Back on the Chain Gang

January 22, 1997

  After something like three years of being in film production and enjoying an extremely unusual work environment, relaxed dress code, hours all around the clock, high pay, and a decidedly non-standard career path, it's all come to an end. I have taken an office job. Once more I am back in the belly of the workforce beast, punching a timecard, ironing shirts, wearing a (gasp!) tie, and cringing under flourescent lighting. "The horror…"

I am now a technical service representative for AT&T's Worldnet internet service. No, wait; in their words, I am a "Customer Care Agent." Again: "The horror…"

Why have I given up work I enjoy for an office environment I despise? Stability. Much as I liked working in film production, it's not really a job for a family man. The hours are brutal, the work-week is six days long, the eight to twelve hour "turnarounds" and your day off are usually spent sleeping, and it's nearly impossible to stay in touch with your family during the day because there's never a phone on the set -- or time to use it. When I was on a show, I almost literally never saw Beth and Zoe. For them, it was as if a Chuck-sized hole had suddenly opened up in their lives.

And then there was the uncertainty of it. You never know when -- or if -- your next job will be. In my entire time working production I only worked back-to-back shows twice (if that; I can't recall), and it was usually a couple of weeks between gigs, sometimes longer. So while the money was good when it was coming in, the times it wasn't weren't. I needed regular hours and a regular paycheck. Plus, it was time to stop being a bum.

Don't get me wrong; I'm glad to have a regular gig again, but if I don't sound thrilled it's because it is an office job. Offices and I don't mix well. Been there, done that, hated it. I worked an office job for seven years before I went into film production, and by the end of that time the life had been sucked out of me. The office politics, stale air, stiff formality, uncomfortable dress code, corporate doublespeak, mind-numbing repetitiveness, blah-blah, blah-blah… It was driving me nuts. By the time I left that job, it really felt as though I had to leave or I was going to lose my mind. So now that I'm going back into that environment, I'm not exactly jumping for joy.

All bitching aside, it's really not a bad job. The pay's not that bad, and at least I don't have to work in the cold, wind and rain or blazing summer sun. I know every day what time I start work and, more importantly, I know what time I'll get off. I know what my days off are this week and a month and two months down the road. The only injuries I really need to worry about are carpal tunnel syndrome and maybe a paper cut instead of breaking a limb, losing a finger or an eye or maybe even getting killed. It balances out. I guess.

At the very least, it'll do until something better comes along. Like maybe an opening for a rodeo clown or...dare I say it?...a writing gig.





Copyright © 1998
Chuck Atkins