how we got here.

Route 5 in West Springfield went through a tunnel (probably still does). Before entering the tunnel, one sees the most delightful sign: "DO NOT HONK HORN IN TUNNEL". (Does it say "PLEASE"? I don't remember.)

My father, a good man, largely scrupulous in the law, would honk his horn every time.

We used to go out to dinner near one of the harbors on Cape Cod, and as kids we loved to go along and look at the boats (it's still fun). The sign at the docks says "Boat Owners and Guests Only"; the standing rationale for walking around on the docks was that we owned a boat, so it was fine.

We did have one security guard wave his club-you-over-the-head Maglite at us, but that was it.

Until this week, work had a whiteboard in the stairwell where people would tape photos of celebrities with our product, and anonymous authors would write cheery, inoffensive, oddball graffiti. Every month or so someone would erase it, and the cycle would begin again. The whiteboard has been replaced by a corkboard, which acquired photos of a painting contest we held last week. Various people tried sticking amusing things onto the board; they've been removed within a few hours. This bothers me, and I haven't let it go. It's such a petty thing, such a silly manipulation of the environment in the hopes of encouraging conformity in the ranks. I started a thread about it on the office list, asking why it had been replaced and if "non-institutional commentary" would be allowed. It got a couple of responses (and the attention of most of Engineering, I think), and eventually a person most likely involved with the change bypassed my discussion thread and posted an "announcement" to the same list, explaining how the whiteboard wasn't good with pushpins or tape (pushpins, sure, but we had articles taped up there for months), and the corkboard is a place to post all the articles and stuff that gets written about the company, so we can be proud and happy. It was fairly thin and condescending, really.

I emailed the person privately, saying that pride on the job comes from more than being written about: it comes from believing you're working for a good company, one that's straight and clear with its workers, and that understands that employee expression works better when seen as a tool rather than a threat. I said that maybe people hadn't realized how much a part of a happy culture that whiteboard was, and the self-expression it enabled. I was thoroughly polite and non-confrontational. No response yet; but I don't really feel like dropping it. I like working there, and I want to continue to like working there; stuff like this is another step on the road to Corporate Ossification, and if I can calmly and quietly protest it in the most skillful terms I know how, I think I should. Even on a less selfish level, I think a good corporate culture is key to real success, and a habit of taking action in a very 1984 kind of way ("We have always had a corkboard in the stairwell. We have always been at war with Eastasia.) is bad for morale, productivity, and retention, and it grates on my nerves.

I had a lovely weekend up at Willits. Brutally hot, but I had a good time. I gave up on trying to connect to people, and ended up connecting to people. I have a lot of relaxing to do--it's only when I chill out about everything that I can really be open and talk or listen to people. And I confirmed (again) that everything is fine; my crankiness is really superficial. Every time I get down to it and let the universe answer the question of what I'm supposed to be doing, I get the same thing: "Carry on". Imagine God smiling enigmatically and giving you a thumbs-up.

"Hey, should I make any changes in what I'm doing with myself?"
"No, I mean, how do I--"
"Nah, you're all good."

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. It's like talking to my grandmother.