A Further Commitment

Since I’m making all sorts of commitments these days, I thought I’d add one more:

I will (try to) stop spreading the vicious (albeit entirely true) rumor that one of my co-workers eats gluten-free babies (food allergies, you know – gluten rich babies can wreak havoc on the stomach – can’t be too careful) just as soon as she stops eating them.  That’s a Big Blue Mess guarantee right there.

I will also attempt to not roll my eyes at the next co-worker who hears these rumors in hushed whispers within the safe confines of my cubicle and asks quite sincerely (and a bit naively), “Beth, are you serious?”  Of course, I’m serious.  Gluten-free baby eating cannibals is a rising menace in the work place.  You should be ever vigilant!

Ok, off to work on my office awareness campaign.  (Which is a lot like avoiding work on my sketch for class. Cannibals are much more interesting than this 2nd draft.)

A Writing Commitment

In sketch class this past Tuesday night we were supposed to present our realistic writing schedule. You’d think budding sketch writers (or their sidekicks – that’s me!) would already have one worked out; you’d be mistaken. When asked, I confidently proclaimed, “I can write from 5:30 to 6:00 every night”. It seemed kind of doable when I said it, but it turns out that I was punch drunk from the high I got from laughing in class. When I made that deal I was not in my right mind. Sure, I wasn’t over-committing in any way. It’s only 30 minutes of my time and there is the fact that I do feel a small amount of guilt about not creating any new posts. What the heck? 30 minutes! I can do that! The deal was sweetened a bit when our teacher said, “you don’t have to write during the time, you can just sit”. Ooo, sitting. Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I’m quite accomplished at this. In fact, certain parts of my body boldly declare that I’m quite a chair athlete – easily a medalist in the sport.

When Wednesday rolled around, my first day of committed sitting I dragged into the house and declared, “I’m taking a nap” (too much funny the night before wore me out), and then I successfully slept through my first 5:30-6 window. Once I realized I blew it, there was no point in sitting at another time. The deal was 5:00-5:30. No backsies. I hadn’t committed to 6:00-6:30 or even 7:15-7:45. Here it was, my first day and I’d already screwed up. My only brief brush with my chair that evening involved pressing “Like” on Facebook. That George Takei, always good for a laugh and that Fareed Zakaria, what a brilliant man. Oh, I suppose I did post something about making banana bread for a birthday shindig. My commitment to writing just shining through in a two sentence status update.

Thursday came around and I couldn’t be bothered again. I mean, there were the stories from the shindig about the various birthday party clashes that I simply had to relate to Jay. You see, yesterday I learned that what you bring to the party determines your office status and the cheese bringer rules over everyone. It is VERY important you bring the cheese and the crackers if you want to move ahead and be somebody. The cheesers trump the cake people, the kolache people and even the bringers of the chocolate chip ladened banana bread (aka me). Well, come party time and we had TWO bringers of cheese. I know! The stakes were high; all bets were off. People gasped, an older employee covered the eyes of a younger more impressionable one. A palpable silence filled the cubicle as the two cheese bringers eyed each other – sizing up their cheese opponent. Only one could sit at the top of the cubicle totem pole. Plates were thrown down and one managed to land theirs in the prominent front and center part of the table. An employee fainted. See, who can possibly write when there’s that kind of drama around them? Plus, post cheese showdown I had to go to the doctor where a woman was paraded around in shackles. How could I possibly be expected to sit in a chair for 30 whole minutes and write when I was wrapped up in making up stories about why she was in chains. There was simply too much drama around me; I couldn’t be expected to write actual words or sit for 30 minutes. I do confess that my one attempt at writing involved sending several texts to my friend Kendra. Well, I couldn’t be expected to keep the shackle story to myself and the doctor was running late which gave me free time and it IS technically writing. I even used full words – never once devolving to text-speak, so it clearly counts towards effort.

Hey, but today is Friday and here I am actually writing! I wish I could tell you I turned a new leaf, but the truth is – the only reason I’m here is because I got stood up by a kid named Colt on Hoth in a galaxy far, far away and Sam is currently more interested in napping. Errr I mean, look at me!! I’m writing just like I promised! 🙂 Yessirree. I’m sticking to my commitment.

One brief, unrelated story that has nothing to do with me not writing, but is something I’m genuinely excited about: Tomorrow I get to spend five hours in a singing improv workshop with Laura Hall. Laura Hall is the musical director/improviser from “Whose Line is it Anyway”. How cool is that? Even better still is that I also get to spend time with folks from my former singing improv classes and I kind of adore them.

Though I probably won’t write about it OR sit in this chair, but maybe I will.

A Work Theory

I’m working on a theory.  It’s not a well thought out theory or even a well put together theory, but it’s a theory nonetheless.  My theory is this: If you put more than two people in an office, someone will go nuts.  This is inevitable even if both people started out perfectly sane.  I’m not sure what causes it – maybe the flourescent lights, some lethal combination of industrial cleaners or raccoon droppings in the asbestos ceilings, but I guarantee one person will take up the mantle of “crazed harpy” while the other will become the “highly put upon whiner”.  If there’s more than two players, new variations on the main roles will emerge and then the cliques form.

Now, let me state a truth before citing any examples.  Me and all of my friends (I know, not grammatically correct, but if they want to be first, they should get their own blog) are the heroes of this story.  The only time we would ever act out at work is if we were so extremely put upon, we were left with no other choice.  I’ll “try” not to use any names, because I already feel one of my friends looking over her shoulder to see if a co-worker might have slipped in and concealed himself behind the Ficus tree.

Most of you have heard my stories – you know the ones about the girl who ate the packing peanuts, the one where a gal used VHS tape boxes to fashion shoes and securely attached them to her feet with packing tape, or the guy who was talking to himself in the bathroom mirror about killing people (while another friend slowly pulled their feet up in the stall and got very quiet), then there was the tape outline left on the floor from the rat bludgeoning, or the angry shouts echoing down the hall of “I’m going to kill you” where no one got into any trouble (just another day on the job).  Then my personal favorite, the one where the hatch back on the company truck came slamming down on a co-worker while she was trying to unload a piece of art, causing the glass underneath the frame to shatter and a large piece to sheet off and nearly severe the girl’s foot.  This is the one where one of the managers got angry and blamed the girl, implying she had it coming.  Good times.  Good times.

What I’m talking about goes beyond the passive aggressive stuff we all see where someone will hang a sign to try to dictate what you should be doing with the FAX machine, or in the bathroom or on the fridge (that serves 60 people and they’ve claimed an entire crisper for themselves).  I imagine in those cases, they’ve lost control of their lives at home, so it becomes very important to remind you that your mother doesn’t work there and everyone should sit up straight and fly right when approaching the printer.  Yes, I know I should wash my hands in the bathroom, but I bet the person you had in mind when you put up that sign didn’t have a sudden epiphany when they read it.

A friend of mine has a co-worker who recently joined their team and brought with him one of his many magic wands.  This magic wand helps keep things running right and he’s known to cast an incantation when needed.  It would be funny if he weren’t serious.  Granted, this could be a lesson in religious tolerance, but can’t we agree that I won’t rub the Happy Buddha’s belly if you don’t rap my server with a magical stick?  This particular fellow also says “doink” each time he depresses his mouse button, which he happens to do with some frequency.  And while hearing about this guy provides me with a great deal of amusement in that “I’m glad he works with YOU” way, I think my favorite co-worker of hers is the one that goes to each company meeting and scampers off with all the plastic tchotchkes he can get his hands on – cups, key chains, pens, koozies – you know that junky swag they pass out with the company logo emblazoned across it. If anyone carelessly leaves theirs behind, he comes through and sweeps it up into his bag.

Another friend got into a squabble with her co-worker only to have the co-worker’s sister call her up and volunteer to drive down to her office and beat her up.  Fortunately, she was able to tape the conversation, but the person she had the squabble with never got into any real trouble.  Nice.  Nothing says fun like a good old-fashioned fist fight at work.

Maybe if we brought back an old favorite from grade school “Plays Well with Others” and added it as a dimension to the performance reviews right after “performs other duties as assigned” it would at least remind folks that we’re all stuck in the same sandbox for 9 hours, so let’s try to be sane during that time – save the crazy for the 15 hours you’re free from this place, it would help.

Anyway, that’s just my theory in progress – feel free to share your own work horror stories!

Cubicles

Last week I was fishing around for blog ideas and my cousin suggested something along the lines of people who forget they’re in a cubicle farm and thus end up sharing too much on personal phone calls.

I can’t relate.

Sure, I work in a sea of cubicles, but everyone goes all secret agent when it comes to personal phone calls. Voices drop. Feet scurry. When their cells ring there’s a curtly whispered, “ummm… psst hello” quickly followed by the opening and closing of the hallway door. Your only hope of pure, unadulterated eavesdropping occurs if you’re lurking around hallway – the “oh my, I haven’t ever read this poster about the importance of security badges before. Maybe I should give this a closer look” approach or you move onto a landing in the stairwell – you know, voices really carry in those. Not that I know from personal experience. I’ve just “heard” things… from others. To top it off, a good portion of the people I work with speak multiple languages, thus severely reducing the chance of a good, solid, gossip-able family meltdown. Wow. I’ve found the one good reason to force people to speak only English – how will I know if the guy next to me is a player unless I hear (and understand)  him as he makes his moves?

It’s not that I haven’t had some great moments with co-workers and their personal calls, but it’s been so long that I can’t even think of one good story. Sure, there was the time Robert yelled at his kid over homework versus video games, but really, that’s just nothing.

Now, if we can take it out of the office. I’ve heard some GREAT conversations that people were either sharing with a friend on the phone or personally entertaining a crowd at the store. Take the time Jay and I were at a coffee place called Mozart’s (by the way, a “Z” in German sounds like a “ts”, so when you read that think Mote’s Art – not Moe’s Art – random factoid for the day, forever pet peeve of mine… ANYWAY). While we were out on the deck enjoying the moonlight dancing over the murky water the young frat guy behind us was having an amazing conversation with some guy friend. Now he was a player and was cheerfully chatting on about all the women he was stringing along and was downright giddy (and very loud) while using every thumping-chest kind of derogatory remark he could. Suffice it to say that Gloria Steinem would have given him a beat down had she been there. Sure, what he said was wrong… but funny… and well, I can’t really justify that statement because for the life of me all of his cheesy comments that I had committed to memory for so long have finally been purged from my long-term memory.

Or there was the guy at the comic shop recently who had several other customers enthralled as he loudly proclaimed that everyone should trust him because he was a genius. (Personally, I always sit up when any conversation involves someone touting their IQ.) He meant the conversation for the younger geeks in front of him, but the conversation was wafting (as words and smells tend to do at comic book stores) across the store. Honestly, once I heard the beginning of this promising speech, I gave Kendra the look which basically meant “Oh, this is good. I’m going to be feigning interest in this shelf over here to hear the rest.” (It’s ok that I’m occasionally mean. I wasn’t hugged much as a child and I have self-esteem issues. And yes, it does make me feel better about myself. Look it up!)

So, I guess that while overall I get where my cousin is coming from – that people should be mindful of where they are when they discuss personal things, I still enjoy the occasional random conversation I bump into. It makes me feel confident that when I’m making an ass of myself, because someone has just caught a stray sentence or two from one of my little monologues, that there’s someone out there gleefully mocking me (I hope they got the voice right). And really, we should all take a moment to laugh at ourselves and each other. We’re funny little creatures who get wrapped up in being too serious too often.