Our conference room is set up with a bunch of blanched rectangular tables each with four chairs of high-polymer, low-density, polystyrene plastic(1) around it so that the entire set up is about as comfortable as your mother-in-law announcing at Christmas dinner that she’s not wearing a bra because she lost it in a downstairs brush with Uncle Eddie.
But in the back of the room is a smallish area with soft chairs and sofas. This little oasis of comfort was ostensibly added to the room to allow for small-group meetings and interviews, but it’s about the only thing that gets me through all-staff meetings. I typically arrive at the conference room a good fifteen minutes early in order to assure myself a good comfy chair.(2) Once I arrive, I sit in the chair and do not get up until the meeting is over.(3) If one of the two or three people I trust is there and sitting next to me, I might get up for some coffee or a bit of nosh.(4) But only in that circumstance.
Today when I walked into the room I was greeted at the door by someone holding a plastic bag. ‘Hi Bo! Choose a sucker and that’ll tell you where you’re sitting.’ I made the argument that I already knew where I’d be sitting, thank you very much, but I was told that I’d be sitting at one of the tables today.(5)
As people filed in they chose suckers and after a while we had all the library employees randomly grouped into groups of roughly four. My group only had three people, but that was okay. They were some of the more tolerable people.
Before we really delved into the reason we were grouped as tables in this insensitive manner, a few announcements were made and people were patted on the back for going what someone else perceived as a good job.
Right as we shifted into discussion mode, one of the ladies at my table had to leave. Then, as they continued talking about what we were going to do, the other lady defected to another table, apparently under the assumption that I would defect to another table as well. The main flaw in her assumption was thinking that I like other people.(6)
However, in most work-related scenarios, if given a choice to work by myself, I will.
So I did. Whilst everyone else talked in their little groups about our vision and mission statement, I just worked quietly on my own without bothering anyone. The dean of the library came by and, to her credit, asked me if I wanted to work with another group. I declined and, to her further credit, she left me alone.(7)
While we were all working, someone showed up to the meeting. Obviously running late, she made a bee-line for my table since there was space and it was near the door. I had an oh-shit moment because this women really likes to over-analyze details and we were engaged in precisely the kind of activity that was rife with details that she could – and would, I’m sure – over-analyze. I thought I was about to have to choose between an imbroglio of conversation with her or being just shy of hostile in order to prevent it.
Someone at the next table told her about grabbing a sucker from the bag, and someone else suggested that she just sit at my table.(8) But, dutifully, she returned to the bag of suckers and made her choice.
She walked around, talking aloud about which table her sucker signified. No one was really paying attention because we were all busy. I had my head down writing away, but I was nonetheless analyzing her every movement. She flitted about(9) for a moment before realizing that she had, after all, drawn a sucker placing her at my table.
I relived my oh-shit moment but decided to play nice, given the spirit of the project at hand.
She looked at the sucker. She looked at my table. I kept my head down. She looked again at her sucker. And again at my table.
And then she turned around and drew another damn sucker.
All I could think was, ‘What a fucking bitch!’ But then again I didn’t really want her to sit by me. So I was partially relieved. But still, what a bitch.
You know you’ve really become the library outcast when the lady wearing stretch-pants and a funky hat won’t sit with you.
- Actual type of plastic unknown.
- The sofas are comfortable, too, but armrests help me deal with the weight of ennui.
- One time some old dude moved my notebook while I was getting coffee and I had to sit on the sofa and furthermore had to sit directly beside one of the most annoying people ever.
- The typical grapes, orange slices, donut-holes, mini-bagels, and cheese cubes that are always part of the diminutive offerings – along with bad coffee in foam cups – of both staff meetings and AA meetings all across the U.S.
- I did not, however, make the observation that lots of suckers were going to walking through the door over the next fifteen minutes or so, even though this observation crossed my mind very loudly.
- The other main flaw was that at the nearest and most-logical-to-defect-to table sat my arch-nemesis.
- I hadn’t really liked her as Dean until that moment. However, it showed a better understanding of staff-predilections than any of the other dean’s I’ve worked for.
- The person who suggested this was obviously operating under the fallacious assumption that I’d rather be working with people.
- If a person who wears stretch-pants to work can be said to flit.