I walked out of one office only to step into another. While "Office Space" may teach you to loathe saying one has a "case of the Mondays," that's the only way I can think to describe today. And it seems that the arteries of everyone I pass have been injected with enough coffee that when they say it, sympathetically, they are smiling too much to truly understand--even if the lack of sleep is my own fault.
The office is quiet when I first step-in. I sighed a little, given the dullness of the interview. I suppose it was no one's fault but Monday's. I'm really beginning to hate him--such a spiteful thing. Either way, my tongue was still dry and curled from activity. Two steps into the office I thought I had the place to myself, then everyone else began filing into the office. Despite its size it always seems much smaller with people in it than it does after hours when I am all alone. With or without distractions, I never can manage to pay attention for long, though. I multitask, or I don't task at all.
These coworkers of mine--writers, editors and classmates--I see their faces all-too-often, to be perfectly blunt, but I know them by name and we have a connection. Each week it is the same--from any corner of the office I can look at someone else and see their eyes roll back into their head when anything happens. We are all usually thinking the same thing, whatever it is--annoyance or indifference.
There's the one in the corner whose mantra is "age before beauty" in every sense of the phrase, although he believes himself to be both. His flamboyance can be smelled from a mile away, but it is not that that offends. It is the dominance he believes is in his possession, and to which that he tries to assert the most. Anyone who denies him that right will surely suffer the wrath of a tantrum made for a queen. By now we're numb to it. If I could choose one person to trap all of their belongings in Jell-O, it would be him. I spend most of my days watching him sneer--his only reason for staying is to hopefully win an award in the conference coming in the next year. Recognition is his drug. We all have to submit something. I still don't know what I will submit. If he makes it, it will be by his own demand and stubborn determination.
Next to that tormented soul is a calm, collected sort who loves sports... And nothing but sports. He spends most of his time not spent in class working for several media outlets, going to sporting events and then partying with his roommates and friends. He has the college life Asher Roth sung of once, but he manages to be productive. He is at least doing more for himself than many other writers and editors are. Not much can be said for him. He typically keeps to himself, but his corner of the room always manages to laugh more than mine. He has a sneaky way of making offhand comments seem like comedic gems. He has that talented way of knowing how to be sparingly funny, and not demand any attention from anyone. A polar opposite to the aforementioned desk adjacent to his.
Next to him--yawning and coughing uncontrollably--is a manic cat-woman who is addicted to caffeine, as long as it comes in a Full Throttle, and is one of the few to soon be leaving at the end of the semester. We have things in common which mostly consists of music. Until she upgrades to cat calendars and sweaters with whiskers, I have yet to find a reason to worry about her. Her intake of Full Throttles, however, is a different story. "I have to have one a day, or I'll kill everyone," she says all the time. I don't want to tempt fate, but I want to wean her off eventually. Despite the frantic crazy and her bad habit of getting distracted by cats on the internet, she is easily one of the most-liked members of our staff. I wish I had that ability to put everyone at ease.
The next one cannot be described in a few words. If anything, we all pretty much agree this office is all he has south of home. He spends his time mostly here bound to his desk, and has unsettling-ly made a home right at his small desk. He watches videos online and talks too loudly. He laughs really hard and looks around to see if anyone is interested. He snacks on chips like a cow in a field and leaves crumbs everywhere. He's annoying, but he cares more for this publication than anyone I know. We're all dedicated, but he especially so, because he has more riding on this. This is his anchor holding him here. In another life, he might have been Milton Waddams, and has come back to prove himself as more than an arsonist with a soft-spoken obsession for a red stapler. Whatever his origin, his voice made for radio is jolting, as is his laugh. But he cares, and that's more than I can say for others. I have to remind myself to stop being a bad person so I can learn to like him beyond the belligerent tendencies he just never learned to control. We're all belligerent.
But if anything can be said for not being able to take the place out of the girl, three hours from Atlanta cannot separate the next editor from her hometown. We spent most of last year closer than we are now. She blames me, but I blame her. It's a cycle that I'm hardly phased by in the least. We started as assistants together. Even without the water-cooler, we had our water-cooler talks. We related to one another through annoyance and the bustling of the business. Now we sit on separate sides of the room at our "stations" ready to command our ends of the ship. A large stack of newspapers always sits at the roundtable blocking my view from her. And while I am a dog person, the cat-lady and I have more to say to each other, anyway. It is just how things are. When jobs get harder and more specific, there's little ways to relate to one another, and we fade into the nod or the "hello" as we walk in and out of the room. Even if we managed to get a water-cooler in the room, I doubt it would help. We've asked for a lot of things.
Our boss, the "boss-lady" as we often, jokingly, refer to her as, is scattered--and not in the joking sense. Though I do mean mentally and not literally, the expression about losing one's head applies here. If anyone doubts how amazing science is, take a look at humans' molecular structure and imagine that all day, every day, those poor molecules that created her have to keep our boss from forgetting her head at home every morning. When one's head is made of lead, it's amazing to think that her neck holds up so well. She has proven, though we may still run a student-circuit, that tattoos and a love for Insane Clown Posse will not stop someone from getting hired. Though Recognition Man may have something to say about her being in charge, she still manages to do her job better than he could, and we are used to working with her. It is comfortable and though we may not be well-functioning 24/7 we function enough to get the job done on rough weeks. She talks in circles and makes weird faces, but she knows what it takes in journalism to be. She'll go places, too, as long as she covers up her tattoos.
There is one in the corner who always sits with her face glued to the computer, looking as though she'd rather be somewhere else. Even if she does, we know her, we know that that's just the typical -itis of being a college student. And when she's not doing her job, she just sits on Facebook--another downfall of being the typical college student. She's ditsy and loves the color pink. She's articulate but with the same attitude that shouts about "disrespectful" people who are merely reacting to her rude personality. Street-wise she is clueless, but she manages to make better grades than I can because she can prioritize. She will make it.
One of them no longer has a desk (I claimed it), and in an attempt to keep him in a job when he has to spend an unexpected last semester here, he spends his time--supposedly--working with new writers. He used to be sports, but then we had a huge shift in our editorial staff after one editor was sent to a clinic to work through being overworked. Then he was what I am now. He spends most of his time writing and copy editing, and taking a few breaks on Wednesday nights outside smoking cigarettes. Conversations with him usually involve video games and drinking. He consumes himself with it, and he's happy, so who's to judge? His plans involve moving with his girlfriend to Florida and starting his life there. I get that. When I was considering applying for a job in China, I got flack from everyone, because it was Trey's idea first. But I understand trying to start a life with someone and following them wherever life takes us--because it's no longer just about you or that other person, it's a team effort, whatever life throws at you. I feel sorry for the people who don't understand that.
Next to where he is usually stationed is another editor addicted to the computer, but more than Facebook. Her job description requires it. She's unfiltered, but she knows when to filter out her language. She's articulate and intelligent, and one for debating and stating her opinion outright. It's a trait that could rub some the wrong way, but I find it endearing. Even if she does get in a huff when she's annoyed, she's outwardly just as cynical and opinionated as I am inwardly--something I am working on improving. We have a lot in common and spend a lot of time commenting in our corner of the room like two girls with secrets--even if secrets are never kept quiet for long here. She spends most of her time, not improving our website, watching Disney movies and listening to a plethora of eclectic music. Her playlists are a mile long each and full of the underground and unheard of covers from the unpopular and popular. She's determined, and I'm taking cues from her.
I'm sitting in my usual place next to her, amidst the editors shouting across the office, with my head just barely peeking out over the top of my computer monitor. I spend most of my time here, because nothing gets accomplished in my room. I'm easily distracted here, but all I can manage to write are occasional lit papers there. Here I have people I call family rushing around me, in and out of the office. Our hands are coated in newsprint and our student body is apathetic while we strive to deliver them straight news more reliable than word-of-mouth. We're unpleasant on Wednesdays when we piece the paper together, and we're all just trying to put in the work to prove ourselves in an even more real work force. I was handed a position I would have never before believed I could do--I write, manage, layout and take occasional photographs. I do all of the things I have the ability to do but would have otherwise been too scared to try. I am learning to make something of myself. I still don't know if I can make it.