No Brain Works

I make a writerly point in this post. I promise.

I am one of those people you’ve probably sworn and cursed over if you have ever assembled a piece of furniture hauled home from a furniture store. Especially if there was something wrong with the parts or something was missing in the box.

See, I work in a factory that supplies furniture to stores all over the world, and I’ve got two separate types of jobs that fill my work days. Sometimes I am packing those flat-packs of dressers, beds, desks and what-not’s that can drive people to insanity and/or divorce. And if I am not busting my ass doing that I am busting part of my brain in the office doing office-like jobs. (I am also the safety rep in my department and a few other things that don’t take up much time.)

There’s a saying in Denmark about this type of job, namely: That it doesn’t require a brain to do it. You can hang you brain on the coat hook next to your jacket and you can still do it well. I have an ambivalent relationship with that saying.

I hate it, I find the saying derogatory and demeaning, I bristle when co-workers in the machine halls around us imply that our job is easy and stupid, I hate that they treat us like we are at the bottom of a pit of garbage and are hardly word a hand up. I hate it when they bitch because they have to give us a hand on the packing line and I secretly (or not so secretly) gloat with glee when they can’t keep up and bitch even more. I have taught myself the nerve to let management know when they piss on us by implying that we are lazy and stupid. I care about my work, and I want to do it right.

Saying that it takes no brain to do the job is ridiculous. It takes will and skill to do it. You need to be able to focus, concentrate, make decisions and move. Fast. When we are at our fastest we have around 5-7 seconds to grab the parts, check them and put them into the box. If you are uncoordinated and/or lazy, you will probably never learn to keep up.

But, to be honest, you absolutely do not need to have a higher degree in astro-physics to do my job. It is pretty straight forward. Put the right parts in, in the right position and in the right amounts, and we are pretty much set. Most people will learn the basics in a day or two, and then spend a month or so picking up the routine of movements. Thats it folks.

And sometimes I use that saying myself. It drives me up the wall when people treat their job as a no-brainer, when they could care less about the hows and whys, the wellfare of their colleagues and the company that pay their salary. I say it in frustration when people are offered a chance to voice their complaints, their suggestions and their problems and they just shake their head and look elsewhere, I get downright bitchy when they then turn their backs and complain some more. Why? Why act like sheep waiting to be herded, why not take matters into your own hands and do something to better your situation? If you want to be taken seriously then start by taking yourself seriously. If you have an opinion, voice it. DO SOMETHING *.

Ahh… sorry. Pardon my ranting. I will get back to my point. No Brain Work.

This past week I have been very much Not Writing. I still get up at half past four, but instead of using my stolen half hour of Alone to write, I read flash fiction and blogs. When my daughter is tucked in bed at night, I avoid my story to read twitter, blogs and watch TV with my husband. I feel guilty. I get angry with myself but I actively avoid my story nonetheless. I fear for the future of this story that currently resides in the folds on the gray matter I call my brain. Is it slipping away? Have I spent hundreds of hours plotting, devising and scheming, just to feel my story to wilt away like a spring flower hit by heavy frost? It wouldn’t be the first time.

So I was contemplating my writing laziness today. Last week the story was bubbling inside of my brain like air being blown into frothy glass of milk shake. Bubbles that grew slow and huge, and then burst and splattered words all over the place once I found the time to be alone. This week? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No bubbles. No froth. No word splattering.

But I have figured it out! I have played Sherlock Holmes in my own brain and it is very elementary Watson:

Last week I was packing boxes on the line with my colleagues. This week I have spent almost all of my working hours in the office squinting at the monitor.

Last week I was so tired I could hardly walk to my car when the day was over. This week I haven’t felt my back twitch painfully once when I bend down to pick stuff up.

Last week I had extended dates with my sofa (and chocolate). This week I have had the energy to bake and clean and cook lovely food when I got home.

Last week I had all the mental time in the world to twist my plot while working. This week I have twisted numbers on a monitor instead.

I think the conclusion is pretty clear. When I work on the packing line I have amble time to think, plot and devise. Meaning, if I wanted to, I could hang my brain on the coat hook next to my jacket and stop giving a shit about anything.


* I am aware and accept that some people don’t have the courage or urge to say things openly to their boss, or that they don’t want to turn the beacon of attention onto themselves. But lack of opinion can also be a kind of laziness, used to not take responsibility, or to lay the burden of accountability on someone else. There is a difference between being meek and being silent.


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