre, I vow to work even harder in college and continue my push towards (hopefully) Columbia College and a degree in radio. Anonymity has worked well for me for the most part, but I'm starting to get a little tired of it. I can see a time where I shed my cloak and reach for the spotlight and let the world see and hear what my warped mind is creating. The right time, the right place, it all has to come together in a perfect mix of my guts, someone's need to smell-la-la-la-la what I'm cookin', and a whole hell of a lot of luck. But every day that I am told that my hard work doesn't matter because it doesn't fit the mold, I get closer and closer to being ready to leave behind my carefully constructed wall of anonymity and go for what I want.