January 9, 2001
All Over The Map


"Where do you want the 'Atlantic Ocean' to go, Ma'am?" asks Burly Young Mover Guy politely, as he hoists another bazillion-pound carton onto his handcart. The outside of the box is labelled ATLANTIC OCEAN, written in black Magic Marker, in my neat, careful hand.

"That one goes on the far right-hand side of Franz' desk downstairs," I tell him. "But don't open it. Just leave it on the floor." I'll have to unpack the box and spread everything around on the desktop myself, tomorrow or Thursday.

We've already moved the PACIFIC OCEAN (project proposals, corporate memos, miscellaneous correspondence, golf magazines), the MIDWEST (current projects, handwritten notes, unpaid cigar invoices) plus most of the PACIFIC NORTHWEST (financial reports) and ALASKA (phone books, boxes of business cards, take-out menus, his little squeeze-ball/*tension-reliever* thingamabob). I personally hand-carried CUBA (breakable knick-knacks/dusty family photos/autographed picture of Jerry Brown, from the credenza in the far southeast corner of the office) downstairs via elevator.

Now all that's left to move is SIBERIA. But that shouldn't take too long: SIBERIA is mostly-empty already.

(That's because SIBERIA's sole *resident* packed up most of her stuff and took it home before Christmas.)

I believe that the physical activity of deconstructing my office this week is making it easier for me to process the fact that I'm leaving soon.

Time after time, whenever I've come --->this close<--- to quitting the Totem Pole Company over the past year or so, the one thing that has invariably persuaded me to stay is this stoopid little office. Cramped, crowded, claustrophobic though it may be ... windowless, charmless, ventilation-free, dust-intensive ... too cold in the morning, too hot by lunchtime, too noisy in the afternoons when our fifth-floor neighbors are running their dishwasher ... it's still been my office.

And I'm going to miss it.

I'm that way about ANY place I *live.* I'm a nest-builder by nature. And there is nothing I hate more than tearing down one groovy nest and building a new one ... even when the smart part of me is absolutely convinced that the new nest, ultimately, is going to be lots groovier than the old one.

Looking around at my empty office  --  bookshelves stripped, walls bare, desk utterly devoid of anything that says "Secra" (except maybe for the big glob of gum, stuck under my keyboard tray) -- reinforces the idea that I don't *live* here anymore.

Which is undoubtedly a good thing, all things considered.  But which still makes me feel a little sad.

Momentarily, anyway.

Fellow Totem Pole employees have been stopping by my door all day long, drawn by the sight of boxes being hauled up and down the hallway from Franz' office. Then they notice that my office is being emptied out today, too.

"Where are they putting YOU?" they ask, well aware of the space limitations on the first floor. I relish their horrified expressions when I tell them I'm being exiled to downstairs reception area hell. (Part of me wants to say, But not for long ... but I've learned the hard way not to announce my departure until my ticket has been punched.)

"Wow," remarks Bob the Engineer in wonder. "He's finally doing it, isn't he?" Franz has been talking about moving his office downstairs for years. Nobody believed he would finally go through with it, apparently.

Just then, Burly Young Mover Guy trundles past us with the handcart, headed for the freight elevator. 

"What's with the 'ATLANTIC OCEAN'?" Bob the Engineer asks, mystified.

I explain my labelling system. Franz left his office in complete disarray when he flew to Washington D.C. a few days ago ... knowing full well that the move would take place while he was gone. His specific instructions to me were to "Make the new office look as much like the old office as possible." In other words: he wants me to exactly duplicate the chaos. So I've labelled the piles of crap. Everything that was piled up on the far right side of his desk, for example, is the Atlantic Ocean. Everything that was in the top left corner, next to his phone, is the Pacific Northwest: everything front and center, directly in front of his chair, is the Midwest ... ad nauseum. Tomorrow I'll simply unpack the boxes downstairs in his new office and dump the piles of crap in the exact fudking locations -- and Time Zones --  that they were in upstairs.

Bob looks at me admiringly, as though I had just nonchalantly mentioned that I invented the cure for cancer in my spare time, over the weekend. "Y'know," he says, "Franz is damn lucky to have somebody like you."

Yeah. Don't we know it.

throw a rock