When I’m at my day job, I’m supposed to behave like I know what I’m doing. For the most part, I do a pretty good job of it. Granted, it’s not easy hiding the fact you are the class comedian, so there are days when my best efforts at appearing unflappable (mature) and in control (professional) take a back seat in the clown car that is my life.
Recently, both of my immediate bosses were on a business trip to Europe. I decided to use this “down” time to my advantage and catch up on some of the more mundane aspects of my work, like filing, creating databases and updating information on our website. Did I happen to mention that my work consists almost exclusively of filing, creating databases and updating information on our website? I’m just sayin’...
Okay, my mother didn’t raise a whiner. Well she did, but that would be my brother, so don’t get me started, I have a story to tell. Anyway, after several hours, or perhaps even several days (who’s counting?) I was in desperate need of some distraction. Determined to give it my all, because that’s the kind of non-whiner I am, I was just looking for something to do that was less tedious than typing, filing, etc., etc., etc.
There is a fine line between looking busy and being a busybody, in case you haven’t noticed. I just couldn’t bear to sit in my cubicle one moment more, so I thought a stroll to my co-worker’s cubicle was in order. I knocked (there aren’t doors, but I am always polite) and she looked up.
I hate it when someone interrupts me in the midst of doing something important, although how my job tasks could actually be considered important is beyond me. Since I now had her attention, I decided I had best say or do something worthwhile. I guess my decision wasn’t all that great because when I asked her if she knew the ingredients for the new Osama Bin Laden cocktail (2 shots and a splash of water), she groaned and asked me to leave. I’m pretty sure she wrote me up for not being politically correct, but she may just have been making a note to herself to walk away when she sees me coming.
So now I’m still looking for something to do. I decide a stroll downstairs is my next plan. The people who work down there think I must know something because I work upstairs. They are wrong. Well, I suppose I do know a few things. Like how to walk up the stairs (when I’m not too lazy and using the elevator), and amazingly, as previously mentioned, I know how to file, create databases, etc., etc., etc.
The people downstairs are, the nerve, busy working. I try to determine if they, too, are filing, typing and creating databases, but my mother also taught me not to stare. For all I know, they could have been working crossword puzzles or doing Sudoku. I knew better than to tell any of them one of the only jokes I’ve ever been able to remember, so I acted like I was on a mission. I’m pretty sure they all knew I was just killing time, but obviously they have also been raised right and politely ignored me.
I look at my watch. I have only managed to kill 10 and a half minutes. Somehow I feel this day is going to drag on into infinity if I can’t come up with something meaningful to do soon.
One of my bosses has a big dry-erase map on his wall that outlines the territories of all of our representatives. I have a light bulb moment when I realize I just might be able to make myself useful by updating his map. Certainly, someone new needs to be added or deleted. As I make my way to the map I just happen to notice some of the items on his credenza. I’ve seen the pictures of his family and the books about being a good manager. But what’s this?
There, on his credenza are four perfect squares that appear to be ball bearings somehow magically attached to each other. I later learn these are called rare-earth magnets (or in some circles Buckyballs®), but in that moment I’m still awestruck by their perfection.
Completely forgetting the map, I pick one of the pristine cubes up to examine it more closely. I decide it would be interesting to see what happens when you remove one of the small ball bearings (do not try this at home). My pristine cube might as well have been Pandora’s Box. The moment I removed one ball, the configuration changed completely. I was no longer holding a perfect square.
Try as I might, the form kept changing. I could create long strands. I could create something resembling a circle. I could create all sorts of interesting designs, none of which resembled a perfect square.
There were also moments when I wished I was wearing Depends, because I was quickly realizing I had no idea how to correct the problem! (On the upside, at least I was no longer bored.)
Eventually, I had to ask a co-worker for his help. (He’s in the cubicle next to mine so he already fully realizes I’m an idiot.) He ever-so-kindly took my ball bearings mess home and the following day brought back a perfect square. I love the guy and am going to suggest he gets a promotion!
What did I learn from my experience? Well, for one, if you look hard enough you can find something to make the time pass quickly. It’s important to remember jokes that don’t offend people. And probably most important (other than having friends who are good at fixing your mistakes): breast cancer is very, very difficult, but rare-earth magnets come in a close second.
Buckyballs® is a trademark of Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, LLC
This article was last reviewed August 2011.