Monthly Archives: September 2012

I’m just a coworker today in providing compassion

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You know it is sometimes easy to be a little wrinkled by your coworkers.  The point of this blog is to laugh about it a little bit.  Every once in a while you get caught in a storm you didn’t create and things become heavier than the element of humor.  September 11th, 2001 was one of those days.  Perhaps you were lucky enough to spend that morning with loved ones or even your frat brothers, but for most of us it was a Tuesday at work.

For me, I was working in public accounting.  I had been there just over a year and things weren’t clicking at the speed I wanted them to never mind what my bosses were thinking.  We were ticking down to September 15th where we’d have to file the extended corporate returns.  There were folders everywhere and people running around calling clients trying to squeeze out the last bits of information.  We were looking forward to the respite promised by the next weekend.  Especially me as I had plans to go up to Quebec for the first time in years.  I just had to get through Tuesday first.  It was a beautiful day – a crisp morning with a long blue sky.  The traffic wasn’t too bad even with the kids back to school.  I think we were all counting down the hours of the summer, in some ways looking forward to Autumn.

I got to the office about 8:30 and set up, looked at my to-do list.  I was trying to wake up by checking email.  One of my coworkers walked in.  She was one who had to have everyone’s attention any time she spoke, but she was so sarcastic you couldn’t be sure how much she was saying was true.  She had said as she walked to her desk that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  I thought to myself ‘Crashing a plane into a building isn’t a good long-term survival technique.’  It happened every once in a while that a little Cessna would get out of control and crash.  I didn’t mean to be flippant, but we had bigger concerns.

It was when she saw on the internet that a second plane had hit, announcing it almost too matter-of-factly like she didn’t believe it, that I was awakened.  My mind couldn’t comprehend two small planes hitting the exact same place.  I had forgotten that there were two towers, but regardless it was puzzling. Those were the days before streaming video when a headline still had to break the news. I think we were all stung by the hot iron in that small window of minutes.  I jumped on the internet to see what we were up against realizing for the first time these were passenger jets.  That’s insane!  One of the managers had a tiny TV, maybe 6″ black and white.  It was one of those things that just gets piled over by papers and other junk in the corner of your office.  I had never noticed it before and I never saw it afterwards, but in those moments he had it on.  We were watching a black and white fire raging while the newscaster reached for any phrases beyond ‘a plane has crashed into the tower,’ but that refrain would be with us forever.

It was like a natural disaster you figured had to end.  And yet the moments left us pathetically out of breath.  The first tower down.  The second tower on fire.  The second tower down.  A plane charges into the Pentagon.  An unconfirmed fourth plane in Pennsylvania??!!  Then it all just went silent.  Silent in the sky.  Silence in our hearts.  People would come into the office and you’d ask them if they had heard anything.  There was nothing to hear.  The nation had a murmur for most of the rest of the morning.  In the weeks and months that would come it seemed almost everyone in the Northeast had at least a small fingerprint on what was lost that day.  I went to college with a couple people who perished with the towers.  In all, it was too much to consider in a short period of time.

At the end of the workday most of us hadn’t sifted out much good, but the mere ability to look at our coworkers and say ‘See you tomorrow’ was a golden enough reward.

God bless those at rest and those who still struggle with the events of that grueling day.

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Who steals grocery carts? The homeless and accountants.

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We’ve all worked in a variety of jobs from the time we were teenagers.  Almost every workplace has some sort of unique asset that helps us get the job done.  What am I talking about?  Here’s an example: at one accounting firm I worked at we actually used a grocery cart to truck files around the office.  I’m sure it was just a coincidence that we were within walking distance of Stop & Shop.  We found a good one though that didn’t have a funky wheel.

At another accounting firm I worked at we were right down the street from one of the local news station headquarters.  Occasionally you could see the anchors in their cars as they cut you off after a long, crappy day and we’d just laugh, laugh, laugh.  One day we got a knock on the door.  It was the police.  They said we should probably not leave the office as they got a report of a man walking around with an AK-47 looking to have a little meet and greet with one of those anchors.

Every workplace seems to have a little charm, in that respect.  I worked for Market Basket briefly as a “sacker.”  It is an institution here in Massachusetts and New Hampshire known for its narrow aisles and sawdust.  Oddly enough, I’ve never seen an ad on TV telling me to use sawdust to clean up spills, but go into a Market Basket anywhere and there’s a big, old box of sawdust.

At Sears Hardware the guys in the back decided to drag race lawn tractors until the manager decided to can them.  I worked at another small accounting office that was in the same building as a hospital.  I’d have to walk through the wing of the hospital to get to the office.  No, I did not shortcut my route by hopping on a gurney, though I guess I could have.  At one job I had a boss who ate tuna fish every day so there would be stacks of tuna cans in the cabinets.  How could I forget about the phones in the toilet stalls where he would talk to his stock broker or his unfortunate administrative assistant?

I’m sure you’ve got some behind the scenes stuff at your workplace that keeps things interesting – the room no one is allowed in, an ironing board in the conference room.  Make us jealous or creep us out.  Just tell us about it.