October 18, 2005

Reflections (Rat Race)

My office looks out on the building next door. Hell of a view, I tell ya. Now, my wife always calls me a snoop - I know exactly which kids belong in which house in our neighborhood, the names of the local cats (how funny is it that the neighbors across the street have a kid named Zack and a cat named Screech? Oh come on - you watched Saved by the Bell, right?), and who drives what car. I don't think its a matter of being a snoop - I'm just hyperaware of what's going on around me. Which is why, since I moved into this office a couple months ago, I find that I know the schedules of the folks in the next building over.

There's an older guy directly across from me. He gets in around 7:00 and hardly moves once he gets settled. A floor down and one office to the right is another guy who really likes to use his whiteboard. He drinks a lot of coffee. Down the hall from him, three or four offices to the left from where I'm sitting, is an Asian woman who arrives about the same time I do. I can tell she's usually chilly. She often drapes a shawl over her shoulders. Directly above her, maybe two or three offices down from the first guy, is another Asian woman. She's always immaculately dressed and her hair is cut at a severe angle. These are the people I spend the early morning hours with. They disappear for a time when the sun comes up, when the facade of the building reflects only the sky and, oddly, my own building.

I guess the thought that strikes me most often is how unhealthy this whole thing is. We - the five of us and the countless others who arrive after us - show up early in the morning and, essentially, sit all day long, staring at a computer, running to meetings, shuffling paper. And yet, no matter how nonsensical it might seem now, tomorrow morning I know that I'll come in, flip on my light and punch a square hole in the darkness and so will they.

Posted by Chris at October 18, 2005 7:52 AM

Not Nosey, Observant.

Great post..

Posted by: Angelia at October 18, 2005 8:05 AM

It's probably an easy (albeit disturbing) way to look at it....matrix-style. I.E., "I am but a small cog on the wheel" but I get the impression (on most days anyway) that you are pretty good at what you do and that you are fulfilled on some level, well on the level that doesn't require meetings, anyway.

That makes the square hole three dimensional.

Don't get me wrong, if all of a sudden you got a MONGO inheritence, I think you'd quit (as I would), but you don't fool ME RC, I think that you are driven by work, getting stuff done and by doing good job....I think (unless you are awesome at hidding your views on work) that you get most of that at work right now. That's why you're there (and like to be there) early in the AM. We are a small club, those of us who secretly LIKE (and thrive) on that kind of thing. A SICK DEMENTED CAFFEINE LADDEN CLUB.

Posted by: wn at October 18, 2005 8:08 AM

Oh and PS - Yea, I know about all the happenings in my neighborhood too...and it drives my husband INSANE. But I, personally, think it's important to KNOW if the baby accross the street was keeping her parents awake at 3am when I get up to pee.....or if the 3 adult guys (still living with their parents) next door have parties each time their parents leave and are obviously smoking pot on the front step (use the back guys, it's way less obvious!). My entertainment is very important to me!

Posted by: wn at October 18, 2005 8:11 AM

I can't see through the windows of the building across from me, all the glass is mirrored. Mine is too though so I often stand on the airco, thrust my hips and sing "Who Wrote the Book of Love" until someone comes and talks me down.

Posted by: zeno at October 18, 2005 8:32 AM

I'm so snoopy. Since I stay at home, I have a good idea about all of the neighbors around me (and their animals). Our cat is named Allie and her little cat buddy down the street who likes to lay in our driveway and tease Allie for being an inside cat is named Kate. Cute, no? And? The woman across the street gets packages from QVC everyday. I am not joking in the least. Everyday. What could she be buying? It is killing me!

Posted by: JuJuBee at October 18, 2005 8:38 AM

I can't see into the office next door because our company buildings are right in the middle of a large campus, but the other observations are correct. I sit at my computer nearly all day long, and secretly (or not so secretly) really like my work.

Have a good day - and don't forget to stretch.


Posted by: cassie-b at October 18, 2005 8:56 AM

Hmm, one of the reasons I don't want to be in the "rat race" perhaps?

still... good entry.

Posted by: Betty at October 18, 2005 9:28 AM

Well, Chris. When you put it like THAT, it really does seem like we're all just rats in a cage, doesn't it? Thinking about it like that kills me sometimes and makes me reevaluate what I'm doing in life. My office and window are similar and I'm an early riser too. If I look out and see the office drones punching holes in the darkness, I prefer to not think about the quiet depseration of people's lives but rather imagine their lives beneath the surface. And it helps to make up stories about those people I see early in the morning. Maybe the old guy comes in early so he can leave early and practice guitar. Or perhaps the chilly Asian woman is really an undercover corporate spy. And the immaculately dressed one comes in early because she's having an affair with the milkman.

Give it a try. Might make the morning go by a little easier...at least until the coffee kicks in.

Have a good one!

Posted by: MetroDad at October 18, 2005 9:28 AM

wonder if any of the 4 have a blog and have written about the guy in the other building who stares at them until the sun comes up...

Actually, I loved this post. Thanks!

Posted by: linda at October 18, 2005 9:36 AM

After being "restructured" 4 times over the past 5 years, it's made me realize how unimportant the jobs I was doing really were - my job here at home is far more important and I won't be restructured until she leaves for college/university! I don't miss the rat race at all!

Posted by: Marie at October 18, 2005 9:37 AM

Damn, I wish I had cats named Zach & Screech! That's too cool.

Posted by: RockStar Mommy at October 18, 2005 9:39 AM

When I lived closer to work I was able to walk to the office within 10 minutes each morning and listen to - at the time my mp3 player that's been upgraded to an i-Pod - music and one of the songs that undoubtedly came up since it was high on my playlist was "Ants Marching" by Dave Matthews Band and it always brought a smile to my face.

There we are in the hundreds, 6:30 am, walking to work at a fast pace to go sit at the desk, never stopping to say hello, building the walls up between us and for what? To afford to purchase the latte or whatever in our hands, to pay for the cellphone we're talking on, to sit in a little office and do what we do everyday and what purpose does it serve in our happiness?

Sometimes living in a cabin in the woods seems more fulfilling than spending 8.5 hours each day in a little cubicle to afford things I don't need

I could tell you about people who get to the office the same time I do and the guy that works on the 6th floor in an isolated part of the office who takes naps for the entire afternoon.

Posted by: Grace at October 18, 2005 9:46 AM

When I was a secretary for a decent sized corportation, I was the main secretary for Marketing, then the only one for the whole building. The president and the COO had my run errands for them.

I used to know everything. I mean EVERYTHING - who was fighting with who, who left early on Tuesdays to go have an affair, who thought so-and-so was crazy, who was up on the chopping block - and I hated it. I liked the job well enough, but the knowing? eh, I used, it of course, as I had to.

But me? now? I don't even know the neightbors are.

Posted by: Autumn at October 18, 2005 9:59 AM

Sadly I do not have an office and therefore no window. I have to look out of my boss' office to see anything. And even then the only thing is the Capitol building because there are no surrounding offices. I'm kind of jealous. I want windows.

Posted by: Heather B. at October 18, 2005 10:10 AM

Here's how UN-observant I am. We lived in the same condo in the islands for four years. Our landlords lived one floor above us. But when we moved out, I STILL wouldn't have recognized the people who lived on the top floor above the landlords. My boyfriend would say, "How can you NOT know what they look like?" I guess if you're trying to be invisible...other people sort of become invisible, too. At least that's how it works for me. :)

Posted by: Marilyn at October 18, 2005 10:11 AM

Hey, lose the introspection, your supposed to be funny darnit!

J/K :-) Cool post. The only thing I have to compare is the side of my neighbors house, no window. But I don't need to watch as their 9 year old daughter usually gives a morning update on the family. What is a polite way to say "I don't want to know"?

See ,how I can just hijack something and take it totally off track. Is it any wonder I have few friends? ;-)

Posted by: Jeff A at October 18, 2005 10:24 AM

great post, I have recently found myself realizing the same thing and how structured and repetitive my weeks are, wake up early, work all day in a lovely gray cubicle, sitting on my ass all day strapped behind the pc, occasional meetings, only escaping the madness over a lunch hour. Then after work - heading down for classes at night, return home, eat, sleep. And thus the cycle continues the next day...

Ahh the joys of Corporate America :-)

Posted by: E at October 18, 2005 11:02 AM

A Square Hole in the Darkness....

sounds like a good book title.

Posted by: alektra at October 18, 2005 11:15 AM

And do you think they are looking in at you too? I'd stick a sign in my window, something like, "S.O.S."

Posted by: Theresa at October 18, 2005 11:19 AM

Whoa, it is so tempting to go on a Metropolis-esque dystopia tangent, then bitch about being to young and underpaid for keyboard-induced hand and wrist damage, but that just wouldn't be very cheerful . . . oops.

Posted by: Betti at October 18, 2005 11:36 AM

Nice post, and oh so true. Rich and I were daydreaming the other day about quitting it all and moving to Alaska, a la Northern Exposure.

Posted by: Heather at October 18, 2005 11:48 AM

looking out at the buildings across from my office is what keeps me sane during the day --- especially when the hotel guests forget that windows work 2 ways .....

Posted by: Kathryn at October 18, 2005 12:19 PM

It makes perfect sense to have a blog and read them since you are interested in seeing people from a perspective that they don't know (necessarily) are there. How's that for arm-chair psychology. While we are on it, if you ever get tired of IT then become a psychologist. Everyday you get to see patterns and hear things most people will never know about the individuals!

Posted by: Krista at October 18, 2005 12:43 PM

No time to observe. Too busy at work, what with the blogging and the Solitaire and the IM'ing.

Posted by: Jason at October 18, 2005 12:43 PM

That was well written and such, if vaguely unsettling. It's very strange...makes me think about priorities and such.

Posted by: Heather at October 18, 2005 12:44 PM


I hate my boss, and decided after I was laid off back in 2000, that there was no sense in defining myself by what I did or do. I come in, keep my head low (except I'm opinionated and have a tendency to tell people what I think, so it doesn't work so well.) And have spent the last two months basically discretely looking for work.

No window but free reign of the internet which is really really cool. MSN anyone? As for people watching, I'm compulsive about it. The boss has this combo cough/twitch thing which reminds of Inspector Dreyfuss from the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers.


Posted by: Nat at October 18, 2005 1:09 PM

Wow... it's entries like these that really get you to thinking about what's important in life. I know the office scene works for some people - they thrive on all of it - but I know that it's not right for me. I plan on traveling overseas and helping people in 2 years (I leave for Tulsa this next fall, then another year for the training). It's really scary, but it's exhilarating at the same time. I can only hope and pray that other people who know that the "office scene" is not for them will also choose to go down the road less traveled and find whatever it is that make them TRULY happy and fulfilled.

Great post, Chris!

Posted by: Amber at October 18, 2005 1:53 PM

I've been feeling this way too lately - at least... I *think* what you are sort of saying is: look at us... we're walking around in cruise control most of the time, with people who have their own stories to tell right there beside us... but sometimes we get so caught up in our own routines, and they so caught up in theirs, that we don't think about each other...

Time to make the doughnuts...

I wonder sometimes if there's a point to all of this: get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, go to bed, rinse lather repeat.

I guess there is... but not so much from the routine itself... just in the human contact that comes from the routine. We just have to take the time to notice it.

Posted by: Snidget at October 18, 2005 2:21 PM

Ahoy, fellow observer. :) I think it keeps us in touch with humanity.

Posted by: Rhonda at October 18, 2005 2:33 PM

Dude, you have a window??? I'm jealous. I have a decent sized office, but it's a cave.

Posted by: mooalex at October 18, 2005 3:10 PM

Chris you're no different from most of my friends. We're not nosey just observant. I also think of it as if I know what's going on, I can help out when I see something out of whack.

I think of the world like Dr. Seuss' "Horton hears a who." I think of us as a speck, fish in a bowl. I sometime keep my voice down because—someone, I don't know who might hear me?

Wonderful entry btw.

Posted by: Michele at October 18, 2005 4:11 PM

you have an office and a window which makes me jealous of you. the office more than the window.

i love spying on people. mostly because i like to make up stories about them, about why they do what they do.

Posted by: jodi at October 18, 2005 4:17 PM

you have an office and a window which makes me jealous of you. the office more than the window.

i love spying on people. mostly because i like to make up stories about them, about why they do what they do.

Posted by: jodi at October 18, 2005 4:17 PM

Howdy there Chris!!! I just wanted to say hello! I got a huge promotion at work so I am so busy blogging is not an option and then my home PC took a crap on me. So guess what Im purchasing with my first huge paycheck??? Gosh there will be so much to catch up on once I get back, I NEED my blogs. Hope that the family is doing splendidly! have a nice day!!!

Posted by: Kelly M. at October 18, 2005 4:36 PM

You've seen "Rear Window" right?

Posted by: wendy at October 18, 2005 4:38 PM

Used to watch Friends faithfully and you just reminded me of Ugly Naked Guy... but before that you were making me ponderous. Thanks, I need and enjoy ponderous now and then :-)

Posted by: JuJu's Mom at October 18, 2005 5:16 PM

You're very observant...you know, as I was reading your post, I thought that it was the beginning of a mystery novel...like somehow you could write a story where the main character (you) would witness a murder in one of those offices and how you go about solving the mystery. Or something like that.

Posted by: Colleen at October 18, 2005 5:16 PM

Geeze! Maybe I should rephrase that, YOU didn't remind me of Ugly Naked Guy....

Posted by: JuJu's Mom at October 18, 2005 5:19 PM

I had a window when I had a job. It looked out onto the street, and I got to watch the fire engines go by all day. But now [insert sigh of contentment] my office is where-ever I want it to be... my couch, a cafe, etc. Now if I can just figure out how to get someone to pay me for that...

[insert nice post type comment here]

Posted by: L at October 18, 2005 5:19 PM

Our lives are such rat-traps, I tell you!

Posted by: Queen of Ass at October 18, 2005 5:21 PM

I forgot to mention this morning that the office on the first floor of the building across the street has a giant clock on the wall facing me. At certain points during the day, depending on the light, I use that clock to tell time. Also, the people in that building spend a lot of time standing outside talking on cell phones. They have a better view of our office, so sometimes I tempted to sit here and pick my nose for their amusement.

Posted by: Rhonda at October 18, 2005 5:57 PM

Do you ever wonder what they say about you? how they see you?
I'd probably be the girl who wears a suit, hair in a pony tail, drinks a hell of a lot of tea, and only needs a phone and a PC to do her work.
It's nice that you're so observant, and so aware of the details and the people around you. I hardly ever pay attention.

Posted by: ava at October 18, 2005 6:17 PM

cukoooooo-cukooooo!!! just kiddin ;)

Posted by: lizabetty at October 18, 2005 8:09 PM

My favorite Saved By The Bell Moment:

"I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so... I'm so... I'm so scared!" Whine, whine, caffeine pills, etc. The end.

Posted by: Eulallia at October 18, 2005 11:28 PM

You're right, you ARE very observant. And yes, it is also despressing when you think about doing the same thing, day after day, but it could always be worse. At least you generally like what you do. :)

Posted by: Zandria at October 19, 2005 12:03 AM

Oh I loved this entry! It's me all over the place. I know everyone's "schedule" in the neighborhood. Of course NOT because I'm snoopy..well shoot - maybe just a little.

Love your office.

Posted by: VirgoJen at October 19, 2005 12:47 PM