An Electrical Storm Wrapped in a Tornado Concealed in a Tsunami: My First Day Back

After over a year of working from home, this past Thursday was my first day back in the office.

I was excited – a little bit anxious, but overall looking forward to the excuse to escape the house. Sorry house, you’re pretty great. We’re bros and stuff. (Err… I may be too old and the wrong gender to announce that, but there it is.) But you lack some things I need – namely co-workers or ANY people. (People – the often-overlooked base level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Hey, don’t believe what you see on that pyramid graph – it was obviously created by artists who have an anti-relationship agenda. C’mon, food and water at the base level? Before people??? Are they kidding? Have they not heard of Soylent Green? People can and should be part of that base.)

I digress you say?

Let’s face it, my social interactions this past year have been limited to staring sadly out of the window eagerly hoping for trash day to come around again (why only the one day per week?) or bribing people to leave things at my door. (Dear Amazon, you didn’t need to send me notes or photos announcing a thing had been delivered. I knew. I really knew, but thank you – also, call me if you’d like some pro tips for composing more interesting photos – I feel your delivery team weren’t making any effort to create visually compelling package tableaus. Opportunities missed!)

Ahead of that first day, I called up my gym and renewed my membership. I have a well-established routine for going into the office that starts with a 5am stop at the gym. There I repeatedly step on things, push them, pull them, slam them, throw them, or pick them up and set them back down again before showering, fluffing, and heading off to work. Before that fateful return to work, I blissfully fantasized about all my choices. What would I choose? Were “all the things” an option? (Fast-forward: today my body is telling me that I did the things that make my glutes, quads, hamstrings, traps and lats excitedly scream, “You remembered us!!!! Hi, friend!!!” like a hyperactive attention-starved cheerleader.) I knew ultimately whatever I chose wouldn’t matter, I was just excited to go and see if anyone I knew was around and be in that space again. I even made a little post about it on Facebook ahead of going. Yay, gym! Celebrate with me!

That morning the alarm went off at 4am, which was quite rude and way too loud. (If someone could send me a sunrise alarm, that would be fantastic. I’d send a little thank you card and stuff.) I got up, threw on my gym clothes and loaded the car with various bags. (Actually, that part was a little out of control as I apparently thought “Why one bag, when MORE…. MANY MANY MORE would be even better!”)

Today was going to be the best day ever.

But before leaving the house, I had forgotten something….

I forgot that I live in (nay, star in) an ongoing, @#$!$^!-ing  I Love Lucy episode.

Y’see, I was nearly at the gym when I ran over something – something huge that I dragged along the highway – dragged an uncomfortable (and loud) amount of time (time can have sound levels – don’t judge). I exited, still heard it, although at some point it sounded “not quite as bad,” and I just sighed a bit. This was really not the way I wanted to start the day. I arrived in the gym parking lot, parked, looked underneath the car, saw nothing, and went inside. Here, I naively thought, “Whew, at least that’s over – probably dislodged the thing when I made that last corner. Good job me.” As I leave the gym, I think “Let’s get coffee! You deserve it! First day back!!” I drive the half block down the street to discover my Seattle’s Best coffee place is now called Jo’s and Jo clearly doesn’t believe people need coffee before 7am. Also, my car is still making that sound. I’m now in a dress and heels. I pull over, check the wheel wells, they look clear, then decide to look at the front end of the car. Obviously, the best way to do that in a dress and heels is to do a full plank in front of your car next to a busy street, because I’m hill folk and that’s how we do, I guess??? I discover the issue: a plastic piece is down (splash guard). I deduce it’s part of my car, because while in this plank I can’t rip it off despite giving it my all…multiple times. It’s a bit scuffed from being dragged around. I pulled myself off the ground (you’re welcome, Austin, Tx.) and made the decision to drag it a mile further to my mechanics. Hey, it’s not like it was going to get less scuffed.

I then confirmed my former boss wasn’t going into the office, then reached out to his deputy. These are the people who understand and accept that I live in the world’s longest sitcom and have grown accustom to my pre-7am “OMG! My world is on fire” calls that they rarely blink and are now desensitized to my morning dramatic upheavals. They’ve been there for some of my classic hits like calls where I state, “Hey, running late – forgot pants again” (because why would a person forget them only once?).

The call started off with a casual, calm Texas gal drawl, “Hi buddy, you in the office…?” then ramped into what my former boss (the one who likely later thanked the universe, Jesus and his mother, God rest her soul, that it was his telework day) describes as sounding like a “squeaky toy” when I become animated – and animated was an understatement that morning. In fact, marine biologists around the globe probably noted some strange behavior within dolphin pods as I squeaked out and rapid-fired the words that indicated I needed him to pick me up from the mechanics.

I was now in full-blown over-stimulated mode when I reached the office – pupils large, ears flattened and ready to pounce anyone who dared to say hello. Here’s where you need to show some pity for that first co-worker – a guy I hadn’t seen in over a year – a victim who only wanted to say, “Good morning.” Someone who’d probably forgotten what I was like with a much welcome absence of my verbal pattering and innocently thought, “This will be a normal exchange without event.” He was mistaken. I imagine he deeply regretted not bypassing my door before being forced to retreat to his office to avoid being sucked into the vortex of crazy I’d brought in. Sorry!  

As I reflected on the day, I lamented the dream I had of a calm/normal return to the workplace, then accepted that “calm” was never really an option for me. I was always going to roll in like an electrical storm wrapped in a tornado concealed in a tsunami that hid a kaiju monster on the hunt for a fresh city to level. It’s just my nature. I am the storm.

Hope your first days back were filled with an equal amount of sound and fury.

New Things: The Final Edition

I have another post in mind, but I find I’m a bit stuck as I churn over the “hows” of what I want to post. I’ve poked it, prodded it, written it a dozen different ways in my head, and now I’m going to let it marinate a bit then maybe have another go at it before year’s end (gads, that’s only three days away). In order to get out a post in December, my only real story option is to catch you up on the new things I’ve done in November and December. Of course, because I’ve settled down and started typing, all of them have fled my head – at least the November version. You’ll just have to trust that I did in fact do new things in November, and I’m certain I enjoyed them.

Moving On

Let’s start with a big one: I got a new job that will start in January. I’m excited and anxious all at once. I could tell you all about the why’s and how’s, but well that would be breaking a promise I made to myself about writing about work on this blog. Those kind of stories can be a bit career-limiting. Plus, my former supervisor, and soon-to-be co-worker (who incidentally reads this blog and whom I can sass in a mere 9 days with, “You’re not the boss of me!!!”) doesn’t need his ego stroked more than usual. The fact we’re both leaving is its own statement, so I’ll leave that there.

I quit my swim class; I’ve never done that before! I mean, that probably doesn’t count as a new thing if we’re going to make new things only about happy/positive things. Ultimately, I wrestled with it, and decided my frustration over not progressing athletically was a decent reason. No one’s fault. Well, mine and my stupid brain and body for not cooperating in a manner and at a pace I’d prefer.

Quitting was quickly followed by: I advanced to the intro to lap class, and then announced that I was rejoining swimming. As you can see, I’ve lead quite the mercurial swim life. I’m currently learning how to do the butterfly stroke. Of course, that reminds me of a Trevor Noah bit making fun of swimming and the various strokes, which leads me to…

I saw Trevor Noah live, which I saw in November. (HAH! I knew I could remember at least one thing I’d done.) It was an absolutely fantastic show where he did a hilarious bit about swimming. Have I mentioned that? If you get a chance, I highly recommend reading his book, Born a Crime. I’m typically a fiction-only reader (and yeah, I get it – go ahead and get your “His book is fiction” cracks out of your system – go on), but this was fantastic. He talks about his family and growing-up in South Africa during Apartheid where he was quite literally born a crime. If you can, listen to it as an audio book where he narrates his own story. Also, as a favor to me, read a real review; mine isn’t doing the book any justice and you’re probably not as tempted to pick it up as you should be. I personally recommend the review from the NY Times. I think it might be good based on the preview I could see on Google. However, I couldn’t actually confirm it. Apparently, one of us (me) has read their three free NY Times online articles and now they want money. 😦 I will not surrender to you, NYT! Also, I’m kind of cheap!

I had brunch with my first boyfriend. It was a wonderful visit. He’s funny, smart, clever, and has been involved in some really incredible things (testifying before Congress among them) – gone on many a grand adventure/jaunt/wander – and to put it simply, he’s continued to be a neat person. I like to think of him as a true survivor of dramatic, demanding teen-girl me, which is truly medal-worthy. Sorry David, no medals have been minted yet, but I give a great “atta-boy” for surviving. ATTA BOY!

I went to the opening of a campaign office. In this case, I was there for Elizabeth Warren’s office opening here in town. A good friend of mine is a huge Warren supporter so I went as moral support (lots of supporting happening that day) and also, I suppose I went for the opportunity to punch him every time he pointed out that we were standing in Beto’s former offices.

I spent Christmas alone. This one probably isn’t making you think, “Yay!” Basically, I turned off my phone and avoided FB most of the day. You see, it’s also my birthday, and it was a choice I got to make as an adult. As we always say at work (former work): It is what it is. (I suppose other people say it, too but I’m giving my office all the credit since I heard it there first, and often – usually daily. Hrmm… a defeatest phrase the whole team took up at work, possibly another clue?) I’m pretty sure there was one wellness check in the form of my trainer who came by with her daughter that evening. I love her! Before day’s end, I brought everything back up online and returned greetings so my Mother would stop frowning down over my poor manners.

Seriously though, I sometimes don’t feel like being “Edie,” and that’s kind of who I feel I am right now. (Inside family thing. Just nod your head in understanding.) After having a brief chat with my suicide loss survivors gang (a group for those who have lost spouses/partners to suicide), we agreed that next year I should plan to take a trip away from here. I think I’m going to do that.

The day after Christmas, a friend scooped me up and we just finished spending the past few days around Aransas Bay as part of my 2019 Beth-venture. It was absolutely beautiful!

In sum, I’ve spent the year trying a lot of new things – some big, some small – things I wasn’t always sure I’d enjoy. I swam, I spent time in the mountains, I fed more stingrays, I met new/incredible people (the kind you’re immediately drawn to, because you recognize they’re your tribe). I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve written a bit.

I look forward to 2020 and all of its adventures – its ups and downs – all the new things – all the times I get to be with you, laugh with you, cry with you, and be alive with you. I love you!

I leave you with this morning’s sunrise from my balcony where a dolphin was playing down below. May you all wake up to the simple wonder of gorgeous sunrises and playful dolphins.

Rockport, TX

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!


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.