the office


This past Friday, I hosted a coloring party at my office. It’s part of my role as a member of the Professional Development Group – a small contingent of employees who take on the challenge of connecting staff throughout the various Institute offices through programming (i.e. guest speakers, seminars and the like). When joining the group back in December of last year, I brought to light my professional – and personal – goal of introducing more creativity into one’s daily routine. And, when a colleague shared a recent article in the NY Times about coloring for grown-ups, I thought… bingo.

So, come Friday, 10 or so of us – all “grown ups” in various stages of our professional careers – took seats around a wide, round table and began to color. The pages and postcards from our chosen book, the Secret Garden, were no easy task. The intricacies and teeny-tiny lines made the design fairly challenging – the levels of concentration and precision (if you’re into that) trumped most of the conversation at the table; although there were a few strands of chatter that emerged once someone took their eyes off of the task at hand. After several hours, there were a few completed postcards… but for about half of the group, there was still work to do. Their work was incomplete.

Which was 100% okay. There were no rules, I said. Color outside the lines, leave white space and of course you can come back to it later, when you have a spare second to shade in a spot or two. Simply leave it in my mailbox whenever you’re done. I myself hadn’t finished my design. So, like the others, I packed up my spot and tucked my page into my bag, where it has sat since Friday morning. Untouched. Unfinished.

All in all the event was a success. After all, it did bring people together – on a different level than that of a weekly meeting or even a professional brainstorm. But, I couldn’t help but feel like a disappointment to myself. Here is one more “piece” that I’ve started and have yet to finish. Sure, it’s only been a few days (and, in my defense, I did scour the desk drawers for some rogue colored pencils or fine-point markers that I had stashed away, turning up nothing) but it’s been a few years for some of my other creative saplings. Essays abandoned. Memoirs suspended. And it’s not just pieces of writing. There are three blank canvases and a set of oil paints tucked in a dark corner. A clarinet in my childhood bedroom. Will my poor little coloring page be left hanging with the rest of my creative pursuits? I realize it’s a question that only I can answer, or better yet, determine.

But, is that was this is about? The results? Or is it more about the method? Bringing to light my lack of discipline and inventory of unfinished work was not the intention of the coloring party. It wasn’t a competition or a race. It was supposed to be fun, a way to exercise a different part of the brain, alleviate stress, remind us that life isn’t always about work. Creativity itself is constantly touted as a method for stress reduction, for an increase in productivity, for success. Grown-ups across the world are clamoring for these books, the latest and greatest antioxidants of the mind. When complete, the design is a reminder of the pathway it took to get there, proof that they can discover a creative side of themselves that might be hidden far beneath professional goals, skill sets and proficiencies.

My essays, canvases, even the clarinet. Those pathways are still there, waiting for me to pick back up where I left off. And perhaps my biggest road block is where my concentration lies: the finish line. Results. By looking so far ahead, squinting into the horizon for that infinitesimal line to cross, I forget all about the beauty of the present, the wonder uncovered in every step forward (or sideways and backwards), and the benefit in taking one’s time, even if it means pausing for one moment – or many – to gather my thoughts.


This past Friday I had to move my desk at work. This is the third cubicle I’ve worked in at this office, and I really must admit that this cubicle isn’t positioned in the best part of the office. Imagine a corner cubicle surrounded by the offices of the higher level executives. Now imagine it without any natural light. Add in an average temperature of “cold enough to use your coffee mug as a source of warmth”.

When my boss asked me how excited I was about the move, I shared my opinion on the lighting concept. I threatened to line the walls of my desk in yellow wallpaper, and our COO suggested aluminum foil. I thought about it for a bit, hoping that in some miraculous way I might be able to get a tan by doing so, but I decided against it. Upon moving in on Friday I set up shop with two lamps and a jade plant. It a plant can live here, I guess I can.

One of my colleagues, who had just started that week, stopped by to ask if I needed anything, and we got to talking a bit about various things and the discussion turned to a Kiwi on my desk.

I started to explain that I’ve had the Kiwi on my desk all week, and whenever I got to thinking about breakfast or lunch I never really wanted to eat it. And the fact is, I had actually gotten this Kiwi at the grocery store two weeks before that and had failed to eat it then. The excuse at the time was “it wasn’t ripe enough” so I decided to bring it home for Thanksgiving. It made the trip home to Delaware with me on Amtrak, safely kept in a plastic bag. On Monday morning, while getting ready to go back to the city, my mom asked me if I wanted to take the kiwi back with me. And back it went to the city, when it sat (in the plastic bag) on my desk for a week until it was shuffled into the dark corner cubicle.

Suddenly, I realized that this poor girl had just listened to my five-minute rant about this kiwi. She was polite about it, and we finished our conversation shortly after. I stuck it out in the dark until 6pm, when I organized my desk, turned off my lamps and tucked the kiwi into my bag to bring home.


My headphones only play music in one ear, and I have been walking, traveling, running, etc. with music in one ear for many months – before August to be sure.

I surprised that I haven’t been more annoyed by it and even more surprised that I’ve gotten comfortably used to my device. I think of them as the opposite of noise-eliminating headphones. The thought has crossed my mind to counter-market this pair of headphones to the percentage of the population who wants to stay semi-alert without looking like they are constantly plugged into their bluetooth. Speaking of marketing, now that I have spent two years learning to think, breath, sleep, and eat (maybe a few other vitals) marketing, and I can’t help but put together an assessment of various advertisements on the subway, streets, and just about everywhere else. I think the most memorable subway advertising campaign was Intercontinental Hotel Group’s Grand Central shuttle ads – which took up more than a few panels. The subway walls were covered in a decals of different geographic locations (think beach, rain forest, urban metropolis) that covered every inch of the car, like giant life size decals for paper airplanes.

On a more somber note, I think one of the reasons that I’ve decided to eventually market my passive aggressive one-sided-looks-like-I’m-intently-listening-in-both-ears headphones is because I work too much. Whenever anyone asks me what I’ve been up to lately, all I can say is I go to work, come home, and go back to work. Someone in the office asked me if I slept at the office last week. Another person told me that they had a discussion with someone on how many minutes of the day I didn’t spend working. I didn’t switch over my rental insurance to my new apartment for seven months because I kept forgetting to call during working hours. The same goes with the Doctor, dentist. I’ve recently decided to go to a food allergist but haven’t made the appointment and probably won’t until I finally decide enough is enough… I’d like to know whether my stomach has caught up with the gluten bandwagon.
However, not all hope is lost in the self-improvement section. I do notice that my ability to “tough it out” has improved since I began my office lifestyle. Today I made it through the entire without my chapstick.


When I was very young, maybe two, I ate an entire basket of chocolate on Easter. Although I don’t remember doing it, I honestly believe that on that day I had consumed 95% of my lifetime’s ration of chocolate. I would say on average that I’ll eat a tiny chocolate bar or snack on some chocolate ice cream once every 3 months or so.

In Las Vegas there was an office at the conference which seconded as a candy store. My boss Sallie had gone for a demo on their software only to come back with twenty chocolate bars wrapped in the company’s logo. After one of their company executives came over for a massage he promptly returned with 60 more chocolate bars. Excess.

I think because I was a little bored that day I ate one of the twenty chocolate bars… paired with a Diet Coke. The massage therapist told me I was poisoning my body. I assured her calmly that I hardly ever have either substance, and that I was no means at risk for over exposing my digestive system to sugar or artificial sweetener. If there is anything I should be worried about it is my obsession with salt.

Yesterday at work, not even a week after Vegas, Ann came by eating a piece of chocolate, and I needed a piece. She had gotten it from her boss’s office. At the moment, her boss was in a meeting. Without asking I ran to her office and started fishing through her shelves for hazelnut chocolate. Thankfully, she had been ordering samples of chocolate over the course of several weeks (as possibilities for inventory in the company’s online store… think spa certificate enhanced the “gift” with chocolates). I’d prefer a salt scrub. But anyway, the chocolate supply was ample and I quickly snatched three small round pieces of chocolate and shimmied back to my desk.

I don’t even remember eating the chocolate but when re-telling the story to a friend I used the phrase “I stole chocolate from an executive’s office” which, really, is a bit out of character for me. But so is gambling by myself at Caesar’s Palace.

Wii Fridays

A few weeks ago my boss bought a Wii. She then brought it to the office and it’s become part of the repertoire of conference room technology. Shortly after it was set up she sent an official office wide email announcing the Wii, and it’s introduction into office society would be celebrated through Wii Friday.

Employees were invited to come play the Wii that Friday in blocks of time, one around noon and the other in the late afternoon. Since then, people have made Miis, sounds of the video system can be heard over the ipod, and there is talk of a Wii Tennis Tournament (which should rival the Biggest Loser challenge in terms of blog-worthy material). My boss has even blogged about the “Wii Shoulder” ailment which plagues the players after several intense rounds of 5-game tennis.

I’ve played but I haven’t gotten the moves down and I’m certainly not able to ace the serve each time. I am no means addicted or advanced. The backhand always seems to give me the most problems. As the ball slowly lofts towards me I usually swing too early and my little Wii body swivels around and wobbles like a weeble.

This morning on the subway I found a seat. At Fulton St. the commuters piled on as usual and a tall man in a suit, who reminded me of the crazy alien scientist from Independence Day, grabbed the pole next to where I was sitting. He realized the seat was open next to me and turned to sit down. As he was sitting, mid-squat, the train began to move and he began to topple over. Without realizing it my hand jerked out to shield my body but in a perfect back-hand Wii Tennis move! I knew I did it right, and smiled to myself as the man regained his balance. My shoulder hurt.

Dangerous Encounters

Around 5:15pm today I decided that instead of waiting to take the 8:00pm Yoga class I would quickly change, wait to see if I received any emails between 5:15 and 5:30 and then scoot out unnoticed around 5:40. Well it’s 5:56pm and I am still at the office, just finished answering a slew of emails. Ugh.

If there was a class at college, solely dedicated to how to behave and operate in an office, I would have taken it. I could fully function and communicate with my boss and my colleagues but I did not, for the first months of work, understand how the fax machine worked nor could I remember the protocol for conference calls, international dialing and so on. (This is a bit of a gross overstatement, as I am quite the fast learner, and it only took a few weeks to get the basics under my belt. Furthermore, I have now become the go-to person for all of the “office” questions: where are the fax cover sheets, how to make color copies, whether or not we have salt in the kitchen, if someone came to work that day regardless even if they didn’t work in my department, how to check voicemails, what button to push to transfer calls, what drop down menu allows you to adjust the reading pane on Outlook, where to find a piece of paper that someone had in their hand yesterday… among others.)

I am an honorary member of the IT team. I have two monitors on my desk. I will need thicker glasses.

This brings me to my next point, that I have time to kill before going to Yoga. So bring myself down from the awkward rush of energy that comes with trying to “rush” out of office I choose, today, to write about nature documentaries.

Dangerous Encounters

This topic comes from the replaying trailer of the upcoming movie, Strange Wilderness. Anything, or anyone, that makes a shark laugh like a goofy Santa Claus has my heart.

I can’t say I wasn’t surprised that the group had chosen to mock this genre of film – the people’s infatuation with the series Planet Earth and the like has made it so obvious. Sunrise Earth is a show, which despite its name plays throughout the day on the HD channels, about the the sun, rising. Time is not elapsed.

Herpetologist Dr. Brady Barr circles the continents in his show Dangerous Encounters, airing on Thursdays at 8pm on the National Geographic Channel. I’ve caught the commercials, and I can’t say I have watched the show. Nevertheless, away with classic and traditional observation, Dr. Barr outfits himself in the best form of camouflage. In a head to toe crocodile suit, Dr. Barr gets down and dirty on riverbanks to well, chill, with something which might have the strongest bite force on the planet.

I learned from my cousin, on Saturday, that there are over 3500 alligators living in a lake in Southern Florida. The lake is large – but 3500 alligators? I remember visiting the Everglades National Park when I was young, scanning the surface of the water with my eyes, looking for theirs or a scaly tale.

What really caught my attention on the National Geographic Channel that evening was the trailer for “Undercover Hippo” episode of the 4-part Dangerous Encounters series, in which he dons the leathery suit to frolic with fellow members of the hippo community and as we see to left here, elephants.

It has come to my attention, after doing a bit more research (too bad I don’t have my Zoobooks anymore), that hippos kill more people than any other animal in Africa. And although this fact may be quite startling, I have seen a YouTube video of Jessica, who sleeps in a purple sleeping bag after taking a leisurely stroll through the house. It’d be safe to say she doesn’t wipe off her feet after exiting the pond.

Croc-suit, sleeping hippo, overpopulated alligators, goofy sharks. I’m struck by the juxtaposition of fierce and docile. And the levels at which animals need to become anthropomorphic or humans bestial in order to understand one another.

Sunday Sleep

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but that night is by far the worst night’s sleep of the week. I know I’m anxious because of the work week ahead of me, but no matter what I toss and turn – my mind moseying about the daunting halls of Park Avenue South.

Last night I had a dream that I hadn’t ordered stamps for an event invitation yet. I was sitting at my computer, trying to format the logo onto the little miniature space between the left side of the stamp and the $.41 marker. Wait, $.41? Our invitation is square, it surely weighs more than an ounce and worst of all it’s being sent domestic and internationally!

It’s 4:30AM and I’ve awoken, sweating in secure flannel sheets.

This dream parallels others about my teeth falling out (and having to serve hot dinner plates to 30 tables simultaneously) which I haven’t had in several years. On the one hand I am happy that I no longer fantasize about my teeth breaking, crumbling or being pulled out of my mouth, but for some reason or another, I am not sure that having nightmares about stamps, staplers and spreadsheets is all that more assuring.

On Saturday I dreamt about a grey puppy that lived in my apartment with me. Sunday? Well, proof enough.

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