Archive for the 'Work' Category


On Time

The day starts so much better when one does not rush to work. Even on days I am running late (i.e., most days) I remind myself to walk and not run. Sometimes I’ll even take the time to grab a walking breakfast, a sandwich or a bagel and a coffee.

It’s not the being late that rattles me, it’s the rushing. Better to accept the lateness and start things out calmly.

Of course that doesn’t mean things won’t turn horribly sour once you get to work.


Where Are You Taking That Leak?

There is a sign posted above the row of urinals in the men’s room at my office that encourages people to report leaks. Does anyone else think this is funny?



Mondays are the curse of weekends.



When a gay man reaches a certain age — say thirty-something — he may begin to wonder what category he falls into. It’s all about categories in this gay world. What you look like: twink, chicken, bear, cub, otter, wolf. What you do: gym bunny, muscle daddy, leather daddy. Who you do: top, bottom, chubby chaser, chicken hawk, rice queen.

We revel in these labels. We build identities and bars and communities and Web sites and publishing companies around them.

BearSome of us revel in not fitting into one of these categories.

Until we do.

I have never felt like I fit a label. Never was a twink. Not headed toward anything in particular, so I thought. Maybe I could be a cub if I could grow a beard worth a damn. But today I was startled to learn that there are at least two people I work with who think I am a bear. Or at least bearish.

It was further revealed that one of them (I don’t know who; I didn’t ask) said so as a compliment, i.e., my apparent bearishness is an attractive quality. And this did lessen the shock. I’ll take anything label if it means someone thinks I’m cute.

A quick flip through any bear magazine should disabuse anyone of these notions of bearhood. I am as pink and hairless as a newborn kangaroo. But, taken with another word someone else at work applied to me — cuddly — I have little choice but to conclude that I just need to lose weight. No euphemism for “fat” — even if it means someone thinks I’m cute — can leave me feeling very good about myself.


Happy Night Shift Workers Day!

Believe it or not, but Wednesday (yesterday) was National Night Shift Workers Day. Working late nights can suck, but there is more to consider than the obvious problems of having a wonky schedule.

Someone dear to my heart went around the city Tuesday night to talk to people working the third shift and produced an awesome video story for ASAP, The Associated Press’ service of innovative and original multimedia stories: Night workers get their day

Ironic, I think, that this national day of commemoration could not be observed by the folks for whom it was intended. They were all sleeping.


Now, There’s a Man Who Gets Into His Work

The person on the other side of the counter is often so full of bile and vitriol that I have to check under the bun to make sure there isn’t a razor blade or thumbtack nestled between the lettuce and the tomato. If they spit in it, I’d probably never know. And it’s nothing I’ve done; I’m just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be disgruntled. They may have a perfectly good reason. Her shifts are too long, monotonous, soulless. He’s frustrated he’s not doing something else. She’s mad at her boyfriend. She’s not getting paid enough to put up with this crap.

Maybe they’re just lazy and insolent.

Here’s some insight:

Whatever it is, they sure can suck the fun out of the lives around them.

Last night at a pizza place in O’Hare airport, we ordered two pepperoni pizzas. The woman behind the counter looked back at us for about five seconds, without addressing us, before turning to the kitchen and yelling, “Yo, A. Need you up front,” and then disappearing into the kitchen herself.

A man I presume to be A stepped through the kitchen doorway and stood at the cash register taking turns looking at each us patiently waiting, waiting, waiting for … something. Pizza, maybe. His huge, brown eyes rolled silently back and forth, stopping on each of us, expectant. They said, “Yeah? … What?” far more eloquently than I would have expected him to say with words.

Jeff stepped forward. “Two pepperoni pizzas. And two root beers.”

A snapped into action.

Later, when I returned to ask a third employee for two plastic forks, he slowly reached into the bin, grabbed one and handed it to me.

“Uh, can I have two?” I said.

Sometimes, though, they can work past the routine crap and have fun with their dull jobs. Like tonight. We got the old “if you see something, say something” speech on the F train into Queens tonight, but the conductor gave it a little panache.

If you see something, don’t be scurred and keep it to yourself. Tell a New York City police officer or an MTA employee. We may not be New York’s finest, but make no mistake, we run this town. Always have, always will. M. T. A.

Why shouldn’t this guy be disgruntled, too, like many of his colleagues? Maybe he was, but his theatrical interlude was ironically one of the clearest examples of professionalism I’d witnessed in quite some time.

Next stop on this Queens-bound F train is the bridge, the bridge, the br- br- br- br- br- br- bridge. Queensbridge.

In place of the usual grey faces of the ride home, most everyone who was listening had a smile. I imagine the conductor did, too.


Ghost Stories

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The dear, sweet maintenance man where I work begins mopping the floors precisely at 3:30 p.m. daily. He mixes a noxious cocktail of chemicals from generic, yet dangerous-looking, plastic jugs. I think he experiments sometimes, because the odor is never the same twice in a row. And it is a truly foul aroma.

There are two things I’ve smelled in my life that are worse. One was the stripper my dad used when he restored my sister’s bedroom set. That stuff really did make me throw up once. The other, I’d rather not mention. I don’t know what it does to the floor, but it produces an instant headache. It’s like something you’d use to scour a slaughterhouse. Truth be told, I don’t think he knows what he’s using.

One day he walked into my office with an industrial-looking bottle.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked.

I just sort of blinked at him. “Do I know?”

“Yeah,” he continuned. “Will this make the floors shiny. I want to wax the floors and make them shiny.”

I gamely took the bottle and examined the label, which may as well have been written in Cyrillic, and I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t. “Uh, I don’t know what this is,” I said.

“I think it’s wax,” he said. He took the bottle and walked away. The next day, I noticed no difference in the floors.

Sometimes he gets it right and shines them up magnificently. Seems a waste, mind you. They’re in terrible condition, bare wood exposed under cracked tiles. In some places, whole tiles are missing. It’s like running a vacuum cleaner on a dirt floor. But he takes intense pride in those floors. No different from the rest of us, I guess. We all want to be proud of our work — without poisoning people in the process.

So I don’t mind so much when he comes into my office to mop around me at my desk. And I feel bad when I have to tiptoe across his work, leaving half-footprints behind me. For a long time, I didn’t complain about the headaches. Or being driven to fits of sneezes with the “air fresheners” he sprays to cover up the odor, adding yet another layer of chemicals. (Imagine falling into a huge box of laundry detergent powder. Makes my skin crawl.) He comes in and out. It passes. And life goes merrily on.

And we have clean floors.

Sometimes he mops them three times in a night. Just to be safe.

One of my colleagues sometimes encourages him to come later. “You know, I hate to be in your way,” she said. “Why don’t you come back after five when we’ve left?”

It’s the ghosts, he told her once. That’s why he starts so early. He wants to get his work done on the top floor before everyone leaves, because he hears noises, he said. He’s seen doors close and open on their own. Lights turn on and off. And he thinks he’s seen a woman in white.

The building is old, and it can be creepy when no one’s there, I’ll give him that. And he’s not the only person to have ghost stories from that building. I’ve been there as late as 8 p.m. and heard noises myself. But ghosts? More likely, it’s the chemicals he uses that conjure these visions.

Another colleague once made a passing reference to him about the “evil spirits.”

“Oh no, don’t worry about evil spirits,” he said to her. “There’s no such thing as demons.”

These are just ghosts, he informed her. “I know. I’ve read the bible.”

I think someone talked to his boss, because for a while he did start later. But I guess the ghosts got the better of him. He’s back to his old routine. I think he’s using different chemicals.


It’s Snowing in the Bathroom

I work on the top floor of a 19th century building tenement building converted into office space. Lots of quirks. Lots of character. One colleague’s office has a sink. There are random non-functioning fireplaces scattered about the premises. That kind of thing. And I thought I had seen it all until this morning, when I walked into the bathroom (which includes a shower) nearest my office to blow my nose and felt little crystals of dropping down all around me. It was like Winona Ryder stumbling out into the backyard while Edward Scissorhands is carving an ice sculpture. (Well… all right. On a much smaller scale.) Apparently, when the wind picks up, ice particles are getting through a crack in the seal on the skylight.


Who Would Jesus Bribe?

I work on the third floor of a little historic building on the Lower East Side. It’s technically a 19th century Federal style row house. What this means is there is no elevator and the building has a lot of character and charm. What this means is it looks like it’s falling apart in some places. But at least I have a nice little office with a door that locks and a front-facing window. What this means is that I can see a parking lot and a tree or two and some old projects.

I’m usually thankful that I have a window in the front of the building. I get good light. I get a good breeze. In summer I get the music of the ice cream truck, which is cute for about a minute. I also get the floor-rattling hip-hop bass of passing car stereo systems — and the car alarms that the vibrations set off. So it’s good, but it’s not always good.

Lately, on Thursday afternoons, I’ve been hearing a new and wholly more disturbing sound through that window.

In the minutes leading up to 5:30, when the neighborhood children are walking home from their after-school programs, someone gets on a microphone with a squeaky sound system and calls out to them to gather round. She lures them with a treat. The first time I started paying attention, it was pudding.

“Every kid who comes gets two cups of pudding. This is not one cup, but two big cups of delicious chocolate pudding. Go home and bring your friends back. Tell them they get free pudding. Two cups of pudding for every kid. We’re going to start in a little while. Just hang tight.”

She said “pudding” so many times, the word began to sound weird and slightly embarrassing to me.

It seemed odd, but I was working late. I assumed it was a legitimate after-school thing. And it was too warm indoors to close the window, so I tried to ignore it.

Five minutes later, the voice returned. First the pudding call. Then: “We have prizes, too. Fill out these pieces of paper here, and if we draw yours, you’ll win a Yankees backpack.”

This was back when the Yankees had a chance.

“We’re starting in about 10 minutes,” she continued. “So go get your friends and bring them back here for the show.”

And, of course, free pudding.

Then 5:30 hit. They started a countdown: “Five! … Four! … Three! … Two! … One!”

The next week it was pumpkins (with two cans of soda, “for you and a friend!”). The week after that, it was a “candy grab” — apparently, as much candy as the kids could stuff into their arms. Then blow pops. Then another candy grab. Every week, it’s another treat.

After the countdown, a male voice and a female shout and yell in a vaguely celebratory way for a bit — “Hey! Yeah! Who wants to play a game! You want to play a game?” — before they separate the boys from the girls.

Eventually, I was curious enough to stick my head out the window to see what was going on. I saw a man and two young women bouncing around near the side of the truck facing the building. The side of the van had been folded down to create a sort of stage or platform.

Earlier that day I had seen that truck parked in front of the building. It was painted an optimistic shade of yellow with an airbrushed picture of three cartoonish bears in street clothes — they refer to their show as “Yogi Bear” — with the words “Metro Ministries” in bright, cheerful red letters.

Ministries. They’re preaching to these kids. With candy. Is it just me, or is this a very cynical approach? Doesn’t the word of God stand on its own?

As far as recruitment schemes go, it’s a far cry from “Hell House.” They tell stories about vegetables at the supermarket that are mean to other vegetables. They sing songs, badly, with karaoke tracks to popular songs in various styles — rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, even army style — about about praising Jesus and worshipping God. “We want to live in you. We want to please you!”

They tell them, “If you don’t live for God, if you live the way you want to live, you will not get to heaven. Don’t look at your friend. Your friend won’t save you. Only God will save you.”

They collect the kids’ names and addresses before every show. If they don’t or they don’t get the treat. And they are made to wait til the end to get the treat. They’re like taskmasters — “You won’t get your lollipop until the end!”

They’ve been doing it for a few weeks now, and I can tell they recognize most of the kids. They’re familiar enough with them that they jump right into a barrage of Hallelujahs and Amens right at 5:30. They start their shows, they shout (and I mean shout) “I love Jesus! Do you love Jesus? Who here loves Jesus? Hallelujah!

And I can’t help but wonder a few things. Do these kids’ parents know what they’re doing on the way home? Did anyone ever tell them how to deal with strangers who offer them candy out of the side of a parked truck? Does anyone have permission to proselytize to these kids? Do the kids ever care waht they’re being told, or are they just in it for the free stuff?


Black Eye

No one at work has asked me about my black eye today. I wonder if they think I’m being beaten at home and they’re afraid to ask me about it because it might reduce me to tears or fits of hysterics. Or maybe they don’t want to force me into a corner where I begin to tell lie upon lie to maintain the status quo and avoid embarrassing myself or the person who hit me.

But I work at a social service agency. Surely if anyone is going to care enough to ask, that person will be right here.

Of course, I’m not being beaten. I injured myself at rugby practice last night when the guy running in front of me slammed into a goal post and I slammed into him.

It’s just a wee thing. Just a little bruising on my cheek.

I think it’s funny that I should get my first rugby shiner at my last rugby practice. Well, my last practice for a few months, anyway. Most of my teammates don’t know I’m taking this next season off.

the untallied hours