First off, let me point out that I am a nice person. People say it a lot. In fact, someone said so just yesterday. ‘Course she’s 82, and I was doing her a pretty big favor, but still. Nice. Me. This post does not support this fact, but lightning be damned, here we go.
Contractors and freelancers who work on-site are usually given whatever cubicle is empty. It’s a no-brainer. Thing is though, that the cubicle is always empty for a pretty darn good reason: it’s next to THE most heinous person in the office next to whom no full-time employee will sit.
As a contractor and freelancer, I have sat next to some real yayhoos in my day, but it’s always the current one that I think I’ll remember most.
Her name is Miss Honey.
Miss Honey, who has no inkling about an inside voice, talks and talks and talks and talks. And then Miss Honey talks some more. I’d say eight hours a day, but you wouldn’t believe me, even though it’s true. She never runs out of people to talk to. They stop by her cubicle all day long. Sometimes, folks call her on the phone. The casino, the pub the night before, she drank too much, she smoked too much, playing cards, playing the lottery, her boyfriend, her yard, how bad she feels that day. Just when you think she can’t come up with a new topic, she’ll talk Sudoku. On particularly slow days for Miss Honey’s department, she and Bob, who sits behind her, can work a puzzle for hours.
As if this weren’t enough, her bestie, Marty, who works on a different floor and also has no inside voice, drops in for his two break times and his lunch hour to eat, read the paper, shoot the shit, and also play Sudoku.
Any woman this popular must be like a prom queen, no? Men buzzing around her all day long, she just has to be the cutest bee in the hive. But, how could she be a delicate flower when she has a smoker’s hack and voice, does Tarzan yawns all day long (tired from the pub, I guess), belches violently, and goes into way too many manly details of grossness about her daily nausea spells?
Then, I saw Miss Honey in the hall. Sometimes, there is no explanation for dynamics in the trailer park, because Miss Honey is a beast. A trucker. Fifty was a few years back, long, thin, stringy hair down her back, a face that has possibly seen a better day, and sporting an all-day windbreaker over button down un-tucked shirts, jeans and big ol’ man-boot style shoes.
This paradox will be an unsolved mystery. I can live with that. But, imagine being a writer amidst all this. Not only am I required to WORK, I’m required to THINK about my WORK. So, I started having pains. Then, I got mad. Then, I’d cry. I had to talk myself out of bowing out every day.
Then, one morning, I had a long shower talk with God and came to the conclusion that I have rights to be a beast, too. So, I talked to management. Repeatedly and consistently. I suppose I have to admit she got a little better, but a little better was still unbearable.
So, I said it. “I am billing you for hours when I can get no work done. Maybe another writer could tolerate this situation better than I.”
Miss Honey was spoken to and didn’t come into the office the next day. Or the next day. And the next day, she had a heart attack. Let me repeat that. A HEART ATTACK. Dear God, this was better than had I won the lottery!!
She called her department friends one by one with an angioplasty play-by-play, if you will. Sometimes I was lucky enough to hear her voice through their phones. I was on the edge of my seat. She thought she’d be back to work by the end of the week. Then, maybe it would take two weeks. Finally, SIX WEEKS! Miss Honey will be out of the office for SIX GLORIOUS WEEKS!!! I went to the bathroom to cry with glee, officially a new, albeit horrible, person.
Bestie Marty still comes a-callin’ when the bell in his head rings for his break and lunch time, but my iPod can drown out a lot of him. I guess he misses the aura of her. On particularly sentimental days, he’ll sit in her cube and call her on the phone. I’m praying for a voodoo hex on him, but not very hard - I don’t want to press my luck.
Then, I received a call from a friend who has had a cubicle neighbor nightmare for over a year. Hers talked all the time, too, but to her. The woman was in a wheelchair, so, she’d wheel up to my friend’s cubicle opening and sit and talk and talk and talk (through her gallons of old-lady Coty perfume). My friend tried everything to make it look like she was in the middle of something important, but the woman wouldn’t budge and there was no escape.
Like icing on the cake, the woman died Friday!
We had a prim, proper conversation about it, for a minute. “Oh, that’s so sad. I’m so sorry. But she had so many health problems and things were so hard for her. She’s in a better place now. She’s at peace.”
Then: “So am I, so am I.”
I’m down to the 80-year-old man three cubicle rows over who works out loud. But I find him funny and a little endearing. He is 80, after all. Like I pointed out, but you may have forgotten by now, I’m a nice person.