Columbus, Again

It’s Monday morning.  Pat drops me off at the office and I walk in feeling like I never left.  There are some differences.  First, the receptionist is not at the desk in the lobby of my building.  Instead, a sign sits on the desk with instructions for visitors.  I wonder where the receptionists went–they were all such helpful, friendly people who would even jump in to help with projects from time to time.  I hope they all found other jobs.

The next difference is the experience of walking into my office.  In reality, there is no difference from the last time I was here, but in my memory, I have returned to what my office looked like before I moved.  When I open the door and turn on the light, the desk is completely bare except my phone.  No headset, no monitor, no keyboard, no papers scattered around the desk.  Nothing hangs on the walls.  Even the whiteboards are wiped clean.  Now, I suddenly feel like a visitor.  The only remnants that show I once worked here are a few books that I no longer need and don’t want to take with me.

I look at the books for a moment and wonder what to do with them.  They are the kind of reference books that no longer make sense in a digital age–for example, a dictionary.  I can’t remember the last time I physically picked up a printed dictionary to look up a word.  With the Oxford English Dictionary available electronically, who would ever buy one in print?  But, I have a love of books that probably stems from having been read to a lot as a child.  I’ve never thrown a book away.  I’ve always found it a new home, although I suppose it’s new owner might have been less emotionally attached to its bindings and pages than I was and managed to dump it in the recycling bin–or even the trash.  No one wants out-of-date reference books.  Not even used book stores will take them at no charge.  The library is fussy about the donations it will accept.  And I am surrounded by marketing people who probably aren’t interested in the topics of my books anyway.  The recycling bin is not even an option here.  I decide to leave them where they are for now and return to getting my laptop setup and online.

After a busy morning, I manage to sneak out for lunch with a couple of my favorite colleagues.  I’m not sure if they are actually colleagues anymore or friends–we don’t actually work together on the same projects anymore, but we still all work for the same company.  I’m not sure what that makes us, but I enjoy catching up with them.  Although, they swap stories of their children going to homecoming dances, which freaks me out a bit since I always think of their children as being too young for High School.  I think we are actually having lunch more frequently now that I have moved to Chattanooga than we did before I left.  It’s an interesting phenomena that suddenly it’s a priority to make time for lunch because I am only here for a limited number of days.  This seems to affect them, too, as we have often had trouble finding a time on our calendars that works for us and have then ended up rescheduling more than once.  I suppose it’s the same phenomena that makes me want to go, do, see everything in the Chattanooga area while we’re there, but kept me from feeling motivated to try out Columbus in the same way.  The psychology of a limited resource, I guess.

Regardless of what makes it possible for us to get together for lunch, we have a good time.  Even in complaining about some of the struggles each of us has experienced in our jobs, we have a good time.  It’s interesting how different it is to complain to people who know what you’re talking about than it is to complain to someone who looks at you blankly and nods as you spew out an incomprehensible collection of acronyms and names that are meaningless to anyone outside work.  Plus, these are just really good people and I enjoy being around them even if we’re not saying much of anything.

The afternoon gets a bit crazy and before I know it, I’m getting pinged by another group of colleagues whom I’m meeting for happy hour.  Ordinarily none of us would schedule a happy hour on a Monday evening, but feeling bad that I blew them off the last trip up, I wanted to get a happy hour in and it’s the only day that will work for me.  I’m flattered that they all manage to drag themselves out on a Monday night.  None of us is actually ready to leave the office at the allotted time, but we do manage to get out the door within a half an hour of the planned departure.

We meet at Gallo’s on Bethel Road, which has a great collection of beers to choose from, but tends to be noisy.  Fortunately for us, it’s a slow night and relatively quiet–at least until we get there.  Between my colleagues and two former colleagues who join us, we laugh so hard that people stare.  We are ridiculous, I’m sure, like a group of juveniles finding everything hysterical and each piling onto any joke.  It’s like we’ve been on our best behavior for so long that we’re just running off at the mouth now that we’ve let our guard down.  Later, Pat arrives to pick me up.  We order food since it’s already late for dinner.  We all laugh and talk some more.  But, we call at an early evening and head out shortly after everyone is done eating.  As I walk out to the car, I am smiling to myself.  It’s been too long since I cut loose with a group of people that know enough about each other to create the kind of “group joke” that everyone participates in.

On the way home, I think about the fun side of work.  The interaction with the people I work with that allows us to build trust and really work well together.  It’s interesting that the people who I can joke and laugh with (even in more polite ways) are the people I work with the best.  I trust people who laugh at my jokes.  I wonder what it is about shared humor that creates this sense of kinship?  I also wonder if it’s an accurate measure–have I been betrayed by people who get my sense of humor less often than by those who don’t?  Hmm.  Now I’m curious, my avid reader(s):  What makes you trust people?  When you think of people who get your sense of humor, do you trust them all?  And have you found this to be a good barometer for whom to trust?

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