Tuesday, February 15, 2005

when the ugly industrial walls close in...

Oh. My. God.

I hate it here.

I’ve moved to my new location in the plant. You might think that a move of less than thirty feet wouldn’t be terribly traumatic – but trust me, I’m f$%&ing traumatized.

My old office had one person in it – a lovely co-worker who appreciated food and kids and laughter as much as I do. Not many people stopped by to see her, and she spent a lot of time out in the plant.

My old office was a low-traffic area.

My old office had drywall painted light grey, on which I could hang two large Harry Potter posters, to keep some magic in my work life.

My old office had privacy.

Now I’m in the QC Lab. Granted, my back isn’t to the door (I would have flipped out hours ago if it was) but as it stands, I’m working in a f*&#ing fishbowl. I feel exposed, vulnerable, terrified. What feels like a huge window looks into the plant break room, so when folks are buying their sodas and sandwiches, they look into the Lab and see me at my desk.

People are in and out of this office all the time. There’s a copier about six feet away that is used a fair amount. Leads in the towers come in to test their setups (and whine and bitch and complain). Scheduling personnel drop off paperwork for the Lab ladies. My old boss haunts the office, still needing the equipment for his samples. My new boss comes in and radiates stress, needing everything done now now now even though I’m still working on projects she needed last week.

As I write this lament for my old work environment, three people are working in front of me, trying to get an old piece of testing equipment working again. They are fairly calm about it. But they’re still in my area and they are annoying the crap out of me.

Trying to maintain focus today has been close to impossible.

The walls in here are two shades of industrial beige glazed brick. Since it’s glazed, it can’t be painted, according to the maintenance department. This wasn’t my problem six months ago, so I didn’t worry about it. Now I’m worried.

There’s a corkboard up on the wall across from me that has gone way beyond filthy.

My ex-boss is leaning on my desk right now, watching the two ladies work on the machine, not even realizing that his fingers on my desk constitute a major breach of territorial boundaries. Ah – he’s finally moved. And here comes my new boss… stepping behind me to grab a binder, use the hole punch on my desk… ok Andi just breathe… apparently there is no sense of individual work space in the Lab, so I will just have to fill my desk up with all kinds of crap so that no one can come in and use it whenever they feel like it.

It smells like cigarette smoke in here. The smoke room (yes, we still have a smoke room, the result of a now-retired HR Manager who smoked Camel Unfiltered and always stood up for the rights of smokers here) is two rooms down, and the smell of it somehow gets into the ventilation. That as much as anything else makes me feel completely invaded and helpless.

The Hermione doll that Mother-In-Law got me a couple of years ago has taken up residence right in front of my monitor. Duckie’s picture and some essential rocks (rose quartz, carnelian and amethyst) are to the right of the monitor. I have unpacked my pens and pencils and my water glass.

But because this is considered a manufacturing environment, I can’t take my hair down at all, not until I walk out the front door or go visiting into someone else’s office space. I can’t wear the lovely watch that Tammy gave me for my birthday. I can't swear. I can't bang shit around when I get mad, even if it's harmless stuff to let off steam.

What are the rules here? Another manager walked in looking for someone – was I suppose to at least acknowledge him? Even though I’m kind of pissed at him for some previous inconsideration today? Do I say hello to everyone who walks in here and greet them with a friendly smile? I won’t get anything done!!!!!! Starting to panic.

I forgot my nicotine patch this morning. My period started today. I have no idea what I’m going to feed Duckie tonight. I can’t think. I just want to put my head on my desk and cry. And I can’t even do that.


Sam said...

Oh, Andi - or should I say "Peach*?"
- Honey, if there is anyone in your world who knows how you feel and how much this can make you a sick, insane woman, it is your Sam. You've read my blog from the start, you know how many times I've lamented being pinned here like a wriggling moth, at the mercy of every whim of my own emotions and the whims of anyone who walks in the door. People will come behind my desk to look over my shoulder at my computer, or just walk into my little "zone" without even asking to grab books from my desk, or to get my stapler or the phone. Sometimes I pull the book cart into the gap where you enter the circ desk area to discourage people from coming back here.
When I get upset, or feel sick or frustrated or angry, I have to run to the broom closet (to which I am severely allergic) and cry there in the dark. And people complain about things I do here. I am not allowed to have any personal conversation with anyone here, or on the phone, I cannot have a drink or a snack here, and there is no other place but a square of carpet outside the broom closet door - another fishbowl - where I can sit to eat my lunch if there is no one to relieve me. I also have to leave my lunch if anyone wants service, so I often eat cold food, if I get to eat at all...
There is no place to put my bag, or the purses of my help, the few personal things I put on my desk garnered complaints from the decoration committee (who also asked, about the cords extending from the back of the circ pc and card catalogue pc "Cain't y'all do somethin' about these caw-uhds?")
It is impossible to keep my desk organized, because people are constantly leaning, putting their purses and children down on things. It is almost impossible to keep the checked in materials separate from the ones that have yet to be checked in because people just move things around as they please, and that can cause problems with angry patrons who get fines because their books were never checked in. It is impossible to get any serious work done because you have to stop every five seconds to do minor, basic functions, or let kids borrow the phone, or just listen to people's !#$%& personal problems or just general bull$#*!. They won't stop talking to me, no matter how busy I look. If I am speaking to another patron, people do not hesitate to rudely interrupt...
There is no way to escape the noise, the smells, the stares, the scrutiny, the germs, it truly is a nightmare.
I wish I could offer words of wisdom, some advice, or something, but I have to tell you, it is possible that it's all downhill from here. If you cannot get out of that environment, and back into a place where you can have a break and/or some personal space when you need it ('cause I know that you are like me in this respect), it will make you a sick, unhappy woman. I am looking for a way out every day - and have been for sometime now. Every incident, every complaint, every forced smile, every crying jag in the !#$% broom closet makes it that much worse.
I hope that it gets better, that you can find a way to set boundaries and create an
"emotional firewall", because I know you have a lot invested in this job. I think that they base stupid decisions like that on how men can function in the midst of a chaotic, no privacy, no physical boundaries situation (construction foremen, editors, cops and the like - "I peed HERE, don't cross this line!") but they don't have a !#$% clue about the relationship between women and their personal space and need for privacy,
"invasion" issues, etc. ESPECIALLY mothers and wives who probably often look forward to the intermittent peace and privacy and zen-like every day work tasks that their day jobs can offer.
I'm so sorry honey. You can at least be sure that there is someone who truly feels your pain and hopes that beneficial relief comes soon. I do recommend that you share these feelings with someone on the job if you can. They are in danger of losing a good person, or at least not having a good person up to speed if they don't at least get you a cubicle wall and an air purifier - for starters.
All my love, and I relinquish a little bubble of my own precious peace, a tiny little loaner
"emotional firewall" for your use. It may be thin, but it's kept me going for five years so far (grr.)
Oh, and fantasize about beating the space-invaders to death with your phone. That often does me a WORLD of good!
-Sam (Bubbles or Deb/Flo or Float or maybe Gill, depends on the day ;)

EB said...

Oh dear.

My lovely sister Andi, you MUST turn that intimidation, irritation and persecution into your own power. OWN that space- if that's where they put you, then make it your own. You do not have to greet everyone, by any means. Acknowledge only the people from whom you need something. Do not worry about the feelings of others, unless you truly care about them. I am assuming the people you truly care about there are few and rare? If that is the case, ingore the rest of them. Let them deal with their own emotions.

As for the smoke smell, that is a clear and present irritant that you have every right as an employee to ask for some kind of remedy. Follow your chain of command until you get the results you need to do your job effectively.

I have worked for a labor and employment lawyer for over two years now, and it is truly astonishing the work environments employees unncessarily- and in many cases illegally- put up with. You have rights. The words you wrote- and Sam, too, for that matter- spoke volumes to me that you are feeling powerless. YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS. Knowledge is power. Find out what all your company's HR policies are, what your state laws are, and arm yourself with them. You don't have to use them against your employers. But you can use that as a foundation to know that you do have rights. The trick is to EXERCISE those rights and not let others exercise theirs all over you.

Do not despair, my friend. There are remedies. Seek them out systematically and do not be denied. You deserve the best in life- including your worklife- because you give the best part of yourself to it. Say that to yourself, and KNOW IT, BELIEVE IT. Because, Andi, IT IS TRUE. You are truly one of the finest human beings breathing on this planet of ours. Do not be denied. Do not be denied. They will not hand it to you. You must take it for yourself. Do not be denied. Do not cry- GET ANGRY. Crying is an inward emotional response and gets you nothing but red eyes and snotty nose and momentary release of what ails you. Anger goes outward and GETS THINGS DONE. Do not be wrathful, because that wastes your power. Anger, on the other hand, harnesses power in a way that most women are afraid of. Do be afraid of it. It has a magic all its own that Harry Potter knows all about. Use it. You will be pleased with the result. Do not be denied.

Much love to you, Andi. Tell Sam what I said. You both need a cheerleader, an I'm happy to swing the pom-poms.

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