Thursday, September 17

Home away from home

I’ve been in my current job for ten years, in my current office for about 8 ½. We moved in early 2001 to a brand-new facility, custom-made for us. I remember in the early days, we were not supposed to eat at our desks for fear of soiling the new carpet. There are tales of people being busted by executive assistants for having such banal snack foods as apples and bananas at their desks. If we ate lunch at our desks, we did so hunched over, quickly, in case the Food Patrol came by. God forbid we have to heat something up. That was a covert op that had to be done with the precision of Jack Bauer. You had to go through a certain door to minimize being seen by anyone. Then you had to do something about the smell. We covered for each other, creating diversions.

As the years went on, the rules became more lax, we ate freely at our desks. Even smelly stuff.

Tomorrow, we are moving again. The moving boxes are piling up, and ghosts of past employees are stirring. In the process of moving, old files, personal belongings and long forgotten objects are assessed to see if they are move-worthy, or dumpster material. Some things are no-brainers. Those boxes of old brochures with outdated company logos? Those can go. IBL’s golf club paper weight that he left behind when he retired? (Yes, he’s gone. I don’t want to talk about it.) I can’t bring myself to part with it.

I consider this office to be my home away from home. I spend most of my waking hours here. It’s a place I’ve kept my stuff in for longer than my current house. The people here, for as much as they drive me nuts, are a pseudo family. I still refer to abandoned cubicles as “So-and-so’s desk”, even if that person has been gone for years. I’ve become used to the constant chatter of those around me, and of Bad Lady’s radio (that plays that damn Black Eyed Peas song at least six times a day – which is six times too many). Hell, I’ve even spent my share of Saturdays here, in my grubby clothes. One Saturday, while waiting for a response from management, IBL and I pitched pennies at a spot on the floor – closest to the spot won that round. I was pregnant with both my children while I worked here (and hence twice got to park in the exclusive, close to the building “Expectant Mother” parking spot – the envy of my co-workers). I got married while I worked here. I turned 30. I saw the Twin Towers fall while huddled around the television in my boss’office. I watched our current president’s inauguration with the company CEO, who stopped his day to watch the revelry, on a co-worker’s computer screen. I said goodbye to friends who moved on, were downsized, retired.

So it’s no surprise that I am a bit emotional over this move. It’s a piece of my history. I’ll never see this space again. Others will sit where I now sit, they will fill the shelves with their own photos, hang their own silly cartoons or child’s drawings on the walls framing the cubicle. They will go through their own milestones in life and at work. Maybe they’ll wonder who it was who sat in the seat before them.

As for the new office, my feelings about it are ambivalent. After so long in one spot, it’s hard to accept a new one, that for me in particular, brings with it a longer commute each day. On the plus side, my new cubicle is secluded, so I might not get to hear the Black Eyed Peas song at all. It’s just off the kitchen, so I can discretely heat up my lunch and bring it back to my desk without the Food Patrol breathing down my neck (although I doubt they’ve been retained in our new building). I can re-hang my photos and silly cartoon clippings on my new walls.

And maybe, eventually, it will start to feel like home.

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