Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Clerk Code (1.1)

A code. What fun! Clerks should definitely have a code to guide them, to keep them pure of heart and noble, wise and true, righteous and strong. I thought it would be a great thing to put on my blog so I looked around for someone to write this code. I was thinking it could be done by a really good writer, maybe, but also one with some clerking experience. Of course, naturally, Melville came to mind. Shyness and the vagaries of blogging delayed me, but eventually I wrote him a short, but very polite letter that I'd like to think was quite convincing. Unfortunately when I sought his address I stumbled upon information indicating he had passed on. What a loss! A mere 122 years ago now and I'm kicking myself for being such a procrastinator!

So fine. Fine. I'll give it a spin. All by myself, or, maybe with your help if you have any ideas that you're willing to share. The code doesn't feel like the sort of thing to pop out of one lone blogger all perfect all at once. It's too big and important for that. I am thinking of it being just a tiny bit more Talmudic in nature, or like a Wikipedia article. I'm thinking actually this is more how the ten commandments should have been done.  Maybe I could start here with a rough feel for it, and then just sort of update, add to, and refine it according to inspiration, comment, suggestions, and celestial visions. A work in progress if you will, and then, after a few hundred years of this, when we feel it's all lined up and as ringing true as we can imagine, we'll lock it down. Don't feel like you can't use the clerk code in your workplace right away, just recognize that the code is in more of a beta state, and as you are guided by it, think of yourself more as a field tester than an acolyte, an agent more than an adherent.

The Clerk Code
version 1.1

1. Look down not up.
With the paltry organizational and societal powers of the clerk, we tend to look up the ladder of power and compensation in two detrimental ways. We covet and glorify what those above us have, and we dwell on, understand and ascribe importance to those above us. Our attention fills out these people, makes them more complex and makes their actions have more meaning. We make them more human. Meanwhile those hierarchically below us, offering less danger and less glamour and less possibility of personal advancement, recede from our vision and become clerical things to be dealt with, more like shelving, or emptying a bin. But the only true way to defeat the ignominy of clerkdom is to look down. Struggle to dwell on how you think the way you respond to the shy volunteer will make them feel, rather than, for instance, what your bosses strange greeting to you meant. Think less of the Board's absurd new policy and their reasoning behind it and more of how you can safely transcend and subvert that policy to bring justice and happiness to lowly patrons. I am not saying those above us in power and compensation are less human than those below us, only that the relentless default and encouragement of our society and our problematic nature leads us overwhelmingly to seeing them as more human. Looking down not up is the corrective.

2. Do the job that needs to be done, not the job you are supposed to do, unless you might get in trouble for that.
Being the puppet agent of either an institution or a superior leads only to being a monster. You must fight to remain conscious that your actions and choices are always yours, and even a compromised action should be understood as such and suffered.

3. Find and expand the delightful parts of your job.
Even if the delightful parts of your job are out on the edge of your job, do them. If you love to discuss Vivaldi with a compatible co-worker discuss Vivaldi with them. Prioritize it and do it as safely as possible. Don't treat it as an accident or goofing off just because a boss would be inclined to think it is.

4. A full time work week is 20 hours a week.
This is a guess, but anything more is a lie we are told and tell ourselves. We do not (yet) have the power to enforce this directly, but it remains true nonetheless. Therefore you should try to do a really good job half the time. Go for it. See how good a job you can do. Pick good spots, especially ones that will effect your co-workers and the public. The other 20 hours are an extremely complicated free time. Keep it honest.

5. See yourself in your co-workers.
That deadbeat that takes an extra ten minutes for break, that stands there chatting to someone for 15 minutes while you're racing around, that got a cushy assignment for the hour and is, apparently, enjoying it, that leaves you mysteriously alone at the front desk for five minutes with a crowd, that hardly got any shelving or transit processing done because they were running around doing their own things. That person is you too. No, seriously, that person is you too.

6. Be grateful but not too grateful.
Co-worker Carol used to sometimes say fervently "We are lucky to have these jobs." And she really meant it. And she was right. But she didn't also mean that they were lucky to have us and that we deserved those jobs, which we did. Contrary to what you've heard, the world does owe you a living, because you are you, and you are beautiful.

Okay, that's our start. I know many of my readers are not big commentators, but this is the place, what with it being for the ages and all, so chime in. I'll re-post this periodically whenever we do changes and updates. And don't feel like you have to be a "Clerk" clerk. I've been reading the definition of 'clerk'. Everyone is a clerk sometimes.


  1. You're wasting your time clerking (noble endeavor that it is). You need to write and be published!

    1. I am writing, oh my, lots! What is this "publishing" you speak of? I am intrigued.

    2. I refer you to the volumes in your place of employment. They were all "published" so others could benefit from the writings therein.

    3. Okay, okay, that sounds nice, and I take it that your emphasis reflects a strong regard for my writing and that means much to me. I find this blogging a very rich way to write and I would love to reach people here. This reaching goes slowly but interestingly. I carry around publishing in my mind much and am trusting all this energy here to lead me to the right place. Perhaps I was flip here for agreeing too much with you (or maybe because I like being flip, but I am maybe thinking both). Keep reading here. I'll get it to books too, if I can.

  2. 5: See Yourself in Your Co-Workers

    YOU: That person is you, too.
    ME: Not really.
    YOU: No, seriously, that person is you, too.
    ME: Darn it.

    1. I have that conversation frequently with myself actually. I take even longer to believe it.

    2. Love it. This may actually be the main reason I sought escape of clerkdom. Lol.

    3. Love it. This may actually be the main reason I sought escape of clerkdom. Lol.


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