My interest in doing anything diminished by something like 98% whenever I’m specifically asked or told to do it.
Perhaps I am a contrarian, but I doubt it.
This tendency, this character trait, this human flaw, whatever you want to call it, thankfully does not interfere with my work life, which makes me a Good Employee. For all intents and purposes.
Maybe not a contrarian then, but simply a pragmatist.
Whatever it takes.
Look. I tried to get along with my office mates (I try to get along with everyone!) but it isn’t always easy or convenient (or wise) to do so. Offices especially can be strange environments – few resources (promotions, photocopying privileges, pens & paper) makes for some intense competition and, in my case, produced some rather toxic rivalries. Everyone seemed to know this, but that isn’t the same as saying it was acknowledged, openly or otherwise.
Or is it just me?
(It’s not just me.)
There are things people did to ease the tension: some brought in cookies and candy, others organized office potlucks, a few nominated themselves (or were nominated) as to go-to people to for those wishing to celebrate their birthdays at the office (after work hours, and we all had to chip in for the cake).
There were few birthdays at the office.
For a while we were allowed, encouraged even, to bring dogs in to work (“Pet dogs,” reminded our boss, Tucson,* pale, immaculate finger wagging in the air, adding his usual linguistic garnish as a way to stay at the head of the decision, though it may have been a directive rather than description, it was hard to tell with him).
But the dogs quickly became bored, then destructive, then somewhat belligerent (they could sense it too, the tension, and were getting spoiled from the cupcakes people fed them under their desks).
A NO DOGS policy was instituted.
For a while after that, there was nothing, save the baked goods and the potlucks and birthdays as rare as black, winged unicorns (or promotions).
Then came BOOK BINGO.
Phoenix came up with the idea, and it seemed a good one. It seemed inventive and sound and, most of all, harmless. We were, after all, a group of smart, educated people, who often professed our love of books in the narrow, sagging hallways of the ramshackle building that housed our cubicles, on the tacky carpeting that ran beneath our shared workspaces like an oil slick; in the upstairs kitchenette with the broken microwave. Some of us were even in book clubs.
Book clubs, even!
The categories listed on the BOOK BINGO sheets that Phoenix printed out for us seemed interesting and (dare I say it?), fun:
B-3: A DYSTOPIAN NOVEL.
I-5: A GRAPHIC NOVEL.
N-2: A BOOK WITH A BLUE COVER.
G-1: A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2015.
O-4: A BOOK WRITTEN BY A FEMALE AUTHOR.*
“Where’s the harm?” I said.
And Phoenix smiled.
In the end, five of us (it was a small office, despite everything), signed on for what was already being hailed (by Phoenix, ever the ringmaster, ever the MC) as The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of 2015 (pronounced “twenty-fifteen”).
Because not only had we agreed to play, we would play big: no rows or columns of B or I, or the like or that ilk. Not even impressive diagonals would do. The winner would be declared the first to complete the entire BOOK BINGO sheet (all twenty-five squares, minus the star in the middle that marked the free space). The good space.
The prize would be bragging rights (or cake if we all wanted to chip in for it).
Bragging rights I wanted.
Bragging rights I understood. Bragging rights were how you got around a place like the place where I worked, how you carved out a space for yourself and kept it that way.
I got books out from the library. I took gathered books that I had purchased from second-hand stores and garage sales and had always meant to read, sometime IN THE FUTURE, when the time was right. I made piles and lists. Books towered on my nightstand. They littered the floor, crept onto the bed and invaded my dreams.
I consulted BOOK BINGO sheet, and took a closer look at the categories carefully picked out by Phoenix:
N-1: A BOOK PUBLISHED THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN.
O-2: A BOOK BY SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE.
N-5: AN IMPORTANT BOOK.
O-3: YOUR. FAVOURITE. BOOK.
And it hit me.
Each category – it asked a lot. Each would give the people I saw every day – and really only because I was paid to be there (seeing them was, in a way, incidental to being there) – a little something of myself.
It hit me hard.
(Was this a bad thing? Was it bad? It didn’t seem good. Not like it mattered at that point. I was in, do you understand? I was making progress, even.)
I remember thinking: I am a Good Employee. I can do this. This is good.
Besides, I reasoned, maybe I was being silly. Perhaps I was overreacting in order to compensate for the state of things. Seeing ulterior motives and indulging in paranoid fantasies where there was only collegiate goodwill and a genuine, concentrated desire to connect. I was seeing entitlements where there were only efforts to create a more open, friendly, happy place to work.
A BOOK BY SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE.
But then there was never enough pens & paper.
AN IMPORTANT BOOK.
There was never enough to go around, if certain people needed it.
YOUR. FAVOURITE. BOOK.
And I was not certain people.
… TO BE CONTINUED
* Not real name. All names, and possibly genders, have been changed to obscure the identities of the very real people that lurk just behind those identities.
* This required a special category???