Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Fresh New Hell Awaits?

I am concerned.

No, check that, I am alarmed. Very alarmed.

I think we can all agree that we live in a trying age, and regardless of where one turns these days, the simple comforts of life that we as Americans have become accustomed to, are under siege. I now, more than ever, understand that famous curse, “May you live in interesting times”.

Today, however, I became aware of a new horror that stalks this land. Its ugly shadow casts a pall on all that is good and decent in our country, and life as we know it stands to change forever unless we do something about it.

What is this horror you ask? Crazy Mullahs with Nukes? Gas at $4 per gallon? Serial killers loose in the streets? Well yes, these things may in fact become a reality for Americans, but I am not so concerned about them; we’ll find a way to solve such problems. No, I’m talking about a horror so unprecedented, so invasive to our personal lives, and so creepy, that it is almost inconceivable that otherwise normal people are already accepting it as a reality.

I’m talking about roommates. Specifically, roommates on business trips.

With your office colleagues.

Including the guy with the bizarre personal noises emanating from his cubicle.

And the woman with the overpowering perfume.

Now, all of them and others can be yours 24/7 on your very next business trip.


I’m not joking about this people. I read it today in the business section of the nation’s newspaper of record. In an effort to cut costs businesses are, with increasing frequency, asking their employees to “bunk up” on trips in an effort to save travel expenses.

The incredible thing is that some folks are actually going along with this bizarre request. According to the Times, the sharing of hotel rooms with colleagues has long been the practice in academia where we all know those of little merit have sold their souls for the holy grail of tenure. What we didn’t know was just how much of their dignity they’ve sacrificed in the process as well. Still, considering that our ivory towers are packed to the gills with aging stoners and worn out communists it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

What does surprise me though is how many business people seem to be going along with this bunking arrangement. Highlighted in the article were two women, pathetic specimens to be sure, who spoke of how they’ve found the experience enriching. Enriching, can you believe it? While they admit to some initial reluctance, they now embrace the practice (if not each other, but one can never be sure about these things) as an opportunity for “team building”. God, the mind reels.

Yet there it was, true as the new day’s sun. It seems our two middle aged matrons found they had a lot in common. Their dads had died at approximately the same time so they were able to comfort each other, which I guess was the ice breaker in this relationship. Soon after a couple more business trips, these two gals found that they had so much more to talk about! There were family problems and personal issues, the kid’s schools, and much, much more. Why their list of topics was so exhaustive it’s a wonder they just didn’t stay on some sort of permanent business trip, learn to play the acoustic guitar and chat their lives away as part of some sort of estrogen fueled utopia!

“You find out so much about your co-workers” they said.

This is a good thing? Listen, I work with some great folks. I enjoy seeing them in the morning, and I wish them all a goodnight when I return home. They all seem like fantastic folks, and to the extent that this is because I’m unaware of all their troubling personal habits all the better!

I often remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine couldn’t see the point of celebrating co-workers’ birthdays. There was the bizarre ritual of gathering the office in a conference room, and the cake that nobody liked. Worst of all was the obligatory, “I had no idea” and mock look of surprise on the honoree’s face. All of these things were part of what Elaine referred to as a “program of forced socialization” that accomplished little other than convince those with low self esteem that they really did have friends.

In recent years this trend seems to have died a rightful death and I thought we were all coming to our senses. Office parties hold an important place in our culture, an honored place. But that place includes liquor, fumbling sexual advances and ending the night face down in a taxi with your address written in lipstick across your forehead. Anything less just somehow doesn’t feel quite right.

Instead though, we now have co-occupied hotel rooms for “team building” and the Oprahfried “sharing of feelings”. It makes me sick to even contemplate such a horror. Is this what feminism hath wrought? Or is this nerdistic cost cutting gone wild? Either way I find myself appalled that otherwise reasonable adults are consenting to these arrangements and they must be stopped dead in their tracks before they impact my life!

After how will we ever cope? I don’t know how, but I suppose on some level one could get accustomed to his co-workers snoring, or bizarre pre-bed rituals. I can’t imagine but I guess bathroom arrangements could be worked out through a series of delicate negotiations.

Still, some things simply cannot be negotiated. For example, who gets the last scotch in the mini-bar? Or another; how will roommates ever decide which porno to order on pay-per view? And most importantly, if your roommate orders a hooker is he required to share? Are you required to participate? Or watch? Or should you just bury your head in a pillow and weep silently to block out the gruesome noise?

Just kidding on that last point.

Still, you can see what I’m getting at, no?

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