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April 23, 2003: The new job - the little things

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It is odd to be someplace so quiet. There are only seven of us in the office, and this includes the two interns who are only there a few days per week. Occasionally construction noise drifts through the walls from the office suites beside us and below us, where they are doing all the remodeling necessary for new tenants. But more often than not, the only sound is generated from outside. A passing boat. The fall of rain. The singing of birds.

A pair of doves has built a nest directly over the back door to the office – the door we rarely use. This door is also located right next to my desk, and so through the glass panes I occasionally see one or the other of them swooping in to land. Directly in front of me are docks and trees, which are often populated by tiny sparrows and swallows, all who often have something to chat about. Occasionally one of the interns, who has a clearer view of the river than I, will point out something and we all spring from our chairs to go see. The otter splashing around. The group of turtles on the far bank. The huge tree floating downstream in the recent rainstorm.

There is a pair of office binoculars that often sits on my desk, simply because that’s where they put it, and every once in a while someone comes along to take them outside, to try to look at the aforementioned turtles/otters/birds a bit closer.

Everyone calls out greetings and farewells when someone enters or leaves the office for the day. When someone makes popcorn, they usually go around offering it to everyone else. Occasionally rubber bands go flying through the air as the estimators try to see how far they can launch. Every once in a while we order lunch in, and then drag a table and chairs into the clearest part of the floor, to sit around and eat Chinese food or pizza together. When someone gets a phone call, we simply put the person on hold and then call out across the office to the intended recipient.

I may not necessarily be one of them in the truest sense, since I'm still struggling to understand all the myriad details about construction, and I will probably never grasp what is required to estimate the cost of a building. But it doesn't seem to matter to them that what I do is probably just as incomprehensible to them as what they do is to me. There is a refreshing lack of formality in the group, driven by a sense of camaraderie. And they have included me in this without any apparent difficulty at all.

This entry is a collaboration for On Display. This month's topic is "little things."

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