the cherubim of the bored

On my mental mp3 player:
Selfless, Cold and Composed ~ Ben Folds Five

Today, I am grouchy for reasons not entirely clear to me. All I wanna do is go smoke and read novels and write things and not pay attention to anybody. The bosses are out of town, which has pros and cons. Pros: I can catch up on my paperwork, no one is around to tell me "stop working on that, do this thing for me really quick" umpteen times a day, no one walks up to me and demands instant explanation of some bizarrely obscure aspect of the business which no one has ever mentioned to me before and gets mad when I don't have it at my fingertips. Cons: No one is in the house to sign checks, give permission to order things from vendors or spend cash from the safe on sundries.

Had a fun conversation this morning with Eileen, a sales rep from one of the companies from which we buy most of our sundries and restaurant-related operating supplies. We talked mostly about career paths, the types of things different people want to spend their day doing, how we ended up in our jobs. She's in her fifties and has been with the company she's at for almost as long as I've been alive. The combination of freedom and flexibility, moving around from place to place but still being many people's go-to problem solver, and getting to meet interesting people and hear stories about their lives and jobs, is very fulfilling for her and makes her job a happy-making thing.

I still think being an English professor would be happy-making for me, but I don't think it would be so right now.

I find myself thinking back every day to "To Say Nothing of the Dog", that wonderful novel about time travel set mostly in Victorian England. The mood at the time travel lab in the futuristic "present day" of the story is similar to the way things were here at the restaurant over my first six months or so on the job. People were constantly getting exasperated and quitting, or getting better offers and walking out. Which left a skeleton crew of trainees, the underqualified, or the indescribably overworked to actually get everything done.

One lady, originally a clerk of some kind I think, ended up sticking around as the only person in charge of programming the time portal to send people through. People great and small, screaming and wheedling, smartly-dressed and soaked with mud, come rushing up to her in every scene in which she appears. She is continually surrounded by vying groups of desperate researchers saying "Me! Put me through the time portal right now! My transfer is unbelievably urgent and everyone else you are trying to serve can wait!" Oh, and she also does laundry and inventory control and a host of other necessary tasks which were meant to be done by others who fled from the project. The author describes her with ironic reverence as "the cherubim of the Lord", because in the crucible of her workplace she takes on a terrifying demeanor. Which makes it all too easy to imagine some great angelic being, wreathed in flames of pure and holy exasperation, with eyes and swords and rushing wings going in every direction.

I've been telling people Max Klinger from MASH is my work role model, but it's really that lady, the cherubim of the Lord from "To Say Nothing of the Dog." That's what I meant when I told Mom that I feel like there's something I need to do here before I can move on to the next phase of my life. I am working on a transformation. It seems evident to me that on the way to bodhisattva one has to pass through cherubim. A scary, dedicated and hopefully not too irritable angelic being comprises many, but not all, of the qualities of a teaching saint! And the only way you can transform yourself is by lighting your personality on fire and pouring it into the mold of a social role, a situation in which you must be something to somebody in order to accomplish something. And the only way in which I can learn to be a cherubim is to sit at this desk and become not only competent, but serene in the continual storm.

Still have a ways to go in the serene department.


Amber E said...

Wow, best wishes as you continue to 'work out your salvation with fear and trembling' or at least develop those personality characteristics you desire. I often just want to smoke and read novels but it is great that you at least understand what (non-financial) things you are getting out of your job.