Category Archives: Stories

Workplace Etiquette: The Trailer Office

I’ve been relocated at work from the grimy old cubicle I used to occupy on the second floor of our building out to a trailer. They’re finishing up our office building renovation, and accommodating all the personnel that had to move meant that my group ended up in the Trailer Office.

Grimy old cube. That I actually miss.

Grimy old cube. That I actually miss.

The Trailer Office is really two trailers, mashed together. In what seems to me an entirely illogical decision, management set the trailers up with the front of the second trailer facing the back of the first trailer. The two trailers are identical, though, so this particular placement means that the only windows in the back trailer are only about a foot from the front trailer and let in almost no light. The “front doors” of the back trailer have been marked off with caution tape and a sign from some clever previous occupant about Platform Nine and Three Quarters. (Except unlike Platform Nine and Three Quarters, these doors actually go nowhere and are in no way enchanting or magical.) Communicating doorways were engineered between the two trailers to either side of the back trailer’s actual doors.

005The trailer is filled with cubicles that look a lot like the one I left behind, except older. They are missing parts and the inimitable “cubicle cloth” is fraying and trailing threads in certain places. Drawers don’t stay open because (although I’m sure they tried their very hardest and best) the floor isn’t level. And as my group got stuck in the back trailer, there is no natural light.

Also, the trailer has no running water and no bathroom. Management rented two “deluxe” port-a-potties (an oxymoron if ever I’ve written one), one for men and one for women. They’re considered deluxe because they have sinks and “flushing” toilets. When the port-a-potties get pumped out, the trailer fills with the smell of sulfur and excrement. Supposedly the pump-out is supposed to happen on weekends but the last time it was a Monday morning.

I’m told that mice are a problem out here. Spiders also randomly drop into our cubicles. When it rains really hard, the rain drumming on the steel girder that sits between the two trailers is quite loud – and if it rains very hard for enough time, the water pooling on the steel girder starts to leak in through the Doors to Nowhere.

I knew that working in the trailer was going to be absolutely terrible and had been dreading it since we were told we would be coming out here: no ability to wash your hands, unless you use the port-a-potty (you have to go outside to get there, and as long as you’re outside, I maintain it’s just as easy to walk into the building). I’ve stocked my desk with Wet Ones and Clorox wipes.

But far and away the worst thing of all about the trailer – which I was not anticipating — is the lack of white noise. And my coworkers (who, don’t get me wrong, are great people) are a talkative bunch, much of the time just to themselves as they think something through. One in particular recently had a nearly day-long self-monologue which ended with, “Okay, it’s time to go home.” They’re nice people. But their contribution to my difficulty focusing is driving me batty.

As another coworker said to me, “I have yet to find a way to be productive in this environment.”

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Ffffffffebruary

Winter came early where I live. I marked the descent of this most frigid season to our clime around mid-November last year, and it’s hung around with its usual persistence. The thing is, before Christmas, I don’t mind at all. I expect and might even occasionally delight in snow before Christmas. No, the worst thing about winter is how much of it is left to go after Christmas passes (essentially, all of it).

009The area I live in hasn’t even been hit as hard as other areas, like New York. We’ve had temperatures in the single digits, snow, and wind chills below zero, but it never makes national news. Maybe because I live in the Pacific Northwest, which everyone just expects to have grim, interminable winters.

You try to find ways to make winter bearable. Like telling yourself that these snow-covered trees might be something like what Lucy saw when she emerged from the other side of the wardrobe into Narnia. Or, on a particularly grim-weathered evening, as freezing rain edges into snow, one might imagine oneself inside that Howard Nemerov poem, just watching for the moment when the falling things fly instead of fall.

In post-Christmas winter, it can be hard work to find beautiful, magical things, and most of my coping mechanisms, for better or worse, involve my inserting myself into stories and poems. It’s a reason to read, after all, not that I needed one.

I mostly spent February watching the Olympics (yay Charlie and Meryl!) and cooking. I toyed mercilessly with three different blog posts for you all month long, trying to find fewer, better words. My reading last month was frenetic at best: I tried to read about four different books, but the only one I managed to finish, I essentially hate-read: by which I mean I hated nearly everything about the book but continued to read, bitterly, out of spite and a vague notion that Winter Is For Suffering.

At one point in this book I hated, the “heroine” (it pains me to apply that term to her) burns her winter coat because it got blood on it (don’t ask), but she throws it, whole, onto the fire. WHICH WOULD SMOTHER THE FIRE. BUT IT DOESN’T. LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS BOOK OF GIANT GAPS OF PLOT LOGIC, IT MADE NO SENSE. She says she’ll make some excuse and get a new winter coat (implying she has no secondary backup coats), but the very next day she’s pulling on a new one with no explanation of how she got it.

But this raises a question I’ve been struggling with for a while: how do you talk about books you hated? I shy away from being super-negative here on my blog because I don’t want to invite negativity here, but sometimes a book just doesn’t work for me and I’d like to talk about it. If you have any ideas, please share!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with these links: the stages of winter rage (thank you, NPR!), and 5 Reading Rules for Books Lovers of All Ages, from Reading Rainbow. We can do it, guys. The first day of spring is technically two weeks away, so we’re almost there.

One Hundred

This is my one-hundredth post.

009It seemed like an occasion to be marked, celebrated with a post more noteworthy than a marginally funny story about a bizarre concert I went to recently or more thanks to all of you who continue to visit in spite of my irregular posting and wildly variable post quality.

I spent a lot of time trawling the internets for ideas for a hundredth post, which of course, obviously, led to much comparing my blog to other people’s blogs and a lot of writerly insecurity and general paralysis that this post had to be better. It’s also dark November, and I’ve been reading Housekeeping again, which, well, it’s not always good for me: it’s so full of loneliness and loss and it’s so, so beautiful. It just sometimes leaves me feeling without, too full of feels to feel. (I think I can safely say that’s a phrase Marilynne Robinson would never dream of writing.)

But if anything productive came out of all that blog comparison, I realized I haven’t given you much grounding information on who I am, and my reading tastes (favorite authors and so on). After all, why should you come to my little book blog at all, if not to find out about books you might be interested in reading yourself, general bookishness, and the occasional somewhat funny story about things that have happened to me? If authenticity is something to strive for, and I believe it is, then maybe now is the time to remedy that.

I tried to do just that with the following, in one hundred words or less, but it’s closer to two hundred (they all seemed necessary):

I love books that make me laugh, books that make me cry, books that keep me up reading in the night, and books that make me think. My ideal dinner party of authors, living or dead, would first of all involve enough of them so that I wouldn’t be expected to contribute heavily to the conversation, and would at least include: Harper Lee, C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, Marilynne Robinson, Lady Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Shakespeare. In my mind, Harper Lee and Barbara Pym would immediately corner Jane Austen like the fangirls they were; Dorothy L. Sayers, C. S. Lewis, and Marilynne Robinson would enjoy some intellectual conversation about Christianity; and after I’d effusively told Lady Mary Stewart how I’ve read This Rough Magic almost to shreds and can quote from it at length (it’s the one book I own whose broken spine is caused by me), she would find Shakespeare endlessly interesting. As would we all.

I would be happiest floating between their conversations, refilling plates and glasses and basking in the general glow of greatness.

What about you? Who is invited to your ideal dinner party of authors?

Thank You, Internet!

Wow, Internet. I’m not sure what to say. It’s been a Day for me and my little blog.

When I got to work this morning, I logged in to check my blog stats, as I sometimes do in the mornings, not expecting to really see anything exciting…when I saw I had something like 100 page views already, just for today. That totally blew away my previous single-day record from 2011 of 46 views in a single day (at least half of which I’m convinced was spam).

“Whoa!” I thought to myself, and scrolled down to see the referrer links to see where all of you wonderful, amazing people were coming from. That’s when I saw http://www.newyorker.com in my list of referrers. “Is this a joke?” was the foremost thought in my mind when I cautiously clicked on the New Yorker link (because, often, you just don’t know, am I right, Internet?).

And then I saw this:

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THERE AT THE BOTTOM! THAT’S MY BLOG! THAT’S MY BLOG! THAT’S MY BLOG!

Whereupon I had to instantly call all of my near and dear and tell them the news in vocal registers completely inappropriate for the workplace. There may have also been semi-hysterical laughter and spontaneous hugging.

It’s really just been a crazy, crazy day for me and my little book blog. People have even tweeted links to my blog! Including Rebecca Mead, the one who inspired me to read Middlemarch in the first place!

tweetsAs of this evening, I’ve had more than 1,000 views on my blog today.

So really, I just want to say thank you, Internet, and thank you, New Yorker! I feel hugely honored that you all took the time to read my silly little emoji post, and even share it. Come back soon? (xoxo)

Thirty

So today is kind of a big deal day. Milestones and all. Yesterday, I finished Middlemarch. And then today, I turned thirty. I’m not actually sure which of these was a bigger deal.

I’ll be honest: I had some ups and downs approaching this birthday. One thing I can say with certainty that I learned in my twenties is that sometimes, you just need to have the meltdown so you can move on. Maybe that means you just need to watch the movie that never fails to make you cry, so you can cry about all the other things you really need to cry about too. (I can’t be the only one who does this.) So that happened this month.

But I did a lot of other things, too, in addition to finishing Middlemarch; good things, happy things (dare I say, happier than reading Middlemarch).

I went hiking with friends, and oh! the wildflowers! Tiger lilies, columbine, shooting stars, and glacier lilies!

columbine, glacier lily

columbine, glacier lily

There was ice cream and conversation.

Six flavors of rainbow sherbet, one cup.

Six flavors of rainbow sherbet, one cup.

I made Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake with my mom. It was delicious.

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And then this weekend, I’m headed down to Ashland, Oregon, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be awesome. Like this brand new decade.

It's high time for big wishes.

It’s high time for big wishes.