Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Civilization and its Many Discontents

Everybody knows the Jean-Paul Sartre quote “hell is other people”. Everybody at one time or another can nod and agree with it. However it begs the question “was Jean-Paul Sartre any great shakes himself?” It’s very easy to point the finger of blame at other people and hold them responsible for your misery. But if you’re the one doing all the pointing, chances are you’re the hell.

I recently quit a high paying job. It’s very unusual for me to bail out of a gig because I’m a freelancer. It’s also unusual for me not to get along with a co-worker. But such was the case. I had to leave for my sanity’s sake. My co-worker did a lot of pointing.

I give people the benefit of the doubt. I enjoy working with people. One of the best ways to create a team environment is knowing how and when to support other people’s ideas. It’s essential to collaboration. Putting on a television show is a collaborative effort. There may be room for pride, but there’s no room for ego. I have learned that the hard way. I am used to having pages and pages of script tossed. I may think that what I’ve written is good, if not hilarious or poetic, but if the powers that be don’t like it, out it goes. An accepted fact – I am a cog in the machine. I save my soul for fiction and essays.

Without going into details (and believe me, I’d love to document every tension filled minute) I found it impossible to collaborate with this co-worker. I think my co-worker had a major psychological disorder. I had to make a decision – cut and run or be provoked into a physical attack. I cut and run. That’s what it came down do. Fight or flight. No nuances, no subtlety. I did not have the wherewithal to deal with her. I realized my limitations in this situation. It was lose-lose.

She’s the kind of person who makes your gut tighten in that weird “something’s not quite right here” way.

A wise friend of mine comforted me with the immortal lyrics “You gotta know when to hold ‘em/know when to fold ‘em/know when to walk away/know when to run.

I ran.

I did the right thing.

Other people said that I should have fought, should have insisted to the powers that be that one of us had to go and that it wouldn’t be me. Sometimes bullies win. It’s that simple. It’s a hard lesson. Am I a wimp? A coward? Well if being a coward means sleeping again, being able to eat and returning to the people and places I love, I am a deserter. I chose to lay my arms down, instead of waste my time battling malignant ambition. The first week of my employment, my co-worker provoked me with a rant about the Iraq War and how she was originally for it. I felt my gut tighten (see above) and realized I was being pushed into confrontation. WHY I have no idea. This had NOTHING to do with our work. I did not want to engage in a debate about Iraq, with someone who was clearly out to “win” at all costs. It was not the time nor the place. And that’s my problem, I suppose. I believe in a TIME and a PLACE for things. How hopelessly courteous of me.

There’s a great verse in “The Gambler” that gets glossed over.

Now every gambler knows/that the secret to surviving/is knowing what to throw away/and knowing what to keep.

It goes on:

‘Cause every hand’s a winner/and every hand’s a loser/and the best thing you can hope for/is to die in your sleep.

Kenny Rogers may not have been Jean-Paul Sartre. But he sold more records.

I can sleep again. And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll die in my sleep too.