Monday, February 28, 2011

Cracks in the facade

Believe it or not, the ice seems to be thawing just a tiny bit in my workspace, perhaps in honor of the fact that the weather’s been in the mid-70’s the past few days (though that’s probably just a coincidence). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that everyone is suddenly buddy-buddy, but at various points today my male colleagues and I had unavoidably crossed paths with Ms. A., and she has actually spoken to us instead of pretending we don’t exist. Nothing as friendly as a greeting or anything like that, but at least saying something along the lines of “I just need something off that shelf” as she steps around us in tight quarters. On the one hand, a limited exchange like that just kind of underscores how off-kilter the whole situation feels, but on the other hand, it’s better than the oppressive silence.

At any rate, I did have a terrifying-but-then-funny moment last week, on the heels of the previous Monday/Work blog post, so it seems appropriate to revisit it here. After singing the praises of my contracting manager so effusively the day before, my manager stopped by my desk on Tuesday morning and asked if I could come to a meeting at 10 a.m. in the conference room. I said sure, no problem, and he left without explaining anything any further.

I have always been of the opinion that I don’t really need to be given lots of advance info for things like meetings. I’m not important enough to insist on a justification being made for my time; if someone says “come to this meeting” I just show up, and I’ll find out what it’s all about when I get there. I trust my superiors enough to believe that if I needed to do any prep for the meeting and come prepared with answers to questions or anything like that, they would let me know in no uncertain terms. And of course it’s easy to say all of that and generally adhere to it, but every once in a while I get a little paranoid that I’m being included in a meeting because the topic of conversation is going to be me: something I’ve screwed up or something that’s going to negatively impact me like a blindsiding round of layoffs. Such things really have no basis in reality whatsoever and are the height of out-of-control paranoid flightiness, but in light of the recent hostilities exploding in my workspace, I think a little bit of self-interested hyper-concern might be understandable.

I just need to dodge this for another 20, 25 years, tops.
At any rate the appointed time arrived and I went down to the conference room. Turned out that my manager had called the meeting not just for me but for every contractor in the office who works for our company. This brought on a wave of relief as I realized that it wasn’t going to be a one-on-one or two-on-one dressing down, which would have been ironic given how highly I had been lauding my manager the day before. And then the relief was suddenly replaced by a completely different kind of irony-driven paranoia via which I was completely convinced that my manager had called everyone together to announce that he was quitting or retiring or otherwise abandoning us in two weeks or less, which would necessitate bringing in a new manager who wouldn’t be the person who hired me and knew why I was worth keeping around and always gave me good annual reviews and so on. Which would be a total drag, and (according to certain cosmological belief systems, the allure of which I am not completely immune from) would actually be my fault because I had jinxed everything with my oblivious blog-psalms. Or something.

But of course the farewell speech did not materialize, either. My manager instead simply explained that he had been inadvertently collecting the little tokens that corporate sends out to managers to pass along to employees when they hit one or two or five years of service, as well as the certificates for divisional employee of the month, for a couple of years and he had meant to give them out at the Presidents’ Day luncheon but the venue turned out to be less then totally conducive to that kind of ceremonial ado (and he had conveniently forgotten all the tokens and certificates back at his office anyway). So he spent a few minutes in the conference room handing them out to the appropriate people in front of everyone else on the team so we could add a smattering of applause to the occasion. Which was nice and all but somewhat anticlimactic after everything that had been racing through my head up until the big reveal.

At this point I would like to look forward to a nice, calm, non-newsworthy week at work … but I don’t want to say as much because I don’t want to bring down the irony of the gods, so I’ll just quit while I’m arguably ahead.

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