Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Office Move

I haven't written as much as I want to lately, partly because my office moved.

In terms of actual mechanics, one really has nothing to do with the other. Twenty years ago, even ten, I did sit at a computer at my office and write things. But that hasn't been true for a long time. I write long notes in an iPod and iPad (along with actual, honest-to-god notebooks and legal pads), but I do most actual writing on my little pink netbook, which goes where ever I go. And most of our work lives in The Cloud. (Although I am the only one who believes our words are just roaming around up there, in an actual cloud.)

There is a big screen that sits on a big desk, and I do all kinds of non-writing work on it, but I primarily think of it as the place where the iTunes live (and refuse to synch properly, ever, to anything else, which is why every device I own, mysteriously, has a different version of Cee Lo's "F you" on it).

Work still had to get cranked out during the Move, and September's our busiest time of year (not Anna Wintour-September busy, but twice the work of any other time of year).  There's never a good time to move though, and even I have to admit it's nothing like it was ten years ago, when disconnecting those lines and cables, even for a minute, was an epic undertaking.

I'm just not good with change ( one way of putting it).

The Move was something I've known was coming all summer, but managed to stay in denial about for several months. Our old building was becoming a bar however, so unless I wanted to develop waitressing skills, the move was inevitable. Many nights, I toyed with just staying at my desk and letting them demolish the place around me ("Mr. Gorbachev...tear. down. these. walls.")  My brother joked frequently that the patrons of the new place would just have to get used to me, as the bartender shot me sad, sidelong glances and explained to all the customers, "pay no attention to her boys. She came with the place."
In the middle of this move, I was housesitting, so this meant, not only did I go home to find my toothbrush at a different sink, in a different bathroom, in a different house every night, I got up and went to an office where my staples were packed and my post-its had migrated without me. This was a combination destined for disaster.

It is lucky that I work with tech guys, who know me pretty well by now, and had re-arranged the office once already last summer when they got new sofas and a different conference table. What they discovered then was, as long as everything is oriented in the same exact direction (my chair still rolls the same two feet between my desk and credenza;  the computer screen is on the right and the phone is on the left; the silver bowl where my keys go is in the middle, next to the black Swingline stapler), I don't really notice much. In fact, I am relatively oblivious to my surroundings, as long as my stuff is where it's supposed to go.

Ever since I had a grad school job with a desk that looked right out on a beautiful lake, I've maintained that gorgeous views (much like extremely good looks in a boyfriend) are a waste of time. In a week, you stop noticing.

There was actually a small sapling growing out of the basement, through the floor and into my file cabinet drawer -- which they could not believe -- but at some point, I adapted to it, and it adapted to me. I'm sure it was a sign of some serious structural and foundation flaws and declining property values, with a side order of demolition by neglect, but I didn't own the building, and that tree wasn't bothering me. (They swept up the leaves and put them in my silver key bowl.)

They found the movers and they hired the movers. There were a few times they asked for my input, but I largely stayed out of it. They picked up the computers at the old location and put them down and hooked them up at the new one. My primary contribution was to fill multiple dumpsters with ten years of trash (it wasn't like Hoarders or anything; nobody keeps dead cats in an office), and to move the fax machine. (And I didn't do that. My best friend carried it to the new place, because I really didn't want the phone company screwing around with it. She's not an engineer or anything; I just didn't mind her touching it.) The fact that no one faxes anybody anymore is not lost on me, but for some reason, I was obsessed with it.

By and large, it went miraculously smoothly. The new place was in pristine perfect move-in condition. When the fridge didn't seem to be working, our new architect/landlord picked it up (himself); hauled it to the curb; drove to Home Depot for a new one; hauled it back up the stairs and plugged it in. His wife (our landlady) went along to buy us new towel rods and blinds for the bathroom. The central air system froze up, but the central air guy was there within an hour to fix it. This weekend I noticed a few scuff marks on the stairwell wall, but they've clearly been meticulously patched and spackled, and I suspect I'll see a fresh coat of paint on them in the morning.

The only thing that went wrong (if you could call it that.... and boy, did I) was the key going missing to the file cabinet that goes in my office. Inasmuch as file cabinets could be said to be nice, this one is nice. The two big lateral drawers (all set up for my nice pendaflex, legal-size folders) just whisper in and out at the touch of a fingertip. It's not fireproof, but it is fire-resistant, and it was the only office "furnishing" I ever asked a boss to buy for me -- more than a decade ago (having made do at nearly every job with the rusty, crooked, creaky variety). Everyone else wanted a fancy chair or desk (to say nothing of state-of-the-art computers), but all I wanted was this one thing. It isn't teak or mahogany or anything fancy; it's plain old black metal; but it does work, and I really, really like it.

In the old office, the key to it lived in the pink Princess coffee mug over the mantle (this doesn't constitute a huge breach of security, because it doesn't live there anymore). It got lost once earlier this year, but it turned out the bookkeeper had a spare at her office, so... crisis averted.

Before the move, I knew it was the one place I could stick things for safe keeping, because it was absolutely going with us and I thought it would be the first thing off the truck. The IT guys had a girl helping them coordinate the move and I asked her several times, "did you tell them they're moving full file cabinets. Because they'll need to strap those closed, or duct tape them shut. Movers have these big straps...." She looked at me like I was nuts, til I finally said, "well sure, they're Movers. I guess they've moved a few file cabinets. Why am I telling them how to do their job?" Then I laughed nervously. But my mind was by no means at ease.

Then I took the key out of the pink Princess cup on the mantle and put it in the lock. I thought, well, any one of us could lose track of that coffee mug, but we're sure not going to lose this giant file cabinet. (I didn't just pocket the key -- your obvious question -- because I thought everybody would need access to the stuff I had packed into it, and because, since I was housesitting, I didn't know where my pockets might be.)

So, that was the last time I saw it. The key, that is. The file cabinet's sitting in the new office right where it's supposed to be. Mocking me. Locked. It turned up, but the key vanished. The boys say it probably just fell out along the way... but I explain to them how this is not possible, because you can't lock those drawers without the key. If the key fell out, how did the drawers get locked? They don't know. The Movers don't know. ("Ma'am, we would never take a key out of a drawer. We ask the customers to do all that before we get there.")

My plan was to just jam the lock repeatedly with a flat-head screwdriver til it gave way, but the screwdriver is inside the file cabinet.  It's inside this nice zippered black canvas handyman kit that somebody gave me a long time ago (probably as a joke), along with a hammer, and nails, and picture hangers and everything else you might need to coordinate a move. (So then I brought my screwdriver from home, and it didn't work anyway, because like I said, it's pretty nice -- it wouldn't be that nice if any idiot with a hammer could just bust the lock.)

That's how the most efficiently-coordinated office move anyone's ever seen turned into The Move That Wrecked Everyone's Labor Day Weekend (racking up a minimum of 47 texts, emails... but no expected, the phone company took a long time to move that line).  Since then, the boys had a new key made (probably plaster molds were involved or something; I don't know, because I didn't even want to go to that office... where everything was ruined. Ruined.)

One of my cousins -- a former college basketball player and later a high school coach -- used to sense my resistance to change or disruption even when I was a little kid, as he witnessed more than one of my go-to-pieces if I stepped too far outside my routines (the holiday weekend I spent throwing up in his parents' bathroom comes to mind). Feeling a kinship, I imagine, he'd reassure me with stories of how his own life was so tightly wound, so finely calibrated, that if so much as a bug hit his windshield, it was all over. For some reason, this soothed me.

He managed to stay married to the same woman his whole life; raise a big family; and coach a winning team. I certainly looked up to him, and while I wouldn't consider the fact that he dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 50 the mark of an unsuccessful life, I would acknowledge it might be a less-than-rousing endorsement of our family's tendency towards the... high strung.

Check Engine Light
Bye Disco Kroger
Why I Live at the Disco Kroger
Drivin' Miz Daisy

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