Things my office has in common with the innermost depths of an Egyptian pyramid:
1) They’re both silent as the grave.
2) Those who disturb that silence will be cursed.
This is how we like it here. Quiet. Peaceful. Contemplative.
And after more years working in customer service than I care to remember, listening to the same god-awful corporate radio playlist on a loop and enduring verbal beatdowns from customers because they thought Yogurt A was on sale, not Yogurt B, and by god, they WILL have their 10¢ discount if they have to escalate all the way to the regional manager, I prize my quiet workplace.
Safely ensconced in my muted accounting haven, I am under no obligation to suffer fools who won’t take two seconds to read something before they come pestering me for the information instead. I do not need to listen to Britney Spears expel yet another identical song out through her nose twenty times a day. Our soundtrack is the gentle hum of powered-up computers and the clickety-clack of fingers on keyboards.
Because it is the general consensus among the small population of our office that key-clacking, mouse-clicking and the occasional din of the air conditioner roaring to life are the loudest it ought to get in here. Personal calls and unnecessary chit-chat? Take it outside, Talky Talkerson. Computer speakers? Disabled unless you really, really need to show everyone that hilarious cat video right now. And there’s no need to bicker over whose turn it is to pick the radio station, because there is no radio!
We do not delude ourselves that this is everyone’s ideal workplace, but it works for us.
So why must there always be someone who has to ruin it?
You might think that any outsider entering this sanctuary of stillness, this muffled cocoon about two decibels away from gaining anechoic chamber status, would have the good sense to employ their best museum etiquette and conduct all business on tiptoe and in reasonably hushed tones as a courtesy. And many do. Some seem reluctant to even clear their throats if they require our attention while we’re busy. I like to call those people “not assholes.”
But you know there’s always going to be the occasional thick-headed cave-troll who learned to walk by watching Godzilla crush Tokyo, and who seems to think we somehow need to be liberated from our quietude like a dog from a sweltering car.
You can hear him coming, sometimes even when he’s still way out in the parking lot. Usually booming away on his cell as he gusts through the door. Big, stomping footsteps test the durability of the tiled stairs as the behemoth of the week ascends to our landing. Once at the top, he halts. He make the necessary quarter turn to the right and plants his hulking feet decisively. Hands on hips, he surveys the floor and takes in the silence.
But after approximately .58 seconds, Goliath has had enough silence. His maw opens, and the stupid starts flowing. Loudly, and without pause.
Really? I hadn’t noticed. Since it’s not quiet. Not since you showed up.
Funny story, you know what people do in libraries? Keep their voices down.
Oh, I go a little crazy sometimes, all right. But not because of the silence, buddy. Not because of the silence.
And then he’ll announce who he’s there to see, whip out his goddamn cell phone again, and stand right there in the middle of our office treating us to a one-sided conversation loud enough to make the next town over file a noise complaint with the police.
I always wonder what people like this are thinking, if in fact they are thinking at all. I mean, there are certain unspoken rules that everybody’s supposed to know, right? You don’t go wander into a Zen monastery and antagonize the monks, you don’t crank your vocal volume up to 11 in a library, and if you’re a guest in what is clearly a small, quiet office, you do not march in and start belting out verbal sewage at sports arena amplification while people are obviously trying to concentrate. You just don’t.
One guy, after all that, turned out to be in the wrong place, and got legitimately angry that we weren’t the business he was looking for. It was like having a stranger barge into your house, root around in your fridge and then berate you for not having his brand of soda.
Unfortunately, rudeness is not yet classified as a justifiable reason for murder, and the request I put in for an office guard tiger is still pending, so my retaliatory options are, at present, limited to a death glare rather than a deathblow.
But someday, someday when I have River Tam, King Leonidas, and the librarian from Ghostbusters on speed dial, boy, is one of these loudmouth schmucks going to get a surprise.
And I’ll be over here in my corner, quietly watching the show.