I think the strongest possible illustration of how things have changed comes from an examination of my first day at two different jobs. Today, I started at the new job. The office is in downtown Santa Monica - it is nestled amidst the offices of Universal Pictures, MTV, Playboy, Sony BMG - a number of hip, powerful media companies. It's got tall cielings with windows that go from floor to roof. The offices are separated by a funky combination of light-bending but translucent windows and metal mesh. Every chair is an Aeron - a throne for the ass that nestles one's cheeks in a super-high-tech cocoon like a loving mother's gentle touch. The geeks are brilliant, and the women are all hot - and some of them are both! When I arrived I was given a private parking spot, my own little office, a new laptop computer with more horsepower than the combined computing might of NASA in the 80's - and shown to a little kitchen where there's as much freshly brewed Starbucks coffee (which is as strong as the East German woman's wrestling champion) as I care to drink. And I care to drink a lot. My work looks like it will be challenging, but for the first time *ever* - weekend on-call shifts will entail actually being paid! My co-workers are good folks, smart, bright, snappy dressers - and very competent. I'm paid very generously, and there's room to move up, too.
Let us contrast.
The Army: Day One.
I arrive in sweltering, humid heat in Kentucky. My head is freshly shaven, I am confused, and exhausted, and I'm wearing a heavy uniform that I'm not really comfortable in it yet. I have a bag full of stuff, but it's all freshly issued and I'm told I'll have to give it all back in perfect condition. Meanwhile my personal stuff has been locked up (in Ft. Knox, no less!) and I won't get it back for more than four months - including my glasses, which have been replaced with a pair of birth-control-goggles that would make Buddy Holly blush. I will be paid a pittance. I'm shoved off the back of an open-air cattle-truck, only to be immediately screamed at by a red-faced Drill Sergeant, and shouted into a formation - and I don't know where to stand or what the commands mean, and I'm made to do a variety of excruciating exercises when I do anything incorrectly or just look like I need it. Mind you, I'm doing this all alone because I arrived a day later than the rest of the platoon. As I'm standing at my best impression of at-attention, a troop of graduating and departing scouts on the other side of the quad laughs at my predicament. One of them shouts "Welcome to Disney, you fuck!"
Things have, indeed, changed.