|another shot of the sardine treadmill, Monterey|
No. The poor rays cowered in the corner of their pool, as far from people as they could get. You could almost hear them thinking: find a happy place find a happy place find a happy place.
But my friend's question reminded me of how, when I walked into the 'touching pool' exhibit, I was struck by the similarities between the aquarium, every zoo I've ever been in, and office work.
Years ago, when I started working in an office full time, one guy would come into my department, set up his phone by the paper cutter and pretend to cut off his fingers to make his kids laugh. (They were watching him via Skype). Another guy made a point of imitating an Indian co-worker's accent in the 'Apu' (Simpsons) style.
The women talked about each other behind the others' backs. The men didn't talk about each other. They talked about the women.
One manager spent all his time texting his girlfriend then farmed out his work to the people he managed. Another spent her time trying to run her home-business while no one else was looking. One woman spent half her day on her cell phone talking to relatives; one spent half her day talking to the woman in the cubicle next to hers. One guy was famous for 'getting in a rut': when he started up about something he thought was funny he'd kick it like a dead horse, right back into its original molecular structure. One woman plugged in her headset, tuned everyone else out, and rocked herself while she worked.
Which brings us to the sardine I watched lose its mind in the treadmill tank exhibit. We use confinement as a form of punishment, right?
No sardine would choose to leave the open sea and spend its existence swimming round and round and round in a plexi-glass tube. No dolphin would leave its family pod to balance balls on its nose in a big salty swimming pool. No lion would leave the savannah to spend out its life in a 'jungle-like' exhibit. Confinement makes animals, as it does people, a wee bit crazy.
It's my theory that when you confine a living thing in an artificial environment, you essentially strip that living thing of its true nature because the thing--be it person or snake or tiger--is forced to funnel its energy into coping. My experience of working in an office created an eight-hour-each-day artificial me: I bit my tongue when something felt unfair if I also felt it jeopardized my job. I slipped into a routine of 'getting through my day' so that I could 'get on with my life'. I found ways to get through the endless cycle of tasks that needed doing for doing's sake (my definition of the work).
I'll admit I still do office work -- it helps pay the bills -- though I'm no longer full-time. And everyday, like I have for years when I come home, I work toward my goal of earning my living doing what has meaning for me: writing and art. When I'm at my office job I focus on my work and do well. But I watch the clock, itching for the time when I step away from that artificial environment and into being me.