Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Office

We all wore casual clothes at work today as it was the date of the annual Corporate Picnic. (I'm a big fan of the picnic--or as one of my more erudite and learned colleagues said, I'm a "picnic aficionado." I like it because you can get out of the Office into the bright sunshine, interact with your friends in a new, more relaxed setting, and I give myself permission to act stupid and relax even more than usual. I like to act stupid at these sort of casual events. Maybe, if I ever move up more in the company I'll get nominated for the dunk tank--something that I think I would accept with lots of excitement and would play it up good.)

But, back to the morning before the picnic itself. We were all wearing our jeans, t-shirts, sneakers. Everyone just seems more comfortable when we dress down. I can't prove it (and I know others have done the studies) but I really think people would be more productive if we got to wear jeans. It's not like our regular Office attire is rigid and Victorian, but people seem more accepting on casual days. But, then again, maybe it's the fact that these days come along occasionally that results in my mood observations? Yeah . . . That's probably it.

What isn't in dispute, however, is the odd devotion that some people in the Office have towards what is known as The Big Cups. I don't understand what these larger (18 oz? 20 oz?) styrofoam cups have that their more diminutive (8 oz? 12 oz?) brethren don't have, but some people just gotta have it!

I was refilling my coffee cup, thinking about the different casual uniforms that people adopt (more on THAT in a minute) when someone walked in, opened every drawer in the kitchenette, and muttered "No Big Cups" and then walked out. But there were approximately 12 smaller styrofoam cups stacked and waiting beside the coffee pot! Why can't you just put your drink in the smaller cups and come back when you need more? It'll be a fresher drink and you'll get some exercise in the process. It's not healthy to sit in your cube all day long!

Why the need for the Big Cup! Someone please explain!

But . . . back to casual uniforms. You get much needed glimpses into people's personality when they get the chance to switch up their work attire. A lot of the women in the Office (apparently) like hoodie sweatshirts. It is clear that everyone likes jeans and sneakers, but you can tell who is hip to the fashion by what kind of sneakers they wear. I usually favor one of my t-shirts (today I went with 70s Sci-Fi . . . my first one!!) or something like that. I feel it signals that I am hip to be square . . . or something. But then I wondered if I was trying too hard to be "youthful" and should accept the fact that I am almost 35 and haven't been in college in about a decade or so. Has this sort of clothing passed me by for good? Should I just go with casual polos and jeans on casual days? So many question yet to answer.

The Office picnic was pretty good, even if I didn't spend the rest of the afternoon there like I really wanted to. Lynda and I went for lunch and to relax in the sun for a bit. Then we both came back to the Office so we could try to get more work done (and we weren't alone, believe me). She then left to get the kids from school and daycare and I stayed to try and squeeze a bit more productivity out of this day.

Unfortunately, Lynda and I both blew one thing. We forgot that today was an Early Release Day at Sarah's school, meaning that she got out of classes an hour earlier. Just as Lynda was leaving the building, she got a phone call informing her of this fact. Sarah had been sitting in the school Office waiting. Now we look like "bad parents" in the eyes of the school . . . uncaring about the needs of our daughter . . . too wrapped up in our careers . . . forgetful . . . scattered . . . sigh. We still have to make more adjustments to this School thing, but it'll get worked out eventually.

I did have another interesting thing happen to me at the Office after the picnic. I was correcting a mistake on a page, using a White Out pen. As I opened the lid and began applying the correction fluid to the paper I had a powerful scent-memory, flashing back to my college job at the Georgia Southern University museum. Back then I worked mainly in the back Office, only acting as a tour docent when staff needs or the schedule of local school tours dictated. Mostly I kept up with records on the Office computers, organized the storage rooms and sometimes helped assemble exhibits. One of my most unusual jobs while working there, however, involved inventorying, marking, recording, and data processing the home contents of Mr. Jack Averitt. Mr Averitt was a prominent, retired businessman in Statesboro and had decided to donate his home's contents to the Museum upon the death of himself and his wife. Mr. Averitt and his wife had traveled extensively throughout their life and their home was filled with all sorts of items, tchotckes from from around the world, along with lots of china, furniture, expensive pottery vases, etc. At one phase of the project, it was my job to spend the day in his house marking each individual statue, vase, plate, wooden thingy, and everything else with a museum assigned number. (Mr. Averitt had already put together an extensive catalog of all the items, complete with descriptions of what it was, when it was purchased and where.) For each item, I had to put a small spot of White Out on an unobtrusive spot and then write the Museum number on the item. Once everything was done, I entered all of this information into the Museum's database.

Today's smell of White Out was exactly like the White Out I smelled during the afternoons sitting in a hard-backed chair behind a table in Mr. Averitt's sitting room. It smelled like White Out always smells, but it was mixed with some "old" kind of smell as well (possibly a mixture of Mr. Averitt's cologne and Mrs. Averitt's perfume?).

It was a good job at that point in my life, just like this job is a good one at this point in my life. I don't always like it, but does anyone always like their job? Again, back in college, I said at a scholarship interview that I wanted a job in which I would be happy going there 3 days out of 5. I think that is realistic . . . and I think over the course of my working here, I have easily surpassed that average. Right now . . . I'm sure to be below that benchmark, but "Life isn't a bed of Roses" and "Make Lemonade out of Life's Lemons" and all that.

I sometimes let my job define me, so when it's not going well, then I'm not going well. But I know that I am so much more than what I do at the Office each week (and a bit on the weekends, as needed). I am glad that my kids don't define me by my job and I am glad that Lynda knew me long before we worked together. And I hope that my friends and colleagues think of so much more than my productivity when they think of me at work.

(The photos are courtesy of Slate's Magnum Photo essays.)

1 comment:

Sven Golly said...

You are channeling Marcel Proust with the white out remembrance of things past, and like he and Little Miss Sunshine show, this is some of the best suffering you'll ever get.