Column: Corporate zombies on HalloweenAnother Halloween has come and gone. My eyes were misty as I folded up my giant paper cut-out of the Grim Reaper and packed it away with my glow-in-the-dark skeletons. Although Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, for me it’s Oct. 31. There’s candy and cheese pizza for dinner. There’s handing out peanut butter cups to my neighbor’s adorable little kids. There’s my dog wearing his cute little pumpkin costume. But best of all, on Halloween you get to be anyone you want to be for one magical day of the year.
By: Mary Lebens, The Farmington Independent
Another Halloween has come and gone. My eyes were misty as I folded up my giant paper cut-out of the Grim Reaper and packed it away with my glow-in-the-dark skeletons. Although Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, for me it’s Oct. 31. There’s candy and cheese pizza for dinner. There’s handing out peanut butter cups to my neighbor’s adorable little kids. There’s my dog wearing his cute little pumpkin costume. But best of all, on Halloween you get to be anyone you want to be for one magical day of the year.
I’ve taken full advantage of this, no matter what day of the week Halloween falls on or what my prior commitments are. One year I attended two classes and a full shift at work on Halloween dressed as a furry Ewok from the Star Wars movie “Return of the Jedi.” (This was during one of my hazy sleep-deprived periods where I worked full time and went to college full time.)
I’ve tried on many identities for Halloween, including a frazzled Bridezilla clutching a long to-do list, a dead prom-goer in a bloody gown, and a teddy bear (that was the year I recycled the Ewok costume.) A few weeks ago I heard a news report about the Occupy Wall Street movement. The reporter mentioned protesters dressing up as corporate zombies. I had to chuckle. I think I worked with a few of those back when I was a consultant at a big corporation.
So this year my Halloween alter ego was a corporate zombie, wearing a Jones New York blazer (thanks to the Apple Valley Goodwill), some Easy Spirit pumps, and a pasty complexion marred with bloody black lips. A glossy set of fake pearls and a toy BlackBerry from the Dollar Store rounded out the ensemble. My husband said I looked scary, which is a pretty good compliment. He’s not scared of much.
After my suit was hung up neatly in the closet and the white make-up scrubbed from my face, I realized I didn’t really know much about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Why would people dress up as a corporate zombie for anything other than a joke? I turned to the place any geek would go for answers: Google. My search turned up a site called “We are the 99 percent,” where thousands of people have posted short descriptions of their economic situations. Now I understand how this movement got started. There are a lot of middle class people whose retirement savings were lost in the bank crash, whose houses are worth half the total of the mortgage, or are ill without health insurance.
This spring one Sunday afternoon I was in urgent care with a sinus infection and bronchitis. I was back at work on Monday. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I worked 60 hours a week during the seven weeks I had bronchitis. I wheezed a lot during meetings, but I was afraid I would be at the top of the list during the next round of layoffs if I used sick time. I have spent 10 or 12 years dodging rounds of layoffs. The fear is always with me, as it is with my co-workers and with my friends.
This year I dressed up as a corporate zombie as joke. And I still think it is pretty funny to think of CEOs stumbling around their giant offices, moaning and hungry for human brains. But I believe there is a kernel of truth to the corporate zombie, that it serves as an apt metaphor for the disconnect between the business and the employee. If someone can dress up in a Jones New York suit every day, and with no emotion make decisions to cut workers to drive up stock prices, and to remove the humans from the resources, there is an ethical disconnect. To have ethics requires a soul, and zombies don’t have one.
We are all at the mercy of corporate zombies in health insurance companies, in credit score bureaus, and even perhaps in our own companies. For me, this realization has made this the scariest Halloween yet.