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The Diligent Children

November 22, 2010

I work part time. Though I work part time, I would like to sit in a place worthy of my intellect and worth. An office with windows looking out onto the excellent New York skyline. Or at least looking out onto a loft where some self-important art weasels are doing a photoshoot, which is what life is like when your office is in Soho.

When I left the company 3 years ago, I didn’t have an office, but I had been granted two airy cubicles with two really big old windows that actually opened. It had a wood floor that you would definitely be sorry if you looked at too closely, but it had a charm.

I have returned 20 hours a week. I’d been working from home for a few years and it’s nice to spend some of the time that I spend not with toddlers in the company of other people. I was looking forward to the social aspects of work. However,  I now sit in what is referred to as “the pen.” I sat in this windowless pen 7 years ago when I started here, when I also worked 20 hours a week, and that was before I worked 30 hours a week, which was before I graduated to allofthealloftheallofthe time.

The upside to working the way I do now is that I do not get shuttled off to Orlando for meetings with no notice, corporate-style. I come in and work and then I leave. They have not stapled a blackberry to my hand this time.

The downside is that I don’t have a 401k, and that once again, I work in the pen. And also in this pen, or pit, or whatever it is called, are people whose mother it seems I could almost certainly also biologically be, had I shown strong initiative in the procreation department.

These people fascinate me. They are scrubbed and young and attractive, with very white teeth. They act enormously polite, and dare I say, deferential to me, their elder pit-mate. But the most fascinating thing about them is how they come in, they sit at their computers, and they open work files and they sit and they work. Silently. Diligently. Without speaking. Without looking at Facebook. They don’t eat food, either. Their cell phones do not ring.

Are you as shocked about this as I am?

What about the intrigue? There are two girls and a boy. Isn’t there a love triangle? Why aren’t they planning happy hour? Shouldn’t they tweet, or something?

For a while I theorized that they were silent and pretending to work really hard because I scare them. I actually tried to talk to them about how I am not scary. One day I piped up and told them that it was the quietest room I’d ever worked in, and that I hoped it wasn’t so quiet on my account.

They gazed at me in polite silence for a beat.

Then, “We have a puzzle,” one Heidi-looking girl shyly volunteered, referring to a jigsaw that no one works on. It is on a table gathering dust, because they are too busy working.

Is the economy so bad that they are just so thankful to have jobs that there is no way that they will take them for granted? Is that possible?

I started my professional life during a bad economy, but when I was in my late twenties and even in my thirties, I had a lot good jobs at a lot of interesting places, and I made a lot of really great friends who I still love. And, not to incriminate anyone, but I confess that this did not happen because we sat and silently worked all day. To build good friendships, you need to cultivate background chatter while working: explaining dates, trying to wangle more, developing coffee addictions, planning fish fries and sailing trips.

And when you are younger and can afford the time away from your desk and you don’t need to do a budget every month, you should really go out for lunch. After work, you should go out for drinks, because no one is expecting you to arrive home early and feed them noodles with a little parmesan cheese before you put them to bed.

I am in the boring and fallow part of my professional life, friendwise, but that is to be expected. I will make new friends on the playground, in the parenting way, but in terms of work, that might be done for now. People my age? We are too busy when working to make friends, but that’s okay, when you’re me, because I am already working with the same people I know and like for the second or third time around. We may be too old and tired to talk, but like those curmudgeons sitting on the porch in Lonesome Dove, we barely need to.

But these people, these young hard workers? They are ruining their futures, if you ask me.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2010 4:01 pm

    That does seem quite sad. I hope they read this and mend their un-fun ways.

  2. Jen permalink
    November 22, 2010 4:14 pm

    Wow.. that is shocking. Have you determined that it is for real? Is your company manufacturing robot-youngsters in the basement? Something is wrong. Something is definitely wrong.

  3. November 27, 2010 3:29 am

    I used to sit in the pit. It’s a weird, artificial environment, like Biosphere II. They should be forced to grow their own food.

  4. chris permalink
    November 27, 2010 5:18 pm

    I think I was one of those (most of the time) back when we worked together. I always admired your charm and self-esteem.

    Now that I’ve found something I love doing, I am much more confident. If your pen-mates are like me, hopefully they will figure out what they love before it feels like it’s too late.

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