11 March 2010

I miss co-workers.

And business trips. And offices. And commutes.

What brought this on? I saw Up in the Air last week, on a date with myself, while Gino was (you guessed it) on a business trip. On the one hand, it was the perfect movie to see by myself, as it's about loneliness and disengagement. On the other, I ended up in the cinema bar after it was over, nursing a g&t and desperate for someone to chew it over with.

It made me want my corporate job back. Never mind that, during my stint in Corporate America, I rarely liked the actual work I did on a daily basis. I really miss all the other stuff. I miss last-minute crises and deadlines and strategy meetings. I miss team-building days and happy hours and sheet cake in the conference room. I miss working with other people.

There's no other relationship quite like it. It's like family, in that you make up this insular little accumulation of random people and no one from outside will ever really know what it's like to be one of you. Yet it's not at all like family, because the arrangement is temporary.

My favorite scene took place about a third of the way into the movie, when Anna Kendrick's fresh-out-of-Cornell character gets dumped via text message and goes for a consolatory drink with George Clooney's and Vera Farmiga's older, mentoring characters. Over the course of the next few scenes, they let her in on a lot of life secrets: from how your expectations for life change as you get older, to how to sneak into someone else's company party.

This scene, and several others, illustrated perfectly how much of the coworker relationship is about informational give-and-take: Where do you come from? What are you doing here? Here's what the company policy says--here's the real story. Here's the official procedure and here's how you really get it done. Here's what you're not supposed to know yet. Here's what you're never supposed to know, but it's useful to me if you do. And the information isn't always top-down, manager to minion. Information--okay, gossip--is pretty much the number one currency of the low-level admin.

Oddly for a movie about forging bonds, it reminded me in how many movies lately Clooney's played the odd man out: Michael Clayton, Syriana, and now this. It's a logical choice. He's George Clooney. He's one of the most famously handsome men in existence, and his movie-starness is so extreme that he never really looks at home in any group of people. He always looks as though he's dropped in from some other dimension entirely. (And I say this from a country where I get to watch him in coffee commercials--hardly a rarified atmosphere.)

Which made for an interesting doubling effect in watching the movie. Because I could never quite forget that I was watching George Clooney playing Ryan Bingham, I could never forget that I was watching Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga playing their characters, either. So while I was watching a movie about co-workers, I was also watching coworkers doing their jobs. That part was almost as enjoyable as the movie itself.

It's a very, very, particular intimacy, and I miss it. I wanted to be part of that merry little band, all in it together.

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