Peanut Time

As I walked down the corridor at work yesterday, I heard a strange repetitive noise accompanied by a faint echo emanating from the boss’s office:

scrape scrape. scrape scrape. scrape scrape scrape.

A mouse once living inside my apartment wall made a similar noise.

Never sure what I might encounter when I enter his office (as in, he could be picking his nose again, in which case my M.O. is to accidentally on purpose drop an imaginary paper clip, direct my gaze toward the carpet and pretend to look for it until the offending digit withdraws from his amphibious proboscis).

Silly me. I had simply forgotten. It was 12 noon. Lunchtime, a.k.a. Peanut time for The Gecko (he bares an uncanny resemblance).

How can this happen


Get to Know the Gecko:

“How can this happen?” — is the pat phrase he uses when anything unsolicited dares disturb the lofty elevation of his self-regard — be it a typographical error made by staff; or the sound of distant drumming penetrating the double-paned windows of his corner office, for which he paid a fortune, from the St. Paddy’s Day parade 10 floors below.

Never one to learn from the error of his own ways (i.e. nose picking, belching, espresso breath), there he sat, as per usual, pawing around inside the immense glass jar of peanuts he keeps stored in the credenza opposite his desk. Right next to the bowl of overripe, odiferous, discount brown bananas he never eats.


Was he counting the amount of peanuts under his jurisdiction? Planning for the holidays in advance? Last holiday season, he gave staff members one can of peanuts each as a Christmas present. Re-gifted, with remnants of tinsel from the previous giftee (him) clinging in evidence at the bottom of the recycled evergreen bag. What kind of lawyer would overlook that?

Not anybody I would hire. Heading back to my desk, I heard him clearing his throat. Soon after, he begin hacking. A few morsels of peanuts must have lodged in his gullet. The half-full styrofoam cup of water on his desk, a proactive remedy always at the ready for nut emergencies, would take care of it. Either that — or let him self-Heimlich.

To quote an erstwhile employee, who, to disavow herself from any disagreeable job put before her, would utter, “It’s not in my purview.”

The Gecko could take a lesson on peanut etiquette from this cuddly chipmunk. But I doubt it would stick. He’s too lizardy and light years away from cute.


Hung Out To Dry

OuttodryYou can file the following email exchange between me and our firm’s “Director of Document Distribution” (DODO) under:


I made the mistake of forwarding some emails to the DODO, believing she hadn’t been copied on them by the withering poltergeist holding court in the corner office (the boss).

Me:            “FYI”

Dodo:        “Thanks, already got them and saved them….”

Me:              “Ok. Your name wasn’t in the cc’s. I saved them too. From now on, I won’t bother forwarding the emails from [this client] to you.”

Dodo:         “Better to have it twice than not at all….”

OMG. A simple “thanks” would have sufficed, since her practice is to save emails only if she’s in the mood. But the Dodo can’t help herself. Six and a half years of her not helping herself. Six and a half years!

Extinct  dodo  But Doesn’t Know It

If the Dodo was a worker (hah) in Japan — where our main client does business — she would have been remanded to the oidashibeya: “the chasing out room” .

In the C.O.R., taking 2 hour lunches, shopping online and working on Sudoku puzzles all day long is expected.

Oh, wait. She does that in New York, so why should she fly to Japan. Banished to a desk in the Siberian netherworld of the firm (amped up A/C maintains the arctic temperature of her yodeling personality), as long as she stays in the freezer and keeps her red nose buried in her yellowing Louise Erdrich library book, no one cares.

But, she can’t help herself! She will arrive in my section of the office around 4:00 PM every afternoon making loud noises, banging file drawers, taking gibberish about nothing (the message being: I’m still working so hard and look it’s almost time to go home). We’re on to her. Everyone is. Most of the time she leaves early.

A frequent visitor to AZ to visit family (Swiss-German), she fashions herself as an honorary Native American (being a reader of Erdrich). I can see where she may have confused Talking Circles with talking in circles, the latter at which she excels.

If only she would move to a hogan in the southwest desert. It would be the perfect dwelling for her — a house shaped like a stop sign.

Recently, word had it that she was offered a retirement package. (Word had it arrived via the ear trumpet of the firm, the Docketing Dept.) But Dodo told middle-manager Paula Revere: “I prefer to work per diem.” And Paula R. galloped forthwith to the firm’s upper regions and delivered the missive to Mr. Ed, Managing Partner.

“That’s what she wants? was the response.

So. She has gotten her way and is pleased as Punch and Judy. She boasted, sotto voce, that she was granted per diem status because she is “special.” She really said that. However, aren’t per diem employees called in only when they are needed?

The Dodo’s per diem experience will be like that drug commercial for Xeralto.

“Hello? Any documents for me to distribute?”

Not today!”

Dissatisfied as a desktop philodendron basking in the florescent light from the acoustic ceiling above, the Dodo is more suited to play a pricklier role, that of desert plant. Something on the order of the Jumping Cholla. Because whenever she enters our psychic space in a bad mood, we feel it. The storm brewing. The air bristling with static.

The hard evidence that darkness has clouded her mind — banging, muttering, flinging papers on desks — puts us on high alert. Bad thoughts whirling inside her head are capable of setting the pores of her scalp on fire. As with the Cholla, you can feel waves of sharp needles beginning to gather and preparing for launch. It is either duck and cover or prepare to bleed.

But what I usually do is abandon my desk and flee to the lobby. Open spaces are always best in the eye of a Dodo storm. In open spaces, she plays nice.

But everyone is still on to her.







Mouthwash as a Metaphor


Last year, this bottle of mouthwash suddenly appeared in the women’s bathroom at my place of work. A whiff of nasty coffee breath must have induced H.R. to deal with the problem as indirectly as possible by installing free Listerine for employees unschooled in oral hygiene or close encounters.

Office workers love anything free, preferably leftovers from client luncheons, even if wilted and crusty. However, the installation of the mouthwash bottle, one year ago, was brand new. Stop, sip and swish! it exclaimed. And on our dime! 

Prior to the firm’s main event, the Great Embezzlement of 2013 — before the 5 P’s: Post-it notes, paper clips, pads, pens and paper were shuttered under lock and key — free mouthwash would have been regarded by staff as just another entitlement. But, as they say, you don’t miss the post-it notes until you need to make a shopping list.

Now, in 2016, the bottle of mouthwash is an apt metaphor for administration’s policy of inflicting global, rather than individual, blame for every employee infraction, be it wanton use of large rubber bands or noxious dragon breath.

I’m not sure if it’s a curse or a blessing, but I notice everything. I can’t help it. For example, a close observation of the above photo reveals:

  • A stain on the paper towel beneath the bottle of mouthwash;
  • Gooey residue coating the threads girdling the neck;
  • Tiny blue blob clinging to the coupling on the pumping mechanism;
  • Static cascade of mouthwash blurring the inner walls of the bottle.

What does that tell you? More disturbing is that the mouthwash has been stagnating at the mid-level mark for months. I usually don’t partake in communal activities that may potentially violate my boundaries, such as swimming in public pools in which people are peeing. If you don’t think they do, they do. 

Still, encountering the mouthwash bottle day after day, it is hard to resist not trying it out. So with the back of my hand, I give the pump a push. It doesn’t budge. Thus, all evidence points to the fact it’s been broken for months. Eeew. Yuck. Gross.

Backing up a bit into the chain of events that preceded its placement:

  • The head of H.R. (upon first whiff of the eye watering coffee breath) gets an idea. She has her assistant reserve a conference room.
  • A slew of meetings among middle management are held — with catered lunch, of course.
  • A partners meeting is convened. The mouthwash bottle and attendant cup holder are officially approved (lawyers being the most rampant emitters of coffee breath).
  • The head of H.R. goes shopping, her favorite activity.
  • Listerine is served, in the bathroom, like hors d’oeuvres on a silver platter.

Swiftly moving on, the entire drama is summarily forgotten. Unless you can bill by the hour, such minor matters are not permitted to drag ad infinitum. Most important of all is that it looks good on paper.

The optimists in the firm (middle management) — cheerleaders that devote all their energy to gossiping, making long-distance personal calls on the company phone and sucking up to the powers-that-be in lieu of doing hardly any work — would cheerily concur that all the bottles of life, those that contain mouthwash and those that do not, are half-full.

But I still say that the bottle of mouthwash is half-empty. Does that make me a pessimist?

During their quotidian kaffeeklatsch in the employee kitchen, the hypothetical discussion that would ensue among the attorneys as they lingered around the top-of-the-line espresso maker would conclude something like this:

“This is nothing more than a prima facie case of a bottle that was once half-full, but now is, ipso facto, half-empty. Arguendo, this bottle can reasonably be assumed to be half-full and half-empty — ex nunc.”

This imaginary exchange reminds me of a much more interesting scene from the movie Chinatown, when Jack Nicholson slaps around a tearful Faye Dunaway, who wails, “She’s my sister! She’s my daughter! She’s my sister and my daughter!”

At the office, it is unthinkable to opine in a direct manner. Cheerleaders will knee-jerk into labeling you a “Debby Downer” — the bane of middle management. Direct comments will elicit from lawyers quotes from the rule of law.

Free expression is reigned in at all costs. Consequently, many people mutter to themselves. We are our own best company!

Gray is the realm through which lawyers maneuver. The firm can be described as a trifecta of gray: gray areas, gray matter and gray hair, which sets the tone for every interaction, right down to the gray padded walls of my cubicle.

DeskThe bottle is half-empty!