The day is winding down, and soon (but not quite soon enough) it’ll be 5.45pm and I’ll be locking my office door and getting into an incredibly reflective elevator and then pushing through the chrome turnstiles and striding through the vast, Olympic pool sized lobby and then round the spinning doors and out out out into the sunshine and heat.
My office is about the size of a… well. I’m trying to think what’s exactly this size. A Post Office truck. One of the small ones, that’s strangely quite tall and looks like it might tip over. It’s about two doors wide at one end, and is dominated, near truncated, by my desk, behind which I sit typing furiously away with a massive set of empty shelves the color of dark chocolate rising behind me. Before my desk is an empty chair. I’ve got a gray felt sticking board to my right, festively festooned with a map of NYC and numerous print outs. The walls are white, the carpet is a sort of sea-sick aquamarine (drab), and the ceiling is rent by massive fluorescent light fixtures. It’s cold, painfully bright, and very sterile looking.
I sit with my office door open, so that I can hear people go by, and not feel cut off from everybody. Given my angle, I can see two doors lining the left wall outside, and a white, convalescent looking filing cabinet. That’s about it. I’ve got a corner office (no windows), so I sometimes hear people walking down one corridor, pass just beyond my point of view and walk down the other corridor and away. Were it not for my friendly boss popping over breathlessly every 30 minutes or so to touch base or check up on me, I could almost believe I was working in an abandoned building. With running lights. And stocked tea/coffee/hot chocolate kitchen area. Filled with ghosts who email me. Ok, it doesn’t feel too abandoned, but it is quiet.
But this is paradise compared to the factory in which I worked in Sydney. Picture it: a vast, brilliantly lit room, a science lab gone mad, filled with massive machinery encased in beige rubber, their intricacies byzantine in nature, their purposes recondite. People hunched in high stool/chair things, wearing gloves, wearing lap coats, rubber electrical discharge things hobbled about their feet. The hum of power. The low chatter of the workers. The hiss and sizzle of welding and cutting and slicing and dicing and soaking and freezing. Endless microscopes, high powered tools with which to examine the tiny widgets and flanges.
And! To the left? A floor to ceiling, wall to wall window. A vast pane of gleaming shatter proof glass, beyond which is a second room in which dwell strange, alien figures clad in astronaut suits. The Clean Room. Almost all of them girls, their slender bodies asexualized by their clownish white getups, their faces obfuscated to ninja inscrutability by their surgical masks and goggles. They’d pass us regular workers on their way to suit up, laughing and animated, long hair swishing in pony tails, and then come out in the room beyond as if sedated, serious of mien, deadly earnest in their endeavors.
All of this, by the way, several floors underground, reached only after descending several concrete stairwells, following red steam pipes that run along the ceiling of harshly painted corridors into the depths.
Actually, the factory wasn’t so bad. The people were really nice, and I was adept at taking as many breaks as I needed without getting caught. Plus I knew I was there short term, which meant I could enjoy the experience as some sort of deliriously surreal sci-fi jaunt, and not worry about coming back year after year and letting the grim industrial nature of the joint wear me down.
And this place will get much better once I’m able to kill the fluorescent lights above and work in a soft, old school pool of radiance of a table lamp. I’m thinking one of those classic library ones with tinctured green glass shades. I’ve got a bottle of Guinness on my desk (a gift from Jeffrey Fforde’s publicity team), and stashes of granola bars, mints and other things secreted about my drawers.