The office.

The joke y’all are playing on Brian in the comments reminds me of something that happened in Fort Wayne, back when the newspaper business used to be fun and not fraught with doom lurking around every corner.

An editor — let’s call him “Steve Grimmer,” since that was his name — had one of the coveted semi-private cubicles along the newsroom perimeter, which he wasn’t in most of the time, because he did most of his work out on the copy desk. The office/cubicle was for job reviews, plotting coups, etc. Unfortunately, his had a door in the back wall that opened into an alcove where the second-floor vending machines were located. You could get to the machines two ways: Take the long walk around, or the extremely short cut through Steve’s office. Steve was very explicit in his desire that people should not treat his office as a newsroom highway, and we all listened politely and nodded sure, sure Steve, I’ll never cut through your office again, but he left early in the day, so after 1:30 or so, our promises went right out of our heads. After 4 or so, lots of times we didn’t even bother closing the door.

He was good-natured about all this until the Sandwich Incident. Steve brought his lunch one day and left it on his desk while he worked on the copy desk. It was a standard sandwich on white bread, cut diagonally. Someone — the culprit was never fingered — cut through his office, stopped at his desk, took one bite out of each half, put it back in the plastic bag and left the crime scene.

Well. Suddenly this trespassing was not a minor irritation. A memo was written by a higher-ranking boss, forbidding the uninvited from setting foot in Steve’s office. Hints of serious retribution were dropped. This was no laughing matter. A sandwich had been vandalized.

Then Steve went on vacation. We took over his office.

Every day, someone brought in a plate of cookies or brownies, and we had a bake sale on Steve’s desk. A designer set up a series of photos of people using the office for various unapproved activities, and at one point there was a group photo where everyone in the newsroom crammed into the office. The pictures were mounted on a bulletin board on an easel in the middle of the office, under the words, WHAT WE DID ON STEVE’S VACATION.

To his credit, he was very good-humored about it all. Not long after he left the paper, the office was surrendered to the vending-machine highway, and by the time I left it had been equipped with a refrigerator and microwave, and was a de facto cafe.

By that time, cubicles were so plentiful they were no longer coveted. Tumbleweeds were blowing through the newsroom, and a committee was in place working on a plan to move out all the empty desks. Where have all the good times gone?

How should we welcome Brian back?

(When I took screenwriting, we talked a lot about “stakes,” how they have to be high enough to match the action. That is, it makes little dramatic sense to kill four people over a song a rock star has yet to write, to use but one vivid in-class example. It made me think that comedy comes from people fighting over low stakes, as anyone who’s seen at episode of “The Office” can testify.)

Notice I changed the On the Nightstand book. I’ve been waiting for “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” to get off the hot list at the library, and it finally did. Read three chapters at the pool yesterday, where I planned to swim laps. That’s a comment on the lure of the prose, not on my ability to avoid exercise under all circumstances. This account of life in the Green Zone was well worth the wait, and highly recommended. Click on the book in the right rail to read an excerpt from chapter one. Note how, in this Muslim country, in a cafeteria staffed by Pakistanis and Indians, the main protein on the menu was? Yes, pork. It gets better from there.

A little bloggage:

A great YouTube clip, which I won’t embed, but it’s recommended — a waterhole squabble between some lions, two crocodiles and a herd of water buffalo. It’s like high school, especially when the water buffalo come back to kick some lion ass.

If anyone’s interested in reading the WashPost Cheney series, here’s the index page for the whole shootin’ match. Yes, shootin’ IN YOUR FACE.

And thanks to Alex, for picking up this personal souvenir for yours truly at the Chicago gay pride parade last weekend. Click for a larger view:


Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Media |

18 responses to “The office.”

  1. John said on June 26, 2007 at 9:29 am

    I’m betting on Nancy Sinatra as the intended victim, not our hostess. And I’m picking the “blonde” (center) as the winner. The “pinkie” (right) looks like Glenn Milstead and the “blonde” (far left) is not wearing “Walking Boots”!

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  2. Marcia said on June 26, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Heh. It’s funny how professional people can be so not mature.

    We have a “communication” notebook at work. We also have new management that wants to breathe down our necks as though we are fourth-graders, or, at least, new grads instead of the old ladies we are.

    So some of us have taken to writing comments in the book whenever foolish micromanaging crap is written in there. In our last unit meeting, it was requested that “graffiti” be left out of the notebook in the future.

    I happily got busy decorating the pages with peace, love, and CRIPS signs. Treat me like a fourth-grader, and I will rise to that level.

    (Someone had the audacity to question my spelling of Crips. Bitch, please.)

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  3. Dorothy said on June 26, 2007 at 9:51 am

    I love you Marcia.

    I used to work the switchboard for a national roofing company. I was on lunch break and went to retrieve my delicious leftover chicken sandwich, stuffing and chocolate cake for dessert. My purple Avon lunch bag was gone!! Crikey! I got on the intercom at the switchboard and asked that the bag be returned to the refrigerator ASAP. There was a look-alike bag in the fridge and someone in Accounting had taken mine instead of hers. And hers was all raggedy looking compared to my nice one! How dare she?!

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  4. Marcia said on June 26, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Why, thank you, Dorothy. Unless you’re speaking for Brian, in which case, back off.

    That YouTube bit is awesome. And I love the British accents.

    “Go on, lion! Go on!”

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  5. Dorothy said on June 26, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Brian? Who the hell is Brian? I forgot him already.

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  6. ashley said on June 26, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Our fridge at the University gets raided constantly. Since we can have beer and wine, those are quite often the first to go, along with anything remotely edible. We found out that grad students were doing most of the raiding, so my solution, while it worked fine for me, was not ideal for other faculty members.

    I began putting copious amounts of Tony Chachere’s or Crystal hot sauce on my food. That had the tendency to scare off many of them. Of course, they’d still drink any Heineken left in the fridge. So I switched to Colt 45 and cisco red. That worked.

    I like when the water buff decided to get vert with that one lion. We’re talkin’ hang time.

    Oh, and Marcia? Crips drool, bloods rule.

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  7. Totally Cool Brian Stouder said on June 26, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Brian? Who the hell is Brian? I forgot him already.

    Et tu, Dorothy? That wounds.

    Oh, and Marcia? Crips drool, bloods rule.

    Bitches, puhleese. Everyone know that me, TCBS, be the dopest freshest homeboy around. And just ask me any question you want ’bout old Abe Lincoln. Come on. ANY question. I dare you!

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  8. ashley said on June 26, 2007 at 11:19 am

    OK, TCBS, what was under the hat…and whassup with “sharing a bed” with that guy…and did you like, not notice that US Grant was stealing all your good Scotch?

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  9. jcburns said on June 26, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Nancy, I think you need to develop a Commenters Network Diagram that will make clear the relationships among your salonites, because me, I get confused.

    All I do know is: Seymour Hersh is a real no kidding unglamorous hardworking reporter who gathers facts like few can (do?) and who writes difficult stories about whoever happens to be in power at the time. He is, to quote Salon, “the hardest-working muckraker in the journalism business.”

    And yeah, I pay for the New Yorker because, surprise, there’s real writing in there. Every damn week!

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  10. Totally Cool Brian Stouder said on June 26, 2007 at 11:34 am

    1. Abe’s huge manic-depressive brain was under his hat. He was a high functioning bipolar.

    2. Hey, every read, “Moby Dick.” Ishmael shared a bed with Queequeg, the harpooner. On second thought, I should not have mentioned that as an example.

    3. Hey, whatever keeps the peace. He was my favorite alchoholic.

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  11. Jolene said on June 26, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    A couple of food-stealing stories from my last job —

    (1) Somebody sent an email note around to the whole office (several hundred people) saying, “If you are the person who is taking the cream I left in the frig for my coffee, please close the container after you’ve finished so it will remain fresh. Thanks so much.”

    (2) Another person sent around a note saying, “Will the person who took my banana please return it?”

    Someone replied, “It wasn’t me,” signed his name, and put “in Iraq” afterward.

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  12. Peter said on June 26, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    TCBS – I needs to know – Is it true that Lincoln was our first Jewish president?

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  13. Totally Cool Brian Stouder said on June 26, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    TCBS – I needs to know – Is it true that Lincoln was our first Jewish president?

    No… Not that there would have been anything wrong with that.

    But I have this on good authority. One of the biographies I read (after my last Henry Ford bio) indicated that he was circumcised, late in life, by none other than a sword actually used in the battle of Antietam.

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  14. deb said on June 26, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    a cockroach in a meticulousy opened and resealed container or yogurt will cure food thieves every time. you don’t like it, blame carl hiaasen for giving me the idea.

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  15. LA mary said on June 26, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Speaking of yogurt, isn’t TCBS a brand of yogurt as well as an absent poster?

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  16. Peter said on June 26, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    TCBS – Of course Lincoln was Jewish – he was shot in the temple!

    I’m here all week – try the veal!

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  17. treepeony said on June 26, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    Thank you, Nancy, for that wonderful video of African animals. Those are Cape buffalos, not the Indian water buffalos, species which are not closely related. A Cape buffalo stars in the conclusion of Hemingway’s story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis McComber.” They are among the most dangerous animals in Africa. The bulls weigh half a ton, are known to kill lions, and we see on the video how fast they can run. They remind me of a railway engine.

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  18. nancy said on June 26, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    Absolutely correct — Cape buffalo, not water.

    My favorite part of that clip was after the lions and crocs had been fighting over the baby buffalo for a couple minutes, then the buffalo came back for their calf. It’s like they had to go have a consultation or something. But when they did, watch out, lion.

    Someone once pointed out to me that predators may be at the top of the food chain, but they have to work hardest for their meals. I’ll say.

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