toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

January 13, 2007

working for dr. pavlov

Jacqueline is 32, a stay home mom with three children and a degree in psychology that she decided to put to use by working online for a market research company.

"The work sounded interesting and the pay was not wonderful, but enough," says Jacqueline, "but what really attracted me to the job was that I could do it online, at home, in my own sweet time."

"The job would have been wonderful," laughs Jacqueline, "but their site was down half of the time and I wasted more time trying to log on than I did doing the work."

"One particular weekend I sat at my computer like a blithering idiot pressing 'enter' a hundred or more times trying to get the site to accept my logon and upload my work," explains Jacqueline, "and it was at that point that I started to think of Dr Pavlov."

"I rang the company and was told to be patient because they had technical difficulties," says Jacqueline, "but that didn't deter me."

"I had no idea what drove me to try again and again," laughs Jacqueline. "No, I do. It was that cursed 'try again later' message that appeared on my screen. It taunted me. It aroused in me some primeval survival instinct that I never knew I possessed."

"For that entire weekend my life was consumed by a dogged determination to outwit that 'try again later' message," sighs Jacqueline, "and at times I was sure I saw an evil Dr Pavlov's image onscreen smirking at me and mouthing 'try again' you poor deluded woman!"

"Finally, I got connected and I breathed a sigh of relief when I was able to upload my work," says Jacqueline, "but my relief was short-lived. because two days later I was hit with a keyboard problem. The period key was stuck and it was only by cutting and pasting a period from a saved document that I was able to type my work and communicate with the Net. Try typing www without a period after it and see how far you get!"

"That did it as far as I was concerned," laughs Jacqueline. "It was exactly my seventh week working online and I cannot remember ever experiencing so much hassle. It was bizarre. It was surrealistic. I was caught in a curious web of ecstasy and frustration and I needed to get away from it for a week in order to gain the necessary perspective to analyze the situation."

"I came to the conclusion that I wasn't cut out for online work."

"I also came to the conclusion that the Internet, itself, is a vehicle for an ongoing study into women, human nature, intelligence, addiction, stupidity, whatever," laughs Jacqueline. "The Net, with the millions of computers hooked into it, is the biggest reality show going - a vast social experiment - and all of the hapless humans staring into cyberspace are its unwitting participants."

"Even the jargon of the Net - they call us 'users' - is a term of addiction."

"Forget about Survivor and Big Brother and all of the other contrived nonsense out there," says Jacqueline. "The Net is the real thing and the mastermind behind it is probably the same Dr Salivating Pavlov who runs the market research company that tricked me into working for it!"

"And he's not just an ordinary Dr Pavlov - he's an evil Dr Pavlov," laughs Jacqueline. "And of course he's a man - no woman has the desire, capacity or time to design such an evil monstrosity as a website that is down half of the time. He wasn't interested in my work -- or that of the other women who supposedly worked for the company -- he was interested in us as 'users'."

"I believe that the site was based on the classical elements of a psychological experiment," confides Jacqueline.

"It was designed to manipulate its users into frenzied use making addicts and salivating dogs of us."

"Hardly a day went by when there wasn't some technical difficulty at that site," says Jacqueline, "and I truly believe that Dr Pavlov and his henchmen were collecting data to gauge our reaction to being denied access to the site. It was, after all, a market research company!"

"He was assessing how many of us accepted the crashes and technical difficulties with equanimity and a salivating desire to get back on the treadmill - oops wrong experiment - and how many of us asked sensible questions such as: What sort of system is this? What caused the crash? What is being done to prevent this sort of thing happening again?"

"Think about it," says Jacqueline. "Someone has to do market research on computer and Internet users and how much they tolerate. No wonder the hardware and software necessary for accessing the Net is so full of flaws. There's a patch for this and a patch for that -- and if cable doesn't play up then it's the monitor or keyboard. Why don't they get it right the first time?"

"I'll tell you why," laughs Jacqueline. "Dr Pavlov gets us addicted and then we're like mad salivating dogs dripping with eagerness to put up with whatever shock treatment he delivers to us."

"Sure," says Jacqueline, "money is involved but it's much more than that. Dr Pavlov may want to make lots of moolah from his cruel experiments on his 'users' but his intentions are bigger than that. He clearly wants to take over the world."

"When Dr Pavlov deliberately slows down the system with spam or a new virus he is causing so much salivating that the dribbles must short-circuit keyboards all over the world - and this is a clue," laughs Jacqueline. "If we all self-destructed on our dribbles - by electrocution - then Dr Pavlov would have wiped out most of the world's population leaving him free to start his own diabolical regime."

"I didn't know whether it was better to self-destruct on my dribbles or hang around to become part of the new regime," says Jacqueline, "so I hung around for a while longer, to keep an eye on things, and effectively became a hostage of Dr Pavlov and -- like the Stockholm hostage syndrome -- I began to like the guy, and that was a worry."

"The choice was mine," says Jacqueline. "Did I want to be part of this giant reality show as a dribbling dog or did I want to return to my humdrum life? Did I want to ride the roller coaster, or pop ping-pong balls into clown's mouths? Did I want to salivate, or dry up?"

"I lived in expectation of the next dastardly challenge that Dr Pavlov may have in store for me," confides Jacqueline. "If I didn't self-destruct on dribbles would he send killer sound waves through my computer to deafen me or killer visual effects to blind me?"

"Luckily for my sanity, my husband could see what was happening to me and told me to quit the job," says Jacqueline. "Dr Pavlov was most upset to lose me, and coyly pretended not to understand my reason -- 'that dribbles do not become me' -- and now I'm wondering what toxic job I am likely to face next."

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