I was reflecting today on the American version of The Office, which I’ve just gotten into (hold up, Lovers of Jim, I can explain). When the show initially came out, I had recently completed watching the British series, and didn’t feel any need to see the same jokes performed with American accents – and after suffering through a single, irredeemable episode of the American attempt at Coupling, no one could blame me for recoiling in horror at the thought of seeing the brilliance of The Office similarly mutilated and left for dead.
Anyway, the best part of getting into a show in later seasons is the undiluted pleasure of hours of back-to-back viewing, and hunkering down in my cave with Seasons Two through Four of The Office was the medicine that helped me get through a recent breakup. As most regular viewers will agree, the show has not only done the original series proud but become a hilarious and biting satire of the American workplace in its own right.
What I was thinking about, specifically, was the episode in Season Two, in which Ryan the Temp accidentally sets his cheese pita on fire in the kitchen, leading to his unhappy designation at “The Fire Guy.” Previously, Ryan had made a point about not wanting to be any kind of “guy” in the office, characterized by a quirk. I can get this – who would want to be the resident Knitting Lady, or That Guy Who Always Talks About His Kid’s Potty Training In Detail Over Lunch?
While wondering if there were any types of “guyness” pits I could potentially fall into, I undertook the unappealing exercise of examining my office habits from a more objective viewpoint. And while I’ve criticized some of my colleagues’ bad habits in the past, I don’t think I’ve spent much time ruminating on my own office obnoxiousness. So I forced myself to compose a list of some of my most annoying tendencies (that I’m aware of anyway), and had the unfortunate realization… that I can be kind of an OCD asshat.
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1) Foot Jiggling. This doesn’t sound too bad, and I don’t even notice I’m doing it, but apparently it is irritating to others, particularly the girl who used to sit across from me and share desk space. I know this because, after she reminded me nicely a few times to stop bouncing my knee, as her entire desk was trembling like a low-grade earthquake, she took to slamming the phone down and yelling “FOOT!” It still doesn’t prevent me from doing it, though, because it’s involuntary.
2) Lint Rolling. This is one of the weirder and most compulsive things I do. I shed a lot of hair – I know everyone says this, but I really shed a lot – and I am in the habit of running a lint roller over my shoulders and back about six to eight times a day. My little quirk is compounded by the fact that I have light hair and wear a lot of black sweaters. I got proof that my unsubtle oddity was noticed by others when co-workers would pick up extra rollers from ASDA when they were on sale and drop them on my desk. I also keep a teeny hairbrush in my drawer and swipe my head with it before each lint-rolling session.
3) Pack Rat Behavior. I always have the messiest desk. It’s a work mess, paperwork that I absolutely need to have in front of me to go about my day, but it made my last boss completely mental. Sometimes he would move stuff around when I got up just to see me freak out when I returned to my chair. I get really upset if anyone touches my shit and if I’m traveling for business, I use an overnight suitcase just for my laptop and files, while my male colleague will carry a single pen and a notepad.
4) Accusing Other of Theft. Every time I misplace something, I assume that it has been stolen, because obviously an incredibly organized person like me could never lose something. My office buys really shitty pens (I don’t do ballpoint), so I buy my own (gel, smooth like butter) and am very protective of them. Occasionally, someone (usually the boss) will be standing at my desk and unintentionally walk off with my pen or scissors, or my neighbor will borrow my highlighter and forget to return it. When I discover the theft, I will walk around looking at everyone’s desks and when I find the missing article, announce “oh, there are my scissors.”
If it turns out that no one has moved my pen and it was actually mislaid under a stack of folders on my desk, I will get very quiet and only say, “oh, it turned up” if asked about it.
(Also, re: Posessiveness: I bought a permanent marker so that I could write my name on all my pens, the scissors, and all my food in the office refrigerator. This is what becomes of only children, y’all).
5) Self-Righteously Reminding People That I Haven’t Been Home in a Year. This is brought up every time I take a vacation day as evidence of what a dedicated employee and complete martyr I am. Two years ago, it was “I haven’t been on vacation in two years.” While these things are true, I sound like/am a self-pitying whiner. No one stopped me from going home this year, I just went to Spain twice instead. Poor, poor me.
6) Smugly Proclaiming That I Don’t Watch TV. I don’t, but I only got into the habit six months ago after my cable broke and I was too lazy to fix it. I spend the night on the internet instead, or I rent boxsets. Because I am superior, you see. At least I caught myself doing this one and have made an effort to cut it out.
Honestly, the list could go on but I had to stop myself. I don’t even know how to begin breaking down my silent conviction that I’m more literate, more cultured, and smarter than most of my colleagues – doubtless I manage to convey this message daily without explicitly vocalizing it (like an asshole!). There’s only so much self-awareness one can take in a day.
Please feel free to confirm that yes, I am kind of an asshole or better yet, try this exercise yourself and share the horrific details of your enlightment in the comments.