Category Archives: Stories

Workplace Etiquette: The Ongoing Garbage Saga

I have a new cubicle-neighbor at work. He’s participating in a job rotation, where you take over someone’s job responsibilities for a specified period of time, cross-training that promotes the company’s ability to function if, as my boss is fond of saying, you get hit by a bus tomorrow. So he’s not really a new employee, but he’s new to our area and, crucially, new to our floor. He used to work on the fifth floor.

The fifth floor has recently been renovated, gets great light (it’s high enough to be above the insidious shadows), and has multiple kitchen facilities (at least three that I know of). The second floor I like to refer to as the ghetto, not least because it is apparently rarely vacuumed, I am almost always cold, and the cubicles are so old that places on the partitions that are frequently touched are visibly grimy. Also, the entire second floor, comprised primarily of finance and IT personnel, must share a single narrow kitchen facility, the navigation of which, at lunchtime, becomes a Twister-like exercise in avoiding touching your coworkers. (We also have to provide our own dish soap.)

This last week, the “new guy” was getting a bit of training from the person who had his job before him when the subject of his garbage can came up, and he said, “Yeah, no one has been emptying my garbage.”

We all turned around and looked at each other. Heads popped up above partitions. He was somewhat mercilessly grilled about the fifth floor garbage situation as we explained how things work (or don’t, depending on your point of view) on the second floor.

Apparently, if you work on the fifth floor, your garbage gets emptied for you. Every day. And I’m just not sure what to say to that.

I consulted the office 8-ball; clearly it also was at a loss for words.


Workplace Etiquette: The Garbage Bandit

Someone used my garbage bin at work today.

Not my disposable cup. My candy wrappers, though.

I have to confess to feeling slightly violated when I saw someone else’s disposable cup left in my trash.

Let me explain. In my small cubicle, to reach the garbage, you actually have to walk inside and kind of look around a bit. Then you see it, half-hidden away between my paper-shred box and boxes of stuff that haven’t been disturbed in the three and a half years I’ve been with my current employer, left by some previous tenants of my windowless box (and which I am afraid to investigate due to the likely presence of lethal dust bunnies or, worse, spiders or other vermin). Suffice it to say that use of my garbage bin entails more than just a stroll past my cube and a casual flick of the wrist.

Maybe I’m bothered because my employer’s janitorial services do not extend to the emptying of employees’ trash bins. We empty them ourselves. This was quite a surprise to me, coming from the high-stress industry of banking, where the janitorial service emptied our trash regularly. I remember they even once or twice threw out a plastic bottle I had left on my desk planning to reuse. When I started working at my current employer, I may have even had to ask someone why no one was emptying my trash bin. So by using my trash bin at work, instead of one of the communal ones the janitorial staff actually does deal with, or even better, his or her own garbage bin, this Garbage Bandit of mine effectively contrives to avoid having to take out his or her own trash.

Happily, it would appear that nothing else in the (I assure you, very organized) chaos of paper piles and stacked-up sticky notes occupying the majority of my desk surface was disturbed. But still. Maybe I have an introvert’s characteristic horror of too much being discoverable about me through my trash. Maybe other introverts will agree with me, that use of someone else’s trash bin (when there are several communal trash bins within an easy distance of my desk) constitutes a violation of workplace etiquette. Or maybe it isn’t because I’m an introvert that I feel this way, but rather because I’ve watched too much television where going through someone’s trash is a relatively common occurrence. Most likely, I harbor a secret shame about the quantity of candy wrappers that accrue in a typical workweek.

Because it might be cathartic to come clean about my garbage (no pun intended), what you will likely find if you go through my trash:

  • candy wrappers
  • used paper
  • sticky notes full of scribbling
  • lots of napkins
  • occasional receipts
  • empty cups of yogurt
  • candy wrappers that I tried to hide under other paper

You’ll note the absence of disposable cups, unless the Garbage Bandit strikes again.

True Confessions of Graduate School

After three years, turning in the final assignment of graduate school turned out to be an anticlimax. I think I expected enormous relief, maybe manifesting itself in spontaneous tears of joy or uncontrollable giggling, but in some ways it felt better to be almost done than to be actually done.

There have been a few moments since then where it seemed to really sink in that I am done with homework, probably forever (I hesitate to promise, given my track record). One was the first Saturday with no homework hanging over my head. Another happened at the grocery store this week, when I purchased two glossy magazines and realized I didn’t need to feel guilty about reading them. (In school, I probably still would have bought and read them, but I would have felt guilty the whole time about the school reading that wasn’t getting done.)

But if there’s one thing I hope I learned in the whole experience of grad school, I hope I learned that it’s important to stop and consider, to take a pause before responding or going headlong into something without figuring out first if it’s right. This may actually have nothing to do with graduate school and everything to do with getting to the end of my 20s, but they’re inextricably linked in my mind. But since I’m feeling confessional (it must be the absence of all that guilt!), I thought I’d put together a highlight reel of my graduate school “true confessions”.

  • In some ways, getting my undergraduate degree in accounting was harder than getting my MLIS.
  • Every time a phrase to the effect of “If I can’t do [insert school assignment] in [insert delusionally reasonable time frame], then why am I in grad school?” left my mouth, I lived to regret it.
  • “…by no means all paragraphs are well written.” Indeed, Mr. Patrick Wilson (author of said quote), and especially so if they appear in an article in a scholarly journal. At one point in time, I was convinced that there was an unwritten rule establishing a minimum number of typos and/or grammatical errors an article had to contain in order for it to qualify as graduate school material.
  • The use of Latin phrases like ab initio is highly annoying when done by other people and highly satisfying when done oneself.
  • Ontology and deontology aren’t opposites, which made reading for understanding, when you’re trying very hard to stay awake, more challenging than seemed absolutely necessary.
  • A professor who uses the words “ontology” and “deontology” extensively still may not be able to choose correctly between “principle” and “principal”.

Inevitably, though, people’s first question to me has been: “What’s next?” Well, I’m taking a pause. I’m going to do some volunteer work with libraries this summer, and I’m going to learn how to cook, for reals and like a grownup, with measuring cups and meats. I’m going to give my blog more attention, and I’m going to spend as much time as possible with my best friend before she moves really far away in September. And after all that, I’ll start looking seriously for a library job.

And, by golly, somewhere in there I’m going to finish Middlemarch.

The Day the Lord Has Made

the view from my seat

Last week, flying home from visiting my sister in Dallas, I had an entirely new, unpleasant flying experience: tornadoes. Tornadoes are rare where I’m from, and so while I can tell you what to do in the event of an earthquake (we had drills when I was in elementary school — and then again when I started working in a skyscraper in downtown Seattle), the first things that come to mind for me with tornadoes are Joplin, Missouri, and The Wizard of Oz.

The day I left, the skies were darkening and rain was definitely on the way as I arrived at the airport to fly home. My sister had warned me that in Dallas the airlines frequently will do their best to get you off the ground ahead of the storm – boarding as quickly as possible and so forth. I am one hundred percent in favor of this plan, so I boarded promptly and was sitting, seatbelt fastened, looking out the window, watching the rain, when I saw lightning.

I believe it is against regulation to take off or land when there is lightning in the area, but my sister had told me that these storms come up quickly and breeze right through, usually, not lingering long in any location. I sat in my window seat in the second-to-last row of the plane, hopefully gazing out the window and waiting for the storm to pass.

Pretty soon after we were all boarded, stowed, and seat-belted, the captain announced that we were going to be sitting for a few minutes and he would have more information for us shortly. A few minutes later, he announced that we would be deplaning due to tornado sightings in the area. “Take with you everything you’ll need,” he said; “basically, just take everything with you.”

Deplaning started with the unaccompanied minors. Last week seemed to be spring break for many school districts across the United States, so there were quite a few unaccompanied minors on the plane. Then the general deplaning process began.

Pretty soon the hail started. A man in my row on the other side of the plane had his computer out and was watching the news. “Tornado just picked up a semi trailer,” he said. At this point, I started to get scared. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who puts on a brave face if I am with people I know (unless the situation involves creatures that creep or dart) – for instance, if my sister had been with me, I would have stayed as calm as possible for her sake. But something in my reaction system changes when I am by myself, and all I could think was, “If it picked up a semi trailer it could probably snap this plane in half.”

Deplaning seemed to be taking an unreasonably long length of time; and I don’t think it was just my fear making me more impatient than usual, because soon the flight crew announced, “Please hurry, deplane as quickly as possible; there is a tornado at the airport.” At this point I started to shake a little.

A minute or two later the hail was literally the size of golf balls, and it sounded like golf balls hitting the airplane. By the time there were only three rows ahead of me left to deplane the plane had started shaking from the wind, and there was an enormous clap of thunder. And then at last we were moving, off the plane, into the terminal. Airport police were going up and down the terminal, moving people back from the windows. I had no idea where to go – I know the bathroom entrances at DFW are tornado shelters, as at most other airports, but they had told us to stick close by our gate in the event the storm passed quickly so that we would be able to hear announcements. (If ever there was an airport in need of a PA system upgrade, it would be DFW. I can’t hear a darned thing from their gate agents, and I’ve been in and out of that airport quite a few times now.)

So I wandered for a bit – the sky was as dark as I’ve ever seen a sky in the daytime. Most people didn’t seem to be terribly worried – but I, having no experience with tornadoes, had no gauge. And then, in the midst of my wandering, I passed a man who was sitting on the floor singing “This is the day that the Lord has made”. I didn’t recognize the song, but I recognized those words. They’re from one of the Psalms:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

I wish I had stopped right there – to rejoice and be glad in my own quiet way. Instead I kept wandering. I made a teary phone call to my dad, feeling that at least one of my parental units ought to know what was going on. My dad reminded me that we knew the One who is in control. Eventually I situated myself in between two half-walls, and a woman came to stand next to me. She had been visiting her sister also, and I asked her if she was used to tornadoes. She told me, “You know, we just have to trust the Lord.”

I was reminded three times to turn to the Lord, the only real source of comfort I know, in this moment of distress. To my shame, it took all three reminders before I did so.

See the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind…Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm.

O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.

Me and Mindy Kaling Used to Like Romantic Comedies

image via

This being a Leap Year, as you all know, there were a number of Leap Year-themed episodes on television shows I watch (okay, one episode of 30 Rock), which got me thinking about a romantic comedy I saw a few years ago, imaginatively entitled Leap Year.

Watching Leap Year resulted in my writing the following entry in my journal:

22 January 2010

Am considering banning romantic comedies from my life.

In spite of this, I started thinking about watching it again. I’ve also been reading Mindy Kaling’s memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which at one point includes Mindy’s views on romantic comedies. Happily, her views are decidedly in favor, at least until the genre was ruined, in her opinion. I can’t say I disagree, and Leap Year might have been the final straw.

Inexplicably feeling empowered by having this opinion in common with Mindy Kaling, and thinking of Matthew Goode’s scruffy goatee, I watched it again. This being a Leap Year and all.

The basic premise of Leap Year, for those of you who have not experienced it, or who were sufficiently less entranced by Matthew Goode’s scruffy goatee to forget it quickly, is this: Anna (Amy Adams) has been dating her cardiologist boyfriend for four years; when he misses a prime opportunity to propose to her, and subsequently leaves for a medical conference in Dublin, she decides to follow him and propose to him herself. On Leap Day. Along the way Anna meets Declan (Matthew Goode).

My objection to this movie is its complete disconnection from reality. You may be recoiling in horror at my expectation of connectedness-to-reality from a romantic comedy, but I don’t mean gloom-and-doomsday reality, I mean relatable characters. Here are some examples of what I deem to be the unrealistic aspects of the movie.

  • Anna is a straight-laced, tightly-wound “apartment stager”. Is this a real job? If so, does she really make enough money at it to be applying for an apartment that sits next to the Boston Common?
  • Anna’s boyfriend is a cardiologist. Cardiology, according to Wikipedia, is “a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the heart”. Notably, Wikipedia also says, “Cardiologists should not be confused with cardiac surgeons”. Yet, dinner with the proposal-that-wasn’t is interrupted by Cardiologist Boyfriend receiving text messages requesting (what appear to be) surgery consults from fellow doctors.
  • Anna flies from Boston to Ireland in a tight skirt and heels – heels that notably include a strap around the ankle. That’s a long flight. It’s not a flight on which I would wear tight anything; Toms, leggings, and an abundance of layers being my flying uniform of choice whenever possible. But in particular, I require no tight straps around my ankles, which are prone to swelling, especially when I fly. (I share this to reinforce my point, and just in case anyone needed confirmation of my prematurely geriatric nature.)
  • On this trans-Atlantic flight, Anna unburdens herself to her seatmate without the loosening influence of alcohol, behavior I believe to be highly improbable in a person as tightly-wound as Anna. As another such individual, I speak from experience.
  • The pilot of Anna’s plane has “underestimated” the severity of a storm they are approaching, and is forced to re-route to Cardiff, Wales. Once landed in Cardiff, even though she still has something like two days to get to Dublin before Leap Day, Anna remains determined to get to Dublin right away, in spite of a ferocious and unreal-looking storm.
  • In spite of a ferocious and unreal-looking storm, Anna convinces an aged, experienced seafarer to take her across to Ireland in his boat.
  • Anna traverses much of the Irish countryside in these same improbable traveling clothes. In 3-inch, ankle-binding heels, indomitable Anna teeters through terrain that includes loosely paved roads; wet sand and mud; grassy, rocky slopes; and castle ruins! A highlight for me is when, while waiting for a train, she hikes all the way up a grassy, rocky hill in her tight skirt, fussy top, and heels to reach a castle ruin – then, of course, she rambles through the ruin. Where are this girl’s jeans? And Chuck Taylors?
  • Having misjudged the time required to hike the hill and ramble the ruin, Anna runs through a sudden torrential downpour down a now-muddy hillside, and finds herself face-first in a giant mud puddle. And still she misses her train. At least she had the good sense to remove those shoes before attempting that speedy descent.
  • The jeans appear at last, rendering more ridiculous their absence in earlier exploits.

All of those examples are mostly about Anna, but I find Declan equally inexplicable. What seems to clinch it for me is that in spite of their having nothing really in common or any apparent attraction other than that born of time-intensive close proximity, they fall in love: one conversation in which each shares one single thing that makes them either the hyper-planner or the disaffected acerbic breaks down every brick in the erstwhile wall of mutual animosity.

Really? I just don’t get it. Why does he like her? More importantly, why does she like him? What does it say about our society as a whole that women are portrayed as either Uptight Control Freaks or the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the men are apparently excusable man-children? And if our female lead is an Uptight Control Freak, she will end up with a very attractive jerk who is kind of a loser.

That’s what I miss about old romantic comedies, I guess; how women could have big personalities in legitimately funny screwball comedies without being clichés. Maybe the characters have always lived in apartments they couldn’t afford and had jobs that rarely exist (at least as sole occupations). I can excuse a lot of that for stories about people making real connections with each other. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?