Among Professionals

Krista Lukas

We all know schadenfreude,
but is there a word for the satisfaction
we take in pointing out we are the ones
who have it the worst?

If I put in sixty hours a week, you do eighty. 
If you have endless spreadsheets,
my jaw aches from smiling at clients.
If you have a larger caseload than last year,
I have no window in my office.
If I have no window, you’ve had a sniper
drill, and I ought to appreciate
my solid walls.  If I have recess duty
on a freezing cold morning, you stay
until midnight catching up.  If your boss 
fails to understand your reports,
well, mine won’t even answer e-mails. 

How we love to tell of our travails,
to slip them in at the opportune moment.
Love their handiness when we wish
to decline an invitation or hang up the phone. 
We even close our e-mails Crazy busy,
Better get back to work, or Ten papers down,
eight thousand forty-three to go . . .

Is it that we suffer from career-identity over-reliance?
Do we fear perceived availability?
Or should we blame our Puritan roots? Might it be simple
one-upmanship masquerading as commiseration? 

I am tired of the endless labors, the bad boss.
I wonder, who among us will dare to withhold
mention of his toil. Who would boast
of work’s pleasures instead?
Tell the secret thing you love about it,
the thing that makes you feel you’re getting away
with something. Or at least admit to the benefits—
paid days off, or flexibility; the salary, or freedom
to answer only to yourself.  What about the sanctioned
break from your kids, having the keys to a building
besides your house? Think of it. You belong
somewhere outside your own self.  You have an easy
answer when asked, What do you do?