Sweater Vest

Still half-awake from a terrible night’s sleep in my non-air conditioned home, I slowly waddled through the empty parking and into the office. Muscle memory took over for my compromised motor functions as I scanned my badge to unlock the entrance and took an immediate right to walk up the stairs. Halfway to the second floor I crossed through the invisible border of cold conditioned air of the first floor into the muggy hot air of the second floor. It didn’t take a college education or 27 years of life experience to deduce that the air conditioning on the second floor wasn’t working.

I unpacked my computer, made a cup of coffee, filled my water bottle, and reluctantly placed my damaged soul into the metaphorical vice that is working in a cube, and let the forces of a corrupt capitalistic society chip my personality into fragments used to build a castle of nihilism.

The hot humid air in the building hung over my fat insulated body and beads of sweat formed on my forehead. I reached to my desk fan and turned it on, cooling me off at a temperature that remained uncomfortable but bearable.

I wear a sweater vest over a dress shirt which is over an undershirt every day, regardless of the season. As a fat guy, the extra heat from sporting three layers in the summer is a small price to pay for wearing a comfortable vest that covers up my fat rolls and muffin top that pours over my waist. I already suffer from the feeling of constantly being stared at when walking around the office, mostly due to my crippling insecurities, but also due to the resting face of sadness I have been told on many occasion that I have. On a hot day like today in an office free of air conditioning, the looks are intensified as I am wearing the attire that most reserve for colder weather.

As the mindless network TV watching middle aged sheep made their way into the office, the complaints started flying indiscriminately through the air like the bullets from Dutch’s gun as he sprayed them into the jungle blindly hoping to hit the alien monster in the movie Predator.

“We might as well work outside as its colder out there than it is in here.”

“How do they expect us to work in these conditions?”

“I am going to pack up and go work from home.”

The vitriol that came with the complaints would suggest they were treated like Chinese children making iPhones in an assembly line against their will.

“Geesh, is it hot enough for you?” a co-worker asked rhetorically as he rolled up his sleeves while walking past my desk.

I ignored the man and tried to focus on the podcast playing in my ear. Instead of hoovering around the coffee machine commiserating with them, I stayed at my desk and actually did my job. While completing my tasks I needed to make a phone call to resolve an issue, so I put on my headset and waited on hold for a customer service representative as I continued working.

My desk location right next to the break room often makes me the victim of excruciating small talk. Many co-workers wander over to me while their coffee is being made to kill time.

Even with my headset on, my phone clearly showing I was on a call, and the fact that I was doing three different things on my computer, a co-worker who couldn’t endure the nearly impossible task of talking to no one in the 28 seconds it takes for the Keurig machine to make their coffee, walked up behind me. I could feel her presence but I ignored her thinking she would see the obvious signs of a person engrossed in their work.

Tap, tap.

The knuckle of this woman wrapped on the metal edge of my cube.

Maybe she actually has a work related issue she needs to discuss with me I thought. If she went through the effort of getting my attention while I was clearly busy doing several things, it must be a pressing problem. I finished the sentence I was typing in the email and pulled my headset to the side to uncover my ear to listen to what she needed to say.

“Are you hot in that sweater?” she asked.

The question that was on so many people’s mind was finally asked. Instead of explaining why I wear a sweater vest everyday like I have therapeutically done in this post I said “yea, it’s pretty hot in here today.”

As the gurgling sounds of the Keurig came out of the break room, alerting her that the single serving of coffee has been made, she left my side not knowing that she had just ruined my day.

Tooth Paste

I conduct nearly all of my shopping online. The only brick and mortar structure I walk into any more is the liquor store. Other than booze, I buy everything via the internet which helps save money and prevents human interaction. This morning I used the last of my tooth paste and had nothing to feed my two hungry cats. I could get by without tooth paste for the two days it takes Amazon to ship orders to my home, but unfortunately I couldn’t let my cats go that long without eating.

Tooth paste and cat food, two things I can easily get at the super market next to my office on my lunch break. My inability to keep inventory on my household goods forced me into a hell that I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

I began to understand the full consequences of my mistake when I saw the sea of cars that filled the super market parking lot. After parking into one of the last spots, I made my final decent into hell. I was greeted inside the store by an impossibly old employee who instead of saying “welcome” or “happy holidays” like he is supposed to do, asked “where is your coat?”

I don’t wear coats, even in the winter. Right now in Michigan the temperate is in the single digits (Fahrenheit) and it is definitely cold. But I am only outside for a maximum of 3 minutes every day. It takes me 30 seconds to walk to my car in the morning, a minute to walk into work, and a minute to walk to my car after work. I wear three layers of shirts every day, a tee shirt, a long sleeve button down, and a sweater vest. Plus I have about 100 pounds of extra fat insulating my core. It’s not like I am walking around in a tank top in the middle of winter, I have more than enough clothing to survive my short journeys outside.

Similar to not eating free food, not wearing a coat in the winter forces everyone (especially old people) to inquire why. Last week when I walked into work I ran into a co-worker in the parking lot and instead of walking in silence, I was interrogated to why I wasn’t wearing a coat. The concern in his voice would suggest I was walking while pointing a gun at my own head. I explained to him that the effort and time spent dressing like I was going to climb Mount Everest was not worth the little bit of extra warmth I would feel in the minute I spent exposed to the elements walking into work.

“But what if you slide off the road in your car? You could be outside for a long time.”

“That’s a risk I am willing to take,” I sighed. He was no longer concerned after I said this, his tone changed to disappointment and resentment as he muttered “well, ok” using his heavily gloved hand to open the door to the office for me.

After I resisted the urge to RKO the old greeter into the kiosk of candy canes behind him, I grabbed a shopping cart and ignored his question. The super market was swarmed with people finishing up their Christmas shopping and gathering groceries for the Christmas holiday. I was in the store for only 30 seconds before I was forced into a halt behind a mother and her baby who were looking at sale items in the center isle of the store. Once the oncoming traffic opened up I quickly passed the oblivious mother and continued towards the pet supplies.

Once I reached the cat food isle, I encountered my second obstacle. Two old ladies were leaning on their over filled grocery carts doing something I have so much trouble with, interacting socially. They clearly knew each other and were catching up  as they blocked any path a person looking for cat food could take. I shuffled my empty cart up to the two women who apparently were so engrossed in their conversation they didn’t notice me. I awkwardly stood there behind my cart doing everything I could to ignore what they were discussing as it probably involved small talk that would send me into insanity. It took another cat owning woman to enter the area to break the talking trance the women were in to realize they were blocking the cat food.

With the cheapest bag of cat food in my cart, I trekked across the store to the tooth paste isle. During my journey I saw people huddled over a $5 DVD kiosk, looking at super hero themed kids clothing and gaudy Christmas decorations.

As I approached the tooth care isle, I knew what kind of tooth paste I wanted to buy. I understand that it is weird that I have loyalty to a tooth paste brand, but I like purchasing overpriced pronamel tooth paste as it makes me feel like I am rebuilding my eroded enamel from years of drinking diet soda (I know if doesn’t actually work as advertised). Only one old man was in the isle and of course, was blocking the pronamel tooth paste.

Whatever, bad luck, not that big of deal. Instead of talking to him and asking him to hand me a tube of pronamel, I took a trip around that block of the store hoping he would be gone by the time I returned. I waddled around three isles taking at least 3 minutes to loop back around to the tooth care supplies. When I reentered the isle, the man remained in the same location transfixed with decision fatigue over what fucking tooth paste he should buy. How can it possibly take 3 minutes to make that decision?

I slowly shuffled up to the area, cleared my throat and asked “excuse me, could you hand be a tube of the pronamel tooth paste there in front of you?”

He lifted his head and looked at me. His he used the saggy skin on his face to form a smile and said “why yes young man, I can.” Instead of reaching for a tube of pronamel, he stood there smiling at me with his stupid grin. Slowly realizing that this shopping trip is becoming a horrifying nightmare, I stood there with my cat food not sure what to do.

“Would you like me to hand you one?” he asked in a condescending tone which lead me to believe the smile was formed out of sarcasm.

“Um yes, please,” I said confused.

He reached his small hand to the shelf, grabbed a tube of pronamel and handed it to me, no longer smiling.

“Here you go, you’re welcome,” he said as resumed staring at the tooth paste.

What the fuck? Without even trying to figure out what the ancient creature was getting at, I evacuated the area and made my way to the check out. Day ruined.

Secret Santa

Christmas is a holiday that exploits the materialistic nature of humans in the name of religion. A man that was supposedly conceived from a virgin on December 25th has his birthday celebrated with in house pine trees and presents delivered by an ironically made up man named Santa Claus.

This holiday spirit bleeds into offices across the country and often materializes into Secret Santa gift exchanges. Receiving useless trinkets from an anonymous person that you work with is “fun” because trying to figure out who gave you stale Hershey Kisses and cheap lotion is a cheerful holiday mystery.

Unsurprisingly I didn’t participate in this year’s Secret Santa but like paying for shitty high deductible health insurance, I couldn’t escape it. This morning as I sat at my desk trying to think of an excuse to not attend the office holiday party, a smiling co-workers head appeared over my cube wall. I pulled out my ear buds and put the most pathetic fake smile on my unshaven face.

She walked around to the entrance of my cube and I saw a gift bag with ribbons and decorative paper in her hand. The smiling pipe smoking snow man on the side of the bag eliminated my desire to even attempt smiling.

“Good morning Scott, do you ever go to the first floor?” she asked.

Yes I do go to the first floor. In fact it is impossible to not reach the second floor without going through the first floor. Instead of answering her question directly in a “just ask me the real question you want to ask” tone, I lied “yea I go down there quite a bit.”

“Oh that’s great! Do you mind dropping this off at Bridget’s desk downstairs when you go down there? I am her Secret Santa and I don’t want her to know it’s from me.”

I looked back at the snow man on the cheap gift bag. I envisioned meth being in his pipe that he was smoking and that he wasn’t a snow man at all. He was just a lost soul like me who turned to drugs and was currently dealing with a bad high where he feels like his body is made up of three balls of snow and has twigs for arms. My staring at the drug addict must have lasted longer than I thought as my co-worker said, “It’s ok if you don’t want too.”

Realizing that I was yet again failing at talking to people, I responded “oh yea no problem, I can do that. I won’t tell her who it is from.”

“Great, thanks!” she said and she placed the bag on my desk and walked away.

I stared at the bag. Who is Bridget? Where does she sit? Questions I should have asked ran through my increasingly anxious mind. I took a big swig of my coffee wishing it was Jameson and came to terms with my gift delivering assignment.

As I made my way to the first floor I cringed when I saw my reflection in the window, a fat guy in a sweater vest carrying a little gift bag looks as ridiculous as it sounds. I have only walked through the offices and cube farm on the first floor a couple of times so I didn’t know my way around. I waddled through the area wielding the cute bag scanning for name plates that reads Bridget.

I might as well have been a werewolf walking through the maze as everyone glanced at me, trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing. After a few minutes of searching I found Bridget’s unoccupied desk. I left the bag on her vacant chair and abandoned the area like it was seconds away from exploding into fire.

Relief overcame me as I sat back down at my desk. It was over. It wasn’t that bad. I unlocked my computer, pulled up the instant messenger application and thought of a funny line to send to my co-worker who needed the gift delivered. I typed and sent “the eagle has landed,” thinking that was something someone funny and social would say after completing a secret task.

She replied “what?”

I got too cocky thinking I could successfully interact with someone in a joking manner. The relief went as fast as it came and I quickly explained and said I gave the package to Bridget without her knowing.

I hate Secret Santa, and I have yet to find a way to not attend the holiday party. Day Ruined.

Spooktacular

Office pot lucks are a transparent attempt to form faux comradery and a distraction from the dullness of life in the cube. Themed pot lucks strive to add “fun” to the tradition that clogs hallways and break rooms. With Halloween approaching the annual “spooktacular” pot luck took place in my office this week and it was as chummy and corny as its name suggests.

To add another layer of excitement, a voting structure was implemented to award the “most creative” and the “most tasty” with the winners set to receive some corporate labeled apparel and bragging rights until next year. If there were any life left in my body to kill, this event would have ruthlessly murdered it. They are so amusing to the white middle aged, I found this Idea on facebook crowd, that I believe they are another species of human.

Even though the ceremony was in celebration of Halloween and prizes were awarded to the most creative and most tasty, some fucking asshole still brought in meatballs. A pot luck that doesn’t have bland meatballs consisting of frozen old hamburger must rip a hole in the universe because I have never witnessed a pot luck without them.

The feasting was scheduled to begin at 11:30 am, about 15 minutes after I escape the office to go home and search for my lost sanity. Unlike arriving to work, the office dwellers began setting up the wide hallway early, which is the same location of my desk. Large tables were noisily placed in position and covered with an adorable dollar store smiling pumpkin table cloth. The loud banging of the large table while being annoying and distracting to me, was a starting pistol to everyone else to set up their dish to pass.

Croc pots emerged out of every doorway and cube and hurriedly placed on the large table.

“Oh my god, I have the same croc pot, did you get yours at kohls?”

“I am so jealous, my croc pot doesn’t have the latches to keep the lid on like yours.”

“Have you seen these croc pot bags? You need to try them! They make clean up so much faster!”

I don’t know why I thought I would have been able to leave the area before the event started, maybe it was subconscious denial formed out of grief. I quickly finished my last pertinent work to get the hell out of the area before I felt the urge to grab a croc pot and throw it through the “creative or tasty” makeshift voting booth. I locked my computer screen, grabbed my keys and began to plan my departure strategy. When I stood up I saw the entire length of the hallway was lined with tables with food and people lingering around. I took a deep breath and waddled into the cross fire.

I made my way down the hallway with tunnel vision ignoring everything to the left and right of me like they were filled dead bodies and Minecraft ender men. My focus was on the doorway to the stairwell which appeared to be miles away.

“No way! That puking-pumpkin spinach dip is tooo cute!”

Panic. Cold chills. Short of breath. I felt all of it.

“Is that cheesball in the shape of a pumpkin?! How did you do that, you must show me!”

I wasn’t going to make it. There were still 3 tables to walk by.

“There is a great pinterest page I will show you this afternoon. It is filled with cute stuff!”

An inch away from death I reached salvation. I opened the heavy door and felt a wave of relief as silence entered my ears after the door closed and latched behind me. I slowly walked down the spiral staircase emotionless staring out the window. A gust of wind separated a mass of leaves from the tree they lived their short life on and began their final journey to the ground.

Trance

I was sitting in my cube early on a rainy Friday morning slowly drifting into the semi-conscious state induced by staring at emails where time, emotion, and sense of existence are not found. The smell of hazelnut coffee created via a wasteful and over worked Keurig machine resting in an environmentally hazardous Styrofoam cup wafted into my nose.

Being a Friday, several out of office emails sat in my inbox informing me that people who make more money and have more vacation time than me will still be sleeping preparing for a long weekend as I started my work day. I glanced at the digital clock in the bottom right corner of my screen, 7:15 am.

The trance that I put myself in every morning to get through the day without becoming severely angry and depressed was coming on a little too strong and was border lining on drifting into sleep. The state of mind where you are aware enough to complete your daily tasks at work, but not aware enough to see the horrifying emptiness that is your life, is hard to accomplish. I needed a sip of caffeine to wake my senses up a little bit.

I grabbed my still too-hot-to-drink coffee and allowed a spoonful worth into my mouth. The small amount of caffeine in the coffee ingested was complimented by the burning sensation and bitter taste. The perfect amount of pain, taste, and caffeine to keep me alert, but not enough to take me out of my trance.

The muscle memory of clicking the same spreadsheets and pressing the same keys every week day for 2.5 years took over. More people had arrived at the office, walking past my half of cube wall separating my work space from the congested interstate highway that is the hallway leading to the break room. After being exposed to the constant flow of people walking and talking in my peripherals for 8 months, I have learned to tune them out. A terrorist, a clown, or even a naked Margot Robbie could walk by and I wouldn’t notice unless their blurry image stood in my periphery for more than 10 seconds.

A purple mass entered my periphery as I continued working and stayed there for 10 seconds. I turned my chair, slipped out of the fog that I tried to so hard to maintain, and prepared myself for a social interaction.

Freshly alert I saw a nameless office dweller standing behind me and next to the entrance of the break room with a cup of dark roast coffee. I have seen this purple polo wearing man before in the office but we have never introduced ourselves to each other, so I am unaware of his name. He carefully held his coffee and said “happy Friday.”

In the moment I knew this was strange for him to talk to me like this, but I figured he was cheerful, or his wife slept with him for the first time in 6 months the night before which put him in such a happy mood he wanted to talk to a stranger with a painfully cliché greeting. To continue with my life long burden of appearing to be social and normal I replied, “thanks, same to you.”

My last syllable was still leaving my mouth when I saw another co-worker exit the break room, the person purple man was actually greeting. Both began walking to leave the uncomfortable awkward vibe occupied area. As they walked away both men didn’t look directly at me, they looked forward in silence ignoring the social failure that sat in the half cube in the hallway. As their footsteps grew fainter I heard both talking, picking up the conversation that started behind my desk.

I slowly turned in my chair to face my computer screen. I looked back at the clock which read 7:25 am. Five minutes before my work day officially begun and the day had already been ruined.

Lunch

Technology is great. I have a device in my pocket that can make phone calls, send emails, video chat, play games, movies, music, and connect to the porn filled internet. Video game virtual reality is only months away, there is a rover on mars being controlled by us on an entirely different planet. In a society surrounded by evolving technology, the technological device that has had the greatest impact on my life is the touch screen ordering menu at the local Subway drive through.

In the 26 plus years I have spent on this earth, I have driven through countless drive throughs at every imaginable fast food restaurant. In a futile attempt to be healthier but continue to not make any of my own food, I have been going through the 24 hour drive through at Subway. At this drive through there is a big touch screen that eliminates the clunkiness of talking through a speaker to the poor soul who works the drive through window shift. I can order my sub the way that I want it quickly and without any human interaction. It’s truly amazing.

Unfortunately following the easy picture based instructions on this technical marvel is not possible for a large population of people in my town. Between the hours of 11 am and 1 pm, every restaurant is packed with people looking to overpay for a meal on their lunch break. More often than not I am successful in avoiding the crowd at the Subway drive through by taking my lunch break between 11:15 and 12:15. Some days, like today, I get trapped in a line of cars impatiently waiting for a middle aged – elderly woman struggling to order on the oversized iPad.

Today, an older woman sitting in her painfully generic mini-van attempted to order a meal via the touch screen menu with 4 cars, including myself, behind her. As soon as I stopped my car at the end of the line and looked over at woman ordering, I knew I was going to be immobile for a while. Initially she had a stress free expression as she looked through the menu searching for the perfect meal. She looked through the options similar to how I look at Amazon to waste time at work. After a few minutes, which is hours in busy drive through time she found the item that she wanted.

I know the process and the menu system well from going through this drive through several times a week since it opened over a year ago. First you pick your sub, then your bread, cheese, toppings, meal options, side options, and then drink options. With each choice that needs to be made, a new window on the screen pops up. With every choice, this woman sat and reflected for at least 20 seconds before making a decision. Painfully slow.

The final screen allows the driver the option to pay at the window where the food is received or to pay at the screen via credit card. The paying at the screen credit card system has been down for months and there is a clear and obvious sign tapped over the credit card reader explaining so. Any normal person would select pay at the window after seeing this sign and drive forward.

Not this woman.

After the exhausting decision making process of what she wanted on her sub, she must have not seen the sign and selected the “pay here option.” After doing so she looked in her purse on her lap, pulled out her credit card and froze in panic when she saw the sign. There is no excuse for not seeing the sign, but whatever mistakes happen, just pull forward and explain to the cashier what happened and pay at the window. Instead of doing the logical thing, the lady started talking into the speaker that is on the device. Not surprising that she didn’t see the large clearly marked button that read “push here to speak” and she explained her stupid fucking mistake into nothing. When she didn’t hear anything back, she froze again and started to become even more flustered. She looked back at us in the cars waiting for her for guidance and it took every ounce of self-control to not give her a fat middle finger.

She eventually allowed logical thought to enter her brain and she pulled forward. I hadn’t felt rage like I felt in that moment in a long time. This woman was completely unaware, or she just didn’t care, about the line of cars behind her as she took her time ordering her lunch. Then on top of that, her inability to notice instructions in plain view is evidence that she should not be operating and driving the Town and Country that she resided in. To release some anger I grabbed my phone and made the below status:

Untitled

 

There is not one word of sarcasm in that status.

Bad Smells

The office building that I work in is fairly small for the amount of people that work in it.  It has two floors and has about 40 to 50 people on each floor. Each floor has one male and one female bathroom.  I have never been in the female bathroom but as a frequent visitor of the male bathrooms, I know they have two urinals and one stall. So only 6 males can be releasing their wastes at the same time and only 2 can be “checking their email” if you know what I mean (pooping). The male to female ratio is fairly even in the office so simple math will show there are 2 stalls for 40 guys in the building. Mid-morning (coffee has settled) and mid-afternoon (lunch has settled) see the highest bathroom traffic, especially in the limited stall space.

Around 2pm this afternoon I began to feel the warnings that my personal email inbox needed to be cleaned out (I had to poop really bad). I work on the second floor so I walked to and entered the bathroom on my floor. The door wasn’t cracked open two inches before I saw two brown shoes on the floor in the stall. Occupied. I had already began the process of entering the bathroom so I continued my way to the urinal and pretended to piss. I stood there for about 30 seconds and then wasted water by flushing nothing, washed my hands and headed towards the stair case to check out the first floor bathroom.

The first floor bathrooms are located in the main lobby of the building where the receptionist sits. I walked by her desk and entered the completely empty bathroom. Vacant. In the stall I checked my email (let out diarrhea caused by Subway) and sat a minute taking advantage of the opportunity to look at something other than my computer screens. I saw the toilet paper was almost gone but the cleaning service placed an extra roll on top of the dispenser. I saw a couple lose floor tiles by the entrance of the stall, and a can of off brand air freshener. The upstairs bathroom has cheap air freshener spray as well but I never used it, I don’t fully understand the concept. The bathroom is the one place in the world where it is socially acceptable to smell like shit. Spraying artificial fruity liquid in the air doesn’t make the bathroom smell any less of shit, it just mixes in the smell of strawberries. It still smells bad.

After completely cleaning out my inbox (wiping my ass) I noticed a sign on the door of the stall. It read “Please use the air freshener before leaving the bathroom. Thank you.” This is the first time I have seen this sign and unless one was added the day before, I knew the upstairs bathroom did not have this sign. The “please use the air freshener before leaving the bathroom” was typed in the comic sans font and a few spaces down the “thank you” was in times new roman. Utilizing multiple fonts for a bathroom stall sign is already too extravagant, but both phrases also were in different colors. Both were different shades of gray as the sign was printed on a non-color printer and they were in the middle of a black rectangle. So the person who made this sign spent enough time to use two different fonts, two different colors over what I am assuming was a fun cool colored background, but didn’t have the foresight to use a color printer to maximize the effect.

Over analyzing the sign opened up the psychological scar tissue and anger and cynicism began to bleed out of me. Why was this sign created? Why is it only in the first floor bathroom? Why did the creator waste so much ink? I began to develop answers to these questions. I assume this sign was created for one of two reasons. Some guy who works on the first floor can’t stand the smell of shit without it being mixed with a fruity fog, or the smell of shit leaks out of the bathroom and into the main lobby. This building does get some visitors, but not enough to where there could have been enough situations where a visitor was sitting in the lobby just after a fresh shit was flushed that smelled so bad, the scent soared 20 feet into the lobby which lead to a rash of complaints from such visitors. More likely is that the ancient receptionist who sits in the lobby all day doesn’t enjoy getting a non-fruity dissipated shit smell every mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Smelling shit isn’t pleasant, but it is a small price to pay to have the easiest job in the world where your sole responsibility is to check in visitors and send out weather reports and notifications when the refrigerators are going to be defrosted. From my knowledge this receptionist has been in her role since the buildings inception in the early 90’s. She has worked there so long she probably makes more money than I do.

I then began to envision the receptionist wrinkling her nose as the faint smell of fart violated her senses and angrily opening a word document to make a fun colored sign with multiple fonts. But the color printer is on the other side of the floor and she can’t leave the weather radar on her screen unrefreshed for more than 5 minutes, so she uses the black and white printer right next to her.

As I let my irrational rage flow through my body I started to wonder how people use the air freshener spray. So a person takes a shit, wipes their ass, and then uses their dirty hand to spray the freshener in the stall? In a world where smelling a fart is a traumatic event, I assume touching an object used by many dirty butt hands is considered a terrorist attack. So am I supposed to shit, wipe, leave the stall, wash my hands, and then go back to the stall and spray the air freshener?

The sign, the air freshener, it’s all dumb. I can’t believe someone took time out of their day and consciously made a sign, with multiple fonts and colors, so the farts they smell do not smell as bad. Way too much time was wasted thinking about this and even more while writing about it, but Jesus Christ, day ruined.

Bugs

Occupying a desk that sits up against the only break room on the floor of the office turns me into a  victim of involuntary eavesdropping. I am the kitchen floor in a restaurant where the dishwasher left the sink running as he left to complete a task. Over time the water builds up and flows onto the floor. I am constantly being water-boarded with useless information about future vacations, weather predictions, and the empty robotic small talk that consumes most conversations.

“Good morning Drew, how are you?,” asked Brenda as she walked past Drew who stood at the coffee machine in the break room. “I will be a lot better once I get this coffee in me,” Drew replied. That answer alone caused me to cringe but the sitcom laugh track that came out of Brenda’s mouth forced me to wrinkle my face. Countless conversations like this one have invaded my ears in the 6.5 months I have sat in this desk.

Yesterday the break room conversations consisted mostly of complaining. That in itself is not strange as most of my co-workers instinctively  complain about any and everything. The main topic for the complaining yesterday was bugs. I have noticed a few ants trekking across my 2.5 cube walls recently but other than flicking them away, they haven’t bothered me. I honestly forgot about them until I heard the angry cries from 240.

“These bugs are ridiculous.”

“Oh I know, it’s disgusting, I had several spiders on my desk yesterday.”

“I’ve killed, spiders, ants, flies, even a beetle. I spoke with the receptionist and she said maintenance has been notified and that they are scheduling a bug guy to come check the office out.”

“For all we know they are crawling into the water cooler and coffee machine.”

“I am going to have a word with maintenance when they arrive, whatever they are doing isn’t working.”

Having a few bugs scurrying on my desk isn’t awesome, but it isn’t taking my quality of life down to a level where I audibly complain about it. It is the middle of summer and it is warm and humid. The bug population greatly increases in Michigan during this time of year, it isn’t surprising or something worthy of such intense discussion.

Later in the day I was waddling back to my desk from the bathroom when I heard, “hey Scott, check this out.” I stopped, partially startled as I am not used to talking with people in the hallway. I looked over to the area where the whisper came from and saw Bob. He was holding a piece of lined paper. “Check this out,” he said in a tone similar to Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs when he brought Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel out to his car to show them the tied up cop he had in his trunk. Instead of showing me a captive cop, Bob lifted up the paper.

I saw 3 rows of 5 dead bugs tapped to the paper. Most of them were ants, but there was a mixture of flies, spiders, and beetles. I also noticed that each individual piece of tape used to keep the dead insects attached to the college ruled paper were smaller than normal. In fact, they were split in half so for the 15 bugs only 8 pieces of tape were used and that means half of another piece of tape is waiting for the next victim. I shifted my eyes to Bob’s desk, my observation was correct, a half piece of tape hung on the edge of his desk flapping in the wind from his personal desk fan.

I looked back at the paper and Bob began explaining how he was able to kill the insects without completely squashing them so he could preserve them and show the bug expert when he arrives. I was only half listening as I imagined Bob hunched over his desk with a pile of gently killed insects precisely splitting pieces of tape in half.

“Wow, that’s a lot,” I said, as Drew walked over to see the organized mass grave Bob proudly held in his hand.

“Are those all from your desk?,” Drew asked with his eyes fixed on the paper. “Well not all of them, some are…”

This was my opportunity for escape and I took it. I left Bob and Drew to continue their complain party and finally made it back to my desk. The real world is a mess right now. Unarmed black people are being shot, Cops are being ambushed and killed, terrorists continue to kill people around the globe, Donald Trump is turning the Republican National Convention into a WrestleMania promotion, and my co-workers are in Defcon4 over insects in the office. I spend hours writing and complaining about them, maybe that makes me worse. Yesterday the dishwasher left the kitchen sink on before he closed the restaurant and the water flooded me all night.

Free Food

Team building lunch meetings are a mental battle that are becoming increasingly difficult to survive. Two groups within the same office are now forced to mingle and talk about work on their lunch break once a month in exchange for free food.

Today was the second of these meetings and despite going into it mentally prepared for empty talk filled with buzz words and motivational quotes, I was not ready for the hell that awaited me. I arrived to the conference room five minutes early which I determined was early enough to get a good seat but not too early to look like a weirdo who didn’t have anything better to do at his desk. I waddled into the room, saw a row of chairs off to the side unoccupied and three other attendees were already seated talking among themselves. Perfect start. I picked the last seat off to the side and I was not forced into awkward small talk with the other early arrivals.

The meeting leader struts into the room over-dressed knowing that she was going to be talking in front of a lot of people and announced the free food arrived. The Chinese food was placed in the adjacent kitchen attached to the conference room and without hesitation the other three gravitated towards the bait. The meeting leader walked over to me smiling harder than I have ever smiled in my life and said “Scott go help yourself.”

Here is the issue. I love Chinese food, but I hate eating in front of people that I don’t know well, especially at work. A risk vs. reward scenario runs through my head. Should I just awkwardly stand in line, grab food, eat it uncomfortably in front of people and probably spill some on my shirt, or should I not eat anything and fight off the inevitable questions and attention that comes with being one of the few people not eating. Last month I chose not to eat and it was only pointed out by two people. I can handle two stupid questions. I chose to follow the same strategy as last month and not eat.

Big mistake.

I was interrogated by six different co-workers in regards to the crime of not eating free food during a lunch meeting. This includes the “Scott go help yourself” comment from the meeting leader even though it was just her and I in the room at the time. Here are the other five:

“Not eating?” asked a co-worker as he sat down with a plate about to collapse under the weight of the chicken and egg rolls. He looked at me the way I would look at an alien creature that landed its UFO in my front yard; pure shock and confusion. “Eh maybe later, not too hungry right now,” I replied keeping my composure.

Not more than ten seconds later I was slapped across the face with “Scott want me to grab you a plate?” as a different co-worker placed his things on the opposite side of the conference table and began walking towards the buffet. To most people this is a nice thing to ask, a favor for someone who doesn’t have any food yet. But it is one of the worst questions he could have asked at that time across the conference table. More people have made their way to the trough and heard what the polite man asked. Their natural reaction is to peak their heads over and look at me to see why I wasn’t getting the food myself. Is he crippled? Is he working on something? This led to most of the room taking a glance at me which is not something a socially awkward person enjoys. “No I am good, thanks though,” I muttered.

“Lots of food left man,” stated another co-worker. As if that was the reason I wasn’t in line to get food, I was paralyzed with fear that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. “Cool, I will probably get some later,” I said.

“Not a fan of Chinese food?” a fourth co-worker asked as he sat on the same side as the conference table as me four chairs down. Like any other fat guy, I love Chinese food. I love it more than most of my family members. “Eh not really,” I lied, “I am not a fan of eating in front of people,” I said exposing some of my vulnerabilities hoping it would end the barrage of questions and unwanted attention.

Unfortunately another co-worker sat down next to the one who just asked a fat guy if he is a fan of sauce covered chicken and rice and chimed in, “you don’t like what?” Becoming weaker from fighting off the inaccurately predicted large army I sheepishly said, “I don’t really like eating in front of people, I’m not that hungry either.” She had only heard the first questioned and stated  “Oh, I thought I heard someone say they didn’t like Chinese food. I was going to say I haven’t met many people in this office who don’t like Chinese food.” I just looked the other way and didn’t respond. I stared at the floor and chewed my gum trying to not appear uncomfortable.

Less than a minute later the meeting started. The cheery meeting leader began talking and a co-worker slid into the chair next to me with his hot plate of food. I leaned back in my chair thinking the worse was over and let my eardrums consume the meaningless banter that was about to unfold.

“Did you not get any food?” the co-worker whispered in my ear as he was opening the spork and napkin package. I let my guard down too soon. I assumed that the man sitting next to me wouldn’t say anything to me since the meeting had already begun. I wasn’t expecting a stealth attack. Letting all of my defenses down left me vulnerable to the anxiety and anger that soared through my mind. Staggered and disoriented I couldn’t muster even a whisper, I just let out a long breath and shook my head.

I was finished.

Sure I was still alive but at what cost? I survived the battle but the damage was indescribable. To cope I began thinking about ways to make money where I don’t have to interact with other human beings. I began to contemplate why a person turning down free food is a source of such powerful curiosity it makes it impossible not to investigate why. Reality slowly re-entered my life and I started listening to the meeting leader.

“So from now on I am going to assign one of you to facilitate these meetings and to control the discussion. We have these meetings scheduled through the end of the year so only five of you will be selected to lead a meeting. I will send an email out with these names but here is a list of who will be responsible for facilitating the next meetings. Ok, so August will be Brenda, September will be Drew, October will be Scott, November will be …”

I hadn’t been recovering from my injuries for more than two minutes before the death blow landed directly to my head. I suffered five heavy wounds and thinking the battle was over I prematurely took my armor off which resulted in a stealth attack that nearly killed me. Laying on the ground, defenseless, barely alive, the meeting leader slowly walked towards my brittle body. She stood over top of me wielding her axe which she lifted above her head. She looked at me, made eye contact but showed no emotion under the thick makeup on her face. She heartlessly swung the axe into my skull completely finishing me off.

I hope October never comes.

Refrigerator

“The refrigerator in room 240 is going to be defrosted today.  If you have anything in there that might spoil please move it to another fridge.”

These two sentences sent in a mass email to everyone in the office served as an informative notification to most but as a warning of a mental demolition to myself. I already knew the location of room 240 as my desk sits right up against it, but I slowly shifted my eyes from my monitor to the identification number on the break room that is the source of so much pain.

240.

Without delay the entitled middle aged sheep waddled over to the break room to retrieve their midday nourishment from the refrigerator. This lead to rehashed conversations about the leftover meatballs and the ingredients used to make them, the sale on lean cuisines at Kroger, and how awful it would be if the food went bad due to not being properly stored in a cool place. The food wielding crowd lingered like a scab on the back of a heel; as soon as one person left the cloud of empty talk, another filled the space.

The hallow unstimulating conversation lasted for minutes but felt like eons. This minor annoyance seems easily forgettable, but the psychological scar tissue from months of enduring this desk location is easily opened. These two sentences could have been cut down to two words, Day Ruined.