The only time I ever worked in an office was when I was 21. I had just moved to San Francisco for a summer internship at Bill Graham Presents and I spent three days a week there, making photocopies and peeking at how much artists were paid to play the Fillmore, Warfield or Shoreline. It wasn’t a very hardcore office experience; I even had a mohawk at the time.
I’ve spent the rest of my working career doing weird pirate jobs, like bartending, selling sweets in a candy store, shelving books at the library and waiting tables. I even had a job for one whole weekend at Mrs. Dewson’s Hat Shop. (If you’ve been around awhile, you know what a nerve-wracking gig that was. Mrs. Dewson was one tough old bird!)
While doing all those other odd jobs, I was also always working for myself — less so at the start, and now nearly full-time; I still bartend once a week. And through almost all of this self-employment, I’ve worked from home. Doing so has taught me one very important lesson: Working from home makes you a crazy person.
If you’re reading this in your office right now or while commuting to work, you’re probably the type to fantasize about working from home: “Man, that’s the dream. No makeup, no pants, no boss and no creepy Larry from accounting.” There are some really great things about working from home, like, well … all the stuff I mentioned above. Plus, should you feel the urge, you can absolutely rub one out in the middle of the work day and not worry about getting fired or going to jail. Hooray!
In all seriousness, working from home makes you cuckoo. Since you don’t talk to anybody all day, you start talking out loud to yourself or inanimate objects. I find myself singing songs to the fridge about the very food I have inside the fridge, like, “Oooooh yeah baby, baby, I know you got some bacon for meeee!”
When my roommate’s dog is around, it gets extra weird. I start talking to him like a human: “As I was saying, Roux, this past year has been an incredible civics lesson for every American. Now, who wants a treat?”
Then, there’s the issue of hygiene. Most people have their morning rituals that make them more tolerable members of society: shower, deodorant, teeth-brushing, clean clothes. When you work from home, all of that goes out the window. Neither Roux nor the fridge care what you smell like, or if you’re wearing that hideous shirt your granny got you in the Phoenix airport for the past three days. When you’ve been working from home all day, and you’re about to leave the house, you literally have to ask yourself, “Wait, did I shower today or was that yesterday? This layer of film on my teeth makes me think I didn’t brush my teeth today either.”
The hardest part, though, is when you finally leave the house. If you’re going to meet a friend for dinner at 6 p.m., and you haven’t spoken to a single person all day, it’s a good idea to practice talking to someone before you get there. Pop into a corner store and buy a pack a of gum, just so you can get try and get that initial feeling out of the way: “Hello, fellow human, isn’t it weird that we’re making eye contact?” It doesn’t always work. To be honest, it usually takes a couple drinks to be socialized again.
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Speaking of drinking and socializing … I’m throwing an event on Saturday called the San Fransgiving Bottomless Beer Bust at Laughing Monk Brewery in the Bayview. For $30, you’ll get bottomless craft beer from 1 to 6 p.m. For an extra $15, you’ll get delicious soul food from Old School Cafe, a nonprofit committed to breaking the cycle of incarceration by providing marketable employment skills in the restaurant industry to at-risk youth. Plus, there will be fun games and ’90s R&B jams. See you there.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.