Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quirk at Work

I am not a religious person. My knowledge of spiritual issues is almost exclusively derived from the lyrics of Van Morrison and Train songs. But even with my scant biblical knowledge, I would venture to guess that when God created humans, S/He didn't intend them to be together for extended periods of time.

People are inherently full of tics and quirks. The enthusiastic thumb's up gesture that seemed so endearing in a new friend will make you want to break those appendages by lunch time. A person who insists on analyzing the healthfulness of everything you eat will quickly give you a stomachache. And a morning with a throat-clearing acquaintance will make you want to throttle that person. Yes, people come with all sorts of seemingly benign eccentricities that are really best tolerated in small doses.

A typical workday is eight hours. Can you imagine having to spend more than that length of time with someone, especially not a person of your choosing? Coworkers seem to be chosen not for any particular skill or savvy, but for their incredibly annoying habits. Talking on speaker phone, typos in emails, shredding personal documents on the office shredder, quoting self-help books, wearing cowboy boots.  Not to mention affected mannerisms, nasal voices, nervous twitches, ill-conceived political ideas, a love of bureaucracy, and smells. To me, there isn't a hell of a lot of difference between patchouli incense and intense body odor. Neither belongs in the workplace.   

Although I am not a fan of the bureaucratic process, I think some Acting Deputy Liaison Administrator from the Central Bureau's Precinct Headquarters had the right idea in inserting lunchbreaks into the work day. After a morning (fueled only by the trailmix in the vending machine) of being appalled by the judgment of coworkers or desperately hoping the colleague two doors down would speak to her precious boyfriend in a slightly quieter voice, my nerves are shot by noon. I think Unions understood coworker overload because I think they are behind a regulation requiring 15-minute breaks throughout the day, though I personally have never had a job that seemed to include these respites. I think it must be a special perk afforded nicotine-addicted employees.

The eight-hour limit fits in nicely with the rest of the 24-hour cycle. When the first eight-hour round of enduring personal demands and tolerating individual differences ends, you return home to another eight-hour shift of personal demands. The home-round goes better when the 480 minutes are punctuated by snacking, iPad games, and trips to Trader Joe's. Then on to eight hours of sleep which, if you are anything like me, is nicely broken up by insomnia, anxiety, and nightmares.  

And, of course, I assume that if I am so easily irked by too much exposure to others, they are probably equally annoyed by me. Doors were meant to be closed, and phones were designed to go straight to voicemail. I am guessing if Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel spent less time together, things might have turned out  better for them all. 

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