It might not be immediately obvious but consultants and prostitutes have very similar professional experiences. We see a lot. A lot of naked avarice, behind the scenes stuff. We know a lot about humanity because of this. We may not know much beyond the outposts of our technical skills for which we are hired; but people, we know.
I have never been a prostitute. Though my Aunt Helcia once said that, “With a name like Gabriella Salvatore she’s either going to be a great ballerina or a great whore.” She was always a little cheeky. So far I have become neither… though being a consultant, has a certain prostitutorial feel to it in moments. Clients have a stimulus. We have a response. Stimulus-response vectors reverse, and then they have a response to our stimulus. Rinse and repeat.
I have seen a lot of corporate humanity in this stimulus-response cycle. I have seen serious companies, and companies that take themselves seriously. I prefer the first. The ones that take themselves seriously tend to not have a bone of learning to breathe into. Brittle and mean and all knowing. They suck the life out of me. For them, I suppose, if I call upon a conjecture of compassion, I could say that, it must be so hard when you know everything. There’s so little left to do. I could, but usually I scowl and then beat myself up for being judgmental.
When I go to the offices of the “take ourselves seriously” companies, I am brought right back to my days as a little girl when my mother took me to work with her. The babysitter cancelled, or we were leaving on a trip, and it was easier not to have to go back and forth to get me. She’d set me up with the secretary who was so nice and let me file (as if! we don’t even hardly have files any longer), or deliver the mail, or make copies on the mimeo machine (an ancient, analog artifact of the need for duplication).
Today, I sit across from a client in a “bubble room.” There’s nothing bubble-like about it (i.e. lightly and slightly rouged pink from the dust sparkles and sun-shining-window). Not its shape; not its color; not its feel. So in the bubble room– two ergo chairs facing each other across a triangle shaped desk hung from a wall. No art. No color. I already said that, but it deserves repeating, given how the very room drains us of our own color. Work is like that sometimes.
Weirdly, familiar though. Tip tap heels across an industrial carpet pulled so tight so as to avoid falls. Make-up and hair, and polka dotted dresses. It’s a 1940s mom meets a 2020 upstart stuck in middle age. We rinse, spin, repeat. We make no progress. Tired, bland, colorless (there it is again). And so I go dark. Brain shuts down. Desire for connection extinguishes. I could not be more bored.
Yet, there is that heart-rushed energy little girl playing make believe – someday I will grow up. Someday I will be pretty and perfect and work at an office where people say “thank you” and “please,” and look forward to seeing me. We will be busy because we do important things well even if what we do isn’t important. Pretty shoes with empty spaces at the heels bought at the discount store so they don’t quite form to the foot. Dresses too long, the shoulder slips down to the elbow. I am real in this fake place. I am faked into this real place – a prostitute amongst puritans, a human amongst drones, a color stuck in a colorless bubble of Office Dress Up.
©Gabriella Strecker, 2016
photo courtesy of flkr.com, 2016