Being boxed in hinders artistic freedom, as well as restroom access.
Written while still gainfully employed.
I work in an office with middle-aged men still capable of slogging around a box or two. That is, if the box is intended for them and contains a pair of shoes or the latest electronic gadget.
However, when boxes of magazines arrive and are stacked in several piles in the storage room, the males quickly attend to important matters like choosing unique ring tones on their cell phones, leaving the boxes for me to handle. I, the lone female, am the V.I.P. in charge of boxes. I lug them, open them, and then stack the contents of each box on the appropriate shelf. The men in the office will use the box as a footstool for tying a shoelace or as an end table for resting a coffee mug.
Lenny, my boss, is always courteous. When passing through the filing room, he stops by to offer important advice on how to lift a box without straining the back. He will take time from his busy schedule to show me how to bend and lift without actually touching a box. He doesn’t believe in using props. He fancies himself a mime and lifts air, instead, while teaching me the finer points of “the bend,” “the grab,” and “the lift.”
“Don’t hurt yourself,” he says before trudging out the door. Other males, who stride in and out of the room, will stop by to say hello or tell me the latest joke they read in an e-mail. After they offer a moment of levity or a word of goodwill, they too will step away.
Sometimes a coworker will say, “Can’t get my suit dirty or crease my pants. Got an appointment. Sorry.” Then he will go out to lunch and return three hours later with ketchup stains on his tie and wrinkles on his suit from sitting too long in the restaurant. By then, all the magazines have been stacked on the shelves; I have broken most of my fingernails, leaving them in a cup by the water cooler, and am too dizzy to stand due to loss of blood from all the paper cuts.
When I finally return to my cubicle, a coworker will inevitably buzz me on the intercom and ask me to stop by his office for some dictation. “Sorry,” I say. “Due to the loss of several fingernails, the weight on my hand is no longer evenly distributed, making it impossible to write” and slam down the receiver. If I want them to leave me alone, I simply place a sign on my cubicle wall that says “package adjustment” and then go upstairs to the luncheonette for a cup of coffee.
V.I.P. in charge of boxes does have its advantages. Next time the UPS man delivers boxes, I will have him pile them in the doorway of my cubicle. If someone buzzes me asking for help, I will simply tell them, “Sorry, but I’m boxed in at the moment.”
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