The Office
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The Office

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

The Office

It was only 9:00 AM, and the hot February sun beat down with a blinding persistence. I could feel the sweat on my neck running the starch out of my collar. The hilly trek ensured that I arrived at work red-faced and disheveled, but I sure wasn't hired for my looks. A seasoned professional like me was in high demand. Not that it was getting any easier lately-- a run in with a Bird ® scooter had ensured that my knees would never be the same again. But I'm from stock who don't complain much, and I knew I had a job to do.

I entered what is referred to simply as "The Office." The Dell desktop was already on, so I sat down to compose a reminder email. "Remember students, you MUST register for the community dinner BY THIS FRIDAY!" I typed. Everyone has their vice, and a reliance on the caps lock is mine. It's a tough habit, but then again, I'm a tough guy. Handling the recalcitrant no-shows was my job, and I knew that when I signed up for this business last semester. I was wary though. Students who were perpetually AWOL took a toll on my Pa. I barely remember him before the carpal tunnel set in. I wondered how soon it would be before I met his same fate.

The thought of my ole man brought a lump in my throat. I swallowed. I had mourned him in his time, and it was no use crying over ancient history. Paperwork waits for no man. I reached for a pen and caught a glance of my trembling hand. Was it too early for a hit? I rotated in my swivel chair, the cravings gnawing at my gut. My body made up my mind for me, and I rose from my chair and headed towards the sleek machine that beckoned in the corner. My Ma warned me about the siren song of jitter juice. Young and stupid, I had paid her no mind. I barely noticed as I slipped from recreational use to red-eyed dependence in just a few months. I poured the hot coffee into a community Office mug: Rock, Chalk, Jayhawks, Class of 2007. The caffeine coursing through my veins would bring sweet relief for the next few hours… until it was time for another hit.

"Can you print this for me?" a colleague asked loudly. I turned around with a start. Geez, whatever happened to "please"?

"Sure thing!" I replied a little too chipperly. The colleague eyed me with caution, so I flashed a dopey grin. Kids these days would never understand just how good they got it. I exported the PDF and activated the calming purr of the printer like a pro. With any luck, I would get a simple "thanks" in return.

I looked at my to-do list. Finalists Week was coming up, a regular bonanza of nametags and catering and shepherding doe-eyed high schoolers around on unforgiving brick sidewalks. Year after year brought me face-to-face with the unbridled optimism and eager curiosity of the new generation, qualities I had been lacking for many moons now.

I leaned on my chair, suddenly disoriented by my existential doubts. Oh where were my colleagues? Where was my strength? Would I ever be the same again? Were we out of coffee already?

It was another day at The Office, and I was getting too old for this job.

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