The Faux Commuter

He had hated work all his life. Who didn’t? It was the worst place in the world. Except what people failed to understand was that it wasn’t a “place,” but rather, an abstract concept indoctrinated within us all from the moment we’re sentient. Like the majority, Glenn had a mundane profession. In all honesty, he couldn’t even really tell you what he did for a living (could anybody?). He knew the Microsoft Office Suite was involved, but honestly, he was hard-pressed to think of an actual, legitimate “title” for his day-to-day tasks. He stuck with “administrative assistant” most of the time. But what did that really mean? He did nothing. Or so he thought. Until the day when “nothing” was taken away. It should have been wondrous, and maybe it was… for the first few weeks of the pandemic. 

It wasn’t until Glenn realized he was trapped in his house with his wife and three kids (mercifully all over the age of ten, therefore angst-ridden enough to keep to themselves) that he became retrospectively grateful for the ability to commute to work every day. To have a place to “be,” and the sense of purpose that resulted from “going places.” And it was, indeed, the ritual of commuting that he genuinely missed most about the workplace. That aspect of “unwinding” by simply not thinking. Going through an initial menial endeavor before getting to the place where he would be on a different sort of autopilot. A less pleasant kind that didn’t allow for “zen,” so much as a total misappropriation of brain cells. It was during the process of driving from Playa Del Rey to Westwood that Glenn had his best moments of relaxation–in fact, it even spurred his creativity. 

Repo Man’s Miller might have said, “I do my best thinkin’ on the bus. That’s how come I don’t drive, see?” And Otto might have countered, “You don’t even know how to drive.” Miller still insisted, “I don’t wanna know how. I don’t wanna learn, see? The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.” But Glenn didn’t subscribe to that. He felt his brainwaves were at their strongest when he was “taking a spin” (since his wife would never sit and spin on his dick anymore). That’s when he could cultivate his ideas, more succinctly organize them. Specifically, he wanted to write a book someday (or, let’s be honest, a screenplay) and being in the car helped him work toward that actualization. Even if it was still very much in the germinal phase. But it would forever stay that way now without the mental stimulation of his commute. 

Glenn supposed he first started to realize his “creative flow” was being affected roughly one month after they were ordered to “work from home.” Although Glenn was pleased his brand of “profession” wasn’t as demanding of a more frequent Zoom “meeting” (a.k.a. blinking awkwardly at one’s boss while they prattled on about nothing and you couldn’t help but stare at yourself during their spiel as a means to control–as best you could–how disinterested you looked), it still didn’t signal that he wasn’t struggling with the whole “self-starter” quality. The truth was, being in an office did help keep him on task, and his ability to meet deadlines was now suffering. Like going bankrupt, the revelation was gradual, then sudden. And before he knew it, his boss was asking for a Zoom call to tell him that they would have to let him go. 

Being told he was now unemployed felt like watching a movie about someone else, yet he nodded in acceptance like he was following an invisible cue card from the director of his life. When the call ended, he was further guided, as though by an invisible puppeteer, outside. He began walking. He found himself striding along Culver Boulevard, heading in no direction in particular. That was the sum total of his life now: heading in no direction. Yet he should have been relieved. The job was horrible and he was released from it, at last. Given the kick in the ass he needed to start looking for something new. Maybe pursue an entirely different career path. Naturally, he wasn’t going to tell his wife about this. She would just berate him about their financial situation. He reckoned this was also how he transcended into a “faux commuter.”

While others might simply engage in the ritual of commuting to “stay in shape” for the moment when they finally would be summoned back to work, Glenn pretended to commute so he could rewire his brain to feel less “static-y.” To bring life back into sharper focus for himself. His wife even delighted in the notion that he was driving “to work” again, somehow assuming that Glenn had been given special privileges to use the office. Obviously, he hadn’t, but he didn’t refute Laura’s assumption. 

Maybe some part of him hoped that, by magic or sheer force of will, leaving the house every morning to go somewhere imaginary would, in fact, conjure some type of work. If you go through the motions, it will come… or something like that. But no, each day, Glenn took the car out and ended up putting miles and miles on it that amounted to the rushing quicksand of his current fading existence. If you weren’t a worker, what were you? How could you be classified? As a “do-nothing,” and that was about it. Sometimes, Glenn wondered if the only reason he leaned toward having artistic aspirations was so that no one could ever deem him as such (though, if he actually knew any artists, they would tell him that society would prefer bona fide do-nothings over those who called themselves things like writers or painters. Ceramicists and collagists were slightly more accepted because of each medium’s Instagram cachet). If he was “writing a screenplay,” no one could just blurt out that he was a bum. A directionless loser with no skin in the game called capitalism. And oh, how capitalism loved skin. The system was a regular fucking Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs

Spacing out on these cacophonous thoughts of confusion and inadequacy every morning as he drove the far and wide expanses of L.A. (he frequently found himself gravitating toward Malibu’s Zuma Beach), Glenn lost track of what he was doing for only a split second. That was all it took for the Ferrari barreling around the corner to smash right into him. He had, after all, veered completely out of his own lane and into the one of oncoming traffic. If he had survived the impact, he probably would have wondered if this was a subconscious wish of his to die. How strange it is that something so soul-killing as work is the thing that makes the average human feel “alive,” even when they know they’ve been murdered by society the second they set foot into the office.

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