Knowing My Place

Hell is not being consigned to flames of woe.  Hell is being assigned to work beside a refrigerator – a noisy, full-sized, gleaming white one.

You might wonder what business a refrigerator has in the center of a large open office environment, a presumably professional and public sort of space.  I wonder about this, too.

But there is simply no room at the workplace inn.  The sunny spacious area I once had all to myself has become a dark and claustrophobic cubicled circle of hell.

fridge cropped 2
Lest You Think I Jest

The refrigerator, uprooted and up for judgment, was sentenced to my corner of the circle.  I’ve named him Dante.

A constant parade of pilgrims plods across in front of me to put things into the refrigerator or to take things out of it or to stand there holding its door open, staring vacantly inside.  It’s just like what happens in my kitchen.

All day, I watch them steal sodas and seltzer waters and frozen burritos from each other.  They all chat me up to distract me, but I know perfectly well who owns what — generally because they drop it on the counter that forms the front of my desk, first.

It is, I suppose, better than having the office directly across from the department bathroom.  The gentleman who sits there listens to flushing all day and gives comparative reports on how well-hydrated everyone is.  I now pee elsewhere.

Adding insult to injury, I suffer the cyclical stench of rotting food. No-one ever cleans out a shared refrigerator.  I am blessed with an ultra-sensitive nose;  I really can’t handle the lingering stench of moldering month-old broccoli wafting toward me every time the refrigerator door is opened.  I send out periodic emails threatening to leave and go home if the odor problem isn’t dealt with.  What happens then is that fuzzy green leftovers are dumped, naked, into the trash can right beside me, where they warm up and smell even worse.

The situation is indeed getting worse.  I suppose that’s one of the motivating features of the concept of hell.

Someone came by lately and dug take-out cartons out of the back of the fridge.  While chatting (everyone feels compelled to make polite small talk since they’re all but in bed with me), she plunked her cartons on my counter.  She put her plate and fork there, too, pushing aside my grandmother’s cactus, my name plate, and my pencil jug.  She opened both boxes and, with her fingers, took large stinky drippy items out of each, transferring them over to her dish.  She licked her fingers noisily, closed up the cartons with a splatter, and stepped across to put them back in the fridge, returning to my counter to retrieve her plate after taking a detour to the Xerox machine.  She waved and waltzed off without a clue.  My desk was sticky with sweet and sour sauce.

The Xerox machine is in the common work area near me and Dante.  Having failed and been foiled, penitents stand there hammering on buttons, sighing heavily and looking around for help from God. All they see is me, studiously ignoring them and typing madly even if all I’m writing is “all work and no play makes John a dull boy.”

Eventually, I get up and walk around my U-shaped desk and the refrigerator and the half-wall of the work area to go over and fix the damned machine.

Shall we discuss Mr. Fax?  He, too, is in my general vicinity.  Lost souls from all over the second-floor come seeking him.  I have tattooed 3rd-grade-level directions in black Sharpie all over his chest (“paper face down, head first, in HERE,” and “dial 9 for outside line,” with big arrows)  (I’ve warned you about my signs).  Does anyone read these directions?  No.  They ignore them and send stuff unsuccessfully, whereupon Mr. Fax makes loud shrieking noises and automatically tries again before making more loud shrieking noises and shooting out sheaves of printed error reports.

Eventually, I get up and walk around my U-shaped desk and the refrigerator and the half-wall of the work area to go over and fix the damned machine.

These duties are not remotely part of my job.  If possession is 9/10 of the law, then proximity is 9/10 of the position.

Breast milk was the cream of last week’s crop.  A new mother is working hard to continue breastfeeding while back at work.  I applaud her, and have done the same myself (sitting in a dank depressing toilet stall dishearteningly pumping while others in the bathroom wonder what on earth the noise is).  New Mother faithfully refrigerates this milk.  On Friday, she left a fresh bottle on my desk on her way to the fridge while chatting with folks clustered around the copier and fax machine.  Walked away and forgot it.

That stuff is valuable.  I ignored it for awhile out of general principal, but then picked up the (still warm) jar and put it safely into the refrigerator, hoping that I had one hell of a good time in whatever past life I’m doing karma for this time around.





4 thoughts on “Knowing My Place

  1. I’m sorry, but I’d have to construct a cage around my desk, high enough so no one would be tempted to put their icky food on top of it, and THEN I’d decorate it with rubber snakes, rubber spiders, and sequined boas so I couldn’t be seen without someone having to peer through the snakes to catch my disgusted glance.

    GEEZ! What a horrid work environment! Can you ask to be moved to the laundry room??? Clacking dryers and vibrating washers would be better than what you’re going through now . . .

    • Yep, transcendence goes only so far. Having written it all down, I wonder how I can stand it, even given poetic license (although it’s all actually true. My dad used to have a friend he called “Sam-Divide-By-Seven-Smith,” because that’s what you had to do to get anywhere near the truth of what he said). I’m planning to go to work tomorrow with barbed wire and a barbed tongue.

      My workplace is not aware of my secret identity. That helps make it bearable.

  2. Cousin-in-law

    I think you need to go the environmental design route: Will they grant you a half-cubicle wall you can put around your desk? If not, I suggest placing a jar labelled “urine sample” on your desk near the cactus and the pencil jar.

    • Perfect! I can say I’m off to a doctor’s appointment soon :-)

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