We do not have coffee break at my work. No one yells, “Break time!” to remind you to stop for a minute. We do not sit together on flipped, five-gallon paint buckets. And no one shares homemade cookies, made by someone back home who makes working worth something.
We do not have lunch break, either — or Happy Hour on Friday after Pay Day, praising God we are all still alive. We do not have Saturday morning hangovers from too many buds and bud specials, of Budweisers and green buds. We do not carry weight on our backs at my job. At my job, our bodies are not our livelihood, at my job, our bodies are our own.
At my job, we can work until we are 85, as long as we can think and write and talk. We can make it with a chalkboard and some chalk. At my job, it is a piece of cake to walk. We do not carry sheetrock slapped to our sides. Or asbestos pipe in the dip between our shoulder and our neck. We carry book-bags and pens in our pockets. We do not carry plates up our arms like diner waitresses. At my job, we die with our knees and our femurs in line, our veins in their casings, and our lungs still hot pink and stretchy.
At my work, we have health insurance, retirement, and paid vacation. We have offices and computers and free paper and ink. We work at home, on the couch, in bed, and at the dinner table. Sometimes we work at a coffee house. At my work, it is hard to tell if it is free-time or work-time, on-the-clock time, or quitting-time. We ruminate. We get headaches. At my job, our minds are our livelihood, at my job, our minds are not our own.
At my job, it is hard to know who is me and mine, it is hard to know my kind — when we meet in computer spaces, do not know each other’s faces, through the pixeled walls between us. We work bundled in privacy, preening ideas like white cats lick coats, swaddled and embalmed. We sit in upholstered pillowed chairs that roll. We work alone.
Jen Rae Vernon is a doctoral candidate in Communication at University of California, San Diego.