Friday, April 28, 2006

A day back at the office

I went back to my old office a couple weeks ago to meet my husband for lunch. It was a strange experience. Somehow in the back of my mind I thought nothing would have changed in the two years since I left. How could they make it without me? But alas, I found the business not only made it, but thrived since my departure.

My husband had told me they had redesigned the entire cafeteria. Mandatory asbestos removal had warranted that portion of the building closed; and when it reopened a new, more expensive cafeteria rose up to greet the workers. I had walked through the old cafeteria hundreds of times in the three years I worked there, and when I strolled into the new one it was like I was somewhere else. If it weren't for the fact that I saw at least a dozen people I had worked with, I would have thought I was in the wrong place.

As my husband and I struggled to order food in the chaos that happens at noon time in a building where over four thousand people are employed, old co-workers and friends stopped to say hello. For a few moments, it seemed like I still worked there; as if I were still a part of the nine to five rat race. But my days are now filled with chasing after two pre-school-aged daughters, instead of paperwork.

As we carried our trays over to the new registers I glanced around the cafeteria to see if I could find any more of my old cronies. Using his employee i.d. card to pay for our lunches - another new feature since the cafeteria reopened - my husband sighed as he spotted me glancing around the room. He still had to deal with this stuff every day. It was just another lunch in the cafeteria to him. The only feelings he had were hunger pains because I was running late and it was half an hour past his usual lunch time.

I noticed a familiar face at a table and suggested we sit there. "No," he firmly replied. "I don't want to sit next to anyone you know." So we walked to the larger seating area and found a table next to the wall. We were serenaded by a local school band playing classical music. Another way for the company to show they were dedicated to the community.

After we ate, my husband asked if I wanted to go to the store for old times sake. I passed, not wanting to feel like I was just one in a herd of buffalo like I had when I walked through the cafeteria. Instead we went up to the fourth floor where his cubicle is. I chatted with some of his friends about the kids and then bid my farewells to everyone.

As I walked along the hallway, back towards the elevator, I peered over to my left and saw some familiar name plates at the end of the aisles. I was tempted to go in and see how my old team mates were faring without me these days, but I knew they too had thrived since my departure. Feeling unnecessary, I took the elevator downstairs and walked out to the parking lot. While I strolled out to my car which was parked not far from the space where I had put it when I worked there, I thought how nice it was to be able to come back and see the old place without being forced to stay.

That night when I hopped into bed I turned over to face my husband and said, "Ya know, I almost miss it."

"What?" he asked.

"Working...not the place, the people."

"If you say so," he replied, not understanding why it was important.


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