Tag Archives: office

Commodities

There’s a scene in the movie Office Space where our hero shows up to work late, only to flop a giant fish on his desk and begin to gut it.

Believe me when I tell you that I replay that scene in my head frequently, relishing his calm, easy where-with-all to debone that fucker on his pile of reports.

I thought about that scene today twice, reminding myself that the futility of life should not be determined by the frustration of your work. Work angst is such a spoiled, fucked up problem of the well-abled. It is practically a commodity, nearly a good as silver, almost as semi-precious as a gutted fish when you’re hungry.

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Downstairs

I have to go to the cafe—it’s in my own office building and sometimes it’s pouring and I want a cup of coffee and, I don’t know, nothing else because quite frankly I hate their pre-made sandwich menu and salad options and pizza on flatbread at at a fast food cafe in New York is just stupid. I usually get a small soup and a slice of warm wheat bread and I sit with my work badge and my BlackBerry and sip the hot tomato bisque slowly not because I’m afraid of burning my tongue but because I’m afraid I’ll spill the creamy red soup on my dress and have to be that asshole with stuff on their clothes for the afternoon meeting I’m not prepared for. And then not only will I be the person who is noticeably—that’s the thing—not prepared, I’ll be unprepared and dirty. Ugh. I should have just gone out last night instead of staying home and watching tv. Then, at least, I’d be hung over and all of this could be blamed on the liquor and not my own general dissatisfaction for my job and what it feels like to be a bored 26 year old in an industry that maybe, just maybe, I really don’t belong in. But then my BlackBerry buzzes and I take the rest of the soup to go, upstairs, back in the cold unrelenting air conditioning and the next four years of my life.

Yum Kippur

“Happy Yom Kippur,” I say, at work, through mouthfuls of sausage, egg, and cheese. The subway was empty this morning. There are a bunch of people missing from the office today. I am so full of breakfast sandwich, I go make some coffee and consider a cigarette. I know I was raised a Jew, Bat Mitzvah’d and everything … But it feels good, it really does, to be an atheist.

The Italian Job

Last week The Artist quit.

No, not so. He had a pleasant exchange with our boss, emerged from the office, and quietly declared his imminent journey to Italy. And that was it. Now he’s closing up shop in New York and moving to Florence. He was born in New Jersey. He speaks about ten words of Italian. But some family is there and, of course, his girlfriend.

So that’s it. He’s packing up his studio and moving his life and his cat to Europe while the rest of us bitch about the L and the economy and longer winter hours. And somehow we’re okay with this?

“Yet for all the depression no one ever quit. When someone quit, we couldn’t believe it. ‘I’m becoming a rafting instructor on the Colorado River,’ they said. ‘I’m touring college towns with my garage band.’ We were dumbfounded. It was like they were from another planet. Where had they found the derring-do? What would they do about car payments? We got together for going away drinks on their final day and tried to hide our envy while reminding ourselves that we still had the freedom and luxury to shop indiscriminately.”

–Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End

The Milk Story

I promised you the milk story, but I suppose I’ve been holding back. It wasn’t the trip upstate or my lack of internet connection that kept it from the web, no, it was my inability to process the story and move past the hysteria that erupted. But more of that later. First there is the milk rather, first there is the smell of the milk.

So last week I celebrated my six month anniversary at my magazine with a Lean Cuisine and some extra coffee. The office kitchen is open and expansive, with two huge industrial size refrigerators that are always stuffed to the brim with everything from frozen falafel to chocolate syrup to truffle oil. It’s also downstairs, so sometimes I opt to leave my frozen calorie counter in the mini fridge in my department. Sometimes. The thing is, when I started working at the magazine, I noticed the dorm room sized fridge at the end of the department. It was filled with energy drinks and sandwiches and the worst smell in the world. Regardless, I accepted it as the norm and occasionally stashed lunch in there.

But last week was rock bottom. I opened to door of the fridge to retrieve my Lean Cuisine when the smell of chemical moldy animal hit me.

“You guys,” I exclaimed, “This fridge smells like shit. I mean, god, whose milk is this?”

No one looked up.

“Seriously, guys. Who left their milk in here?”

This time everyone began to make eye contact — first with me, then with one another.

No one claimed the milk. I picked it up from the door and gasped. The smell was overpowering. It was magnified vomit. It was hot melting meat. It was dog crap burning under gasoline.

“Wholy fuck!” I gagged. “November!”

“November what?” the ad guy asked.

“November 6 is the expiration date!”

“November 2006!”

“No — I think this past November. 2007. I don’t think they date the milk with the year.”

“My god!” shouted the assistant, “Get rid of it!”

I didn’t know what to do. The stink was torturing. I couldn’t just throw it away. I ran it off to the freight elevator and came back. The smell had slightly dissipated, leaving a trail of nausea in its wake. I grabbed my lunch and hurried downstairs to brew coffee. I figured that would help erase the idea of the scent.

Sitting down with my lunch, my nose halfway in my coffee mug, I told the story to the faction from editorial who missed the milky saga. At the end, jaws were dropped. The office coordinator’s hands were over her mouth.

“Disgusting, right?”

“How could you?” she asked, in shock.

I sat back in my chair triumphantly. “Someone had to do it.”

“You fool! You left the milk next to the freight elevator? It’s not air conditioned in there!” She looked flushed with anxiety.

The ad guy volunteered to help me remove the milk from the premise. We had ten minutes to dispose of the milk before the NYU students came in to hear all about the wonders of working for a magazine in the city. We pounded our fists together and set off to the freight elevator to collect the hazmat.

He picked up the carton and held it away from his body in a stiff-arm. We ran past the sales team and down the stairs before getting stopped at the elevator lobby. As we waited, I could feel the vomit churning in my gut. We were laughing, which I immediately regretted because everytime I laughed I took a deep breath of the foul air in.

Finally, we got in the elevator. This was even worse. We made retching noises and our eyes watered. The smell was unbelievable, not unlike what I imagine dead body could be. The elevator stopped halfway down, an unforseen twist of fate. Two fashionistas got on, and before they could turn and run, were confronted by the cold, hard closing of the elevator doors. The ad guy choked, still holding the rotting milk at arms like. I covered my face with my hands, willing it to stop. The girls gasped, and the ad guy felt bad, so he showed them the date on the milk. Their disgust barely registered on their faces, as they were overcome with the urge to dispell the day’s lunch.

When the elevator hit the lobby we ran outside.

“What do we do with it?!” the ad guy shouted. We were hysterical. People were looking.

“Dump it out! We have to see!” And now we were giddy. The combination was lethal.

The ad guy shook the milk and my giggles turned into squeals. I opened the carton and grimaced, then the ad guy began to pour out the milk in the sandy square that housed a soon-to-be-dead tree. The liquid was cloudy-clear and putrid.

“It looks like lemonade!” the ad guy whispered, and we watched in silent awe as the fluid tunneled through the sand.

Then a clunk. A giant mound of solid feta cheese like white turd fell into the sand.

It was too much. We dissolved into laughter, clutching the carton and holding our faces, knealt down on the sidewalk giggling like two maniacs. A pigeon flew over and started eating the white chunk. We were crying. Just then the 40 NYU students walked by, staring at us and pointing before holding their noses and making groaning noises.

The milk story was over, and it was going to be a great afternoon.

Another Tricky Day

I get to work, check my email, and know I left my hair straightener on.

I woke up that morning and, for some reason, turned it on before I went to brush my teeth. I figured this way it would be hot when I got back into my bedroom. I got caught up changing my outfit seven times and ran out of time to do my hair. I rushed out of my apartment and walked ten minutes to the L train, tranfered to the C, and walked another ten minutes to the office. I sat down in my chair, dumped my bag on my desk, and it hit me. I left the straightening iron turned on, burning hot on a metal shelf next to my wood desk.

“Shit. I left my straightener on.”

My coworkers look unimpressed. “That sucks,” one says.

“Go turn it off,” another ones tells me, her eyes not leaving the computer screen.

“I’ve left it on at least fifty times and nothing has ever happened.” I don’t know what I’m rationalizing. I already know the answer.

“So don’t worry about it,” a coworker responds.

“Ugh. I don’t know what to do.”

Now they look annoyed, and the collective response is for me to go turn it off. After all, our boss is out for the day and everyone’s bored and reading blogs.

I’m frustrated, but I go. I walk ten minutes back to the C, transfer to the L, and walk back through the grassy oval in Stuyvesant Town toward my building. I reach into my bag and have to hold back tears. My keys aren’t in my bag. I call security, and twenty minutes and thirty dollars later, I am back in my apartment and my keys are sitting on my desk, next to the straightening iron, which I turn off. But wait, why is it cold?

Of course, the straightening iron was never plugged in.

I walk back toward the L swearing at myself. I am such a fool. I am such an idiot. This day is completely shot. I never should have gotten out of bed.

Of course, I just miss the L and wait another ten minutes for another train to come. I calm down. It’s no big deal. It’s just thirty dollars, and some annoyance, and my boss isn’t even in. It’s fine, I tell myself. Everyone makes stupid mistakes.

The L finally comes and I sit down next to a tall guy with blue eyes who looks familiar. It’s Scott, a sweet guy I went on two dates with and never called nearly five months ago. I had just started my new job, was incredibly overwhelmed, and he seemed to be looking for something more serious than myself. So I ignored his emails, his calls, and embodied the very definition of heartless New York City bitch.

“Hi!” he smiles, and suddenly my bad day as gone from terrible to hilariously cruel. “How have you been? I haven’t seen you in months.”

The other passengers on the train look at eachother and smile. They love this. This is New York, to them.

I swallow hard and try not to act as awkward and guilty as I feel. “I’m good. I’ve been so busy. How is everything? How’s your baseball team?”

“We lost the championship last week.”

“Oh…”

“But I’m good. I’m working on a cd.”

“That’s great!” I exclaim, with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. I am going overboard, and he can tell.

“What are you doing on the L?” he asks.

“Oh, I moved to Stuy Town. Are you still in Bushwick?”

“Nope, I moved to Williamsburg.”

“That’s great!” I blurt out again. At this point, I am an idiot. I am a cold, heartless New York bitch. And now I’m also a total idiot.

The L stops at Union Square, and Scott gets up. I feel even more awkward now.

“Oh, is this you?” I ask.

“Yup — take care.”

“You too! Let’s do lunch!” I screach, as the doors close.

The strangers around me titter and roll their eyes. New Yorkers around awkwardness are like sharks around blood. They sense it, and they get off on it.

By the time I transfer from the L to the C, walk back to the office, and get back to my desk, I’ve been gone for almost two hours. My coworkers don’t notice.

“How’s your straightener?” someone asks.

“It wasn’t plugged in.”

“Today’s just not your day.”

“You have no idea.”

Simple Twist of Fate

Often when I hang out with coworkers outside of work, they comment on how much I change. It’s not that I change, I have to explain, as an entirely different side of me emerges at the office.

Let me explain:

I studied English, Creative Writing and Philosophy in college because I was convinced I would have a career writing or editing. I wrote half of a novel I one day might finish. I have some shitty short fiction and poetry, some of which is posted in all of its awfulness on this blog.

But after graduation, I got a temp job at a book publisher as a sales assistant. I didn’t even know what it would entail, but I was desperate to get my foot in the door and move to the city. After a week, the VP decided I should meet the Director of Publicity and work in his department full-time. Again, I didn’t even know what book publicity was, but took everyone’s word that I would be good at it, and decided to jump ship for an editorial position as soon as one opened up.

Sure enough, editorial assistantships came and went, and I made myriad excuses for not moving. I was secretly content in my position. The editorial assistants were paper-pushers. They handled contracts, occasionally looked at the slush pile, and occasionally wrote jacket copy. They were actual assistants, gathering up meeting materials for their respective editors and quietly seething.

Meanwhile, in the publicity department, I was working on my own book campaigns. I was establishing relationships with book review editors, placing my authors on national television shows, and stalking book sales. I sat in my seat at meetings, analyzing numbers and biting my lip. I hired an intern. I checked my email when I got home, and before I went to bed. I was feisty and in charge. I was brash and serious and loud. I could never sit at a cubicle all day and edit someone else’s words. I needed to write funny emails, prove my point, deliberate on revenue.

After ten months, I was offered a job at Conde Nast, which I dangled in front of my boss as leverage for a promotion and a 20% raise. Six months later, I was offered another job for a different magazine. I graciously accepted, leaving my ten-person publicity department to act as the soul publicist for the publication, its sister magazine, and its website. It was sink or swim, do or die. I bit down hard on the meat of the job, sinking my teeth into the minutia. This time, I brought on seven different interns for myself and small marketing department, and now I check my email like a diabetic checks her insulin levels– Which is to say, obsessively and compulsively. I bark orders sometimes, and operate in a efficient whirlwind of accomplishments.

So when I find myself out with coworkers for a drink, casually sprawled across a plastic lawn chair and sipping my beer, quietly twirling a strand of hair that’s fallen out of my messy bun, they are pleasantly surprised.

Or, more to my actual point: the instance of lying in bed with an ex-coworker, kissing his shoulder when he tells me I am unexpectedly sweet. He never knew, he says, I could be so gentle and affectionate. I find this delightful. I never knew I would not be.