Culture

The Dancing Dead: Work Hard, Play Hard on the Business Road

As I was walking past a store in Rome, I came across a storefront that just made me giggle although no one else around me seemed to laugh as well. Granted I have a strange sense of humor. But really, no me else noticed the storefront window?  Here is a photo of it.

Skeleton Mannequin in Rome

Skeleton Mannequin in Rome

Don’t you find it strange? Or macabre? It’s a storefront, mind you!  But the storefront does remind me of my life’s mantra “work hard, play hard: in which even the dead get to play hard.  Have you ever noticed that pop cultural references are rife with images of the dancing dead? Why are the dead always dancing?  You would think that with all the decomposition and hanging out in graveyards, they would be a bit more morose.  Both modern and historical symbolism is rife with the disco dead. These allegorical representations date back to the fourteenth century and are meant to personify death as a graceful impressive and tempting figure. Before the dead historically took on their dancing shoes, temples dedicated to the Gods were filled with dancing and processions of all kinds.  Then dancing took slightly more ominous tones. But it need not be so ominous.  Dancing at the end of a hard day’s work is often very much what the soul needs.
Have you ever watched the opening episode of House of Lies? It is not that far off from the real life of people out on the business road.  When you spend countless hours at airports, expend your energy in numerous meetings that make you want to scratch your eyes out because they range from the hokey (where you greet and kiss ad nauseum) to the outright disdainful and hostile and you have to handle back-at-the-office temper tantrums from a far, you need a night of relaxation and comedy. I like to refer to such nights as Dance of the Dead.

You’d be amazed at how even little towns offer one the opportunity to hold a Dance of the Dead evening out. All you need is very tired, angry staff that are open to anything, an instigator who is good at getting people to do stuff, alcohol and music. Which business trip does not afford that? Just for your reference, I tend to be the instigator. I think you knew that already.

Have you ever dared someone to urinate in the middle of an avenue? Have you ever dared someone to climb a plaza monument at midnight? Have you ever dared anyone to eat five pounds of meat? Have you ever dared yourself to eat a seven pound berry pie? Have you ever had to  get up in the middle of an 8am meeting to go puke while your colleague just rattled on and on holding down the meeting front?  These and more are all part of the dance of the dead which usually starts off with a really good meal (no salad please), several dinner cocktails, gossip & personal anecdotes  (that somehow immediately gets relayed to those back in the office leading to weird elevator interactions when everyone gets back), along with increasingly snide remarks. Combining tired, overworked staff that don’t like each other with cocktails and dancing can lead to silly situations, at best, or potentially mean-spirited interactions that get posted onto Facebook in some way or another.

If I can be serious for a second, the dance of the dead is about working hard and playing hard. You go out at night basically as a zombie and return to the hotel little better off. At times you partake in the dance of the dead because you have been beaten down by the man, by colleagues or by those who want to take your spot in the proverbial pond.  It is hard on the mind and body when you have to smile all day in such circumstances.  Lest you think this is just specific to corporate travel, let me set you straight. This type of interaction- work hard, play hard- is very much part of the non-profit world.  You have to engage in this type of action in order to survive mentally. Increased production demands have made us work harder and harder with less resources while pay remains stagnant. The increasing number of drive-thru Starbucks is a major side effect. Why would we need drive through Starbucks other than to grab more coffee , be more alert and produce more? Yes, Starbucks has come out in support of liberal social policies but at the root of their popularity is the increased need for a concentration of productive workers. It’s great that they advocate for healthcare since the collective mass is headed towards a collective breakdown.

But back to the subject at hand.  The dancing dead. The dance of the dead. It is how we get by in today’s heavy workload production days.  Yes, work can be an important part of how we define ourselves but it should not be a huge component of the epitaph on our graves. We need to play hard as well and enjoy the moments we are given. Or rather yet, we should enjoy the moments that we bring about.

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