Nothing much changes in the great big world of human interaction. The last time I had a “real” job (translation: one that required me to be in an office, wear pants with constricting fasteners, and actually complete assigned tasks within a regular timeframe) there was not yet such a thing as Facebook and no one had cell phones that you could do much with beyond that old-fashioned thing known as calling people.
This wasn’t very long ago, mind you. But technology moves along at lightning speed in this millennium, so these past six-ish years have seen a great deal of change in the way people communicate, interact, and isolate during any given workday.
It has not, however, changed the way they crunch their goddamn disgusting saliva-moistened snack tidbits like tiny starved mice trapped between the walls nibbling, nibbling with frantic efforts to save themselves from impending doom ALL BLESSED DAY LONG while innocent others, invisibly positioned on the other side of the single shade of grey corporate partition, sit and try with equal desperation not to slip into irrevocable madness while attempting to compose a logical sentence without being mentally derailed by the sound, again, again, of – what? what are they?? crackers? carrots? panko-crusted Lego shards? – of the gnashing of terrible teeth* and swallowing of terrible throats.
That is not even to mention the phantom slurping of hot liquids, done ever so carefully, meticulously, with a triumphant loud swallow as the coffee, soup, or illegal elixir of pleasure is tamed by breath and conquering lips. Ah, how they savor every gulp over there on that side of the cube farm! I would envy them … if I weren’t so busy thinking of ways to slip odorless poisons into their cups.
Digestive indignities aside, the uncirculated air of the place is also often filled with voices. Most of them blend into white noise, except for the occasional high-volume sales call punctuated by obsequious laughter and the reassuringly false, “No, absolutely, absolutely. Whatever you’re comfortable with.” that clearly indicates someone is about to be taken for a ride.
Sometimes, though, you are treated to a truly outstanding display of repartee, such as the one between cube neighbors discussing at astonishing length the deeply shocking discovery that some unknown coworker had the unmitigated gall to place the personal coffee mug of one of them into the recycling bin. The recycling bin! The nerve, they exclaimed! The insult, they fumed! Worst of all, one informed the other, “You can’t recycle glass!”
With so many years at home, tapping away in relative quiet at my little laptop, in the hours between school bus deliveries and retrievals, I somehow forgot these little things about working in an office. I forgot that that wonderful old existentialist bon mot “hell is other people” applied to others beyond in-laws and Jersey drivers and cashiers at the Smelly A&P.
Now I remember. And now I know why iPods were invented.
This is an original JerseyMomsBlog post. Deanna Q is a freelance writer currently on assignment and missing her home sweet home.
*With gratitude & a fond farewell to you, Maurice Sendak!