JUNK FOOD: The Office Space

May 2022

I lovelovelove [the American] The Office. Love it. However, I haven’t watched a single episode in about three years, and certainly not since Covid. When I was in my deepest, darkest depression the Dunder-Mifflinites were constant companions, and the razor-edged line between cringe and care helped me lean into absurdity while keeping hold of the sentimental stuff. I’ve sent fan mail to Rainn Wilson (“Dwight”) and Paul Leiberstein (“Toby” and a great TV writer). My first Amazon screenname was rejected because “PhyllisVanceVanceRefrigeration” was too long. I was out of work, but the crew of The Office helped make my time at home a little less grim. However, I don’t dare return to my touchstone because I really, really don’t want to find it has aged poorly.

I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!

And since its release in 1999, the show’s slightly older step-cousin, OFFICE SPACE, has only grown more prescient. And infuriating. And less and less satirical. Going even farther back, some American workplace films that cry for revisiting are WORKING GIRL (1988), NETWORK (1978), THE APARTMENT (1960), MODERN TIMES (1936). These are all great, and only some of them are stuck in time. Others—looking at you, NETWORK—continue to resonate in increasingly alarming ways.

But instead of ruminating on office culture and what Americans have been conditioned to view as ‘work,’ I’d rather wax nostalgic from the sanctity of my current workspace: I get to work from home most of the time, and it has changed my life. I am lucky enough to have a job that can be done remotely, which makes the workplace ‘perks’ of shared spaces, noisy neighbors, and motivational posters ring hollow. No, I will NOT hang in there, baby! So, while I do miss out on the unique relationships office culture can foster, I wouldn’t say I miss it.

Bonus #1: A red Swingline stapler signed by “Milton” Stephen Root – one of my all-time favorite character actors who, if you don’t know his name, I guarantee you’ll recognize from seeing his face in no less than three of your favorite movies or shows. For example, he plays Gaston Means in ‘Boardwalk Empire, which is how I knew I wanted to include Means as one of the con artists in my book, A Century of Swindles: Ponzi Schemes, Con Artists & Fraudsters (Chapter 6: Ways and Means).

Bonus #2: The last time I went to New York City (fall 2018) I spent a lovely afternoon in Central Park drinking bad wine with my pals. My phone was at 1% battery so I pleaded with my companion to use his to take this picture:

On the left is Ajay Naidu, who leads the vengeful charge against the jerk printer in OFFICE SPACE. Just to the right is his partner, Heather Burns, who MISS CONGENIALITY fans will recognize as Rhode Island’s #1 fan of April 25th and light jackets. They were walking their teeny-tiny baby through the park until they reached this wine bar, sat down wearily, and proceeded to chug two glasses (apiece) in silence… Stars: they’re just like us.