Arts and Culture

Working From Home Will Make You a Crazy Person

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This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the SF Examiner.

The only time I ever worked in an office was when I was 21. I had just moved to San Francisco for a summer internship at Bill Graham Presents and I spent three days a week there, making photocopies and peeking at how much artists were paid to play the Fillmore, Warfield or Shoreline. It wasn’t a very hardcore office experience; I even had a mohawk at the time.

I’ve spent the rest of my working career doing weird pirate jobs, like bartending, selling sweets in a candy store, shelving books at the library and waiting tables. I even had a job for one whole weekend at Mrs. Dewson’s Hat Shop. (If you’ve been around awhile, you know what a nerve-wracking gig that was. Mrs. Dewson was one tough old bird!**)

While doing all those other odd jobs, I was also always working for myself — less so at the start, and now nearly full-time; I still bartend once a week. And through almost all of this self-employment, I’ve worked from home. Doing so has taught me one very important lesson: Working from home makes you a crazy person.

If you’re reading this in your office right now or while commuting to work, you’re probably the type to fantasize about working from home: “Man, that’s the dream. No makeup, no pants, no boss and no creepy Larry from accounting.” There are some really great things about working from home, like, well … all the stuff I mentioned above. Plus, should you feel the urge, you can absolutely rub one out in the middle of the work day and not worry about getting fired or going to jail. Hooray!

In all seriousness, working from home makes you cuckoo. Since you don’t talk to anybody all day, you start talking out loud to yourself or inanimate objects. I find myself singing songs to the fridge about the very food I have inside the fridge, like, “Oooooh yeah baby, baby, I know you got some bacon for meeee!”

When my roommate’s dog is around, it gets extra weird. I start talking to him like a human: “As I was saying, Roux, this past year has been an incredible civics lesson for every American. Now, who wants a treat?”

Then, there’s the issue of hygiene. Most people have their morning rituals that make them more tolerable members of society: shower, deodorant, teeth-brushing, clean clothes. When you work from home, all of that goes out the window. Neither Roux nor the fridge care what you smell like, or if you’re wearing that hideous shirt your granny got you in the Phoenix airport for the past three days. When you’ve been working from home all day, and you’re about to leave the house, you literally have to ask yourself, “Wait, did I shower today or was that yesterday? This layer of film on my teeth makes me think I didn’t brush my teeth today either.”

The hardest part, though, is when you finally leave the house. If you’re going to meet a friend for dinner at 6 p.m., and you haven’t spoken to a single person all day, it’s a good idea to practice talking to someone before you get there. Pop into a corner store and buy a pack a of gum, just so you can get try and get that initial feeling out of the way: “Hello, fellow human, isn’t it weird that we’re making eye contact?” It doesn’t always work. To be honest, it usually takes a couple drinks to be socialized again.

 

**Boy was was Mrs. Dewson a tough old bird! I worked the Fillmore Street Fair for her that weekend and it was a hell of a thing to see this 300 year old black woman go off an a young white cop like “Do you know who the fuck I am? I will call Willie Brown right fucking now and you’ll be writing parking tickets for the rest of your fucking life.” My jaw dropped. She terrified me.

When I went in the weekend after the street fair to see about still working there she said, “Oh no baby, you don’t work here anymore but you can keep that hat I let you wear.”

I little while ago I randomly came across an article about her at the end of her life and in it she said, “Why should I die when all these other assholes are still alive?”

What a character.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".