Finding Colleagues

One November, I looked up at the one tiny window visible from my desk and watched the last two gold leaves blowing away from the tree outside and I knew I was done working in an office. It took a couple years, but I plotted and dreamed as if I were planning to leave a bad relationship. I hoarded ideas. I comforted myself with thoughts of working at home after long horrible phone calls and irritating meetings. I bided my time as I ate my sandwich in the company kitchen and listened to coworkers debated whether a man is gay if he pees sitting down. I whispered to my cats that soon I would be at home all of the time.

But, of course, sitting at my kitchen table working in my fabled bunny slippers, I missed a few of my coworkers. Not the annoying ones, god no, but the funny ones. The ones who nodded in sympathy as I told them yet another story about an author gone terribly wrong; the ones who bought me a graduation card when I got my MFA; the ones who helped me word an awkward email; the ones who came over to my cube to talk because we’re all bored out of our minds.

Last night I ran into a sticky track changes problem and had to wake up my husband to talk about it (to his credit, he was pretty nice about being woken up). He hates Word even more than I do, so he was sympathetic, but he couldn’t actually help. What I needed was a colleague.

But usually I make do. I irritate the cats when I need to be distracted. I still go for walks with one of my former colleagues. She entertains me with workplace gossip. Facebook helps too. It’s like being in a room with a lot of people I like and I don’t have to listen to any of them talk to their spouses on the phone (the gritted teeth after an argument and the obligatory, forced “I love you, bye”).

My listservs help me with editorial advice. (Shout out to EFA and CEL.) This blog allows me to vent all the live-long day. And other blogs help me visualize a bunch of overeducated freelancers slaving away in their garrets to pay for their internet service.

I get to pick my colleagues, these days. I no longer have to listen to conversations about baseball, or how drunk Freddy got on Saturday night. I have a bunch of windows. And the sun is out, which is the source of this strange feeling of equanimity, so I can’t complain.

But don’t worry, dear readers, I still will.


6 responses to “Finding Colleagues

  1. I wonder how freelancers coped with the isolation in the pre-Internet days. I use FB and Twitter and e-mail lists and blogs (love yours, btw!) to keep connected. Those things can’t completely replace in-person connections, and I sometimes do miss the camaraderie of an office — but only sometimes. (I need only remind myself of pointless meetings and office politics to help get me over a rough freelancing patch.)

  2. Just repeat “meetings about procedures” until you want to die and then you will love your isolation. I also wonder about pre-internet freelancing. It was blogs, in part, that convinced me to go!

    Also, do any of us actually own bunny slippers?

  3. No bunny slippers here. It’s California so I work barefoot. But I surely do not miss those ‘OUR sales are up so YOU get bagels and, by the way, WE can do better!’ meetings. I love-love-love working at home and for clients who appreciate me!

    • Amen, JJ. No one needs the “hey we just got major bonuses from the work you’ve done, so we’ll buy you pizza from down the street today to appease our consciences rather than treating you like worthwhile individuals!” lunches.

  4. Oh dear oh dear. The purpose of language of course is communication. I’m newly introduced to you. Well, we haven’t been introduced. How do you do. I’m subordinate clause. I’m a pretty dab hand with punctuation too. How are my apostrophes so far? But grammar – it aids communicatio;, like a well sung tune, it makes our message easy on the ear.
    I’m done with the office: how do I parse that? Can I not insist that the verb to do does not keep company with the passive tense in quite that way? Did I miss the point. What have you done with the office. Sounds like you wanted to do something to the office – perhaps spreading orange paint randomly on walls would have helped.
    No no IC I didn’t miss the point. A bunch of windows beats a bunch of colleagues. I hear you.
    And the cats? Perhaps their early enthusiasm for your presence is now tempered by a realisation that if you are home all day, they haven’t quite the same social freedom, to raid the pantry, scratch the furniture, spread fur about on beds and contrasting coloured things.
    I hope my commas meet with your approval. The banter you generate suits a closet grammarian, one for whom the subordinate clause is as guilty a secret as irritation at the paucity of vocabulary in today’s students.
    I wonder if you can help me here. Is there a descriptor for language elements which comprise a threatened species? Is there verbodiversity, or or etymodiversity? If someone tells me that such a term would offend the compliance with the ethos of popular culture, I shall lock myself in the aforementioned closet. Perhaps you would be good enough to throw away the key.

  5. @subordinate clause,

    It’s a pleasure. I support verbodiversity in all its forms (except for mindless academic logorrhea [sp?]).

    Don’t you see how the slangish or at least informal “I am done with” suggests all sorts of interesting possibilities, while “I am tired of the office” leaves the mind no room to conceive of orange paint on the walls?

    The cats take their social freedoms blatantly in front of me. Wretched animals.

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