I met a man the other day who claimed that he has spent the last thirty-two years ripening avocadoes in a warehouse in Lincolnshire. I don't know if he was pulling my leg, but I don't think he was the kind of person who pulls legs. While I probably wouldn't like to spend that amount of my life performing that task, (although I have enjoyed a number of jobs that other people might regard as pretty dull and repetitive, and in fact it was their repetitive nature that most appealed to me), I am glad that someone is doing it, as I like being able to buy ripe avocadoes all year round.
I thought about that man while watching Toni Erdmann, (who is a man who likes pulling legs.) I felt slightly uncomfortable, as the film seems to indict the work of people who spend their lives in non-creative, corporate occupations. But where would we be if someone wasn't prepared to stand in a warehouse in Lincolnshire ripening avocadoes? How would we manage if someone wasn't prepared to raise crops of dental floss and wax them down in little white boxes, (hey, an opportunity to slip in some of my favourite song lyrics, hurray:
But after a bit I decided that perhaps the indictment is not about the work itself so much as the manner in which it is done, and then I didn't feel uncomfortable at all, because there has emerged during my lifetime the most frightful layer of bogus rubbish that is supposedly something to do with so-called 'management' but usually makes perfectly straightforward enjoyable jobs annoying and more difficult - and anything that attacks that is fine by me.
Take performance appraisal as an example. What a waste of time that is, (unless its real purpose is to reinforce a sense of hierarchy by placing workers regularly in the position of being told what their seniors think of them and thus reminding the workers that they are not powerful enough to reverse the process). And flipping bonding exercises, either in the form of days or even - eek - whole weekends away. Usually the only bonding that is produced by these is the creation of a mass loathing shared by every employee for the coordinator or motivator or whatever idiot title the person with the butcher's paper has given themselves. Whatever label they go under, they are always creeps and idiots. I should not forget either the endless, endless meetings explaining what is going on and what new developments are coming up in the organisation and blah de blah de blah. These may be intended to make everyone feel involved but they actually make everyone feel disrespected, since they take you away from urgent tasks and half the time whatever it is you are employed to do isn't changing one iota and whether or not the person at the top is called a CEO or a Change Management Enhancer is utterly irrelevant to what you have been hired to achieve.
The main thing to say though is that I found Toni Erdmann in equal measures puzzling, poignant and hilarious and I recommend it, if you want to see something intriguing, amusing and strange. If you want to read me saying that at even greater length, you can, here.