Day Of The Jackal-Esque $1,250 Pay Cut

At first I thought the parking machine was broken. “$11.00” was flashing up on the screen. Which was ridiculous, because not only did the garage have a $9/day maximum charge, I’d been there barely six hours, which usually results in a $7 charge. Then I looked at the shiny new plaque next to the receipt button. The rate schedule had been revised. It was now $12.00 per day. My six-hour stay was now eleven bucks.

I put my card in the reader. Then I hit the “Receipt” button. “NO RECEIPT” it told me, in the same unapologetic sans-serif letters with which it had announced the new fee. It was all I could do not to shatter the screen with the nickel-silver head of my trusty skull cane. You’re probably laughing at me; what’s the difference between nine bucks and twelve? Quite a bit, my friend. Quite a bit.

We can start with the fact that I work in Columbus, Ohio. This isn’t New York, it’s not Chicago, it’s not even Cleveland. Yet of the five parking garages within two miles of my job, three are completely private and the other two are both crowded and ruinously expensive. The idea of paying nine dollars a day to park in Columbus is a joke. You will respond that it costs fifty dollars a day to park in Manhattan, but real estate in Manhattan is far more than five times as valuable as the corresponding space here in Cowtown. Somebody’s making a lot of money.

Adding insult to injury, it’s completely free to park in the shopping-center lot just two miles away — but woe betide the fellow who leaves his car there on anything like an observably consistent basis. You’ll come back to find it on blocks or with the windows gone. Doing that also means walking under the bridge downtown, in the authentic Anthony Kiedis “people are using needles there” sense of the phrase.

I can park my motorcycle in the area for $50/year, using one of the spots reserved by the city for holders of a two-wheel permit. That’s not without its problems; some piece of human garbage knocked my CB1100 over last year, doing some minor but annoying damage to the engine cover and the gauges. There’s also the fact that of all the times and places to ride a motorcycle in Ohio, Columbus rush hour is probably the worst, which is why I can go weeks without seeing another motorcycle on my commute, even in summer.

Nine bucks to park for eight hours in downtown Columbus is highway robbery… but twelve? That’s fucking insane. And it happened without a moment’s notice. One day it was $9, the next it was $12. I can park in downtown Chicago for $15 a day. And my job pays 50% more in downtown Chicago than it pays in downtown Columbus.

In a 250-day year, $9/day equals $2250 a year. $12/day is three grand. Three thousand dollars a year, to park in a hick town that most of my coastal friends think has cows on Main Street. (It’s been years since that was the case!) As I recently found out in an IRS audit, not a single penny of that is deductible. So it really costs me five thousand dollars a year to park downtown. The $3/day bump is, once you do all the math, about $1,250 a year that just vanished from my income.

Which brings up the question: Why am I working downtown in the first place? Not a single one of the systems or projects I administer is located in that building. The primary data center, as a matter of fact, is three miles from my house. I’m actually driving away from it when I go to work. We have all the technology we need to work from home. Five years ago, a significant percentage of my co-workers didn’t go to the office. But the company’s gone on the warpath to fix that.

If you change your job title, or your responsibilities, or your department, your work-from-home privileges expire and you’re once again required to be present in the office five days a week. Meanwhile, we have “agile workspaces” replacing our cubicles. When I think about the Boomers who complained about the dehumanizing, humiliating experience of full-height cubicles, I have to laugh. Half-height cubes replaced full-height cubes. Open desks replaced half-height cubes. Agile workspaces, meaning show up, plug in a laptop, and smell your co-worker’s armpits from the six-inch distance between your chair and his, are on the way. After that, I’m told that “bench seating” is going to be the new norm.

With bench seating, I’ll be literally shoulder-to-shoulder against the dudes on both sides. Keep in mind that as low-prestige and low-compensation as my work may be, it’s still probably in the top five percent of available jobs nationwide. I’m not a secretary or a first-year programmer. Yet I’ll soon be in a work environment that makes the average secretary’s desk in 1950 look like a palace. There are going to be people at this office who park brand-new Nine Elevens in the $12/day garage then come in to basically have a high-school cafeteria experience for eight hours.

It’s absolutely critical that we be present every day at work. Nothing could get done without physical proximity to people who don’t do your job or have anything to do with you. Some time ago, we started doing “agile scrum standups”, where we stood in a huddle and “committed to tasks”. Entire months went by without anybody saying anything that related to anybody else in the huddle.

And all of this has to take place because working remotely is absolutely unacceptable to the current corporate leadership. With the exception, of course, of anything that can be outsourced to India. It’s a fucking disaster to have a guy dialed-in from nine miles away a few days a week but put that same job in Chennai and all of a sudden any number of difficulties become just totally fine. Because he’s cheaper.

I could charge less if I worked from home. But they won’t let us do that because then we’d work two jobs, or three, the same as the guys in Chennai. They’re notorious for it. When I worked for Honda and we got our Indian resources on the phone, I’d start every call with, “Alright, here we are at Honda Marysville.” Because otherwise half of the overseas staff would forget which job they were working and you’d lose a couple of minutes every time you asked them a question and they had to context-switch on the fly.

So instead, I lose seventy-five minutes a day of my life, at a minimum, commuting to a building that is owned by the same corporation that owns all the buildings around it. When I pay to park, I’m handing part of my salary back. When I eat at one of the restaurants that is operating in a building owned by the corporation, I’m handing part of my salary back. Every year I spend the equivalent of twenty waking days going to work and about three working weeks working to pay for my travel and parking. Add taxes to the mix, and it starts to approach the dimension of tragic comedy. It’s not until July of every year that I actually earn any money for myself. The first half of the year goes to the government, the parking garage, commuting expenses, meals.

And yet I’m supremely fortunate to be in this position. I haven’t spent a single day unemployed since 1998. I’m not wealthy but I spend two dozen days a year on a race track. I have some beautiful motorcycles, wonderful guitars, and some clothes than on a better-looking man would be totally fucking stunning, I tell you. I know what it’s like to be poor and I know that I’m not poor now. Still. Something’s got to give. For me, for everybody around me. I think of Neal Stephenson’s warning that “the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity.” I feel lucky most days. I expect that my son will have a harder life that I’ve had, even if he’s far more successful and talented than I am.

I suppose that in the end it boils down to this: there is capital, and there is labor. I’m labor. Always have been. The people who own the parking garage are capital. They can decide at a whim to take $1,250 out of my pocket and there isn’t much I can do. Until the day comes that everybody in the parking garage decides that they are tired of the situation, and they smash the gates, burn the ticket machines, and usher in the populist apocalypse. It sounds unlikely, right? Far more reasonable for all of the frogs to sit in the pot and boil at $12, then $15, then $18, then $21, and so on. But people aren’t frogs. They tend to react badly to being boiled. I’m not saying that anybody who earns even a low six figures in the tech industry is going to burn a building down over it. But it plants a seed of support inside us for the person out there who does burn something down. What did the flat-chested but quite pretty robot girl on television say a few weeks ago? These violent delights have violent ends.

73 Replies to “Day Of The Jackal-Esque $1,250 Pay Cut”

  1. jz78817

    This is the free market alt-right people want. they can charge whatever they want for you to park there, and your choice is either to pay it or park somewhere else.

    reap what you sow. except:

    “Until the day comes that everybody in the parking garage decides that they are tired of the situation, and they smash the gates, burn the ticket machines, and usher in the populist apocalypse. It sounds unlikely, right? “

    which is almost exactly the same argument people are making against the electoral college.

    at any rate, this weekend I’m going to be freezing my ass off in the field chasing deer. a few weeks ago I helped “disassemble” a gut-shot doe which was enough of a mess to make even George Romero say “hey, that’s gross.”

    Is that enough to pass your vaunted “manliness” test?

    • everybodyhatesscott

      The guys arguing against the electoral college don’t have the guns or the cajones on their side.

      And yes, heres the manliness test. ‘Does someone questioning your manliness bother you?’ If yes, there is your answer.

    • arbuckle

      “This is the free market alt-right people want”

      The alt-right doesn’t care about free market capitalism and generally they think libertarian beliefs are for the “cucks”. The amount of economic opinion you’ll see on alt-right sites like Daily Stormer or TRS or in a Spencer speech is minimal and what you do see/hear will likely advocate totalitarianism or favoritism towards whites.

      What the alt-right does care about is disenfranchising women and non-property owning men, deporting almost all the immigrants, starting Whitelandia, increasing racial tension, and *maybe* killing all the Jews.

    • JDN

      “This is the free market alt-right people want. they can charge whatever they want for you to park there, and your choice is either to pay it or park somewhere else.”

      I think you’re confusing groups of people you disagree with ideologically into one great big unterthink.

      “which is almost exactly the same argument people are making against the electoral college.”

      Yes? Dissatisfaction with the powers that be isn’t exactly a party line issue.

    • Yamahog

      Free market? This is a classic case of a market failure because of regulations. Parking space is limited and there are zoning laws / housing rules that prevent people from using resources to add more parking space. Restaurants can’t take the chairs off their patios and sell patio spots as parking spots. Or folks letting people park cars in the building lobby (fire codes) or folks selling driveway / yard space to cars for parking.

      And the police aren’t doing their jobs if there are miscreants going around knocking over bikes and making life difficult for working stiffs. Does Jack get a tax credit for the damage done to his bike (it america you can itemize expenses due to being a crime victim but the deduction isn’t enough to make him whole and then he’d lose the standard deduction)?

  2. Robert

    Have you thought about finding a different employer that is more amenable to remote workers? I go to the data center just about every day, but I work from home whenever I want to. I’m in Houston, but I have developers in Hawaii and Atlanta who never come to the office. I’m seeing a lot more companies offer this than I used to.

    Being the “wizard in the basement” isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though – I’m writing this while I babysit a crappy utility that I presided over a parade of incompetent developers hacking together 7 years ago.

  3. Scotten

    I LOL’d (in rue) when companies I had worked for went from “No work from home!” to “Outsource to India” without missing a beat.

    Fuck corporate America. I learned the hard way that I better spend more time sucking its teat than focusing on a great job.

  4. Orenwolf

    1) Can’t you bring this up with your urban planners who can demand more parking for future urban projects (I know this doesn’t solve your immediate issue, but it sounds like classic poor planning for capacity).
    2) I’m genuinely sorry you have such a 1990’s-era employer.
    3) I presume you don’t get any sort of tax credits for commuting down there?

    My team here worked remote until we became large enough to need an office. When I did, the first thing that came up was the issue of commuting costs essentially being a paycut. Turns out up here though, we can give commuter tax credits, *and* I relaxed the number of days in the office (face-to-face is important on a small team, and I say that as someone who has worked – for almost a decade now – remotely for 90% of what I do), but *every day* is a little nuts.

    And although the head office initially wanted to go with “Well, consider the last x years of no commuting as a bonus, instead of a pay cut”, with the tax breaks I was able to bring things up even.

    The same thing happens with transit prices or a million other things that seem like small potatoes until you consider the daily commuter. Same reason people don’t get those guys who get pissed that they don’t get priority boarding on their planes when they are supposed to – some of them travel a stupid number of times per year, and NOT getting those benefits can mean literally DAYS of extra time in an airport. Ew.

  5. Ryan

    When I look at “hot” tech companies’ offices, it makes me almost sick to my stomach. Not that I am above the life of an office drone, but everything is starting to look more like a scene out of “Boiler Room” than your prototypical 1980s-era Steelcase catalog.

    The first few years at my old job were spent in a cubicle. I grew to love it, only because you were offered some privacy. When they shipped me on-site to the hospital, I had a string of offices from a private space to a shared “office” for Doctors and QA staff.

    Eventually, I was one of three people in the entire agency who worked from home 100% of the time. Two years were spent on my couch working while ordering tacos and drinking beer. I was never more productive than during that time, even though 1/2 of my day was spent doing coursework or watching Californication for the nth time.

    We moved into a new building that featured an “open floorplan” not unlike you’re describing. No cubicle walls and a long table with a locking cabinet for each worker drone. Productivity across the board went down, partially because the office floor turned into one large social event.

    When I tendered my registration in August, I was asked what they could do to retain me. Granted, tuition had already been paid in full and I had already moved most of my belongings to the new place. When I explained that the time spent during my commute was cutting $60/day out of my paycheck plus another $17/day mileage (at the government rate), that I was actually making LESS money than when I worked remotely two years ago. This was not even taking into account that tuition reimbursement was frozen with the last sequester and never reinstated, despite still being in the HR policy manual.

    HR/management was slightly offended by this fact, and said that I “should have been happy” to work remotely for two years. Unfortunately for them, they lost me and subsequently the Medicare contract two months later for not meeting target. An extra $10,000 to me would’ve netted them an extra $5.5M/year and kept 30 more people employed, not taking into account the influx of referrals our program brought into the Agency.

    It’s no surprise to me when I learned that the Executive Director was so frustrated that he’s resigning effective 31 December.

  6. James

    I remember interviewing on Wall Street, during the last dot com bubble, and seeing the employees, all of whom made far more than I do now, as a software developer, sitting next to each other at long tables.

    They wore their bankers’ suits to work, took off their jackets, rolled up their sleeves, and sat, all in a line, doing their work on their two machines, each (NT and UNIX). Every few rows, there was a grey plastic trash barrel stuffed with soft drink cans and ice.

    I visited a new Facebook office recently, still under construction, and saw their long tables with software devs all sitting in rows, two machines each (desktop and laptop). It felt different, and not as nice.

    I think it was the lack of suits. I believe the military branches require officers to provide their own uniforms–it makes a difference, heightens the absurdity in the banker’s mind: I am wearing a proper suit that I bought with the money my employer paid me; my sleeves are rolled up; and I am going to plunge my hand into this trash barrel filled with ice, to pull out a free Coca-Cola.

  7. Marc Miller

    Corporate work from home policies are all over the place. I worked for Wachovia Bank and they for the most part encouraged it. We had people who worked at home every Friday. I loved it because I got an extra hour of sleep because I didn’t have the commute. When Wachovia took over a California S&L with a bad mortgage portfolio, the FDIC married them to Wells Fargo and the WFH policy changed in some places but actually improved in others. My manager started telling us we needed a “reason” to WFH, like “the cable guy comes today between 8 and 4” and not just because it would be personally convenient. My current job is the same way. Management is afraid you’re getting away with something. Hey, if the work’s getting done…

  8. bbakkerr

    Government contracts (both state and fed) may turn out to be better than corporate gigs in the long run. There are certainly frustrations on all sides in the I.T. world, but gov work beats Best Buy and UnitedHealth by a long shot. Maybe the old days were better, maybe I just didn’t think about it as much.

    But let me ask, if parking were free, would life be that much better? If we all had full height cubes again, would life really be better, or is this dissatisfaction itch simply unscratchable? The commute stinks some days, but it is nice to be around people vs. going to seed at home on the couch. Being out of the house also makes me appreciate being back home more than if I were there all the time.

    Fortunately the mind is free to wander wheresoever it willith, and the work world seems to inspire these wanderings more fully than being distracted at home ever could, manufacturing mucho creativity for projects back at the estate. Who can put a price on that?

    • Bark M

      Holy shit. No offense (like Ricky Bobby), but that is straight-up garbage. Have you ever been inspired by standing at a desk next to somebody who’s invading your personal space and eating food that smells like sewage? And, again, with all due respect, JB and I are typically going to be the smartest dudes in any room. I’m not inspired by coworkers, my speed is throttled by their inability to catch up.

      My parking is free—my company owns our lot downtown. And I have an office with a door. But, my office is 25 minutes from my house with no traffic. With traffic, it’s more like 40. That’s at least an hour of my life that I’ll never get back each day—an hour that I could be doing something productive with. I don’t go to that office unless absolutely mandated.

      • JDN

        Is it that shocking that people might disagree with you?

        After joining/forming a startup I spent a bit over a year working exclusively from home since we didn’t have money for an office and I really didn’t like it as a full time proposition. When I was working form home I basically wouldn’t go anywhere but the grocery store or for runs around the neighborhood. I could easily go weeks without talking to anyone face to face other than my wife and really became reclusive. Having an external reason to get out of the house and interact with people can be helpful – particularly when you’re pretty far on the introverted side of things.

        The other aspect that having an office helps a lot for me personally is having some separation between work and home. Working at home eventually devolved into working basically all the time – since I was always at ‘work’. Sure everything can be done remotely so I could still do that schedule, but the physical act of going to an office to do work, allows me to be more disciplined about generally not worrying about work once I get home.

        I get a small office with people you consider actual friends in addition to coworkers isn’t the traditional office experience, but even so, I still think I prefer having a place to go to do work.

        • -Nate-Nate

          @ JDN :
          Perfect example of why both are good to have .
          Me, I too preferred to go to work, have coffee and interact with other employees even though many of them were fairly useless and/or deliberately prevented more/better from getting done (angry) .

    • Ryan

      Care to expand upon Government contract work being better than a corporate gig? I’ve been looking at relocating to Charleston as opposed to staying in Detroit, and most everything is contractual work. From the people I know down there, I’ve heard mixed reviews. Might be the area, but a lot are bound by a clearance and cannot give me much insight.

      FWIW, this would be me graduating with a MS in Information Assurance/Intelligence with a focus on Data Mining. Goal would be to either end up working in Autonomous Driving, Motorsports data acquisition, or reading the world’s email.

      • bbakkerr

        Contracts are made good or bad by so many variables — project details (goals, timeline, tools, etc), pay rate, co-workers, office style, location for commuting — that private vs. government is only one factor. But in my experience, I’ve had better times recently on the gov side.

        Gov contracts seem to be very difficult to get going in the first place, but once they are rolling, it’s a good train to catch. Why? They tend to last longer and are less likely to be canceled on some VP’s whim. In some cases, the work can be easier — where private companies may have moved away from MS Access years ago*, certain agencies may still be contemplating the move — or you may have skills that they’ve been trying to acquire for years and are treated as a hero.

        The downsides may be a more glacial pace, which can be luxurious and allow for trying newer solutions, or be mightily frustrating, wading thru stereotypical bureaucracy trying to get sudo on a linux server. A good liason / contract rep makes a huge difference, but even they can’t conjure magic when someone wants to be a roadblock.

        Maybe what this boils down to is that it can be a pain to obtain new contracts, and if you have one that lasts years instead of months, it saves effort.

        * ah, who am I kidding … MS Access will survive us all.

  9. hank chinaski

    They do this to you because they can. Yes, they make some of your salary back, but the point for them is control, and for you to *know* that they are in it. They can’t have you work at home. You might develop a sense of independence. The bench seating smacks of the slaves chained to oars underdeck, sans drummer.

    This is why you never see universal healthcare in the US. It’s probably the biggest reason most breadwinners don’t tell the boss to eff themselves, and the gov’ment knows it. Everything would grind to a halt. Un-cucked, indeed.

    “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The problem has to be that there are fewer and fewer jobs available. At some point we will be forced to move to a basic income scheme. And then… how you gonna keep ’em down on the cube farm after they’ve seen Par-ee?

      • Yamahog

        The neolibs / neocons are never going to allow basic income because it’ll mean people can quit jobs and not starve. Look at how hard they make saving – my HSA charges me a monthly fee for having fewer than 5k in my account and I can’t contribute more than $3,500/yr. It would take 18 months of maximum contributions with no health care consumption to get the place where you could store value in an HSA with USBank without paying for the privilege.

        But working Americans are a minority, Americans holding down a full time job are definitely a minority, and if the tyranny of the majority gives us UBI, the elites are going to have to find a way to get people to work for them beyond “do it or else you’ll starve”.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Well, right now a little bit of the work-or-starve whip is necessary to ensure that people show up to work at Subway, Wal-Mart, or any other McJob.

          But when automation completely replaces those jobs — and it will, far more quickly than we have autonomous cars on the road — then the problem shifts to making that you have a population with sufficient income to GO to Wal-Mart, Subway, et al. That’s where UBI comes in.

          • Yamahog

            And that’s the rub, employers get to use the ‘work or starve whip’ when employees don’t have a choice. Top data scientists don’t get the ‘come to work in your uniform right now or else you’re fired’, they get free meals, dry cleaning, server time, and interesting datasets.

            I imagine the most threatening thing about UBI is that it would radically change labor relations, employers across the entire strata would have make work compelling because people could sit on the stump in someplace warm and drink ice beer / smoke ditch weed indefinitely. How would McDonald’s work without economic coercion?

            I worked a minimum wage job during the recession and my managers knew full well that the workers didn’t have options – schedules would come out 3 days before they started, they’d call people up and demand they come in to cover someone they fired on the spot, ect. Hilariously, the bulk of the managers were teenage moms who slept their way to the middle – 18/hr, health insurance, and the ability to go into an office and watch youtube for 15 minutes if they were the only manager on duty. I worked there because I needed to make a dent in tuition, I can’t imagine anyone choosing that if they could get basic shelter and basic nutritional needs met otherwise.

    • Aoletsgo

      I visited my daughters fancy, big advertising agency where she works at a bench I did not like it at all. They do have a pool table and a loft for thinking (quiet/napping) time though. I have almost always been lucky to have a real office with a wood door and a window looking outside, my favorite one was way up in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit with a view of the ships on the Detroit River. The sad part of me having a real office is that usually it was not because I was so great, it was because the company was struggling and downsizing so there were lots of office choices.

      I don’t mind my current 25-30 minute work commute now, I can do a mindless 80mph highway route, a 55mph two-lane country route, or a mostly slow and mellow dirt road route. I also like my co-workers, we are a small, privately held company, and male dominated with what best can be described as a work atomsphere like a high school football locker room. We also kick ass, are growing rapidly, have very talented staff and are the best in the world at what we do.

  10. rich

    Jack, if your IT skills are even in the same ballpark as your driving, riding and writing, I have to ask, why on earth do you put up with working in a ‘Dilbert’ company?

    Go freelance, and pick and choose who you work for, where and when!

    For sure, you’d be at least as good as anyone else doing it, and better than 90% of them!

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’m a contractor, not an employee. I used to run a small tech support business, but I got out of that gig when I saw small-business support opportunities disappearing.

      My “second life” doing the car stuff is actually a big part of why I have a Dilbert contract job. I give first priority to writing and racing, so I’m a bad fit for companies that want 24/7 devotion or availability. As an example… a few years ago I had a client schedule a major system upgrade during PCOTY testing for R&T. Given the choice between staying with the client or driving a 458 Speciale around a track… well, what would you have done?

      • rich

        For sure, tech support opportunities are going away, as small and mid size companies migrate everything to the cloud.

        I’m guessing I’d have gone hooning in the 458 versus being stuck at work, as well !

      • everybodyhatesscott

        You need a better accountant jack. Your situation is a little odd but I’m guessing your writing is 1099 and your IT job is 1099. You can’t write off a commute but there’s probably a work around. You doing your own taxes?

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I have been, yeah. Just had an audit where they disallowed a high five figures’ worth of deductions over two years. It was really, really frustrating.

          • everybodyhatesscott

            Ouch. Being a CPA, obviously I’m little biased but I’d suggest finding a local CPA (not H&R block) and doing some tax planning. You wouldn’t sit in front of a judge without professional representation and the IRS can hurt you a lot more than a speeding ticket. Having two schedule C’s and high income makes (made) you ripe for an audit. The services are everybodyhatesscott llc (obviously not our real name) are always available if you can’t find a local guy.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I’m married to a CPA now but she views my business operations with the same sort of fascinated horror you’d see in a woman who turned over a rock and saw a thousand earwings in a writhing mass.

          • Dirty Dingus McGee

            When we first started our partnership, we did our own taxes. After getting hammered by the revenuers 2 times in 4 years, we hired an accountant. A good one will point out ways that you enter expenses that will keep the IRS off your back, to a point.
            Worth the money for one that knows their shit.

  11. Eric H

    It goes full circle.
    Open plan areas were the norm until cubes became available.
    Here’s a colored picture from a century ago
    Cubes were seen as a large improvement in workers’ spaces, but they cost money. Corporations have figures out that’s it’s no longer necessary to make employees feel human to keep them from quitting. The advent of consumer credit and its worming in to every transaction has turned the average worker into nothing more that a machine to turn profit for one corporation into payments for another. Paycheque to paycheque living has never been as stressful as it is now in the USA.
    The sad thing is that corporations’ greed over working environment is really hurting their own profits. It has been shown in scholarly studies that if you put a programmer in an office with a door that closes and a phone that can be turned off you can get double the productivity from them. As a developer of nasty software (device drivers, firmware and OS stuff) I can attest to how much better I can concentrate when there aren’t constant ringing phones, conversations and people walking right by my cube.

  12. -Nate-Nate

    Fascinating stuff here .
    Why I never regretted being a Tradesman my entire life & working career .

    • photog02

      Not that you need more validation of your choice, but the book Shop Class as Soulcraft (Matthew Crawford) makes a great point. My takeaway from the book is that our society has demonized the trades and elevated university education in preparation for cubicle (or bullpen) dwelling that could be replaced by automation or cheaper labor abroad. What type of satisfaction can be drawn from that?

  13. Jeff Zekas

    The big problem in Eugene, Oregon is that all political decisions are decided based upon whether they benefit, or do not benefit, the ruling class. No property taxes for five years, if you are a developer buddy who builds student housing. Parking six to ten a day, even though most of the lost are empty. Only good jobs at the university or the hospital; everyone else (except for pot growers) makes minimum wage. What is the phrase? Crony capitalism. There has never been a free market, except in Econ 1 textbooks.

  14. Orenwolf

    I tend to agree, Yamahog, but perhaps not for the same reasons. I seriously doubt there are a lot of restaurants who’d rather have people parking in their patios, for example, but there’s been more than a few attempts to start up “spot sharing” programs where people can rent out their driveways when they aren’t home for others to park in, for example, that are probably going to be stifled by regulation for no good reason than “people we don’t know are parking in our neighbours driveways. Scary!”

    At the same time, and as I mentioned in my original response, I completely agree that this is a regulation problem – it sounds as if City Planning in Jack’s location – as with far too many locations – failed to recognize the importance of parking when granting building permits. Toronto is trying to aggressively correct that issue by requiring significant expenditure from commercial builders for many more public parking spots with new projects, specifically because they underestimated the desire of vehicle commuting even in urban areas.

    • mopar4wd

      I don’t think that’s going to last long in Toronto. The current trend in urban design is to eliminate almost all parking. Here in Hartford CT several urban planners argue the city has too much parking despite rates of $18.00 a day. The theory is parking is not good for economic development as it’s not an efficient use of space. Of course the trouble with that is other then cities like NYC that just makes suburbanites not want to go into the city. Looked it up Toronto allows you to go as low as 0.3 parking spaces per 100sqm of office space, that sure not enough for everyone.

  15. Orenwolf

    “I get a small office with people you consider actual friends in addition to coworkers isn’t the traditional office experience, but even so, I still think I prefer having a place to go to do work.”

    I had (have!) the exact same experience as you. I’ve worked for US corporations for more than a decade now (despite trying to immigrate to the US, long, shitty story), which mostly required me to work from home. I actually at one point was spending one week of every three, for *six years*, commuting to San Francisco specifically because in the startup space, not being present for off-the-cuff whiteboard-planning-sessions or informal discussions with other teams really did lead to a disconnect, no matter how hard one tried to inject themselves remotely.

    When I had a large enough portion of my team up here, I went ahead and set up an office for us, and that had a huge effect on both productivity but also my own feeling of connectedness to what was going on – I much preferred having an office to go to than not. I can be even more sure of that outcome now that I am, once again, working from home.

  16. Orenwolf

    “How would McDonald’s work without economic coercion?”

    It’s an interesting question – but I don’t think UBI would eliminate incentives even for places like McDonald’s, or else we wouldn’t have the very wealthy in the first place. Once you have basic necessities taken care of, you priorities change – maybe you want to buy the higher quality produce, or the nicer car, or the better neighbourhood for your family to live in. You’d have a much harder time treating workers like crap, but even in the best of times, there have always been caretakers and garbage truck workers and the like – some people genuinely enjoy “good, honest labour” as a vocation, and others will see it as a mindless way to make a little extra mone on the side of their UBI funds.

    You can already see this in the “gig economy”, Uber for example – I’d say at least 50% of the UberX drivers I’ve had in Toronto, at least, were doing so to make a little extra money, sometimes for a trip they wanted to take, or saving for school, whatever. I’d wager we’d see a lot more “piecework” and part-time employment as a result.

    • Eric H

      You know if UBI ever comes to the USA it will come with significant restrictions.
      Sorry, UBI can’t be spent on cable, smokes, booze or weed and can’t be converted to cash. You want any of that? Go get a job you bum.

    • Yamahog

      Society would look different if cashiers could talk back to asshole customers. And obviously something motivates people. But with UBI there could be a move to DIY stuff, you could grow your own produce or find a part time job, and I don’t think people would stop working but I think the incentive structure would change. How many people want to spend 10 hours/day writing legal briefs about whether or not tenants clogging drains violates some element of a lease or insurance policy? Not many, and the pay should reflect that (I know lawyers are well compensated but still).

      Imagine a world where everyone was a ph.d computer scientist, you know who’d get paid the most? The people doing the least desirable jobs. Programming computers ain’t that bad, picking up garbage in Atlanta in August isn’t many people’s cup of tea.

  17. doofus


    HTFU. This whining is just soft.

    Your lifestyle is better than prob 95% of Americans and 99% of the world’s population.
    You dont like this job/gig – get a new one that you like better, even if it pays less. Live with fewer toys and trips and clothes. Christ, every other week you’ve got a post on some un needed gadget or piece of clothing you bought. I like reading said posts, because you are good writer, but I wonder, does this guy save at all? Where does he keep all this crap?

    • Kevin Jaeger

      I guess the corollary would be that if you don’t enjoy the whining stop reading it, right?

      But all of life is a compromise. I don’t doubt that Jack could find a much more rewarding job that he could be fully engaged in. But then, if he wrote at all, they would be hastily dashed off pieces lamenting how the demanding job kept him from all those other important and frivolous things in life.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The whole point of being middle-aged is that you’re not supposed to HTFU anymore.

      And I feel compelled to note that as late as early this year I did the NP-01 test for R&T when I couldn’t walk because my leg was still broken. They helped me in and out of the car. If I want to whine about $3 parking fees or foam beds I’M GONNA DO IT.

      To answer your other questions:

      0. I don’t expect to live past fifty.
      1. I have a 1500sqft basement.

      Seriously, though, I appreciate your readership.

      • doofus

        Don’t get me wrong, I still liked reading the piece. Funny parts, insights into outsourcing to India, etc.

        But the “poor me” tone is not in keeping with the big, bold Jack Baruth we know. It’s not manly.

        0. why do you expect to die by 50? Autoracing wreck? Family history of heart disease?

        1. I’d love to have any basement. I live in coastal calif, in a house smaller than I’d like. This does drive discipline on acquiring stuff. No place for it to go. My 9.5% sales tax, state income tax up to 13%, and $20K a year in property tax is my whining.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          1. I’m thinking either colon cancer or slip-and-fall in a Kimpton bathtub.

          2. On the positive side, your house is worth something. My house is worth about what I paid for in fifteen years ago, maybe a little less if you get aggressive with CPI adjustment!

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          1. I’m thinking either colon cancer or slip-and-fall in a Kimpton bathtub.

          2. On the positive side, your house is worth something. My house is worth about what I paid for in fifteen years ago, maybe a little less if you get aggressive with CPI adjustment!

        • mopar4wd

          You need to whine every once in a while. It can be effective from time to time. I just wouldn’t make a habit of it.

      • -Nate-Nate

        “I have a 1500sqft basement”.
        Damn ~ my entire _house_ is only 1158 S.F. and I think it’s too big as _I’m_ the one who has to clean it….
        I’m guessing it means ” Hush The Fuck Up ” ? .
        Don’t ~ not now, now ever .

      • Aoletsgo

        No, being middle-aged does not mean you don’t have to HTFU it means it gets harder to do every year!
        It also means you don’t have to do it to prove anything to yourself or your peers, in your case you have to do it for your son. Dead by 50 you say, I say that would have a tremendous impact on a teenage boy who worships his father.

  18. Orenwolf

    Yep, completely agree, the dynamic would change pretty heavily.

    This has more or less got to be coming, right? I mean eventually garbage collection will be automated and jobs scarce, so *some* alternate way to keep people housed, fed and clothed will be required. But that’s a whole other ball of wax.

  19. Ronnie Schreiber

    So instead, I lose seventy-five minutes a day of my life, at a minimum, commuting to a building that is owned by the same corporation that owns all the buildings around it. When I pay to park, I’m handing part of my salary back. When I eat at one of the restaurants that is operating in a building owned by the corporation, I’m handing part of my salary back

    “St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go
    I owe my soul to the company store”

  20. Orenwolf

    This may have been true, but this has changed significantly in the last few years, because of this very issue. To be clear, we’re not talking above-ground, street, or plaza parking here, but underground lots underneath developments.

    Until 2012, the assumption was you needing .75 spaces per suite above, and then an ancillary amount of visitor/commercial parking. That rule was changed in 2012, and exceptions have been repeatedly overruled by the Ontario Municipal Board to ensure the higher-density rules take effect in downtown Toronto.

  21. Biff Bohannon

    Monthly parking in that area used to cost $100 per month in what I suspect is your area through the company that used to have the blue frame but has recently changed logos. This was 6 years ago but I am sure that a cursory check with some of the area garages would get you monthly parking at sub $200 per month which would make this whole treatise unnecessary.

  22. Charles

    Couldn’t a bit of capitalism help here? How much is the worst vacant lot or derelict store near downtown Columbus worth? How many of your colleagues also have to pay to park? Could you each kick in a year’s parking fees as the down payment?

  23. Sobro

    Interesting conversation going. My own opinion on Universal Basic Income may be heretical, but here goes: I think it destroys the human spirit. We primate animals, like sharks, only prosper when we are on the move, be it dodging lions or serving burgers. Look at what happens to those cultures whose cost of living is zero. The value of life becomes zero also. And I’m not just talking 4th generation welfare recipients. Why are Samoans the most obese people on the planet? Because their COL is near zero. Why are Jamaicans and Haitians so stricken with social ills when they are (or used to be) surrounded by abundance? They don’t need warm clothes and food is found on the trees and in the bushes and on the beach everywhere.

    So if forced to remake society with UBI, I’d have UB Housing in dorms, UB Food in cafeterias, UB Medicine in wait-your-turn clinics. Yes you can live a Universally Basic life, but if you want to live with privacy, tasty food, timely and expensive medical treatment, etc, be a productive member of society.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The utopian idea behind UBI is that it frees you to be a writer, an artist, a traveler.

      If I didn’t have to work a day job, I’d write a novel a year.

      A lot of people will just sit on their asses and watch TV, though.

  24. -Nate-Nate

    Um ;

    Stupid question here, I have never heard of this ” Universal Basic Income” before this column .
    Basically my Q. is: WTH ? .

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