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I once endured the office
And drove in every day.
I wore the expected buttoned shirt
And stared at screens till my eyeballs hurt,
Attended meetings that unveiled
They could have simply been emailed,
And in my cubicle I sat,
The lowest-ranking technocrat.

But now…
My home base is my office,
From bed to chair each day.
My eyes are still assailed by screens,
But that’s been true since my early teens.
I only dress my upper third,
And even that is rather blurred.
The meetings stayed, but I attend
From my back porch, a welcome trend.
A shame a virus was the cause,
But office work ain’t what it was.

MPA rating:  R (for language and brief nudity)

What ever happened to that guy who wrote poems and movie reviews? Had a blog called Rhyme and Reason? Oh yeah, he earned his Bachelor’s degree and finally found time to write something new! That’s right; school is officially over, and while the next month still promises to be busy, I am at last freed of a major time sink investment and can get back to this blog, starting with my already delayed Blindspot series.

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I knew Office Space was a popular comedy from Mike Judge, but it wasn’t until the last couple years that it seemed relevant to me, since I had previously been in the restaurant/customer service world and had no experience with office life. In fact, getting a desk job in an office was a huge goal and a satisfying achievement when I finally transitioned to an IT career. Since I’ve had a taste of the office (pre-COVID at least), it seemed like the right time for a satire like Office Space.

Ron Livingston plays Peter Gibbons, a programming pencil pusher working in the generic office complex of Initech, along with his comrades in monotony Michael (David Herman) and Samir (Ajay Naidu). Tired of being worried and frustrated, Peter agrees to an interrupted hypnosis session, and while the lasting impact of the hypnosis remains unclear, he finds himself unburdened by the demands of life and his manager Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). When Peter’s career ironically benefits from his newfound carefree attitude at the expense of his friends, they concoct a plan to get back at Initech, with trouble naturally ensuing.

Based on Judge’s Milton cartoon shorts and featuring Stephen Root as the mumbling side character Milton Waddams, Office Space is a comedy that finds its humor not in rapid-fire jokes but in magnifying everyday headaches to which its audience can relate. The chuckles come from recognition and a sort of shared sympathy. After all, who hasn’t worried about annual job evaluations or wanted to destroy an uncooperative printer? Ron Livingston’s Peter is an effective everyman doing the nonchalant acts of rebellion that most of us are too smart or worried to do ourselves, and though the film’s plot is rather meandering, its eventual payoff is cleverly satisfying for those most oppressed by “the system.”

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I probably could have related to Office Space already, since Peter’s love interest Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) works as a waitress, but there were certainly office-specific eccentricities sprinkled throughout the insightful script that I was able to recognize better now that I’ve worked in an office. I can’t help but think of this movie anytime one of my bosses says, “If you could do so-and-so, that’d be great.” At least it’s not in Lumbergh’s now-iconic monotone. That being said, I also feel quite lucky since I greatly enjoy my job, which is neither as dully repetitive nor as paperwork-heavy as Initech (plus no cubicles), so I suppose the film’s soul-crushing example of office doldrums could also be seen as an encouragement to recognize when your job isn’t that bad. (Maybe it is that bad, but I believe in looking on the bright side.) While I would have enjoyed Office Space even more without the semi-frequent profanity, I can see why it’s become a cult favorite and a touchstone for all those weary of office culture or suffering from “a case of the Mondays.”

Best line: (Peter, again offering an example for us to say our lives aren’t that bad) “So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.”
(Dr. Swanson, the psychologist) “What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?”
(Peter) “Yeah.”
(Dr. Swanson) “Wow, that’s messed up.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

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