A Super Day at the Office (from October, 2008)
It’s Monday, 10 am. My colleagues and I are in consultation.
I begin the meeting: “Team, we have a busy week ahead: major milestones to tackle and a report to finish. I’ve scheduled an extra team meeting for Wednesday morning.”
Immediate revolt: “Not Wednesday. Wednesday makes me sick!”
“C’mon guys. We’ve had meetings on Wednesdays before and you really liked them.”
“No! No! No! No!”
My three trusted colleagues are running in divergent directions. Alex bolts for the stairwell. Thomas flails onto his desk, face down on the keyboard. I find Jon just down the hallway, grinning and pointing to the washroom door.
I re-group and set some short-term tasks for the team while I get myself some coffee from the office kitchen. Suddenly, Jon is at my side.
“I want to stir. I want to stir!” He yanks the spoon from my hand and vigorously stirs coffee onto the latest draft of our report.
I clean up and check on the other team members.
Thomas has forgotten his short-term task. He’s standing precariously in his office chair, fist and chin in the air. “It’s Superman!” he yells, beaming. Then the chair swivels and Superman goes down. It’s twenty minutes before he’s seated at his desk again.
During those twenty minutes, war is waged in the adjoining cubicle. Alex and Jon are arguing over who gets to re-write the budget. I leave Thomas (I mean, “Superman”) and step next door.
Each has a lethal grip on the budget. Alex bares his teeth, ready to clamp down on Jon’s arm, but clearly doesn’t want to lose hold of the disputed document.
“Alex! Jon! You haven’t worked on the budget in months. Why do you both want to write it now? We have to learn to share these assignments.”
Alex lets go and sends Jon flying backwards. He hits his head on the power bar under his desk. Taking advantage of his wounded colleague, Alex heads in for the bite.
I really, really, have to get this report finished so I persuade Alex back to his cubicle and settle Jon in his. I ask them to watch a video on our new stats software, hoping it will be both educational and sufficiently compelling to hold their attention for ten minutes.
In less than one minute, Alex is at my desk.
“I’m hungry. I want a snack.”
“Please, may I have a snack? Please?”
Thomas and Jon are just behind him. They want snacks too.
I suggest we continue work over lunch, and we’re soon back in the meeting room with sandwiches, cookies and juice boxes.
But no one is hungry anymore. Thomas sends a geyser of juice up through the straw of his juice box. Jon pulverizes his cookie into his copy of the report. Alex has fallen asleep in his seat.
I clean up again and gently wake Alex. He’s alert but won’t let me put him back in his chair. In fact, he has curled into a ball on my lap. Jon sees an opportunity, climbs onto the back of my chair, and wraps his hands around my neck, cutting off most oxygen flow to my brain. Thomas picks Jon’s cookie crumbs from the floor directly under my feet.
“Can’t…” I gasp, “write report with you on my neck….”
Finally, everyone is back in their chairs. Juice drips from the back wall but we must get back to our report. I pick up a red pen and start to highlight areas that need work.
“Not red! I don’t like red. I want blue!”
“No I want blue! Blue! Blue! Blue!”
“I like green!”
They shove pens in my direction, hoping I’ll choose the color closest to my face. Jon slowly crawls across the table. With singular focus, he aims his green pen up my nose.
I’m going to lose it.
Ten minutes later, I’m alone at my desk feeling like an utter failure. I want to quit this job. I should be fired from this job. And I have time to wallow in this self-doubt because it’s quiet. Uhhh, it’s quiet?!
I find Thomas making a hundred full-color copies of his Superman t-shirt (worn, apparently, under his office attire) and passing the copies directly to Jon – who is feeding them into the shredder. Alex tosses the resulting shreds into the air like confetti at a wedding. I haven’t the energy to intervene and retreat to my desk.
My colleagues join me several minutes later.
“We’re sorry…. We’re ready to work on the report now.”
A reprimand rises in my throat but I’m too distracted to mouth the words. Though terribly unprofessional, I can’t help thinking how damn cute they all are. Then, like brilliant fireworks exploding, they tear away from my desk – at full speed and in three different directions (none of which is their desk).
How could I quit this job? I love this job more than life itself. It is life itself. We’ve made absolutely no progress on the report, but the team is happy. That’s good enough for me.