BOSTON—Ty Braxton, 23, continues to hide his fun and fulfilling life from the full-time employees of Hale & Dorr, the Boston law firm for which he has temped since July.
"At a job like this, where you're surrounded by angry, perpetually stressed-out lawyers who are working 80 hours a week, it's important to hide the fact that you're enjoying a normal, balanced, happy life," Braxton said Monday. "People get really pissed when they hear stuff like that."
Braxton, who earns roughly one-fourth of what the firm's lowest-seniority full-time employees make, said he has no desire to make his coworkers feel bad about their "boring, shitty lives."
"If somebody complains about how bad it sucks to work overtime five days straight, I just nod and agree," said Braxton, who spends his weeknights at parties, at concerts, and playing basketball in the park. "No point in rubbing in the fact that no matter how busy things are, I leave at exactly 5 p.m. every single day. If anyone asks me to stay later, I just say my agency doesn't let me do overtime."
After graduating from Wesleyan University in May 2000 with a degree in Russian literature, Braxton worked a series of part-time jobs in and around Boston. In December 2001, he signed on with QualiTemps, the city's largest supplier of temporary office labor, which currently pays him $8.44 per hour.
"I have so much going on in my life right now," Braxton said. "I'm helping a friend start up a little Cajun food stand, I've gotten way into this Russian poet Mayakovsky, I've been hanging out with this really cool girl I met when my band, Sophie Drillteam, did a show with hers. Honestly, I just don't have the time or energy to put into some job."
In spite of his happiness, Braxton said he makes sure always to project an air of dissatisfaction, in both facial expression and posture, while in the office.
"If I had a great time staying out until 4 in the morning the night before, I make sure to wipe away all traces of a smile before I walk in these doors," Braxton said. "If anyone found out I'm not living a hellish existence like they are, I'd be asking for trouble."
Braxton is also careful about engaging his coworkers in conversation.
"I stopped talking about movies, because no one here ever goes to them," Braxton said. "Every time I mention a movie to someone, I have to sit there and listen to them go through the process of figuring out the last movie they saw. The other day, Andrew Walser, this intellectual-property attorney who's trying to make partner, told me that his last movie was Gladiator. I was like, 'Oh, man, that's depressing.'"
In his long-term temp assignment as conference coordinator at Hale & Dorr, Braxton schedules employee use of the firm's five common meeting rooms and is responsible for keeping the rooms stocked with cold refreshments and snacks. His other primary duty is to procure audio-visual equipment for meetings when requested, a situation that arises "only, like, one or two times a month."
"People e-mail me about needing rooms, and I have to e-mail them back with room assignments," Braxton said. "I also have to post the schedule on the meeting-room doors and order paper cups and things. All in all, though, it's pretty easy. Everybody's usually way too busy to give me any work to do, anyway."
During his three to four hours of "down time" each work day, Braxton reads, surfs the web, and e-mails friends. He also works on long-term personal projects. Over the past six weeks, Braxton has translated 41 pages of Alexander Pushkin's unfinished novel Dubrovsky for a new English version he dreams of one day publishing.
Braxton has never mentioned his translation project to coworkers, nor has he mentioned any of his other pursuits.
"I don't want to rub in how much I get to do the things I want to do," Braxton said. "I feel sorry for them. They go home after a hard day, and they're so fried they just spend the night sitting in front of the TV. You know how these people spend their weekends? Resting. They rest."
Another advantage Braxton enjoys over the full-timers is a significantly more relaxed dress code.
"They're always on the way to the dry cleaners or the barber or shopping for another expensive suit," said Braxton, who estimates that his average coworker spends five hours a week maintaining his or her personal appearance. "As long as I wear deodorant, keep my tie reasonably clean, and wash my one pair of Dockers over the weekend, no one really gives a shit what I look like."
In his efforts to hide his happy, fulfilling life from his coworkers, Braxton has even resorted to lying.
"Just yesterday, somebody asked me about my last temp job," Braxton said. "It ended in May, but I told them it ended in June. See, after it ended, I took about a month off and just kind of dicked around, traveling around Europe until my money ran out. I knew not to mention that to people who won't be able to do anything like that until they're 65."
Though Braxton said he sympathizes with his coworkers, he added that the decision to pursue a prestigious, high-paying career path was entirely their own.
"They wanted to go for the brass ring and really live the good life," Braxton said. "What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."