On the Opinion Page (of the Manhattan Times): Work Is Way More Relaxed Than School

17Aug08

In which The Gay Recluse loves the Manhattan Times.

Hey, New York Times! Instead of David Brooks, William Kristol, Maureen Dowd and so on (Zzzzzz), maybe you should turn the column over to a new generation of writers, who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is, and moreover, know how to entertain! We suggest you start with Tina Ritter, who wrote the following piece in this week’s Manhattan Times (bolding is ours):

Teenage Brain: Work is way more relaxed than school

by Tina Ritter

When I was little, my dad would  come home from the office, and over dinner my mother or my brother or I would ask: “So, Barry (or “daddy” as the case may be), how was work?” And he would answer, with a level of utmost predictability, “busy.” I never understood this. When I went into work with him for Take Your Daughter to Work Day, I thought it was always fun times, like a perpetual birthday party, but donuts and coffee instead of cake and ice cream. And of course adults were having fun at work, because that was just the way the world worked. You go to school for all of your childhood, you listen to your parents and life just isn’t fair, and then you’re an adult and you’re allowed to have fun.

It always amuses parents when their children insist that adulthood is significantly better than childhood. Adults always respond with the hardships of adulthood like paying taxes, having to work and, depending on the mood of the parent, the hardship of having children. But having spent my entire summer interning and holding a “real job,” I’m convinced that all this time, the kids have been right. Six weeks (and counting) sitting at a desk job in a Manhattan health care provider has given me the following insight, which dispels several adult-initiated rumors about office life.

One source of misconceptions in the adult life is the hours that they work. My father works Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, plus time spent on the subway commuting each day. This seems like quite a lot of time until you compare it to the average high school student’s day. As a junior, I spent pretty much the same amount of time commuting. My day in school started an hour earlier than his day in the office, and ended about an hour earlier. Clearly, 9 to 5 is comparable to 8 to 4. But 8 to 4 doesn’t even cover the amount of work after school lets out, including obligations to sports and other extra-curricular activities, not to mention the mountains of homework. School is an all-consuming activity, whereas my experience in the workplace is that for many employees, leaving the office means work is over.

There’s also a difference between office life and school life in the percent of the day spent actually working versus just sort of chilling out. Although the day begins officially at 9, many employees don’t end up coming into the office on time. There are also those who take breaks every couple hours or so for cigarettes, a snack, a soda, or just chatting time. There is also the hour-long lunch break that employees are entitled to. Finally, in my department, there are people who work pretty flexible hours. Some people leave regularly at 4 p.m., while others begin to pack up and leave around 4:45 p.m.

With all of these built-in breaks, it’s a wonder why adults complain about work in the first place. During school, coming even a few minutes late can mean a lower grade or a detention. Leaving early isn’t typically an option. A student’s lunch break is usually one period long (which for me means 45 minutes), and assumes the student even has a lunch break in the first place (because some don’t). The biggest break that students get, besides lunchtime, is a few minutes in between periods to get to the next class. That doesn’t leave much time for a quick stop outside for a cup of coffee or a soda. At 3:15 p.m., when my dad is tired and needs a quick caffeine fix, he runs to Starbucks for coffee. At 3:15 p.m., when I’m tired, I’m stuck in English class. The office life lends an element of flexibility that just doesn’t exist in school.

These are generalizations, though. Some students have easier schedules and lighter workloads. Some adults end up taking work home. Maybe the office isn’t a perpetual party, but it’s still more
forgiving than high school.

Tina Ritter is a rising star senior at the Bronx High School of Science where she spends her time either over-thinking or not thinking at all.

Rock on, Tina! We’ll be watching for you!



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