Of course every once in a while I still prove myself capable of accessing that aspect of my professional persona which was in evidence 100% of the time in my younger days, the overarching attitude of “I take very little of this seriously, but I suppose having this job beats sitting at home watching daytime television.” I never feel terribly far away from that rougher-edged kid, in my head at least, but after years and years of hopping from cubefarm to cubefarm I find myself surrounded by fewer and fewer people who’ve ever seen that for themselves.
Example: last week was one of my co-workers birthdays (it is always someone’s birthday somewhere in the office) and so the team was summoned to a conference room in the afternoon for some birthday cake. Of course, the cake could not be cut until after a haltingly sung rendition of “Happy Birthday To You”, as per workplace custom (though arguably this time the haltingness was a little worse than average, for whatever reason). When the song was finished, one of my co-workers said “Now, it’s not how well the song is sung …”
“… it’s the fact that it’s over,” I finished automatically. I mean, come on, that’s a no-brainer, right? When I was in high school the music department was headed up by a notoriously self-serious choral director who somehow managed to combine every stereotype of both divas and schoolmarms, and she was known to admonish students while sitting in the audience at countywide competition programs: “If you can’t clap for the other groups’ performances because they’re good, clap because they’re finished.” So that’s just kind of been a truism in my mind since long before I was anyone’s salaried employee.
But in the hyper-even-keeled microcosm of my current day-job, apparently this scored as a bon mot of devastating zingosity and caused a minor uproar. Nobody was terribly upset that I had brought the hammer down (on what was obviously being implied by my co-worker in the first place) but there was a surprising (to me; it shouldn’t be anymore! And yet it is) amount of shocked and nervous laughter before the cake slices started circulating and everyone refocused on the much more important business at hand.
I realize that half of the collective flabbergastedness comes from anyone saying anything remotely critical or confrontational, and the other half comes from the fact that I was the anyone, since most people around here only think of me as the quiet computer guy who mostly keeps to himself. And that’s on me, as I’ve essentially cultivated that reputation around the office in a conscious way to make my own life easier. But every once in a while the constant running commentary in my head slips out through my mouth, which used to be the rule rather than the exception back in the day.