I am observing the junior artist at work - or should I say, the one who has been promised that he can be the junior artist if he does the crap job of taking care of new die lines that come into the studio first. He is very eager and filled with expectations. He is just like I was, and likely you were, once upon a time in the land of naive. It’s an old story with changing faces.
Promises are cheap, especially those thrown out to motivate the young. In my time, the big promise was that if you became the stat boy for a season, you would eventually catapult yourself into the kind of work you really wanted, the kind you were trained for, and the kind that paid better. And the one that wasn’t so darned stressful.
Stat boy was a stressful position. You were in a darkroom all day behind a black curtain, with a lineup of people hollering and cussing from outside that their job is most urgent. “I need a 150 dot line screen to put into position for paste-up. I need this type blown up to 300 per cent. I need my job out the door yesterday.” The smell of sweat and the feeling like you are working in a complaints department housed in a basement with no windows. I was a stat boy for a summer. That, and cutting presentation boards, building mockups, heck, I might as well have been getting coffee.
Eventually it dawned on me that I would be a stat boy forever... because it served the convenience of those who made those cheap promises. There was no get out of jail free card to be had, except to leave and chock it up to experience. I can see the same dynamic in play with my own kids. The world will take advantage of you for as long as it can.
I like to call it the Tubafore Equation.
Two by fours are cheap wood. Cheap and plentiful. There are online contests called the Tubafore Challenge whereby you try to make fine furniture from two by fours. Look up Stumpy Nub’s website if you want a bit of cheap entertainment.
I have news for you, from Tubafore University. As the saying goes, “to the man with a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.” Let me amend that saying a bit. To a man with a hammer, YOU look like a tubafore.
Everybody loves tubafores because they can be cut up, nailed, used, and screwed. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that one came from. I can go to any home store and find a big pile for about a dollar per board foot. It’s so nondescript that they even label it SPF which means it could be either spruce, pine, or fir, but nobody really cares about its particular identity because it is just utility lumber.
Tubafores are popular but for the wrong reasons. They are plentiful, and answer to many purposes. Tubafores are easily adaptable to someone else’s plans. They don’t have much identity of their own and because of this they are considered expendable. Tubafore have no dignity. What makes them a joy to work with, is exactly what makes them disposable. Tubafores are easy to take for granted. They do the hard work behind the scene that will never be credited. Did you ever think about those tubafores hiding behind your walls, holding your house together? I didn’t think so.
I have some news for you, the world is FULL of people who are walking around with a hammer, looking for some compliant fool, to fit into their plans, shorty before being discarded. Frankly, they are just out looking for a tubafore so the worst thing you could do, is be mistaken for one.
This little office missive should be familiar to those who have been around for a while. “Please note that effective immediately, (INSERT NAME HERE), Manager of (ROLE) is no longer with the business. I want to thank him for his contributions to the (Company Name) and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.
Please reach out to (management) with any questions or concerns.”
That hapless fool, just got turned into a tubafore.
There is a simple lesson in all of this. The tubafore challenge never ends, cradle to grave of your career. You are going to have to bunker down and look after yourself because no one else will do it for you. They are too busy looking for a tubafore. Unless you want to get cut up, nailed, screwed, used up and thrown in the trash try not to be one.