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post #45
bio: jen

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that week

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Office Heaven

I have recently started temping again. Some assignments are okay. I just ride the flow of it all and try not to snore during my mental naps. Everything is temporary---especially if you're doing temp work. Besides, no place was as bad as office hell (which will be described in future installments).

Two weeks ago, I got called for a long-term open-ended assignment at a place I call Office Heaven on the tenth floor of an office building in Santa Monica.

Not only does that great California sun stream in through the windows, but the space is open, uncluttered, and very yellow. All of the offices have glass walls, so you can look through the walls then through the windows to see the beach, the pier and the ocean not so far away.

As the sun starts to set, the thin line of smog on the horizon turns pink. One day as I was leaving the building, I could see the pink through the silhouettes of palm trees. It was sorta pretty.

From Office Heaven, one can easily walk to the pier and the beach. Last week, I went to the pier and played skee ball on my lunch hour. Most lunch times, I walk to the Third Street Promenade, an outdoor mall that's two blocks away.

But location isn't everything. Office Heaven also has a great kitchen. Not only are big coffee makers spurting out coffee all day (and it's okay---not the worst---just okay), there is a basket of breads if you want toast. There is also a cabinet of cereal and instant oatmeal if you don't like toast.

When I was shown the kitchen, I was told that I couldn't leave my lunch in the refrigerator because it was chock full of milk. Gallons and gallons of all kinds of milk---skim, 1%, 2%, whole milk, chocolate milk, nondairy creamer, soy milk. I almost expected a cow tied up somewhere just in case you wanted super fresh milk, but alas, no cow.

In addition to the milk closet, there was a second fridge with sodas, juice, and Perrier. I had worked in offices with lots of beverages available but never with Perrier. This was definitely high class. I took a Perrier and found a clean glass (yes, glass, not plastic cup). Thus began my two bottle a day Perrier habit.

By the way, I also quickly learned that I would not have to wash my glass in the sink. There were two dishwashers in the kitchen as well.

What would I have to do in this heavenly place of sunlight and sparkling water? What office tasks awaited me? Would I be able to do them? Would I be bored out of my senses?

I had to scan documents into PDF files.

That's it.

I had to scan the documents on a very slow scanner, then burn them onto CDs.

I quickly realized that this task required my attention 20% of the time. As a result, I could read and write while the machines did their thing. Sometimes, the paper jammed (oh no!), but I fixed it by pulling the paper out by hand. I hope I didn't just get too technical in my description.

In the midst of my industrious scanning, I could get up and walk around. The Ladies Room was also quite nice. The doors to the stalls were cherry wood, there was soap and hand cream on the counter, and the lighting was low. Sometimes, on a Perrier run, I spotted other food left out for everyone in the kitchen.

Because I was able to complete with highly complex task promptly, efficiently, and without any supervision, I was left alone to do it. I smiled sincerely and said hi to people, but for the most part, I was on my own and happy.

In addition to the scanning, scanning, scanning, I finished reading a Beckett novella, read three back issues of The New Yorker (I had fallen behind), wrote a brand new ten-minute play, rewrote a full length play (and scene 13 is still a thorn in my side), and read the latest biography of Cary Grant on Friday. That was week one.

There were some down points about office heaven. First, the commute. At times, it was a nightmare. If I got on the wrong road, I ended up just sitting in traffic. Not moving is more exhausting than moving because you're just sitting there, watching the brake lights of the car in front of you. They're so pretty. They're red.

The other downer about office heaven was that, well, it was an office. It was not Office Hell, nor Office Purgatory, but still it was Office Land.

Every office has the same group of people in it. Their jobs might be different, but they are always in every office I've ever been in. They could be nice people. They could be evil. But they're always there. Maybe my life is just a play with actors changing wigs and costumes backstage in between scenes.

First in the Dramatis Personae is the office manager, female, who has been there a lonnnnng time and knows evvvvverything and works so hard (sigh) so hard. The office manager might not really be the office manager but still manages the office because only she knows how to do it. Then, there's the happy girl who's HAPPY and LOUD and usually REALLY SUPER NICE and brings in home made muffins, so you don't want to hate her. Sometimes, these two are one. You have my pity if that is the case in your office.

There are the Crazy Mothers, female. Some women can have it all---careers, families, and babies. Yes, they can do it all. They can be strong, smart, powerful. They are women hear them roar. Some of them are crazy. In their quest for it all, they forget reality. They are constantly on the phone setting up playdates and talking about drool or the right college. Additionally, since they are mothers, they assume that any female in their office without offspring would naturally be their daughters as well and can sometimes be a bit matronizing. A good curse for Crazy Mothers (should it ever get that bad) is 'May all your children end up in therapy.'

Next, there's the Old Guys who walk around in shirts and ties definitely not brought in Wal Mart. They think they're funny because everyone laughs at their jokes (suck ups), but they're really clueless. David Bent from The Office is a subspecies of this category. Should you ever find yourself in an Old Guy's office, look around for photos and signs of hobbies/interests, then say I see you like. . .' While Old Guy talks for twenty minutes nonstop, take a mental nap.

There's the IT Guys. They might try to come off as tie-less party guys, but deep down, they are scifi geeks. If you know anything about sci fi, you'll do okay. If you don't, just learn Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics, some words of Jedi wisdom, and the names of all the Star Trek captains. You should do okay then. Oh, by the way, the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42.

Finally, there's the Office Groundhog, male/female. The office groundhog sits in their cubical/office all day and never comes out. They're working---always working sooo hard---at what nobody is sure, but they always seem busy. Once a year, true to their Groundhog nature, they might emerge to look for their shadow, but it's usually hard to see under the fluorescents.

I might qualify as the office groundhog of Office Heaven, but I haven't been there a year. I'm still new, still exotic.

Someday, I will leave Office Heaven. It might be for something better. It might be because there are no more documents left to scan. After that day, whenever I drink Perrier, I will remember Office Heaven fondly and wonder if I will live to see the day when offices will be wonderfully unnecessary.

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