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Sunday, July 30, 2000

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not just going through the motions. I'm thinking specifically of my job, but the term could easily be applied to the rest of my life as well.

In fact, I know I'm going through the motions as far as my job is concerned. It's not that I'm not committed to making the company successful. But I have to admit that I care mostly because I don't want to have to go through the anguish of looking for another job, not to mention the uncertainty about how I'd pay my bills.

I believe that the Company does good work, superior to our competitors in the small niche of construction that we've carved out for ourselves. I'm not as fully convinced that we always treat customers fairly, but that might just be the lingering effects of my retail experience from a past life.

When I worked for the shoe store, the emphasis was on service, even at the cost of missing a sale. Of course we were trying to sell shoes, but fitting the customer's needs was the main concern, and this emphasis started at the top with the owner. Prices were high, but there was no incentive for taking unfair advantage of people — all the better to keep them coming back.

Contracting is a cutthroat business, and at times I hate it. Squeezing the extra dollar out of a customer, even on a million-dollar contract, seems to energize the Boss. I leave that part of the business to him, although I'm his accomplice, since I type the letters to owners requesting change orders at inflated prices, and with even more inflated markups.

Since I work at home, I'm at his mercy seven days a week. He doesn't often take advantage of me on my time, but he has the luxury of asking me to work nights and weekends when it's crucial to the company, or merely convenient for him. I go along willingly, because it makes it easier on my conscience to use the weekdays — Company time — to do my own thing. Not all of the errands I run every morning are for the business. And I'll gladly let the filing get a week behind so that I can take time during the day to read, write, or watch the soaps.

Sometimes I exaggerate how much of a slacker I really am, but as committed as I am to the company's welfare, I don't feel any compulsion to turn myself into a Stepford drone. My mind is my own, and it's not always on company business, even when my body is chained to the desk and the computer and the phone. If I had to show up at an office every day and pretend to be busy, that's when I'd really be going through the motions. I'd spend the whole day thinking about getting out of there.

As much stress as my job often puts me under, I'm grateful to be in a position where I can sometimes hide in plain sight. On some days I can be there to answer the phone and respond to crises, while at the same time I'm taking breaks as I need them, working at a pace that balances the company's interest with my own well-being. I use my competence and experience to make up for the shallowness of my commitment. So far, I seem to be pulling it off.

Hazel has apparently relocated. At least, I hope that's why she's disappeared from her web next to the toilet. Last night she looked strong and healthy, but this morning there was no sign of her, so I assume she's set up housekeeping in a better neighborhood. I dropped a couple of less appealing bugs into her web, with the hope of enticing her to come back, but so far she hasn't shown up.

I've just started the most recent book by my favorite mystery author, Elizabeth George. Her books are classic English police tales, but with so much depth of character that they read more like novels than many mysteries. Even the minor characters have back stories and depth. This is the tenth book I've read featuring the same detectives from New Scotland Yard, and when I start a new one, it's like entering a world whose rules and relationships are as familiar to me as anything in the real world.

But as I've mentioned before, I'm a slow reader. It takes me at least a week to get through a 600-page novel (especially since I'm always reading at least one other book at the same time). And the first third is the slowest going, because of the density of the plot. The last third of one of her books goes by in a flash. That's when I lose sleep, in fact, staying up half the night because I can't put it down.

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