Friday, September 22, 2006

Workers All

Every morning I join the ranks of knowledge workers at my client's sprawling facility. We appear uniform in most respects as we enter our cubicles to lay out the tools of our trade - laptop and blackberry- hang our coats on cold or rainy days and set the lunch pail in the community refrigerator. The day begins identically for most of us - we check out Inbox (for the rest of the day we will try in vain to stay afloat above the rising tide of messages), check voice mail messages on the mobile and desk-phone.

There will be regular meetings and unplanned one-offs. The workforce will disperse between these to code, design, architect, analyze, manage, strategize and direct. Sometimes we converge by the coffee machine to catch the headline news while waiting for the brew to fill the pot. Lunch is micro-waved and most often eaten at the desk.

The life of a factory worker is very familiar to me having grown up in a small industrial town in India. I watched the workers cycle down the street to the factory a few minutes before the first shift siren went off. Like me and my ilk, they looked much the same in their blue and grey uniforms, lunch pails hanging from the handlebar of their cycles. The all wore helmets and sometimes carried tools. At day's end they would pour of the gate and head home. It was the same pattern repeated day after day, year after year. Just watching them filled me with ennui - I wondered how they tolerated their automaton like existence.

At the end of the day, my laptop sits in the closet just like their helmets hung from a hook in their homes and that is just the beginning of the many parallels between our lives.

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