The MACHINE

21 02 2008

Some call it the MAN. I call it the MACHINE, because its bigger than just one man. In fact, it always seems to be a group of men in cahoots. The men are almost always old, white, and powerful. Even when their power seems puny, they have the capability to make you work 11 hour days. At first, it seemed like bad luck, simple unfortunate timing. One of my co-workers, close in experience and age, seems to be getting all the cool projects. Yes, he always seems to get projects done quicker than I do, but he has the least amount of architectural experience in our entire office. He admits to taking shortcuts and quick fixes that I would never do, mostly because I’m ridiculously detail oriented, and am scared those shortcuts will come back to haunt me. Anyway, the quick skinny story is that he’s out of town this week, and I have to do his work, and mine. I was already up to my neck in deadlines, and then my project manager dumps all his work on me, because its all due this week, and he hasn’t finished it. At first, I felt a slight satisfaction in seeing my seemingly perfect co-worker fall behind on his deadlines. And then I felt even better as I reviewed his work, and how many mistakes he had made, many of them so simple and basic, illustrating his lack of experience. That was day 1.

After working 2 days of 11 hours each, I am starting to resent his inadequacy. I am starting to wonder if it was lucky timing that lead to his company sponsored trip to his alma mater, where he was interviewing and recruiting students. What makes him qualified to interview students for a job that he himself is not qualified for? His degree is in journalism and a 1yr. masters in building construction management. I wonder why he gets all the new exciting projects, the GSA interior design project I have been eyeing, the barn to museum renovation that I had hoped to develop, and am now having to salvage before the deadline hits in a day and a half. Its not fair that he gets to do all the fun parts, and I am left to the confusing, headaching, tedious, annoying shit.

I have always been fortunate to work in offices where I never had to compete with a male of my same experience level. It was great because I never had to worry about competing with someone, and could just focus on getting my co-workers to trust that I’d be good enough. I’ve tried sooo hard for people to treat me the same as they would a boy: I don’t complain when they want me to crawl into dirty, buggy, spider webbed nooks and crannies. As scared as I am, I climb up into attics and walk across skinny beams like a tightrope, where one wrong step and I fall through a brittle plaster ceiling down 50′. I climb onto roofs, hang outside of upper story windows, climb rickety ladders and creaky steps. I don’t complain when asked to carry things that are waaay too heavy for me, even if its into a tiny boat and hiking deep into a swamp. I have too much pride and too much at stake to admit that I’m scared, tired, or don’t have a clue. Inside the office, I never say that, “I don’t know.” I can’t afford to.

I am hoping that this is just unfortunate timing, and not going to be a recurring preferential treatment of my male co-worker. I am hoping that performance is what matters most, because I know I can compete with that. I hope that my bosses and co-workers will see that this seemingly Golden Boy isn’t perfect, and has a lot to learn. On a personal level, I have nothing against this guy. He’s pretty cool, actually. I just want the same opportunities he’s been getting, whether they’re fueled by his performance, or by the machine.

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