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Underside - Working Indoors V Working Outdoors

Author: Mikolai V Vincent Black Shadow
Monday, 10 March 2008
I delete emails for a living. That’s not my official job description but that’s basically what I do all day. Emails arrive and I either forward them on or delete them. Sometimes, I reply to the emails. That might not sound like the most exciting job in the world, but it sure as hell beats ‘working outdoors’.
As long as you have half a brain and a bit of imagination, working in an office can be as action-packed as the trashiest TV drama. It is a world of psychological warfare, petty rivalries and small victories; a microcosm of the wider world condensed down to some cubicles, a fat receptionist and a shitty coffee machine. It’s an environment just ripe for conquering.
Let’s start with the obvious – your idiot co-workers. Office politics is fascinating to watch: the unrequited love, the wild tantrums, the screaming, the crying. If you can rise above it (and boozing before work helps) then you’re in for non-stop entertainment. And hey, if it’s a slow day you can always ‘orchestrate’ your own dramas. Try tipping the office coffee down the toilet and see what happens. Alternatively, scrawl hurtful graffiti on the toilet cubicle about staff members. The drama and recriminations will come thick and fast.
The point is, there’s more to keep you occupied indoors then you’ll ever find outdoors. It’s a condensed space in which you can reap as much havoc as possible. What do you get outdoors- Trees- Cars- Skin cancer-
Also, the climate is much nice indoors. Indeed, there’s something deeply satisfying about turning the air-conditioning down to 18 degrees and watching the women in accounts put on their cardigans while muttering darkly under their breath. Fucking with the staff is an office tradition that you simply can’t do adequately outdoors. It doesn’t work when people can just, I dunno, walk away. Or get transferred. Or whatever it is people do outdoors.
You want some other good things about working indoors- Okay, how about the fact you don’t have to wear some ridiculous uniform that makes you look like a semi- literate high school drop out. Or the fact you can spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook and Myspace. While some outdoor suckers are getting skin cancer and breathing exhaust fumes you’re updating your friends list and thinking about what you’d like to purchase on eBay. Or just ducking out for an hour-long ‘business meeting’ at the bar across the road.
That is the beauty of the modern office. It’s not real work. Certainly not in the way your father or grandfather might have imagined it. While other people are outside running around, getting sweaty and wearing stupid uniforms - you’re in front of a computer screen, giant cup of coffee in hand, nice pair of trousers, clicking between your favourite webpages and barking orders at other people.
As long as you can separate yourself from the banal dramas or your co-workers, office life can be one hell of a ride. A webpage browsing, work delegating, lunchtime boozing life of leisure. One book-ended by drunken corporate whores complimenting you on your “really, really, soft hands”, and you nonchalantly replying that you’ve “never done a day of work” in your life.
Sure beats eating horsemeat pies from some caravan that pulls up outside the construction site every morning...

(Don’t you know you might find, a better way to work…)

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to work outside either. All that fresh air, sunshine, exercise, the feeling of being out in the world, the opportunity to wolf whistle at passing skirt… I just can’t see the appeal. Now the office, that’s where it’s at. A nice cosy cubicle made out of partitions, the glow of fluorescent lights and computer screens, ‘quirky’ Far Side comics tacked to the pin board, a printer that never works, the same recycled air that 500 other people have been coughing into, a fridge full of milk that expired months ago but no one can be arsed to throw out, executive stress toys, novelty coffee mugs, a radio tuned to 2Day FM, an onslaught of emails and telephone calls that never stop, birthday cake whip-arounds every other day and then the awkward stuffing-cake-in-your-face social events that follow…do I really need to go on-

Sure, working outside has its disadvantages – it usually requires some form of manual labour and occasionally it rains. Maybe people will look down upon you for having bulging muscles and calloused hands. Or maybe they’ll get all dizzy with desire at the sight and smell of your blue singlet drenched in the stench of decent hard labour, and faint elegantly into your arms.

Working in the fields was good enough for 1800 years of human civilization; what, are you too good for history- Look at the facts – back in the Middle Ages, the peasants lived long and fruitful, if not exactly leisurely, lives. Meanwhile, the royalty and aristocracy, who spent their days with such indoor pursuits as lute playing and fornication, all died young thanks to gout and syphilis.

The office certainly has its perks, chief among these being air conditioning, a comfy chair and youtube, but there’s something immensely depressing about standing up at the end of the day to go home and realising that you haven’t moved anything other than your fingers for ten hours. That’s right, lard-arse, those pants aren’t actually shrinking in the wash every week.

Now compare that to wholesome outdoor work, like the time I went grape-picking in Switzerland, carrying 50 kilo buckets of grapes up and down terraced vineyards. Sure, the first five days I was in crippling agony, but with the benefit of a few year’s hindsight (and knees that no longer click with every movement) I can appreciate that those were great days, days of camaraderie, when I felt fit and ate like a horse and slept like a log and we drank wine from 10am till 10pm while sharing cigarettes and bawdy jokes in pidgin French. And that’s the kind of experience you can never have in an office. Unless you’re watching it on youtube.