The Slacker as Detective

Corners are cheap but can be costly.

Lately I’ve been reading Murder on the Orient Express. Partially because I want to but also partially because my worst manager caught me bringing a book into the store. And so, for now, I’ve decided to rely on the only book in the store that I want to read. Now that I’ve had this situation I’ve had time to reflect on my tactics and my larger strategies.

How do I best make sure that I don’t get caught in again? Should I bring my book straight to the counter? Should I wait until that manager leaves on the days they are there? Maybe I should just bring the book in and stash it somewhere in the store, but where? I’ve thought about certain places around the counter but haven’t settled on anything yet.

What if someone notices it? The books I own are quite clearly not books that the store I work at sells (we mostly sell trashy romance novels and other best selling paperbacks). And so if someone found that then I would be in big trouble.

There’s a lot of questions to ask and even more besides this. I’m obviously safe on the days this manager isn’t here…or am I? Even my favorite manager (by miles) was watching me, though eventually relented and said that they were going in the office and “may not notice” if I decided to read. So I know I have a possible out there but elsewhere it gets difficult.

Some of the managers care more than others and other managers are slower and less attentive than others. Some work in certain parts of the store that are close to me while others are seemingly always far away. Some managers are faster  in their walk speed. Yesterday I had to contend with the worst manager for a little under 2 hours of my shift. I kept trying to track their movements but they power walk like no one’s business (or maybe their own business).

So keeping track of them was difficult. I had to think very logically and quickly about things, I had to think on my feet (while being on my feet). If I heard a door open and I thought to myself, “What that them? Or was it a co-worker?” At one point I thought it was them when it was a co-worker. If it hadn’t been for a customer, I may have gotten caught.

Luck: That’s what a lot of this comes down to in many cases. But having a bit of logical deduction about your surroundings won’t hurt either. Think about the layout of the store that you’re in. Where are the most logical exits and entryways that your managers (or co-workers in some cases) could come in/out of to see you/not see you?

In the coming weeks I’m I’m going to have to put some real effort into slacking so I can outsmart my managers. The paradox is real and perhaps funny but either way it’s true. Sometimes the best slacking takes the best kind of sleuthing.

And that’s what makes me think about Murder on the Orient Express and my experiences while reading it. The main character Hercule Poirot is obsessed with the smaller details of the case. They don’t solve the case by any means but they are “suggestive” and help point Poirot in a certain direction that’ll help him solve the case.

…That said I haven’t quite finished Murder on the Orient Express yet, so no spoilers please.

In any case, the slacker has to think and act a little like a detective. We have to do our best to recognize the patterns that make up humanity and how we can best exploit them for our own gain. In this case “exploit” isn’t such a bad thing when the people you are exploiting are exploiting you as well and at least you’re not pretending to do otherwise.

The sort of “exploitation” that slackers engage in with regards to the workplace is more of a process  and mental health based one and not based on ethics or economics. Or, at least, it’s not based on them in the same ways that bosses are rooted in the economic exploitation and domination via capitalism and the larger corporate structure.

Slacking, as far as I’ve experienced it, is a game of self-preservation. It’s a way to keep your mental health better intact and for a longer period of time than you might otherwise. There have been days where books (the way I can get outside of the world and my mind) have probably kept me going at a better pace and more consistently then if I hadn’t read them.

Unfortunately slacking is a game of when and eventually you’re liable to be caught, no matter how careful you are. Likely everyone who I work with (manager or otherwise) knows that I read during the workplace. Either because I directly told them or because they’ve seen me or someone else told them. Do a thing in a given situation enough times and people will be able to pick up your patterns as well. That’s why adding little flourishes and variations from time to time helps.

The simple truth of it is you need not just luck and diligence but just enough apathy from the world around you, understanding if you’re lucky, but don’t expect that. If you have that right mix of indifference on others part and luck on your side you might last a good while before anything comes up. I’ve lasted a year so far, who knows how much longer.

One of my managers was talking to me about it and they said part of what bothers them (and perhaps by extension other managers or even co-workers) is that it feels unfair. While they work their hardest I’m at the front doing nothing besides something I’m enjoying. And I told them that I understood but at the end of the day I don’t make the system unfair.

To elaborate, I’m not the one who decides who gets more work and up until recently this manager was a co-worker of mine and they decided to climb up the corporate ladder. They tried to deny that they had some responsibilities that they didn’t before but I retorted that managers have more expectations even if (sometimes) they have no explicit extra duties.

The bottom line is that I have to preserve my mental well-being first, even if it’s unfair to others.

I don’t control the system and I didn’t make the rules. I didn’t tell my manager how hard they have to work, they choose to do that. I take no responsibility for the work that people decide to put on themselves and I take no responsibility for a system of exploitation that has made all of our lives miserable most of the time.

If you want to talk about unfairness, let’s talk about capitalism, not slackers.

Slackers, we’re just the ones trying to make the best of a bad deal gone worse.

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