Good Night, Bob! Late Night Conversations With a Gelatinous Mass
Another night at the office working late. Twilight is falling. The sun is tottering on the horizon, precariously perched, slipping into the darkness. The last rays of sunlight stab between the blinds before surreptitiously fading away.
I'm alone. As usual. The other career underachievers that share my office have long given up the appearance of effort, retiring for the day. It should come as no surprise as most my co-workers have opted to abandon productivity for a ride on the corporate welfare bandwagon.
Our cubicle zoo
Let me introduce you.
Walley is always the first out the door and the last in. Counting down the minutes at the office from the moment he pulled out of his driveway this morning his entire day is spent terrorizing productive employees with random acts of unsolicited socialization. His busy itinerary includes dispensing gossip, extended conversations, mundane questions, or any other pursuits of trivialities not related to work; Walley buzzes from one cubicle to the next, pollinating every conversation with his well-honed repertoire of irrelevant pander.
And then there is 'Eeyore'. Jeff is the office gloom-monger-er. Parked beneath a perpetual black cloud, he patiently waits for something to go wrong. From there, he launches into an extended tirade against technology before digressing into what's wrong with society, and politics, and the world in general.
An hour earlier you would have heard a spontaneous outburst erupt across the office, a shrill, high-pitched laugh that could only be described as a cackle. That would be the receptionist flirting with the deliveryman. This time next week, he will have been discarded as emotional flotsam for the next available fling. Not that we keep count but we're already on number 37 this season. Refer to the chart behind the door in the break area, the one with the stake through the heart.
Last to go was, Cynthia. I'm not sure I can explain how a ninety-eight pound female in heels can make such a clatter? Coming down the hall, she sounds like a Clydesdale on a cobblestone street; clop, clop, clop. She's the overpaid Human Resources guru whose job it is to redefine success to an increasingly lower state of expectation, thereby boosting morale. She cheerily spouts sporadic bits of pop-psychobabble like a jack-in-the-box wound too tightly and regurgitates them to employees at meetings or splashes them across bulletin boards.
It turns out we're a random collection of dysfunctional misfits that researchers studying abnormal psychology dream about.
Welcome to my world.
The things that go on after hours..
I'm a draftsman, at least that's what I pretend to be, and this is our dysfunctional corner of the galaxy. In our cubicle zoo, a dysfunctional Dilbert-esque psychology has long since seized the occupants like a grievous murrain. Ours is a place in the corporate universe occupied by chronic underachievers where now we subsist in an incapacitating state of sub-par mediocrity. Once we functioned like a well-oiled machine before lapsing into a collective employee stupor, leaving us the impaired assortment of office zombies we are today.
Forty minutes earlier, I had looked at my watch.
"About that time," I announced to myself. "Any moment now..."
As if on cue, Walley suddenly ducks his head into my partition. "Anything I can do before I leave?" It may as well have been a prerecorded message. We both know he doesn't mean it. It's just his signature exit before he departs the building. I utter some rhetorically random retort involving sheer absurdity to see his reaction.
And then its silent.
Back to the present...under the garish glare of a flickering fluorescent light, the office is cast in a surreal ambiance of artificial light.
I digress for a moment to that troublesome light. Earlier this week...I complained we ought to get that thing fixed.
"I think the ballast is going out."
After a 'Harrumph' and a sullen pause, he replies. "Put in a work order."
The last time maintenance checked it out they said, "I can't find nothing wrong."
I argue there is.
He dryly states, "Turn in another work order."
Four to six weeks later, we repeat the entire process. That's how we play the work order game here; a perpetual version of procedural musical chairs; a chase-your-tail series of pushing papers from in-basket to out, generating forms and excuses. Actually fixing the problem has no legitimate place in the work order game.
Where were we? Oh, yes. Back to the abandoned office where now I can get some work done.
Visitors after hours
I sit fuming about that light as I plod on under the luminescent glow of the monitor beneath the flickering light. The light worsens to a phosphorescent stroboscope, an oscillating mental metronome of rapidly flashing light pulses, that lulls me into an unnatural rhythm. Soon I lapse into a lethargic stupor.
And that's when I hear that familiar sound.
From within the employee break area, I hear the sound of a refrigerator door slowly creak open. The faint glow of dim refrigerator light scintillesces from the darkened room, followed by the sound of a door sucked shut as it closes.
I hear it coming. Like a lumbering run-a-way amoeba, lumping along tediously across the tile floor.
I can only describe my visitor as a gelatinous mass exiting the fridge, an amorphous blob of stray cytoplasm that oozes and wobbles and slides across the room. Toward me. It's a bit unnerving the first time I admit when I encountered this phenomenon but I'm not fearful of this bizarre occurrence.
Running away from a gelatinous blob isn't a major concern should it suddenly turn malevolent. I have real feet and a musculoskeletal structure; the blob only has pseudo-pods. The primordial protoplasmic creature lumbering along has no teeth but I suppose if you were to lay motionless long enough, it might eventually engulf you by the process of exocytosis.
Conversations with a mutated leftover
"Hello Bob," I say casually as I continue to work, not bothering to look up.
Maybe I should explain more, in case you happen to be freaked out a bit. 'Bob' is a spore spawned from leftovers that have been leftover again in the employee fridge. Lurking in the stale, musty air on the back shelf which he shares with the fuzzy blue macaroni.
I simply call him, Bob.
What 'Bob' is is a matter of taxonomy; you may prefer to categorize him a mycelium or some mutated form of spontaneous generation, an example of punctuated equilibrium; but I prefer 'Bob'. I will leave that question up to the zoologists and the philosophers.
Bob slowly, tediously pulls himself up into the chair beside me. And he sighs. "Man. You guys have really got to clean out that fridge. Its getting rank in there," he complains.
He slurs his words slightly but for an amoebic creature with no larynx, I think he articulates well.
"I told the cleaning lady to take care of it"
Bob has one appendage, a tentacle like protrusion he uses for grasping and occasional gesticulation for emphasis when making a point.
"Jim," wraping his tentacle over my shoulder, "I think it's time we got rid of Myrtle."
Maybe you don't routinely take advice from gelatinous masses inhabiting your fridge, but Bob's opinion carries a lot of weight with me.
"It's not my call, Bob. Somebody higher up the ladder has to make that decision."
"They should promote me to office manager. I'd fire some people around here if I ever get the position."
This whole scene isn't nearly as bizarre as you may think. And Bob is actually a pretty nice guy, once you get to know him, in spite of being a mutated form of leftovers. Must have been those additives; some synthetic chemical reaction or something...or some random case of evolution, spontaneously generated.
When you think about it, a refrigerator is a perfect place to mutate as it makes a perfect incubator for evolving life. It's controlled environment and a plethora of nutrients, and an ample light source to initiate a photosynthetic jump-start of bio-synthetic processes. And despite having 'jello' for brains -no, literally, Bob has gelatin for brains- for a discarded, mutated leftover, he's very intelligent.
Meanwhile that fluorescent light begins to flicker like stroboscope and buzz annoyingly..
Bob winces. "Sounds like your ballast is going out. When is maintenance going to fix that thing?" Bob sounds annoyed.
"We had that discussion last night, Bob."
"Did you fill out the correct form?"
"Yes." "Four weeks ago."
Good night, Bob...
We have frequent conversations when I work late. Tonight is no exception. We discuss things for the next hour before Bob yawns and announces he's retiring to the fridge.
"I'm starting to thaw out." And then he adds, "Jim? Go home. You look like crap."
It's hard to argue with logic like that. I rub my eyes and hit the save button before shutting down my laptop.
"I think you're right, Bob. I'm outta' here."
"See you later", he says as he plots a course toward his habitat. "Oh, and leave the TV on, will you. National Geographic has an episode on slime molds tonight."
"You got it, Bob. Good night."
"Whoomph." -the sound of a refirigerator door being sucked shut as it's closed.
"Good night, Bob," I mutter quietly.
I have got to quit working late.
© 2012 Jim Henderson