Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Nature of Strangers

I've always been interested in poking my nose in the lives of others. Not every other person in the world, per se, but people whom I find to be different or interesting. Ever since I started the job I work at now, about about 4 months now, I've been wondering who emptied my trash. At my last job, I emptied my own. Or, on occasion, our accountant would empty the trash for us on his way out. Sometimes the boss did it too. Which is all very shocking, working in an 'office' which used to be a home. It's clearly a full conversion when bossman is working in the kitchen and I'm working across the hall in the bedroom. I can't tell you how many times I had the cold droopy truth of his loofah staring at me when I went to the bathroom, where there was a full bath.

Anyway, here we must have some sort of janitorial service doing it.

I generally only work until 6 or so. When I leave, there's random trash in the can. Scraps of paper, a piece of gum, empty juice bottle, bakery bag from my bagels, receipts I've cleaned out of my purse, and such. In the morning, when I return to work, the garbage is always empty. I always wondered if he wondered who I was. What's with this inflatable sword on her desk? (Toy from a fast food restaurant) Why is her cubicle so empty? (Relatively new employee) What's in this stack of cds on her desk? (Mostly Indie) Why is there always popcorn on the floor around her desk? (I'm just a slob) I know if I was a janitor in a small office I'd wonder about the people that sat at those desks I emptied trash for and swept around. I don't have any pictures up. Did he wonder if I was male or female? Peek in a desk drawer to try to find out? A few weeks ago, the mystery trash person finally came while I was still at my desk. All I could make out of the corner of my eye was a tall slender black male wearing all white. I wasn't sure if it was a uniform or coincidence. I couldn't look at him though, because there were only 2 of us in the room, and I'd have to turn completely to see him. My curiosity would be too obvious to him, but it was killing me.

Yesterday, I heard him come in again. He sneezed in the cubicle next to me and I heard him whisper "Excuse me." Should I have said "Bless you!"? I'd heard that this was an ancient saying stemming from people believing that your soul leaves your body when you sneeze or something. And that your heart doesn't actually stop. I wondered about it for a moment too long when I realized "It's too late now. The window has passed for that". He passed around my co-workers cubicle around to my trash can and began pulling the bag out. I wondered if it was leaking - I'd thrown some sprite away.

I start packing up and leaving and I hear him say "Excuse me?". I peeked my head around the wall and yes, he was talking to me. He's younger than I expected.

"What artist is that?"

"Artist?" I wondered. "Maybe he's talking about my shirt? No no, that doesn't really make sense" I thought.

I had my head phones on, so he didn't know what music I was listening to. I looked at him with my face a bit crinkled.


"On top."

Now I was really confused. I consider that maybe he means on MY top, as in shirt. It was a comedian's shirt. Mitch Hedberg - the words "remix + remix = normal" printed in bold yellow letters on the green shirt. He probably wasn't referring to him as an "artist", but I was still just getting a still body and blank stare from him. No clues.

"On top." he says again.

I looked down at my desk. There wasn't much on it. Keyboard, monitor, mouse, some papers, stack of cds, water bottle, etc. The longer I visually searched the more awkward things became.

"Just tell me what you're asking!" I was then screaming in my head.

Finally, he moseys over and points to the cd (on top!) of the stack.

"OH! The Gossip."

It was way louder than a normal speaking voice. Startling. It just made the situation that much more awkward.

"Oh is that who it is..." he asks rhetorically, already turning to grab another trash can.

I walked out to my car thinking that it wasn't at all how I pictured my first encounter with the janitor. I wrestled with it all the way home. "Was he trying to make me look like an idiot? Was he just nervous? Did he forget the word for 'stack' or 'desk'?"

Nah. That guy's an idiot.

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