Re: Home Alone...and glad of it

Subject: Re: Home Alone...and glad of it
From: Judyth Mermelstein <Judyth_Mermelstein -at- BABYLON -dot- MONTREAL -dot- QC -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 1997 08:23:04 GMT

Sat, 29 Mar 1997, Mike Starr <writstar -at- WI -dot- NET> wrote:
>> One aspect that nobody has addressed is that those of us who
>> smoke can do so in our home office without annoying our
>> colleagues or interrupting our work to stand outside the front door.

Speaking from Montreal, smoking capital of North America, and with a Gitanes
tucked firmly in the corner of my mouth, I say "amen". There's no way I can
stand to work in non-smoking premises. I can *be* in non-smoking premises for
up to two or three hours without a cigarette, but I can't write, edit,
translate or do layout without cigarettes (a habit of 30 years' standing) and
I hate having to interrupt what I'm doing just because I need a smoke.
Putting on several layers of outdoor clothing to stand outside in the rain,
snow, sleet and freezing temperatures which prevail in this climate for nine
months a year tends to break my concentration. I have nothing against
non-smokers or non-smoking areas. I can well understand why more and more
places are going to be off-limits to dinosaurs like myself, and I respect
the rules even when I'm climbing the walls in withdrawal. But I can't work
productively that way for very long at a time.

The kind of employers who expect 80-hour weeks for 40-hour salaries begrudge
their smoking employees the miserable "quick cig" on the doorstep.
Increasingly, ads demanding non-smokers rather than people to work in
non-smoking environments. This is not the kind of environment I'd want to be
in under any circumstances. Where I do want to be is where I can set up my
work area for my own comfort, not the corporate culture. Antiques, espresso
and a large ashtray; chairs that don't break my back or paralyse my nether
regions; keyboards and monitors at the right height for me, not some
standard-issue work area set up for the "average man" who is eight inches
taller than I am. NO CUBES! NO DOWNSIZING! I still work at a client's office
occasionally but almost always regret it: "dressing for success", commuting,
aches and pains, and having every passerby stare at my work at will are
hardly inducements to "get with the program".

About 80% of the work I do can be done on my XT or Powerbook anyway: the
actual writing, editing or translation work is done better in plain text than
where software problems and formatting issues keep interrupting the work.
File conversion and layout are easy enough when I can give them my full
attention after the text is in shape. (I'm aware that those of you who are
documenting programs while they are being constructed and tested are in a
different position: you actually need the latest equipment and software, the
physical presence of the designers and engineers, etc. And those of you who
specialize in on-line help, aerospace simulators and other areas are tied to
the environments where these applications are developed.)

Some of you may feel I'm not a *real* technical writer because I don't have
to deal with the "cutting edge" corporate stuff and don't specialize in
"Framitz Pro for Windows '95" on a Mammoth 90000 system. IMHO, I am a real
technical writer/editor/translator/consultant who provides good user
documentation (client permitting!) and technical reports for the "little
guys"--the companies that develop applications for specific purposes within
industries where mass-market programs dare not tread. I get a variety of
projects, each with its own challenges. If I don't like something, I can say
no without losing face, let alone my job.

The mental-health benefits of working for myself are terrific:
* nobody gets to tell me what to do when;
* the energy I'd waste on commuting can be spent on better things (like
* it's up to me to decide when I need a break, a meal or a nap as long as I
do the job right;
* I don't have to buy and maintain a wardrobe the "suits" would approve, or
defer to their superior masculinity on all subjects;
* I don't have to explain to why I use a cane to walk, am totally
uninterested in other
people's work-habits or sex-lives, still smoke, or any other personal
* I get treated with respect as a professional (rather than stuck with all
the joe-jobs
because, as a woman, I'm supposed to _like_ collating, washing
coffee-cups or
* if I what I'm working on bores me, it'll be over next week anyhow.

Who in this decade has guaranteed job security anyway? This way, if my
business succeeds, I get the benefit of it; if (god forbid!) it fails, the
main asset is my brain and I get to keep it. In the meantime, I get to be my
own person, and I'm willing to pay the price for that.

Regards from the smoke-filled room,

Judyth Mermelstein
judyth_mermelstein -at- babylon -dot- montreal -dot- qc -dot- ca

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