Matthew meandered through the office full of a fools intention, playing at conversation and ‘none-the-wiser’ to his demeanor. The music teacher; relax, cool and making faces with a tongue in cheek, hovering with a cup of Starbucks green tea and handing out rehearsed dad jokes to anyone willing to listen. A soft and puffy beard behind two warm and sun-strained eyes, a smile wide and duplicated as the photocopies he came to make but wasn’t minding or paying attention to.
The copier tends to crash and there’s signs all around it – asking everybody to please be mindful of the environment and not leave papers jammed or unattended.
“I don’t live by the rules, the rules live by me!” He said, pretending to throw something on the floor before picking it up a minute after.
That Matthew, so carefree. So whimsical. He liked to purposefully be distracting no matter how focused you were on spreadsheets. The company clown quite proud to make the mood a little lighter, the type of guy that always has something sly to say, a compliment or awkward comment that was boring as hell but work appropriate. Loaded, in a sense, because if you didn’t nod or pretend to laugh at all his jolly empty sentences, well then, What-The-Heck’s-Your-Problem-Grinch, It-Isn’t-Even-Christmas.
(I swear to God, his words, not mine.)
“Anybody want to hear a joke about a piece of paper?” Matthew’s low baritone donged out loud, to no one in particular.
“Sure,” Jessica dinged, ignoring the loud ring of the office telephone.
“Never mind, it’s tearable.”
Everybody groaned and somebody sucked their teeth. Matthew was finger-pistoling the air and I was glaring out the window, looking for some rope and the highest tree. The copier made a screech, three beeps and a high pitched Danger Will Robinson kind of tone. There’s a jam, that sound is unmistakable. We’ve heard it a million times but somehow it goes unnoticed.
“Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your waitresses.” Matthew Bogart-ed across the office like a stage, blew his fingers and put them in his ripped jeans like holster. Cocky, but in a fun way.
Office glee is a cancer, I think, but the necessary kind. People need to feel comfortable at work, and while I can’t relate, I can understand that. The world would be a dark place if everyone had my “Let’s just get this done well so we can all go home,” mentality. But the act of half-assed trivialities, conversation solely for the sake of pretending to have a good time, has a Facebook/Instagram quality that I cannot abide by. An air of ‘Things-Couldn’t-Be-Better!’ when they really could be. The lies we try at exes that call back when Winter melts and they wander back home with tails between their legs. Not because they miss us, but because they miss what is familiar. They miss what is comfortable.
But sometimes there is no solace. Occasionally things just suck, and the glass doesn’t exist, let alone be half full. Bottom line – I don’t trust a somebody who doesn’t have a dark side. That endless happiness is either arrogant, naively misplaced, or a colossal facade worn socially well. Typically the third. They’re after something- a bias I admit is bordering on paranoia, but I can’t resist or shake. And if anybody asks me how my day was, I will always answer- Why?
“Jessica gets it. What’s up with your cereal today Grinchmas?”
“Nothing,” I replied. “Weird dream last night, has me a little out of it.”
“Oh,” Matthew replied, shoulders on the verge of moon-walking back outside from where I would ground him.
“Dreamt I was here at work,” I pressed, before he had the chance to leave. “Trying to find a piece of loose leaf paper, but each one I took from notebooks or the copier had stuff written on it. It always looked important so I’d leave it and look elsewhere. And I remember, there was a hippo in the lunch room which was really weird now that I think about it, but at the time felt pretty normal. And when I almost had a baby about it, thought about asking why is there wildlife on the premise, you said to me, Hey-Don’t-Worry-About-It-Grinchmas, and did that pistol thing you always do. Then my alarm went off and I woke up feeling pretty exhausted, because I woke up from work…to go to work? So it feels like I’ve been here for like two days straight. Isn’t that weird?”
“Sure bud,” Matthew replied, casually cooling his Earl Grey. Unsure of what to say or how to work in a work appropriate response.
And That’s the thing about the dad jokes; they don’t mean much except filling silence for the sake of it. It’s pretending at friendly without ever having to actually be it. Practiced and monotonous antics, the kind the worst of guys can learn the rhythm and vocabulary to. Life is full of landmines, and some people learn to practice office friendly as a type of Minesweeper with cheat codes.
To hop and skip across coming across like an asshole, but being one.
“You ever have weird dreams like that?” I asked.
“I think so, but gotta go, class is starting.” He said, darting.
Jessica settled into her Facebook, everyone else starts banging onto their keyboards. Trying to drown out the loud and endless rounds of beeping from the copier. Words glaring from a Lanier, music stanzas dripping from the feed.
JAM – SERVICE NECESSRY.