Monday, March 24, 2014

Casual Vacancies

My grandmother once referred to a boy at her church as husky. I didn't know that she meant he was fat. I immediately pictured a sinister person, taller than me, with a voice that hissed like a guttural snake yet who never spoke, instead just standing behind you breathing raspily in your ear. A husky person seemed sure to do something evil in the very near future. Then I met the kid at a church potluck and realized that at three times my size I could probably outrun him and that was the end of that.

Words paint pictures. But in today's world of multiple options, they often paint vacancies. I was at a party recently, and since Washington, D.C.'s idea of an ice breaker is "Where do you work?" instead of something that actually breaks the ice like "OMG your shoes are so cute!" it became quickly apparent that I was a lone reed amongst a sea of analysts.

Analysts. What does an analyst actually do? Do they sit behind desks in windowless rooms, regurgitating information that their senior analyst bosses feed them until their eyes are blank white ovals like in Little Orphan Annie? Do they dream of becoming senior analysts and feed the information to other people, or do they merely dream of electric sheep? What is above a senior analyst? Do you get to be an executive analyst? 

I'm sure no one knows, because analysts inhabit some other dimension where nothing really exists. They are vacant spaces of dead air, yet everyone wants to be able to call themselves an analyst because it sounds so foreboding people will never ask them what they do again.

Or maybe that's the point of it. Though it was meant to be an icebreaker and an innocent way of sizing up everyone else, as soon as someone says analyst it immediately kills all conversation. Words used to mean something. You could call your neighbor a dithering fool and you both immediately knew exactly where you stood with each other. It might not be the smartest thing to do, but you could do it. In that way, it was extremely helpful for clearing the air. We are a postmodern civilization, so we use words that don't really mean what we want them to mean. We speak in a language of facades in order to make everything sound better than what they are.

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