Monday, May 23, 2011

Ghost Town

Week Three of being back in the office after paternity leave commences, and it is still awfully quiet around here. And I don’t just mean that in the sense that I don’t have any extra work being shipped my way.

The new office is essentially one big open floorplan, with the elevators and restrooms in the center and the cubicle farm surrounding them and then a few meeting rooms and executive offices occupying the outer perimeter where the windows are. I can walk freely around the whole floor, which is probably big enough for at least 200 people in just the cubicles alone. And yet there’s only a couple dozen or so of us here, all clustered in one corner of the floor. More and more departments and possibly entire unrelated DoD agencies will allegedly be joining us as the summer goes along, but as of today it’s just my smallish group and wide, cavernous stretches of unadorned, unoccupied cubiclage.

I promised myself I wouldn't do any more Rapture jokes.
That has certain advantages, of course. It used to be if I was taking a personal cell phone call at work I would step out into the hallway and pace, but now I can just swing around to the other side of the floor, take a seat at a blank desk, and not be within earshot of a soul. It’s also nice to not have to compete for fridge space if I want to stow a lunch, or feel guilty if I’m stockpiling enough food to get me through the week. (Some mornings I can barely remember where my keys are and my next meal never crosses my mind, so it’s nice to have a couple options waiting for me at the office.)

But overall there’s a bit of that “quiet … too quiet” thing going on. It reminds me of some of the semesters in college, especially my last one, when I would have late finals or some other reason to hang around campus beyond the point where people had started departing. That sense of unfilled space, not that I personally was missing anything I needed but that the background was oddly drained. Weird and unsettling. The vacant executive offices on the opposite side of the floor from us all have their doors standing open, and their lights out, but there are motion sensors just inside the thresholds to turn the overhead fluorescents on. When I’m wandering past those offices it’s all I can do to resist the urge to dart in and out of every door and make all the lights snap on.

I’m sure in a few months when the whole office is swarming with people and they are running out of room to put everyone, I’ll be longing for the peace and quiet of the current strangeness. But that’s just the way it goes.

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