July 23, 2003
The Stapler Test


The New Guy wants to know where we keep the mechanical pencils.

"Are they in the supply closet?" he asks me politely. "Or should I ask you to special-order some for me?" 

I am just about to tell him no, we don't need to special-order anything -- as a matter of fact, I've got a stash of mechanical pencils hidden in my bottom desk drawer, right next to the gel pens and the good scissors and the bag of Hershey's Miniatures -- when he suddenly spots the bright red stapler sitting next to my phone.

"Hey!" he says. "A red Swingline stapler!" And he looks at me, grinning from ear to ear. I get it, his smile says.

I smile back at him. I know you do.

I like The New Guy. He has one of those weird unpronounceable first names that took me forever to learn: for the first couple of weeks he worked here, I actually wrote it out phonetically on a Post-It note and stuck it to the front of my computer monitor, just in case I was required to say his name out loud. look! i ended up getting roses ANYWAY! thank you, jaymi! He also has a funny habit of signing out using military time: I'll check the In/Out board to see where he is and it will say something like "Out 0800, back 1530 hours." Aside from these minor idiosyncracies, though, I think The New Guy shows a lot of potential. He's pleasant. He's courteous. He rinses out his own coffee cup, he spells my name correctly, he looks me directly in the eye when he's speaking to me, and as far as I know he has never deliberately walked away from a paper jam.

Plus he just passed my Stapler Test.

I'm not so sure about The Other New Guy. The Other New Guy has sort of a slouchy, surly air about him that makes me uncomfortable. It's almost as though he REALLY doesn't want to be here, but as long as he IS here he's going to make sure you're aware of how MUCH he doesn't want to be here. In addition, I can count the number of actual conversations the two of us have had on the thumb of one hand. I showed him the In/Out board, his very first day here, explaining the importance of checking in and out whenever he's leaving the office ... especially when Armand calls from the corporate office in Los Angeles and wants a head count. The Other New Guy nodded and said "OK" and gave every appearance of comprehending what I was telling him. But since then, he has never actually stopped and used the In/Out board, not even once. It's as though he can't be bothered.

If The Other New Guy looks at my red Swingline and sees anything besides a piece of standard-issue office equipment, he isn't letting on.

Armand told us, when he was in town for last month's staff meeting, that he expects to triple the number of employees here in the Oakland office within the next twelve months. This says good things about the future of the Dirt Company, of course. It says that our CEO is feeling optimistic about the industry, and about our chances of landing exciting new jobs, and about our ability to not fudk up these exciting new jobs once we get them.

But it also says that we need to move to a bigger office space ... immediately, if not sooner.

This is hardly a new development. The on-again/off-again office move has been an issue ever since I started working at The Dirt Company, nearly two years ago. My reasons for wanting to move are very personal and very well-documented. I hate the commute. I hate the building. I hate the neighborhood, and the idea of never feeling safe walking around outside at lunchtime. The problem is now reaching critical mass, however, as the sudden influx of new people puts a serious strain on our already-dwindling office resources. In a lot of ways, it's like living in a 400 square foot apartment: too many *People Molecules* and not enough *Space Molecules.* Right now, for instance, The New Guy and The Other New Guy are squished together into a tiny makeshift office, across the hall and down a couple of doors from our regular offices. (This is the same tiny makeshift office where I've been taking my lunch/writing *FootNotes* for the past year. Now I'm back to borrowing any empty office or cubicle or broom closet that might be available for an hour in the middle of the afternoon ... which sucks, since basically that hour has been all the writing time I get each day.) While I'm sure that The New Guy and The Other New Guy probably don't mind the seclusion -- it's a lot easier to fit in a few extra coffee breaks and bathroom runs, when nobody can actually see you doing it -- it makes it harder for the rest of us to track their whereabouts communicate effectively with them. The problem is only going to get worse, as more people come on board in the next few weeks/months, and we run out of places to put them.

Scuttlebutt has it that we're getting close to a move. I've even heard an actual address, being bandied about, and I've intercepted a promising fax or two from the real estate agent. But until there is some official announcement made -- until JoAnne actually hands me a cardboard box and says "Start packing" -- I'm not ordering those new business cards just yet.

In the meantime, The Other-Other New Guy and The New-New Girl are due to start at The Dirt Company within the next couple of weeks. I've met them both, briefly, and they seem like very nice people. (Although The New-New Girl is dangerously blonde and perky, and The Other-Other New Guy has a MOUSTACHE. I'm going to have to work extra hard at getting past these unfortunate handicaps.) Still, I'm sure that we'll get along just fine ... as long as they rinse out their own coffee cups, that is, as long as they spell my name correctly and look me in the eyes when they're speaking to me,  as long as they never deliberately walk away from a paper jam ... and as long as they don't mind sharing a cubicle together in the broom closet.

And -- of course -- as long as they pass The Stapler Test.



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