Wednesday, February 07, 2007

the thin line, as thin as turkey meat

So I have this co-worker. Her office is directly across from mine, and we can hear absolutely everything we say and do. She hears every illegal phone conversation with friends, and I hear her nibbling on one of her baby carrots every day at 2:46 p.m. But more on the carrots later.

I’ve mentioned this same co-worker on my blog, only on a few separate occasions. She’s been an excellent character study. I’ve even incorporated her into the play I’ll likely never finish. Some of the dialogue is taken verbatim from actual conversations I’ve had with her. Like in this scene for instance:

(On the phone.) But the food was quite something. They had an assortment of dessert squares. There was raspberry, and lemon, and I think the orange colored ones were mango. Exotic, huh? Mm-hm. Oh they were very delicate. Just the right amount of powdered sugar. Simply fantastic. Let’s see, what else did they have? Oh. They were so smart to do this. They had baklava for the Greek people, and fortune cookies for the Chinese people. I thought that was a very nice touch since, you know, they wanted everyone to feel included. Because not everyone likes fruit squares. And the shortbread base, as you know, comes from the English/Celtic region., so that pretty much covers all the white people. But what about everyone else? What are they supposed to eat? You can’t expect everyone to be English, this is America! Right? Sure. And of course there were other kinds of people there besides Greeks and the Chinese, but not every country has a favorite dessert, per se. And this was strictly a dessert reception. (Pause.) Maybe the mango was to make the Polynesians happy. At any rate. Very diversified dessert selection. Very nice touch. Oops, gotta go, Linda. I think I hear Dan. Okay. (Hangs up.)

(DAN and PAUL enter.)

The lady is obsessed with food. I’m certain it has something to do with how little of it she had growing up in the back woods of Maine with no running water. I’m not making that up, but she may have, I’m just not sure. Judging by her wiry frame, the thin, peaked face that’s aged too much for just fifty years of life, and that harsh bite in her north shore accent, I’m thinking she’s telling the truth about the no running water thing.

Her lunch, which she eats at her desk, has been the exact same thing, every day for at least two years. It consists of the following items:

She rolls the deli meat and places it on the cracker, just like Rachael Ray would do. She dips the halved baby carrot in the salad dressing. Occasionally, she dips the meat in the salad dressing too. All this I have witnessed just in passing by her doorway from time to time. She never goes out for lunch. Ever. It’s the same thing, every day, at the same time, every afternoon. In fact, it’s such a noticeable pattern of behavior, even my boss has noticed it, and we sometimes smirk at one another in this “man, is she funny” kind of way. Because we’re mean like that.

I’ve sat across from this woman for almost two years now, and if I’m going to be honest, I’ll tell you that, quite often, I have secretly rejoiced in how holistically superior from her I am. Everything from taste in fragrances in hand lotion, shoes, to our views on the disabled, the correct way to reference a minority group member in casual conversation, or even our preference in domestic animals (she’s a cat owner - oh my shocker) we could not be more diametrically opposed, nor could she be any more inferior to me in any other possible way. Professionally, we’ve had absolutely no conflicts, but that’s largely because of how patient and giving I am. Most of the time, I’d just sit there smugly counting my blessings that we would not ever, ever have anything in common, and what a very, very good thing that was.

Just in the last month or so, and because I’ve been avoiding the cold any chance I get, I’ve been eating lunch from my desk. Last week, my boss came into my office around lunchtime with a document in her hand. She stopped cold in my doorway, looked at my desk, looked up at me, and immediately started to laugh. At first, I didn’t see what she saw. I couldn’t figure out what she was laughing at. I looked at her for a moment, then I looked down at my desk. Here is what she saw:

It wasn’t identical, but it was more than close enough. I looked intently at my boss:

“It isn’t what you think.”
“Oh I’m afraid it is, Mary.”
“I’m not turning into her.”
“You are so turning into her.”
“Stop! I am not!”
“Hang on, I think you need some ranch. I’ll ask if you can borrow some.”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll be right back.”

I’m not turning into her. I’ve been eating Triscuits since waaay before I started here. And she never has cheese. I always have the cheese. I don't even like ranch dressing Yeah it’s true, I had the deli turkey thinly sliced. And maybe I do like to roll it on my crackers, so what?! But it’ll be a cold day in hell before I slice a baby carrot in half and dip it in ranch. A cold day in hell.


Oh Mary. You have got to be the best storyteller I know. Find something else to write about soon and keep the masses happy, okay?
Remind me to tell you about the pot luck at school and the Viet nail girls being directed to the rice...seriously.
That was such a pleasing story to read. I hope you really call your boss, "boss" all the time.
Ha ha, crazy cat lady Mary.

Speaking of which, I would just like to speak up in defense of cats (which is going to go on way too long, so you can just stop reading now really).

My cats growing up have turned confirmed cat haters into cat toleraters at the very least. I have a theory that cats reflect their owners. I had a friend in high school whose mom was kind of this weird, socially awkward freak. They had 6 cats. Which is just gross. But regardless of the gross factor, all of their cats were weird and socially awkward just like the mom.

However, my cats were friendly and social. Plus Jason has a cat that loves people and snuggling more than anything. I've woken up many times with Tiny resting his head on my pillow and spooning with me. It's pretty cute.

Of course, I am not a cat exclusivist. I love dogs too. Especially big cuddly ones. And beagles make me go all mushy.
Just to clarify, I am not a cat hater at all. I grew up with them, and I've owned them personally in days past. I just never will again, and I believe I've always preferred the company of dogs.

I'm totally with you, Kell, on the cats reflecting their owners biz. So true. Although, sometimes you end up with a cat that's just plain psycho, who won't stop clawing you for attention, who cries at every stupid thing...wait a sec....oh dear. Excuse me, I have to call my shrink.
you are an amazing story teller because you make it so personal! I mean, i too feel superior to people around me. Especially people i don't relate to. It's hard, Mary, associating with certain people! Life is rough!

I can't wait to hear Rachel's story. That sounds like a goody!
It's okay to admit you eat baby carrots dipped in ranch. It's fine. As long as you don't dip them in your nose and eat them. Now that would be something I'd never admit to.
I just love how fortune cookies were the dessert for the Chinese. Like the Chinese MUST have their fortune cookies or something.

I'm a little envious that you have a coworker who is a dialog generator. Unfortunately, the dialog that she generates is so unbelievable that in the future, people will attend your plays, and say, "Yes, but no one would ever actually say that." If they only knew the truth...
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