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post #47
bio: jen
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1/5/2005
11:52

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Office Inferno

Last month, I wrote a piece about my current work situation called Office Heaven which has continued to be heavenly. Because every yin must have its yang (or is it the other way around), I can now show you the flip side to Office Heaven. I call it Office Hell (although I think Office Inferno makes a better title).

Having not worked in Office Hell for several months, I feel I can look back on the experience with objectivity and distance. I can weigh all aspects of it with clarity and diplomacy to form an unemotional opinion and thus obtain closure.

Here is my opinion of my former work situation:

IT WAS FUCKING CRAZY THERE!

Wait. Let me correct myself. Fucking is too good a word to use for such mediocrity.

IT WAS CRAZY THERE IN A TOTALLY LAME WAY!

Where do I begin? I have oodles of material and a cast of dozens.

Surely it couldn't have been so bad. Surely I could have jumped off the satanic treadmill to greener yoga mats. But don't you see. It was easy. Besides, I had the writer excuse. I could stand back, observe the real world melodrama, and write about it.

However, a year in office hell is still a year in office hell whether I claim the Dante part or not. Even in a whole new year, I find it difficult to avoid the ALL CAPS rage in favor of more organized thinking. See what office hell did---it CAP LOCKED me.

I suppose the best way to begin is to describe the scene. It was an office. Simple enough. Now picture an office with thirty year old recycled furniture with no piece of it matching any other piece. A little quirky, a little retro, a little dusty, but not too bad. NoW picture BOXES. Lots of boxes everywhere.

There are two kinds of people in this world: the people who throw everything away and the people who throw nothing away. Usually there is a balance. Usually the pack rats clutter their own spaces and nowhere else. Usually people pick up after themselves and create a universal standard of order common among adults. Usually is not Office Hell.

My ex-job was a world of dysfunction. If these people were in any other environment, they could be functional. But in office hell, the worst in an individual played out and was even praised and promoted. And the boxes got higher and higher.

I tried to throw out the boxes. I tried to fight the clutter. But there was too much of it. All I could do was make another run to Starbucks to escape the madness temporarily.

Like many offices, office hell had a kitchen. Lacking a microscope, I can only imagine the single-cell organisms that lived there. These would not be just any bacteria, mind you. These were caffinated bacteria mutated by years of spilt coffee, burnt coffee, and unwashed coffee pots. Even when I was a poor college student, my coffee pot was cleaner. I tried to scrub the coffee pot in office hell, but it will never be clean again.

Weekly staff meetings were also held in the kitchen. It was the only space in the office that had two couches in addition to many uncomfortable chairs and no windows.

If it was someone's birthday, a store-bought cake sat in the center of the table under the fluorescents. After the meeting, you would get an off-key ‘Happy Birthday' sung to you as well as a card signed by everyone in the office. Such sentiments were sweet although getting the card signed by everyone was also a melodrama. One of the pack rats inevitably left it on their desk under a pile of important papers.

Even when there was cake, I trudged to the staff meeting reluctantly while Pink Floyd played in my head. We don't need no weekly meeting. We don't need no thought control.

I learned early on that speaking up at the staff meeting only made it go longer, so I took a mental nap and dreamed of cake. After all, the purpose of this meeting was not to meet, discuss issues, and solve problems. The purpose of the meeting actually was uh, uhm, wait, I've got it. . .no I've lost it.

Although this meeting happened at the same time every single week, it amazed me how many people arrived late. No one said anything. They just sat down. Since the late arrivals didn't seem to bother anyone, I occasionally left the meeting early---not for any urgent reason except that I was growing older minute by minute. I simply got up and left. No one said anything to me. Those were on days when there was no cake.

If I was to come up with one example of how wacked-out office hell could be, it would have to be the choir robe. I told Kelly about it one night on the phone as we were exchanging crazy office stories. She declared that this one was way crazy.

There was a girl (or young lady—early twenties) who I will call Lackey. Yes, that is a cruel name call someone and she was issued a drivers license by the state of California, but still, there was something lacking in Lackey. She put strips of duct tape on her office door. She played in a band and occasionally practiced guitar at her desk (much to the chagrin of one of my fellow oppressed office workers). She dreamed of moving of Glasgow (nothing against Glasgow, but she had never visited and it seemed awfully random).

One day, Lackey wore a choir robe into the office. Yes, she had clothes on under it. At first, I only heard about the choir robe from my fellow oppressed office workers. Then there were more choir robe sightings. Had Lackey joined a cult? Was this the latest fashion? Had we missed a memo?

When I saw the bright yellow choir robe with my own eyes, I wondered if Lackey was a Jedi apprentice and if she planned to change the toner in the copier while wearing it (not a good idea).

Apparently, there is a band that wears choir robes WHEN THEY PERFORM and sells them at their shows. Lackey had gone to their show and bought one. I apologize. I am not young and hip anymore. I don't know the name of the band. However, I'm pretty sure the band only wears the robes WHEN THEY PERFORM and not in their day-to-day mundane lives. Maybe they do. Maybe it's a whole fashion trend that I'm not young and hip enough to get. Then again, my fellow oppressed office workers didn't get it either.

I could go on, but it's really hard to top the choir robe image. I tried to make office hell a better place. I threw out some of the clutter. I worked with some really nice people. I did my best, and my first grade teacher always said to just try to do your best (and don't spill glue).

Many of my fellow oppressed office workers left around the same time I did for a variety of reasons. However, many people are still in office hell, and they will probably be there in the years to come. When I got mad at someone there, I use to mentally curse them with ‘I hope you drown in all your papers'. I later realized they already were drowning, and I couldn't throw them a line. I could only sit at the computer and surf.


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