A Good Job
Admittedly, it was a rather uneventful day at the office that prompted this work place ponderance. Granted, it’s a bit off the cuff and flowery perhaps—seemingly untroubled by the realities of running a business. But none the less, this is my motivating vision for what a typical day at the office could be like.
As per usual, my work day begins at the front door of my place of work. Only in my story this isn’t any ordinary door, and it’s certainly no ordinary place. Instead of swinging open with the clinical push and pull of a glass office tower, the double wide entrance to my world rolls up with a proud clatter into the rafters of a building more reminiscent of an old warehouse or barn.
The 80 year old building still looks much like it was found, with it’s massive wood joists and tarnished iron hardware. There are large open spaces that allow us to move with a subtle structure that brings intimacy to those that seek it out. It’s a place that reeks of hard work, yet with the same warmth and comfort that a stone fireplace on a wintery night might bring. The kind of place where when the wind is blowing outside, you would hear it on the inside. Where the remnants of organized chaos left by creative and practical people is the only decoration it requires. And with no dress code or pretension, the afterthoughts of wardrobe find tweed jackets and painter pants equally at home.
In addition to these lofted open spaces, one can retreat to adjoining vestibules and offices that lower the ceiling and din of those collaborating around you. Formulate ideas or contemplate a nap, it’s entirely up to you. This is the kind of place clients and business partners would visit for the first time and be immediately transported into a world that knows no stress, no honking horns, and no misguided crisis. They always look forward to their return. Be it strategies or late night brainstorming, politics or sports scores, cappuccino or hot chocolate—you’ll find them all served well from deep within a pillowy sofa as feet rest comfortably on a fine hardwood table that’s not afraid of scuffs or coffee cup rings.
It’s now 6:00am as the door clatters it’s way open. A new day begins.
As I step inside just beyond the coats, I proudly park my bicycle where it will soon be joined by dozens of others. They are owned by a jovial bunch of talented people who continuously challenge their minds and those that surround them. Yet with every possible tool of the trade at their disposal, ideas remain their most important one. It’s a familiar place that I always look forward to. Doesn’t everyone wish they could say the same?
There’s disconcerting old breaker box on the wall, just waiting for me to shed some light on the day. I’m the first one here and often last to leave, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s an exhilarating bike ride from my home just outside of town, so the mornings usually start with a quick shower in the locker room of our small but well-used gym. We have a basketball court too, which you will soon hear more about. Gathering my things I seek the quiet peace of my office—the last one at the end of a wood-planked hallway that doubles as a bowling alley when the good folks from Ben & Jerry’s come by. My poppy seed bagels are fresh from the oven and the orange juice is still settling from a squeeze. I spend a little time with the trades and morning papers, clipping out the Beetle Bailey and tacking it to my brown cork-covered walls. Gradually settling into the punctuated rhythms of my PowerBook, I attend to email and familiar correspondence from Barry, Carter, Jobs, and my dad.
Even from the bellows of my little brown lair, I can hear the building gradually coming alive. I soon find myself exchanging pleasantries and anecdotes with my peers, and formulating plans for the days work ahead. For the past several weeks, Howard, Gene, Ashley and myself have been building the miniature sets for our stop-motion animated feature, “There Goes My Bus”. It’s a close collaboration with Aardman Entertainment that will start shooting here in the coming months. It’s only one of the many diverse projects playing out in various states of unrest. Never the same from one day to the next, yet we are confident in our abilities to meet the challenges that come. There is an impenetrable calm over the risks that we take.
I spend the bulk of my early afternoon soaking in the creative spirit that abounds, always happy to lend an ear or thought or strong back where it’s needed. On this particular day one can experience the methodical traffic in the halls, the conference room voices and library peace. Moving from one collaborative hub to another you can hear the quirky blend of jazz stylings emanating from our recording studio. There are writers and art directors draped over beanbag chairs with Bennetton ads on their brains. The wood shop is buzzing with photo shoot sets as our web guys complete an all-nighter getting ready for a launch. I look forward to the opportunities to step back and admire the view, the very moment a manifestation of our collective idea comes into focus. We create something real. Something that in turn helps our clients run a business, or entertains a grateful audience, or even moves someone to feel–something. Anything.
Slotted nicely between long periods of productivity comes the ritual escape. Every Wednesday at 1:00pm sharp there’s a rumble on the lower west side. Okay, not really a rumble, but a highly charged basketball game—just out back and a few yards to the left. When my partners and I started this company, the first thing we did was salvage the urban court from beer bottles and thick jungle weeds. Our good neighbors at the Honey Bear Bakery are the usual challengers, and to the victor goes “Dave”, a life-sized cardboard cut out of Mr. Late Night himself. He’s presided proudly over our sporting traditions for the past 13 years. The cardboard likeness has seen better days, but then again so have the Bakers. Our once spirited contests have recently turned predictably one sided. However, as the author of this story, perhaps I’m merely exercising my creative license and wishful thinking.
As we take a deep breath and settle quietly back into our respective projects, we’re all afforded a moment to reflect on the work at hand and how great this is that we get to do it here. It’s three in the afternoon, the place is humming and I’m sneaking away for more dutiful calls. Being in the huddle of this great team is what I love most. Up to our eyeballs in Elmers Glue, X-acto blades and balsa, we find ourselves cutting and pasting a miniature world into a life full of fantasy and wonder. Not unlike this one.
And so this is how it goes. Something like yesterday, but probably nothing like tomorrow. A hammer hammers. The paint dries. A witty line gets a fading cackle. As the clock strikes six, the steam whistle blows like the one in Flinstone’s quarry. It reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, while serving as an important and democratic reminder that we all have lives taking place outside these storied walls. While most of our good folks don their sweaters and say goodnight, there are always obsessive stragglers that come to embrace their roles as the busy little elves that work secretly through the night. I am one of them.
As the frenzy grows quiet, you might now be thinking that this wouldn’t be your idea of a job worth doing. But I for one will take a shabby old barn over sculptured glass walls and Technion cubes any day. And with that, it’s time to go home. I’ll get the lights and roll down the door.