Every life, every stage of a life seems to require a least one person to remind us each of the things we are supposed to do and say and be. Often this person fulfills this task by telling us we did, said or are the wrong thing. The office version of this person has every word and requirement of the employee handbook down cold and can quote from it at a moment’s notice. (Whether asked or not.) And somehow this person often seems to show up just as you are taking a little breather.
When dealing with workmen and sales people in my personal life, I straighten my spine when the phrase starts, ‘lady, you outta…’ the next part is going to cost money, time and who knows what else. (And is it really necessary for my purposes or more to line their pockets, I always wonder?) This is just another version on that endless rolodex of supposed to’s.
When we are being honest with ourselves, we each know that we sometimes need a push to do things. (I talked myself out of going to a gathering this morning that I planned to attend because it was storming. I needed someone to take the opposing side to remind me of the benefits of going.) So these people for whom the import of required tasks weighs more heavily do the rest of us a real favor by reminding us of these nagging details. Comedies like to put these folks in as an irritant to the protagonist – see Toby the HR guy on NBC’s The Office, who often thwarted Michael’s grand plans.
I imagine that our own ability to coerce ourselves to deal with the supposed to’s is embedded in our childhood. I can remember all sorts of ridiculous machinations to try to get out of doing things, and I also remember that pretty much none of them worked because my parents were determined to make sure that we learned to be responsible and follow through on agreements. And I have clear memories of certain incidents with my own children when I almost split in two in front of them. My adult self thought that their posturing was a larger drain than actually doing the task required and my child self completely understood that they felt justified.
We might not like that self-imposed office supposed to police person, but we do need someone to help us do the things that we ought sometimes.
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