22 july 2018
Probably the greatest obstacle to social progress in our time is the subtle stratification of class society that allows us to believe we are living a "hyperconnected" age while we remain ignorant to the way others live. Two months ago I was working in a godforsaken warehouse store near home where my manager was resentful that I would leave work an hour earlier than usual on certain days to attend college classes and people would freak out if the person assigned to requisition a few breakfast foods for the Friday morning meeting went $15 over budget. Now I work at a tech company where "team-building" lunches occur weekly, where I get dragged to a restaurant where people buy cocktails on someone's expense account and joke about how they'll justify the bill to accounting. A few years ago I lived in a shitty apartment with a broken oil heater, and when we couldn't afford to fill it my partners and I somehow got a discounted group membership at the local YMCA so we could take warm showers there during the winter. That YMCA shower came up in the middle of a goofy conversation I was having with the team in the cafeteria at work on Thursday and my manager seemed caught off-guard, as if I'd just told him I'd seen a bear in the office recently.
It's not that nobody here understands where I come from, or that everyone is totally disconnected from the reality of most people's lives. There are people here from the developing world. There are people here who have worked in agriculture. But there is some ignorance here.
I am constantly on edge whenever I have down-time at work, because any down-time that was not state-mandated was very much Not Allowed at my last job. I am also a little terrified by the amount of independent decision-making expected of me as an intern, but I'm told that's a common experience here, even amongst full-time associates hired from certain established companies in the industry.
I'm under no illusions that I've just joined a family, that my manager is my friend, &c. My family is at home, and I work for a corporation. That said, it's about the best corporate environment I could imagine working at this point in my life. The per-hour pay is nearly twice what I made at my last job. People are… weird here; it's part of how they attract people to their workforce. People are encouraged to keep puzzles and enormous stacks of books and vinyl figures and Halloween decorations on their desks. I was recently given the opportunity to specify they/them pronouns in my intracompany bio. People opine constantly about the company's social responsibilities on the company-wide mailing lists. I am grateful for all of this. It hardly feels real here yet.
I'm seeing more beauty in the world somehow, this summer. The character of our neighborhood has been changing lately. It's less white, frankly, and there are more children. More activity in the streets; games, lemonade stands, people gathering for backyard pool parties. It's a friendlier-feeling place lately.
On Thursday night we drove out to Salisbury Beach State Reservation for an event where local astronomers were gathering with their telescopes to offer the public views of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon, some galaxies, and open star clusters. The event was held at a boat ramp on a side of the reservation I'd never visited, beyond the camping area. We parked where we usually do for beach access, as the event's organizers requested that attendees consider keeping their cars away from the event to keep light pollution down. We walked further than we thought we'd have to, about two-thirds of a mile around the edge of the campground.
I saw Jupiter and four of its brightly-lit moons lined up unevenly beside it through one of the astronomer's telescopes, but by then our child was already demanding to go home, so I walked back to our car alone to drive it back to our screaming child. This time I decided to cut through the center of the campground. Post-sundown, it had that wonderful party atmosphere of a campground at the height of summer before the onset of quiet hours; youth were out walking their dogs or skateboarding by the glow of campfires and string lights; people milled about talking in front of the camp store, inside which I could see a wood-paneled desk and its attendant. I passed an oddball assortment of sleeping arrangments: five-person tents set aglow by swaying-lanterns inside, tiny teardrop-shaped trailer campers that could accomodate perhaps two people, and fifth-wheel campers taller and more voluminous than I had ever seen. There was no wind. Some of the dogs barked at me or stirred as I passed. I hurried on for the sake of my child, but it was a rare moment of inner peace.