“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


My Window Friends

Friday, September 30, 2005

In 1999, after having worked in the same office for almost eleven years at a job I hated, I finally made the decision to quit and go to school for web design. I graduated from tech school in May 2001 with a web design diploma that was essentially useless for a career. In the year and a half I was in school the market changed drastically. No one wanted web designers anymore. They wanted web programmers who had some design sense. Why hire two people when one can do the job, right? I can't really say that I blame them.

So there I was with skills that were fun to use for helping my friends out when they wanted a website and were useful for a freelance job here and there designing a simple brochure-ware site, but nothing more. I went to a temp agency and worked in offices doing data entry that bored me to the point where I spent as much time fighting to keep my eyes open as I did keying in those piles and piles of garish yellow invoices.

After a couple years of that, my Geek suggested that I quit and stay at home as a full time homemaker. I was thrilled. I know that this is not every woman's dream, but I've never felt I was cut out for a career. I'm a homey person and always have been. The drab gray walls and sounds of shuffling papers and politely (or not so politely) arguing co-workers and bosses seemed to suck the life out of me. I came home exhausted and crabby every evening, and as much as I tried to leave my woes at the office, the Geek took the brunt of my crabbiness much too often.

A year later we decided we needed some more cash flow so I got a part time job at a new children's boutique. It was a fun, creative environment and I truly think I enjoyed that job more than any other I've had, despite the fact that I stink at sales, I know zippo about children's clothes, and the pay was not great compared to what I can make at an office. After six months there I was layed off. The owners couldn't afford as much help as they had hired, and since I worked the most hours and therefore was the biggest drain on their limited finances, I was the first to go. (I suppose the lack of sales skills and knowledge about children's clothing didn't help either, but that wasn't the reason they gave and I'm pretty sure they didn't replace me.)

That was March of this year. For six months I managed to not go back to work, using as my excuse the fact that I needed to spend my days getting our house ready to sell and preparing to build our next home which we are general contracting ourselves. I'm not saying that those were poor excuses either. They were valid. But now the house is ready to sell and the building project is on hold until the spring, so here I am with no more excuses.

About two weeks ago I started looking for work again. Since we're moving to a place about an hour and a half away from here, I decided temp work would be ideal. That way I wouldn't have to leave my employer high and dry and having to hire again after 6 months. I can work temp jobs for 6 months or so and then find a permanent job in the area where we will live.

I am fine with all of this for the most part. I don't mind working, even though I'd rather be a full-time homemaker. I still hope to be able to go back to that some day, or at the very least to end up working only part time away from home. For now, I must work full time and that's fine. The problem I'm having is that I have to work in an office again. Retail simply doesn't pay enough. I hate offices. Like I said before, it's like they suck the life out of me.

I know that I'm not the only one, and I'm certainly not asking for sympathy. I know that there are very few people who take joy in sitting in a tiny cubical with gray walls for 8 hours every day under nasty, unflattering flourescent lights; yet there are millions of us who do so year after year after year. I understand that we have to do whatever it takes to make enough money to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. I understand that there are people who can't find a job and would be incredibly grateful to have a job in an office so they could feed their children. I get all that, and I am grateful that I have the skills needed to get a halfway decent job. I am just not inclined to liking offices.

This week I worked my first week as a temp again. It was a one week job starting last Friday and ending yesterday. So I donned my business casual clothing, armed myself with steely resolve to be happy no matter what, and went to work. I was making calls all day to agents of the large company I was working for, training them on a new product they would be selling. Talking all day does keep a person awake better than typing all day, which helped, but the lights were still icy, the walls drab, and the quarters close.

I spent quite a lot of time traversing the halls since I did a lot of faxing to agents who hadn't received (or claimed they hadn't received) a UPS package that contained information vital to their training. It was in these hallways that I found my saving grace for the week. My window friends.

It seems to be a pretty consistent fact that the only people who get windows in an office building are the people who get paid the most - managers, directors, presidents and such. Those of us who are underlings live without a glimpse of tree or sky until we leave the office at the end of the day. This is probably good in my case. If I could see outside from my little cubical I would probably end up daydreaming as I gazed at green trees and blue sky.

To counteract this lack of scenery, or perhaps to impress their customers, most offices have a painting or two scattered about the building. It has been my experience that most of these paintings are modern, abstract, often in mauves and taupes and grays. (There it is again - gray.) But this office was different.

The halls of this building were lined with windows, each of which allowed me to peer into a picture in the imagination of an artist. These weren't abstract, dull or dreary. The colors ranged from soft pastels to radiant hues. The subjects ranged from a middle-aged woman in her garden to a refreshing mountain lake. There was even a range of styles, from realism to impressionism and more. I picked my favorite ones and made sure not to miss them each time I made my way to the fax machine. These windows provided me with a source of inspiration and joy each time I passed them by. They were like happy friendly faces scattered among a crowd of weary, busy faces.

Yesterday I completed the assignment, so now I'm back to waiting again for another temp job. I kind of hope I might get another assignment at that office. As silly as it might sound, I think I might miss those little windows if I went elsewhere.


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