GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
You know that, that the life of a young writer, the life of an old writer, it ain't easy and sometimes you've got to go corporate just to keep the lights on. Tatyana Brown, she found out about making that dollar bill the hard way.
TATYANA BROWN: It all started with an ugly navy suit, or rather, it started with a job and a dress code that required all brand-new employees to wear an ugly navy suit. I had moved to New York City to be a poet. I lucked into the highest paying office job I'd ever had, one that would fix all my cash flow problems - the suit was the catch. Actually, the fact that the job sounded really boring was the catch, but the suit represented that problem. Everything was an awful neutral tan color inside the skyscraper where I worked, tan marble floors, tan carpet. My boss, a woman named Nan, had teeth stained tan by coffee. She dropped me off at my cubicle with a foot-high stack of forms, complimented me on my suit, and left.
This was the moment when I had my first corporate panic attack. Soon, I'd be eating egg salad sandwiches at my desk for dinner and dying alone under a stack of contracts. In my second week, on my way out the door for my predawn commute, I ran into one of my roommates stumbling home from a long night bartender. What? Is today national dress like a flight attendant day or something? Because that is exactly what you look like. National dress like a flight attendant day. The more I repeated that title to myself, the funnier it sounded. If today really was national dress like a flight attendant day, it would be a special occasion. And then I realized there was nothing stopping me from treating today like it was a national holiday. I could still pretend today and everyday really was an important celebration of something silly. It gave me hope. I found a silk scarf and tied it around my neck. Then I took a picture of myself with my cell phone and texted it to a bunch of my friends with the caption, happy national dress like a flight attendant day. That night, I set up an e-mail list to all of the people I knew working dull jobs and formally invited them to play along with me in what I was now calling the national holiday project. Come up with something ridiculous to do every day of the week, frame it as a fake national holiday and encourage huge amounts of group participation. I made a dress entirely out of stolen Post-it notes for national inappropriate use of office supplies day.
And I struck up an unlikely friendship with the security guard who caught me on tape on national dance like an idiot in the elevator day. The results were incredible. The national holiday project was becoming an underground hit. I declared national have a fake sword fight with someone in public day. I got pictures and videos of fake swordfights happening in honor of my holiday from all over the country. I got a photo of two chefs fighting with spatulas and ladles in a restaurant kitchen. It turns out nonsense is the secret to stomaching a boring office job. I was a woman who could decree all manner of weirdness and have it be done. The next Friday, national animal print appreciation day.
My ensemble for the holiday - leopard print pencil skirt, zebra print blouse, tiger print scarf and snakeskin shoes. There really is nothing like watching people in business suits deliberately not looking at something silly. One of those oblivious office folk walking past was my supervisor from London. She found my outfit grossly unprofessional and senseless. I got fired as soon as I walked back in from lunch. After two days of moping, I checked my e-mail and found a message from a local arts center's HR department. A colleague just forwarded me a few of your national holiday project newsletters and it is clear your organizational skills and creativity are off the charts. Is there any chance you're available? And to think, if it weren't for that ugly navy suit, I might've never learned that a little mischief and creativity can really pay off.
WASHINGTON: Thank you Tatyana Brown and please, please, please get yourself a real job. Tatyana Brown is the founder and editor in chief of Lit Slam, a San Francisco based audience curated poetry journal and variety show. Find out more at thelitslam.com. The piece was produced by Jamie DeWolf and Anna Sussman. You're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT the "Original Prankster" episode. And when we return, we've got stories about how people will prank for love and how they'll prank for revenge when SNAP JUDGMENT, storytelling with a beat continues. Stay tuned. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.