I’ve started a new screenwriting job that has me working at an office.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been a part of corporate culture. I worried it had been too long since I worked business hours with normal people, having co-workers who didn’t have tails or wear diapers. I worried not for me, but for them. It’s been a very long time since going to work means I have to put on pants.
Sure, I had the regular meetings where I have to look nice for an hour or two. This transformation always shocks my mother. I exit my bedroom wearing clothes not meant for stretching or sleeping, and Mom always does a double-take. “You look nice,” she says.
One time I came out wearing something like a cardigan over a top, a skirt and platform heels with ankle socks. Before I could stop myself I asked her, “How do I look?”
Mom took a second, giving me the head-to-toe. I saw it in her eyes, the internal struggle. Half of her wanted to find a compliment when she didn’t have one, the other half feverishly urging her to give me some much-needed advice. “You look…” she started, before biting her lip, as if she needed to physically stop herself from the rest of her sentence. She finally sighed, her shoulders dropping. “Like Pam,” she finished.
“Best I can hope for,” I replied.
I worried I’d be too Like Pam at the new job, that I’d be this sloppy freelancer climbing the walls, sitting on the floor for that perfect writing position, the one that hurts every part of your body but somehow forces the words to come. I was sure they’d all know I’d spent years writing on couches and beds, on trains and airplanes — anywhere that wasn’t a desk with an ergonomically adjusted chair. They’d know I was basically feral.
But it turns out whatever I’d forgotten during the months I spent at Warner Brothers, the years I put in at IBM long ago gave me just-like-riding-a-bike skills when it came to fitting in with corporate culture.
I admit the first week I was a bit rusty. I’d forgotten how to greet someone when you enter an elevator. (“Is it Friday yet?”) It had been a long time since I needed five people to get my computer on the network and able to print. At least I hadn’t forgotten how I wasn’t allowed to hang a picture or plug in a lamp by myself– both of those jobs are union jobs, and those guys do not want you doing their job. And while I now remember the importance of carrying cash for coffee runs, I still keep forgetting to bring a water bottle for the break room cooler.
But last Friday I heard myself asking someone, “Big weekend plans?” and that’s when I knew I had gotten my corporate sea legs. Soon I was making Monday jokes with the best of them. Jokes like, “Guess I’ll get the big coffee today.”
It’s amazing how quickly I acclimated. Yesterday, I ended a conversation in the hallway with, “Well, I’ll let you get back to work.” I’m chuckling at those crazy morning zoo guys on my drive in. You bet I’ve already picked my favorite flavor at the Keurig machine. Sometime this week I will get my badge.
And then the change will be complete. I’ll start scheduling meetings to talk about other meetings and I’ll make jokes about things like “hump day.” I’ll grow pale from the lack of natural light, and keep threatening to use that gym in the building. I’ll have a candy jar. A candy drawer. Another candy drawer that’s a secret, where I give my favorite people “the good candy,” but the truth is they all get the good candy, but I make each one of them think only he or she knows about my secret stash. And then I’ll have another candy drawer, one that is a secret, because it’s just for me and it’s filled with Doritos and shame-spiral brownies. That’s right; my secret candy stash has no candy. That’s the secret.
I’ll hoard Post-Its and the good pens and I’ll tell anyone who will listen that I know Peter on the second floor is the one who keeps taking my greek yogurts. He’s not even Greek. I will develop a deep, soul-burning hate for the girl on the first floor who is really into cycling. I will hate her for no other reason than I pass her on my way to my desk and the sound of her voice hits this nerve that makes me want to run off a cliff. I will keep a pair of tennis shoes in my big drawer, where they will stay, untouched, for years.
I will finally organize my Facebook friends by groups. My Pinterest is going to blow your fucking minds.
If I’m not at my desk, it’s because I’m singing Happy Birthday to someone, somewhere in the building, right at that moment. I’m smiling even though I’m standing next to that guy who always has to do the harmony with his eyes closed, and I will insist that I shouldn’t have a piece this time, but I will eat it. And then I will eat another. I will take a third back to my desk, where I will force someone else to eat it, so that we’re all in this together. Because we’re all in this together. Where are you going?!
I will go to Target and I will buy a small rug, a small stool, and a lovely plant. These additions to my office will make me smugly satisfied for exactly three days, when I then realize how little it takes to make me feel emotions again, and then I will plummet into a dark hole of depression and I will shut my office door with a sign taped to it that reads: “Sorry. Having a :( day.”
I have an unsent email to my work crush that stays on my desktop for six months.
I start sneaking bourbon into every third cup of Keurig. Then every other one. Then I’ll drop the coffee part, because it’s getting in the way. I’ll sometimes sleep at the office, in that one room by the printer room that used to be the yoga room. Just because it’s nice to sleep somewhere else sometimes. I’ll keep watering that dead plant on the small stool because maybe it will come back to life. Maybe all hope isn’t lost. It can’t be dead because then it would be my fault — unless someone came in here and poisoned my plant because everybody here hates me. They don’t really know me. They’re all new and nobody’s bothered to get to know me. I’ve been here forever, I probably have some good advice, if they’d listen. But nobody cares what I have to say. I’m sorry I don’t watch The Voice. I didn’t know that was the passport to Coolville.
I join Linked In. I leave cryptic Facebook status updates like, “Some people need to know when it’s time to shut up.” I get another cat. I stop spending a second deciding which wine I want to drink at night, because it all tastes the same after three glasses.
I finally watch The Voice. It’s not that bad.