They're gabbing outside my office again. Spouses and houses, TV and movies, cats and . . . cats.
My company's power wall is a happy wall, judging by the jovial chit-chat constantly emanating from its stations, cubicles, break room and hallways. It's a closed little community, isolated from the rest of the company by its proximity to power, for none dare tread its hallways lest the powerful call them out and demand to know why they're loitering about with nothing to do.
But now that I have moved to this hallowed hall, taking up residence as its newest and least powerful officeholder, I've discovered that those with the real power are more often out than in, the press of their busy busy lives taking them hither and thither, never letting them sit still for a moment. And while the big cats are away, the little mice they play.
I need to find a way to mosey myself into this little community.
It's not like I want to be friends with them or anything, but even I need a little familiar chit chat in my life. I want to defrost the atmosphere a little, build one of those casual "how ya doin'?" type relationships with them, the sort where you exchange greetings as you pass in the hall, never breaking stride, but you're prepared at any time to discuss one or two things going on their lives, asking about the spouse or the house or the cat during those occasional and unavoidable impromptu hallway walk-alongs or shared elevator rides.
The easiest way to mosey in to a closed community is through a facilitator, an ice breaker, a domino. Someone to vouch for me, spread the good word, ease my arrival. My assistant would be the logical choice but, unfortunately, he isn't one of them, and he doesn't care to be. When he's not doing something for me he's off in his own world, doing his own thing, oblivious to the people around him. He's a lot like me, which is why he's so useless at tasks like this.
So I bide my time, looking for the happy confluence of the right candidate with the right opportunity.
Then one day it hits me. The copy room. Of course! There's this copy room in the middle of the hallway. Its door is propped open and all day the machines inside whir and clack away. There's this one assistant sitting in front of the door, a personable woman who appears to be a charter member of the community club, and I've heard her complaining about the noise.
I mosey on out of my office, pretending to need something from the copy room, and on my way out I casually point back to the room and say "what a racket!" to her. Smoooooth.
"I do wish they'd close that door," she says.
I see my chance, and I grab it. The door stop, that is. As I drop it into my pocket, and the door shuts, I gallantly tell her "problem solved" as I saunter back to my office and await my initiation into the group.
Sure enough, that afternoon, as I walk by the now-closed copy room door, she gives me the thumbs-up and a few of her neighbors nod to me. One even introduces herself. Mission accomplished, I think to myself.
The next day, the door's propped open again. This time with some cardboard stuffed under the door. As I lean down to remove the cardboard, a voice calls out to me: "What are you doing!"
It's one of the cube dwellers, carrying a tall stack of presentation books into the copy room. I hold the door open for him, the cardboard door stop in my other hand, and he sets the stack down and turns to me. "Are you the one who took the stop?"
I resist my first impulse, to lie and avoid confrontation, reminding myself that I now occupy one of the offices on the power wall and that I therefore do not have to kowtow to this cube dweller and I prepare to pull rank as I tell him, in my bravest most authoritative voice, that yes, I am the one who removed the door stop.
"Well give it back."
I tell him the open door allows noise pollution to escape, disrupting the work day of those who sit outside.
"But the door's supposed to stay open," he sputters, incapable of parrying the thrust of my logic, the force of my rank.
I don't have time for this. And I outrank him. And even if I didn't, it isn't right, making those nice women out there listen to the copy room noise all day, so I tell him the door stays shut and I leave him in the room, the door emitting a satisfying slam as it closes behind me.
That afternoon, one the Big Cats pokes his head in my office. I've never met him before, so I stand, artificial smile on my face, hand outstretched, ready for a hearty handshake welcoming me to the floor.
He just stands there. "Did you remove my door stop?"
"Did you remove the door stop from the copy room? I want it back now."
I'd forgotten about that. I resist my first impulse, to lie and avoid confrontation, and remind myself that someone must have ratted me out, otherwise this Big Cat would never have noticed me, let alone appeared in my doorway demanding a door stop. I manfully admit that, yes, I took the door stop, and I somewhat less manfully explain that I did it to reduce the noise level on the hallway.
"What about the noise level in my office? Did you think about that? That goddamn door slams all day long. It's supposed to be propped open but apparently you can just waltz in here and do whatever the hell you want!"
I stand there, frozen and speechless. This is how it feels, your rank getting pulled. What are the odds, I ask myself, that in just three weeks I'd antagonize two Big Bosses with pathological hatreds for slamming doors?
I hand him the door stop and he slams my door on the way out. Nice touch.
And my new friends? I'm now the pariah, the Big Cat's enemy, so it's unsafe and unwise to be seen consorting with me. They shun me, looking the other way as I walk by.
Back to square one.