Monday, August 5, 2013

I've Got a Problem

I didn't quite realize the severity of my problem until I attended my company's Christmas gathering last year. It wasn't a party, it was a gathering. It was perfectly nice, but it was a gathering. 4:00pm in the conference room. When the cubes of cheese were gone, and the plastic cups of wine were drained, people went back to work. It was a gathering.


I worked this particular job, at a small but well-known publishing house in Manhattan, for almost exactly three years. Which is weird to type out loud, because for a job I didn't much care for, three is a big chunk of my cumulative twenty-five. I'd lay some math on you at this point, but I don't math well, so I won't.

So back to Magic: The Gathering.


My office wasn't the type that would socialize. Or maybe they did, I don't know. I wasn't doing any socializing. There were two people in my department, including myself, and if the higher-ups looked hard enough at what we were doing every day, they'd realize that we could've easily been replaced by computers. Well - let's say robots. Robots are more glamorous.


So anyway, I'm standing in a corner, looking at people who I've worked with for upwards of three years, realizing that I don't know any of them, getting anxious about it, and sipping my merlot. Corner, people, anxious, sip. A cycle. Soon I'm tipsy, as is my wont.


At some point, one of the senior editors approached me directly. That or I was blocking the door frame, and I misinterpreted his "excuse me" as an invitation to start talking at him.


For a quick moment I was relieved that a conversation was happening. I remember that. I remember congratulating myself on all my accomplishments thus far. I was having a conversation at The Gathering. I had washed my hair that morning. The afternoon wasn't a total bust.

But as quickly as that feeling came, it left. It left me like Brad left Jennifer, the dog. All of a sudden I was extremely self-conscious. I started stressing about rules of basic human interaction.


We talked for a minute or so. About whatever. I was borderline drunk, and sweating profusely. I couldn't understand why I was having so much trouble holding up my end of the conversation, and the more I thought about it, the worse it became. Involuntarily I started tuning him out, so I could regroup in my drunk head and come out the other side with something interesting to say.

I could tell by his cadence that the sentence he'd been speaking was almost over, and that I'd need to give some sort of indication that I'd been listening. So I business laughed.


Business laughing isn't real laughing. It's a placeholder. But it didn't matter - it worked.

Here comes the part where I realize I've got a problem. Remember? The problem I have? I alluded to it in the first sentence. Try to keep up.

We finished business laughing, and he asked me a question that brought me out of my anxious tipsy haze.


At this point it should be reiterated that at that moment in time, I had been working full-time at that office for close to three years. And so had Tim.

Something shifted. I felt the anxiety fall away. I laughed. Loudly. And this was no business laugh.


I couldn't stop laughing. It was, and still is, ridiculous. He gave a genuine apology, and I genuinely accepted, still laughing. I laughed for a million years. We laughed together, and at some point, he left. Everyone left, and I was still laughing.

It wasn't until I went back to my cube and put my head on my desk that I realized I had a problem. That it wasn't Tim's responsibility to get to know every insignificant assistant on the company's payroll. That not only do I need to make an effort, but I need to be better at the efforts I actually end up making.


Eight minutes later I lifted my head up and watched a moth flap its stupid moth dust all over my inbox, which in that place was a physical box, with paper, like in the old movies. Two weeks later, I left that job forever.


  1. Whoa..I like my job, it's service, it's low paying and there's no room for advancement but if I left I know people would miss me.

    Not sure what a job really is though. Sometimes I would rather just have the money but I like the people too.. Why not both!?

  2. aaaah, you're living the nightmare.

  3. I hate working at places like that. I have a problem with not making that known.

  4. I'm happy for you! That seemed to be a great thing to motivate you. Silly things can often put things in perspective. And those three years you spent there obviously was part in creating the human who is now giving us, and me, these brilliantly narrated and animated adventures, and for that I am happy :) You learn from old stuff and realize what other things you want instead, so I hope your next steps will be wicked!

  5. It would have been better if the company was gigantic and corporate, but since you said it's small, that's just rather sad. Glad you moved on to better things (hopefully)!

  6. So that's what snapping at an office christmas party looks like. Huh. :P

  7. Sometimes I am glad that I never worked in an office. Most of the time I picture that it involves lots of typing and things like that. Things like drinking at 4 in the afternoon. Those things.

  8. I was trying to explain to The Mister last night that this is why I don't like my current job. I want to feel like people give a shit about me, but I dont actually want to put in the effort to get there. merh.

  9. Fuck dem publishing hoes. Your new job is awesome.

  10. I so absolutely love when I discover a new blog that makes me laugh my non business laugh. My real laugh. It's rare, and I cherish it. As I now cherish you.

  11. Just stepped away from my job today, crazy how relevant this is. Check out my new post from Vietnam, Kristin. As Told By Ty

  12. I love your blog. I would say you should post more, but that would be mightily hypocritical of me.... but yeah post more

    I usually make up excuses for things like that... The last office "gathering" was 4ish years ago at my old job. Our building was like the real life equivalent of the location of that old video game Wolfenstein--total nonsensical maze, and you never ran into other people no matter what time you wandered the halls. But Management decided to throw a Christmas thing in the lobby and it was the most awkward gathering ever because none of us had any idea that any of the others worked in the building.
    ...I hid in the corner with the mailman and a bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio

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