Another Monday, another day in the corporate office, surrounded by cubicles and high heels and shiny accessories. It’s very different from my usual work environment, namely the elderly student desk in my dining room, crammed with monitors and cables and random stacks of paper. Yet I enjoy it. I go in extra-early so that I can run on the nice soft treadmill at the Wellness Center and then take a long, leisurely shower involving a multitude of lavender-scented body products. After this luxuriance, I stop off at the cafeteria for an egg-white omelet stuffed with veggies and sprinkled with cheddar and Cholula sauce, accompanied by a hillock of roasted sweet potato chunks.
Surrounded by a cloud of aromatherapeutic pepper fragrance, I board the “smart” elevators, which organize themselves according to some mystical algorithm and simply appear to take me to my chosen floor when it suits them. Hoping none of my elevator-mates have an intrinsic intolerance for the sweet nose-tang of warmed Cholula, I sally into said elevator and ride to the 5th floor, where the “hotel” cubicles for the mobile workers are located.
Those of you who enjoy the innate warmth and hominess of the office cubicle, you would be hideously disappointed at the bleak impersonal wasteland of the “hotel” cubicle. There is no name posted in the shiny window, only the blank letters: HOTEL. There are no personal photos, no plants, no magnets on the coat locker. There is no cardigan hanging with nonchalant belongingness over the back of the chair, no travel mug or broken earring or box of tissues tucked tidily away on the shelf. The hotel cube is bereft of any human touch whatsoever: a docking station (which may or may not have a power cord, depending on the piratical tendencies of the previous occupant), a second monitor and a phone that continuously shows that there is voicemail waiting, although there is no account and no password in existence that can access it.
Into this greige purgatory, then, I am privileged to wander at 8:00 a.m., laden with my cardboard “to go” breakfast containers, my workout clothes and my laptop. Also two phones, wallet, sunglasses, random pens and an ancient baggage claim check from a flight on which I checked no bags. The potential tedium of this situation, however, is immediately mitigated by the sight of my favorite colleagues, who are also braving the corporate office today on the promise of a long-awaited Girls Night Out at the end of it. There is much greeting and laughter and mutual joy—and then the work day begins.
Meetings, meetings, meetings. These days in the office are when we cluster all the meetings that really need to be held in person rather than on the phone, so there is a great deal of rushing about. Laptop under one arm, coffee cup gripped tightly in the non-dominant hand, we shuffle off obediently to the next corral, like well-trained and medicated sheep. These are kindof cool meetings for us mobile workers, though, as we actually get to see and interact with real live people instead of disembodied voices or (worse yet) instant messages. We get to crack jokes, tell stories, make eye contact, ask questions with an eyebrow or a curled lip. This is big mojo when your only normal interaction during the work day is with hungry pets or perhaps an unusually obstreperous spider in the sink.
So the work day goes. In the middle of it, we go out for lunch, which involves a good deal of conversation and cheese-infused foodstuffs. At the end of it, we remove all signs of personality or individual presence from our hotel cubes, stow it in our comfortably-garaged vehicles and head to a nearby watering-hole where we are able to spend a couple of hours over beers and snacks talking like normal people about the world of things outside the corporate office. These hours are a joy, the reward for all the silliness, all the stress. If one is lucky, as I am, to work with people who enrich and deepen your life even outside the workplace, then the weekly Girls Night Out becomes damn near sacramental. Tonight was no exception. A brief stop at the grocery and a few minutes wrapping up this post and it’s time for bed. A great day.
©Mary Braden 2013